OK, you know that ain’t quite true, and in fact my pithy title sells this story way short.
Last year we learned that Clint Eastwood would direct a semi-biopic of Nelson Mandela starring Morgan Freeman, now called Human Factor. Now we know that Matt Damon will rub a little more prestige on his CV by playing rugby star Francois Pienaar. Was it his convincing back-end work in the scrum for Scorsese that sold Eastwood, or the way he called the firefighters fags?
In 1995 Nelson Mandela was the recently elected president of South Africa, and the country was named as host for the Rugby World Cup. The nation’s team, the Springboks, had been banned from international competition in protest of apartheid, but became global stars on their way to an overtime championship victory against New Zealand. Mandela was a vocal supporter of the team and he became friends (of a sort) with player Francois Pienaar, who led the team but was cut the following year.
Freeman got Mandela’s blessing for the project before he took it to Eastwood and Warner Brothers; I doubt they talked to the South African Brotherhood of Firefighters before hiring Damon.