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Celebrities pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

Friday - 12/6/2013, 9:48am  ET

This photo released by The Weinstein Company shows Idris Elba, left, as Nelson Mandela, and Riaad Moosa, as Ahmed Kathrada, in the film, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Keith Bernstein)

The Associated Press

Celebrity reactions Thursday to the death of Nelson Mandela:

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"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." -- Idris Elba, who has the title role in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

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"Mandela was one of the great leaders and teachers of the twentieth century. He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness. His passing should re-ignite a worldwide effort for peace." -- Paul Simon, whose acclaimed 1986 album "Graceland" was criticized by some for using South African musicians during a time when artists were boycotting the country. Some artists defended Simon and, with Mandela's approval, he toured South Africa in the 1990s.

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"The Father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, has finished his journey. One wants to think in terms of big words when describing him, but this would not be right. Among the many things one can say about our Madiba (Nelson Mandela's tribal name) is that he never thought of himself as big. He was one of us, one of the people. His journey was our journey. And although he has physically left us now, his journey continues within us all." -- Statement from South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

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"One of the great honors of my life was to be invited to Nelson Mandela's home, spend private time and get to know him. He was everything you've ever heard and more -- humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time. He will always be my hero. His life was a gift to us all." -- TV personality Oprah Winfrey.

"Mandela would be remembered as a remarkable man just for what happened -- and didn't happen -- in South Africa's transition. But more than anyone, it was he who rebooted the idea of Africa from a continent in chaos to a much more romantic view, one in keeping with the majesty of the landscape and the nobility of even its poorer inhabitants. He was also a hardheaded realist, as his economic policy demonstrated. To him, principles and pragmatism were not foes; they went hand in hand. He was an idealist without naiveté, a compromiser without being compromised." -- From a tribute by musician Bono on Time.com.

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"Today, as it did while he inhabited our planet, Nelson Mandela's spirit truly soars with the angels. It was a spirit born of a generosity, love, compassion and hope for mankind that may never exist at such a heightened level in any single human being again. One of the most profound honors that I have had in my life was to be able to call 'Madiba' my friend and brother." -- Musician Quincy Jones.

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"We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela's story and legacy. It's been an honor to have been granted such proximity to a man who will go down as one of history's greatest freedom fighters and advocates for justice. I have had the privilege of spending time with President Mandela and I can say his sense of humor was as great as his optimism." -- Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company released "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

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"I am so happy that Nelson Mandela is at last truly free. I will wave to him as he transforms into everything around me and on into the cosmos. What a race to run, Life gave him. That he made it in so much beauty tells us who we are, and who we can be." -- Author Alice Walker.

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"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." -- Morgan Freeman, who starred as Mandela in "Invictus."

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"Portraying Nelson Mandela, in the film 'Goodbye Bafana' was a defining moment in my life and my career. 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." -- Dennis Haysbert.

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