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Forest Whitaker: Playing Tutu was one of the toughest challenges of my career

By: stagedoorscribbler - March 19, 2018

Desmond Tutu. Photograph by Hattie Miles

He may be an Oscar winning movie star but Forest Whitaker has revealed that playing Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the film The Forgiven was one of the biggest challenges of his career.

The 56-year-old actor says he was frightened he wouldn’t be able to turn in a performance that did justice to the Nobel Peace Prize winning anti-apartheid campaigner. 

And added that the role was even tougher than his Academy Award winning portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 movie  The Last King of Scotland.

He needn’t have worried. Tutu was suitably impressed by his portrayal in the film. The movie, directed by Roland Joffé’s, explores the delicate negotiations brokered by Tutu in the aftermath of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.It centres on a fictional account of a meeting with notorious racist murderer,  Piet Blumfield played by Eric Bana, who is appealing for clemency. 

Whitaker, who spent time with Tutu while preparing for the film, observing him and talking to him, was greatly relieved to get a thumbs-up from man man himself.

He told Entertainment tonight:  "I was quite moved because I'd been really scared about it, you know, because he impresses me so much. I was worried that I wouldn't reach what he wanted and his expectations.” 

The Forgiven was adapted by Michael Ashton from his own play, The Archbishop And The Antichrist.