Monday, August 24, 2009

Reel People: Matt Damon is Francois Pienaar

The film is Invictus, which is directed by Clint Eastwood, with a screenplay by Anthony Peckham, based on the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by journalist and author John Carlin.

Francois Pienaar

Francois was born January 2, 1967 in Vereeniging, Gauteng Province in South Africa. He was the eldest of four boys.

Upon completion of high school, he won an athletic scholarship to Rand Afrikaans University, which has since merged to be a premier academic institution that is part of the University of Johannesburg. Pienaar studied law and became a lawyer, while playing Rugby on scholarship.

Francois played at the club level for the English team the Saracens (the Men in Black), and then for the South African team Transvaal (now the Xerox Golden Lions). Pienaar played for this team beginning in 1989.

In 1993, while the Tansvaal's were one of the most successful teams, Pienaar was not only selected to play for South Africa's national team (Springboks), but was appointed team captain.

Piennar was very respected, and even named international player of the year in 1994 by the magazine Rugby World.

In 1995, in the midst of transition, the underdog (9th seeded) Springboks went to the world cup, with great support from Nelson Mandela. The team had many players from Pienaar's team the Transvaals, and although they only had one black team mate, Chester Williams, the role of the teams Rugby success was a unifying factor for the changing nation of South Africa.

In 1995, Pienaar's team met New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final at Ellis Park, and the Springbok's won the championship with Pienaar playing with a calf injury.

Pienaar was a huge celebrity in South Africa, uniting a county and bringing victory to the team.

In a controversial move, the Springboks coach Andre Markgraaff dropped Pienaar from the roster in 1996, partially due to injury, and Pienaar left South Africa to successfully coach and play for the English rugby club team the Saracens Rugby Football Club, were he played early in his career.

During this time he co-authored a book called Rainbow Warrior by Pienaar and Edward Griffiths.

In 2000 Francois retired to be CEO of the Saracens, and stepped down in 2002.

At this time he returned to Cape Town, South Africa were he lives with his wife Nerine Winter and two sons and their two sons.


Clint Eastwood's most recent project, originally title The Human Factor tells the story of Pienaar and his relationship on the field, and with political leader Nelson Mandela, particularly in 1995, the year of the victory at Ellis Field.

In this film, Matt Damon plays Piennar and Morgan Freeman co-leads as Nelson Mandela.

Matt Damon has a number of high profile roles this year including his biopic role as Mark Whitacre in The Informant, but it is certainly expected that this film will capture the hearts of critics and film audiences in this political sports film.

Matt Damon hasn't been nominated for an Oscar since his double nominations for Good Will Hunting more than 10 years ago. Will Damon's portrayal of the South African rugby star earn him critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?


Jacob said...

I think the Informant looks better than Fracois Pinnear

Daniel said...

Until you mentioned Damon's Oscar drought I didn't realize he hasn't had a great acting showcase for a while. Here and there, but nothing really significant (not the Bournes, but maybe Syriana or The Good Shepherd...). I'm looking forward to both of these.

RC said...

@ Jacob - got to be honest, I agree I'm more interested in the Informant but this is the buzz film, and the Informant seems totally ignored at this point.

@ Daniel - I don't know if it's a Damon-drought, it's just that Damon's been playing the same character for so long, to see him in these different roles is great!

Danny K. said...

The trailer for The Informant looked pretty good, and Damon certainly looked great in it. As for Invictus, even though we haven't seen any footage yet, I'm sure Eastwood will come through again and Damon will give a great performance. I would say his best chance for a nomination would be supporting actor for Invictus, but it will be tough because both acting categories seem pretty crowded at this point.

I actually have the book sitting at home, I'll definitely give it a read before I see the movie.

Chrissie said...

very informative blog

Courtney Small said...

The Informant will be showing at the Toronto Film Festival this year. It will be interesting to see how that and this film will stack up at year's end both commercially and critically.