Terry Pheto, the South African actress who was solemn and earnest in Phillip Noyce‘s Catch A Fire and Gavin Hood‘s Tsotsi (’05), is about to start work on Long Walk To Freedom, a South African-produced Nelson Mandela biopic with Idris Elba in the title role. And she’s currently on the cover of the June issue of the South African edition of Marie Claire.

I guess you could say I’ve become somewhat mesmerized on a personal level by her, as far as that sort of thing goes. What I mean is that I’ve met Pheto and hung with her a bit at a friend’s home in Los Angeles, and it’s like “wow, okay…I’m actually friendly with a hot and reputable actress outside the pretend friendliness of press junkets and parties.”

I never know what to do or say in the presence of really dishy women. I always feel outflanked or intimidated on some level. So I tend to parse my thoughts and feelings carefully lest I be exposed as a drooling admirer. I felt the same way when I met Abbie Cornish in a non-professional setting a few months ago.

Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) is directing the Mandela biopic, which is based on Mandela’s autobiography of the same name. The script is by William Nicholson.