RELIEF: Forest Whitaker plays Tutu. Photo: BRANDART/VODAMAIL.CO.ZA

Multi-award-winning actor Forest Whitaker was poep scared of his role as The Arch in The Forgiven.

The US star admitted to being scared to portray SA Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in the new fliek.

“I was very intimidated, really afraid,” the actor said as the film opened in Europe.

“I asked myself: ‘Can I do this?’ A number of times I thought maybe I should just withdraw.

“I wanted to (play him), but I wanted to make sure that he’d be happy with whatever I did.”

Desmond Tutu. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane. African News Agency/ANA

Concerns ranged from the difference in height to the accent.

“My voice is very different from his, and then there’s the accent - there were a lot of things that made me be concerned.

"All caused me great fear,” said the actor, 57, who won an Oscar for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland.

“So all I could do was to try to portray the spirit and the soul of this man that was so important to South Africa, and in so many ways to the world.”

He has long been an admirer of the Anglican cleric who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The Forgiven focuses on how Tutu was forced to deal with people who would once happily have killed him - including an ex-member of the apartheid government death squad seeking clemency before the TRC.

Meeting and studying Tutu for the film was inspirational, said Whitaker, peace and reconciliation ambassador for Unesco.

In the film, Tutu’s capacity for compassion is put to the test by fictional character Piet Blomfield, played by Eric Bana.

Whitaker’s fears were unwarranted as Tutu “loved the film, which was a great relief”.

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