I never had the opportunity to interview Nelson Mandela, but I've interviewed those who have. They have all in turn made observations about this iconic man, who like Gandhi became more much powerful by showing restraint, forgiveness, compassion where most would have expected and understood revenge and anger.
The most pertinent and poignant of comments came from the celebrated sculptor John Doubleday, who was commissioned to produce a bust of the man. In order to do this work he has to shadow his muse four, five sometimes six times for a few hours, perhaps longer, but only if their busy schedule allows. He would observe each expression, mannerism and interaction. He has worked with HRH Prince Philip, Sir Laurence Olivier amongst others, trying to get the real spirit of the person behind the mask they put on show to the public. It was a fascinating interview.
John shadowed Mandela and told me it was a fine line he had to tread. It was obvious his people absolutely adored him, and even those who didn't, revered him with a silent but deep rooted fear. There is nothing more frightening to even the most Machiavellian of men (and women) than someone who is scared of nothing. Mandela was aristocracy, behaving more royal than most Royals by blood, not just in own country but around the world. He was treated like a saint but he was still very much the common man. He knew he must never lose touch with the people, not just say the words, but spiritually never lose touch. Never believe he was above law, God, anything. I remember interviewing John Doubleday and out of all of those he shadowed, it was Mandela who cast the longest shadow, and John's greatest admiration. Mandela, he told me, was unlike the rest. He was able to walk that line of listening to the adoration but not being drawn in by it. He was the only one who managed this fine line.