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    Idris Elba, Morgan Freeman Remember Nelson Mandela: It Was an "Honor" to Play the South African Leader

    Idris Elba, Nelson Mandela, Morgan Freeman Getty Images

    While Nelson Mandela worked to bring peace into the world, a handful of actors worked to bring his character to life on the big screen.

    Idris Elba and Morgan Freeman are two stars that took on the big task of portraying the late South African leader, who died today at age 95, and both Elba and Freeman are honored to be able to say they were able to impersonate such an icon in film.

    "What an honor 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, who played Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, said in a statement obtained by E! News.

    "I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba's family. We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth, I only feel honored to be associated with him. He is in a better place now."

    MORE: Celebs pay their respects to Nelson Mandela on Twitter

    Freeman, who took on the role in the 2009 movie Invictus, said, "Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of  incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve—a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind.

    "As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go. Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us."

    Dennis Haysbert also played Mandela in Goodbye Bafana, where he depicted the real-life hardships of the late leader's 27 years in prison on Robben Island.

    "Portraying Nelson Mandela, in the film Goodbye Bafana was a defining moment in my life and my career," Haysbert said. "We as a society, have been blessed to live in a time that Nelson Mandela has lived, loved, and led. What he has done for his country, his countrymen, and everyone on this planet may not be achieved again…ever. I will always honor him as a saint."

    PHOTOS: Nelson Mandela's Famous Friends

    Nelson Mandela AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    Elba's costar in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Naomie Harris, released a statement saying, "I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of the greatest inspirational leaders of our time. Today South Africa lost its spiritual father. Too often violence and oppression lead to further violence and retribution. He taught us to fight back with peace.

    "Long before we made this movie, I was inspired, as so many have been, by the leadership, grace and compassion of Nelson Mandela. While no single film can replicate a person's life, I am very proud to be part of our tribute to this extraordinary man. His accomplishments and approach to peace are lessons that will live on for generations."

    The revered South African statesman, who spent 27 years in prison for treason before becoming the apartheid-torn country's first black president in 1994, died Thursday at his home after being in failing health for some time.

    "Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," South African President Jacob Zuma said.

    "Our thoughts are with the South African people who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood. Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause."

    PHOTOS: Stars Playing Nelson Mandela

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