Idris Elba has spoken of the "honour" of playing Nelson Mandela on screen, as the news of the South African statesman's death was broken to a stunned audience at the film's Royal Premiere in London.

Idris Elba has released this statement:

What an honour it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Elba had previously spoken of the great challenge of bringing Mandela's story to life on screen - an epic tale that encompasses his extraordinary journey from young activist, lawyer, prisoner, to president and finally revered statesman.

idris elba

Idris Elba and Naomie Harris appeared on the red carpet earlier in the evening in at the royal premiere

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the evening's event in Leicester Square, where they met Mr Mandela's daughter Zindzi just before the film. She was later seen appearing distressed, as the news came through of her father's death in South Africa.

nelson mandela

Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi (right) met the Duke of Cambridge shortly before the film began

The Duke stopped to make a tribute before leaving the cinema with the Duchess.

Prince William said, "It's extremely sad and tragic news. We were just reminded of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now."

The sad news was given to the audience after the credits rolled, when two minutes silence followed in honour of the man whose story they had just seen brought to the big screen.

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  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge necklace as she arrives for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge talks to Naomie Harris as she arrives for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge's handbag arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 5, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 5, 2013. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    ALTERNATIVE CROP The Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 5, 2013. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 5, 2013. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 5, 2013. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Idris Elba, left, who plays Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris who plays Winnie Mandela laugh as they pose for photographers at the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Idris Elba, left, who plays Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris who plays Winnie Mandela pose for photographers at the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Britain's Kate the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William arrive to attend the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Idris Elba and Naomie Harris arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Tony Kgoroge (left), Naomie Harris (second left), Zindzi Mandela (centre) and Idris Elba (right) arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Idris Elba arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Britain's Kate the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William arrive to attend the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Idris Elba and Naomie Harris

    British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris pose for photographers as they arrive on the red carpet for the UK Premiere of 'Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom' at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on Thursday Dec. 5, 2013. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP Images)

  • Britain's Kate the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William arrive to attend the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Britain's Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William arrive to attend the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Idris Elba, left, who plays Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris who plays Winnie Mandela pose for photographers at the UK premiere of the movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at a cinema in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Idris Elba and Naomie Harris arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    ALTERNATIVE CROP.Idris Elba and Naomie Harris (right) arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 5, 2013. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Harvey Weinstein arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Emma McQuiston arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Shingai Shoniwa arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Idris Elba and Naomie Harris (right) arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Jamelia and her daughters Teja and Tiani (right) arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Clara Amfo arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Clara Amfo arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Richard E. Grant arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Tony Kgoroge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Tony Kgoroge arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Clara Amfo arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Producer Anant Singh, wife Vanashree and children arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Richard E. Grant arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Zindzi Mandela arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Jermain Defoe (centre) with mother Sandra (left) and sister (right) arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Idris Elba arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Premiere - London

    Emma McQuiston arriving for the Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.