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In Interviews Conducted Before His Passing, Celebrities Talk About The Legacy Of Nelson Mandela

posted 5 Dec 2013, 15:30 by Mpelembe   [ updated 5 Dec 2013, 15:31 ]

In interviews conducted before his passing, celebrities from around the globe talk about the influence Nelson Mandela has had on the world.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES  (REUTERS) -  Nelson Mandela's courage is something that not only affected South Africa, but the world.

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Admired around the globe as a symbol of resistance to injustice for the way he opposed his country's apartheid system, Mandela spent 27 years in jail, more than half of them on notorious Robben Island.

Regarded as the father of their post-apartheid "Rainbow Nation" Mandela served as South Africa's first black president four years after being released from prison from 1994 to 1999. Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one five-year term in office.

He is also respected for the way he preached reconciliation after the 1994 transition to multi-racial democracy following three centuries of white domination.

As news broke earlier this year about his declining health, celebrities reflected on Mandela's legacy to the world.

In interviews conducted by Reuters before he died, actor Anthony Hopkins and others talked about the leader's selfless nature and inspiration to the world.

Hopkins said he always keeps a message from Mandela close at hand.

"His great philosophical legacy is when he says it is not the darkness we are frightened of, it is our light. And that is when we pretend to be what we are not. He said, that doesn't make people comfortable, be what the light is inside you, claim you're power and then people will forgive easier. And that's the greatest legacy, the greatest philosophical zinger and I've got it in my iPad and myiPhone and everything. I look at that several times a week," he explained.

Actress Helen Mirren said Mandela would be a legend for centuries.

"I think the more time passes the greater his status will go. You know, history is an extraordinary thing and when people find their place in history the way Mandela has I think his name will be like Alexander the Great. Or you know, those great, great names in history. And I believe Mandela will achieve that kind of status historically. Not just - because of how he got there. You know, those years in prison the whole history of Mandela is just so extraordinary and so kind of immaculate," the British actress said.

France's former first lady and singer Carla Bruni sang at Mandela's 91st birthday celebration and called his legacy incredibly important.

"His legacy to the world is incredibly important. It's symbolic and real as well. Because someone who stays 20 years in jail and comes out full of forgiveness, I think it's a legacy to up every one of us. His intelligence, of course his stature. But what I like the most is that after 20 years of this dreadful imprisonment and dreadful jail and dreadful conditions. He came out and said how sorry he felt for the people that made him go through that. So I think that at the level of humanity of kindness and goodness," said Bruni.

American actor Kevin Costner said Mandela's life has been an incredible inspiration of struggle.

"It hasn't been a perfect life, nor does he ever think it, or the perfect man. But he was the perfect guy and he had that kind of force of will. And he stood up and he just said no. And we're better for it. And he was, you know, he took beatings for it. And he lost a large part of his life by saying no," Costner told Reuters at the red carpet premiere of his new film "Superman".

His co-star Laurence Fishburne ranked Mandela among the greats: "Mr. Mandela will go down as one of the greatest individuals that lived in the 20th century. There is no question about that."

Actor Bruce Willis spoke of Mandela's giving sprit: "He has been a very generous guy, a very generous guy with his own life."

Glee actress Jane Lynch wished more people would take his lead.

"He's been just a figure of social change through open heartiness and forgiveness. I hope more people will look up to him for that and when you are, you know, when we do feel oppressed to do it the Nelson Mandela way. To come back with an open heart," she said on the red carpet at the Tony Awards earlier in the year.

Veteran actress Kathleen Turner compared his legacy to Gandhi.

"He has had the ability to truly change society in a peaceful and meaningful way. He cannot overestimated," Turner said.

American actress Mary-Louise Parker called his influence massive, as she talked about the effect he has had on her small children.

"I think the fact that my children know who Nelson Mandela is, my daughter is six and my son is nine. You know, I think it's amazing that he's part of our vernacular. He just, he just stands for so much. He's so, it's so great to have someone like that to look to in the world," Parker told Reuters.

South African golfer Gary Player said he spent a lot of time with the former president doing charity work and considering him a father-figure.

"He was full of love. I asked him, I said, 'how can you not have revenge for the white man when you went to jail for that amount of time?' For doing the right thing, he stood up for democracy. And he said, 'Gary, it's like a green apple.' He said, 'there is no use of being green on the outside and rotten on the inside. He says, 'you got to forgive.' He says, 'if the Lord forgives who am I not to forgive?' He says, 'I can't forget. But he says, 'you got to have love in your heart, you got to look into the future, not look over your shoulder all the time.' He says, 'revenge doesn't exists in my vocabulary," Player told Reuters.

After leaving office Mandela played little role in public life, dividing his time in retirement between his home in the wealthy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton and Qunu, the village in the impoverished Eastern Cape province where he was born.

The public's last glimpse of the former president was a brief clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by South African President Jacob Zuma and other officials from the rulingAfrican National Congress.