Keith Bernstein
EW Staff
December 07, 2009 AT 05:00 AM EST

Invictus

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
134 minutes
Wide Release Date
12/11/09
performer
Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
director
Clint Eastwood
distributor
Warner Bros.
author
Anthony Peckham
genre
Drama

We gave it a B+

STARRING Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
WRITTEN BY Anthony Peckham
DIRECTED BY Clint Eastwood

When a venerated Nobel Peace Prize winner says that he’d like you to portray him in a movie, you take the request seriously. Sometime after Morgan Freeman met Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s, South Africa’s then president gave the actor his blessing to play him should Hollywood ever bring his life story to the big screen. Invictus (the Latin word for undefeated and the title of a 19th-century poem that inspired Mandela during his 27 years in prison) centers on the anti-apartheid leader’s efforts to unify South Africa during the early days of his presidency, culminating in the country’s stun-ning upset victory at 1995’s rugby World Cup. ”I’m not a big rugby fan, so I didn’t know anything about the ’95 World Cup,” says Freeman, who acquired the rights to John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation and brought the project to director Clint Eastwood. ”But it’s a wonderful, feel-good story.” For his part, Matt Damon jumped at the opportunity to play team captain Francois Pienaar despite his near-total cluelessness about rugby. ”First of all, it’s Clint Eastwood directing,” Damon says. ”Second, it’s Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela. How can I pass up a chance to stand next to him while he does that?”

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