Invictus: Interview with Director Clint Eastwood

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Clint Eastwood is the director of "Invictus," which stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The film is being released December 11 by Warner Bros.

Important Time in South African History

Eastwood notes, "This story takes place at a critical point in Mandela's presidency. I think he demonstrated great wisdom in incorporating sport to reconcile his country. He knows he needs to pull everybody together, to find a way to appeal to their national pride–one thing, perhaps the only thing, they have in common at that time. He knows the white population and the black population will ultimately have to work together as a team or the country will not succeed, so he shows a lot of creativity using a sports team as a means to an end."

As the host country of that year's World Cup, South Africa is automatically qualified to compete. But the Springboks were unarguable underdogs, largely because of their lack of experience on the world stage. Eastwood explains, "Because of apartheid, South Africa had been banned from participating in international sporting events for years. So no one thinks the Springboks have much chance of winning, including them. But they open themselves up to the possibility."

Working with Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman sent the screenplay to Eastwood, who says he immediately responded to the material. "The story caught my imagination. I thought it was a natural for a movie, and I really liked the way the script was written."?

"Morgan is great," Eastwood affirms. "I could not imagine anyone else in the role of Mandela. They have the same stature and same kind of charismatic nature. Morgan also has a similar vocal quality, and he worked very hard to capture Mandela's inflections. I think he did it quite well."

On Matt Damon

"Matt may not be the same height as Francois, but he has the same tenacity and power," Eastwood remarks. "He also worked out very hard and got himself in terrific shape for the film. And," the director adds, "by structuring set-ups and camera angles, you can make a person look the way you need them to look."

Damon got his chance to play rugby as he and the other actors spent time on the practice field. Eastwood notes, "When you're an amateur depicting a professional, you have a lot of practicing to do to appear as skilled as these men were. All of the actors who hadn't played rugby before had a lot of catching up to do. At the same time, we didn't want our cast to get hurt out there playing with the pros, so we were kind of crossing our fingers the whole time."

Shooting in South Africa

"I would not have filmed this movie any other place but South Africa," Eastwood declares. "You have to be there–you need the people, you need the places. We wanted that authenticity. The majority of our cast and all of our extras were South African. They also have a viable cinema group in South Africa, so we also had a nice ensemble of Americans and South Africans working together behind the scenes and their crew could not have been better."?

A majority of the filming took place in and around the coastal city of Cape Town. One of the key scenes shot there was Nelson Mandela's visit to the Springbok training camp, filmed in an area called Tokai. When the company arrived that morning they discovered some unusual spectators had beaten them to the site: a group of baboons. Eastwood recounts, "We had to wait until the baboons exited, but as soon as the players got out there, they would stay on the sidelines or up in the trees. They looked at us like they were wondering, 'What kind of crazy people are these?'" the director laughs.

Eastwood reflects, "When we went to Robben Island, everybody was struck by how tiny the space was. And to spend 27 years there–maybe the best years of your life–and then come out and still not be bitter is quite a feat."