Jennifer Hudson to Play Controversial South African Figure

Jennifer Hudson (left) and Winnie Mandela

Amanda Schwab/Startraks; Dave Benett/Getty

updated 11/18/2009 AT 9:00 AM ET

originally published 11/18/2009 AT 10:00 AM ET

She can do a diva with a dream deferred – now can she portray the mother of a nation?

Jennifer Hudson is set to play Winnie Mandela in Winnie, a movie about former South African president Nelson Mandela’s powerful apartheid-busting but disgraced ex-wife that will begin filming May 30.

“I was compelled and moved when I read the script,” Hudson tells Variety.

“Winnie Mandela is a complex and extraordinary woman, and I’m honored to be the actress asked to portray her. This is a powerful part of history that should be told.”

Though Winnie Mandela took the lead against apartheid while her husband languished in prison, she was a controversial figure who was arrested and convicted in 1991 in connection with the murder of a 14-year-old government informant. In 2003, she was found guilty of fraud and theft of money from a funeral fund.

The biopic will be the latest in what may be shaping up to be a Mandela trend: Morgan Freeman will play South Africa’s first black president in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, opening Dec. 11 and also starring Matt Damon.


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