Forest Whitaker seems to have a proclivity for playing African characters.
He portrayed Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, Madiba in 2013’s Nelson Mandela and is now portraying Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a new film called The Forgiven.
Set around South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it sees the bishop wrestling with a letter begging for clemency, written by former apartheid-era hit squad member Piet Blomfeld.
Blomfeld is portrayed by Eric Bana, known for his roles in Hulk and Troy.
Trailers of the film reveal Whitaker wearing a prosthetic nose and imitating Tutu’s distinct voice and accent, rather unsuccessfully.
Bana’s Australian roots may be the reason his Afrikaans accent isn’t too bad.
Tutu himself has had a few flirtations with the silver screen, appearing as himself in the spiritual 2010 documentary The Invocation, 2008’s Fierce Light, 2006’s Nobelity, 2000’s Long Night’s Journey into Day and 1999’s A Force More Powerful. He was also the voice of the character Baba in the 2011 animation Jock the Hero Dog.
The film has a South African producing partner, Zaheer Goodman-Bhyat from Light and Dark Films, and was shot completely in and around Cape Town, including Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison. Other South African actors in the cast include Jeff Gum, Morné Visser and Thandi Makhubele.
Directed by two-time academy nominee Roland Joffé, known for such unflinching political films as 1984’s The Killing Fields, The Forgiven is described as “cerebral and unflinchingly violent in its depiction of South Africa’s recent political history”.