Sunday, December 06, 2009

Eastwood on Madiba

Eastwood shares an incident that tells me a great deal about how he works.

"One day, after the shoot, we were driving home from the township, and there was an open space full of garbage on which a bunch of black kids were playing rugby," he says. "My host pointed them out and remarked that if Madiba had not pushed for the Springboks, or if they had not won the World Cup, those kids would not have been playing rugby. But there they were, barefoot, in cut-off jeans and torn T-shirts, and I said: 'We have to get a shot of this'."

So in the middle of a township, with no security detail beyond a couple of bodyguards, they unpacked their cameras and filmed the impromptu game and that footage became the closing credit sequence of the film.

It wasn't just a bit of atmospheric local colour. Eastwood, with his spontaneous, instinctive skill as a director, saw its value. It wasn't in the script and nobody had even thought of the idea, but Eastwood looked through the car window after a long day's shoot and knew exactly what to do with those images.

On Freeman playing Mandela

Morgan has a certain bearing and charisma. He was built to play this role. But also, as a man, he is just as pragmatic and resourceful as Madiba. When I met Madiba, I could see at once that very few people are as charismatic as he is. You can see in his demeanour that he has been through a lot, but he is also open to a lot. He has faults, as all men do, and it was a tough choice for me not to portray him as a kind of Christ-like figure," he tells me. "But the key was his honesty."

SHOOT: What a great project and wonderful that it is being handled by a group as talented as Eastwood, Freeman and Damon. Oscar alert!
clipped from

I meet with Clint Eastwood at a gala at the presidential palace in Paris the day after President Nicolas Sarkozy had awarded him France's most coveted prize, the Legion of Honour. It's typical of Eastwood, however, that the next day he was up early to do interviews with journalists, which he does with great courtesy and minimum fuss.

He ambles into the room without an entourage, his hair tousled, wearing well-worn denims and sneakers, and shakes my hand. A pert young makeup artist bustles up, but he gives her a wry smile and says: "At my age, there's not much you can do about this face." And then we begin. It is a reminder that the really big stars show up on time, give you their full attention and say "Thank you for coming such a long way to see me" at the end of the interview.

Not only did he leave prison to become president, but he did not hold a great sense of bitterness towards the people who had imprisoned him.

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