Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Actor Idris Elba , trapped and terrified in Robben Island prison

Elba begged the authorities that run the notorious former prison, where
Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity, to let him spend a night there.
At first, they refused. ‘But I persisted, it was important,’ he says.
‘Robben Island is a museum now – no one had spent a night in there since the 1980s.'So they took me to one of the punishment cells.' It was exactly the same dimensions as Mandela’s cell [8ft x 7ft] with a
concrete floor and a bucket in the corner.‘Spending the night in there gave me a little taste of what it was like to be locked up in Robben Island for all those years,’ says Elba.
It’s funny, because of insurance they insisted that I take a phone in case I needed to get out.
‘They said, “If you need to, just call. The security guard is about a quarter of a mile away and he will come and open the gates.” So the guy locked the door and I watched him walk away.
'He locked a second door, a third door, and then a fourth. And then he was gone and it was eerily quiet.
‘There was a single lightbulb on in the cell but outside in the walkways it was very dark. It dawned on me that I wasn’t getting out any time soon.
'And then I glanced at my phone and there was no signal!’
It was a long night. Elba admits that there were times when he was seriously
‘It was really unsettling and I swear that place is haunted. It’s dead quiet – quieter than you can imagine – and every so often I’d hear a clang or
something knocking against the bars down the corridor. And there was no one else but me there.
‘I was woken by a shaft of really cold air and I thought, ‘Someone is coming in.’ I thought it was coming from the window but it was tiny.
'And at the same time this really big flock of seagulls started flying right above the cell. It was a weird experience.
'It helped me understand a little of the mindset of a man who was incarcerated for so long.’
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is based on the autobiography of the same name, and as well as covering his 27 years in prison examines his decision to advocate violence, against the wishes of the elders who controlled the ANC (African National Congress), making him one of the most wanted men in the country. There are harrowing scenes of his imprisonment on Robben Island.
‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ is released on January 3.
Martyn Palmer-Mail online


  1. cant wait for the movie. Idris Elba b fyn like wine..

  2. loved him in thor. nice blog..