Saturday, December 05, 2009

INVICTUS: At a press conference to promote the publication of his 1994 memoir, “Long Walk to Freedom,” someone asked Mr. Mandela who should play him in the movie. “And he said he wanted me,” Mr. Freeman recalled.

Mr. Freeman conveys the manipulative charm, the serene confidence, the force of purpose, the hint of mischief and the lonely regret that made Mr. Mandela one of the most fascinating political figures of his time. This is not, as the film’s screenwriter, Anthony Peckham, put it, “Rich Little doing Mandela in Vegas.”
He says “Spring-BAHK” where Mandela would say “Spring-BOHK.”

SHOOT: This is going to be good. I remember the afternoon after the Boks won the world cup we - our family - went for a skydive to celebrate. It was a beautiful day.
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Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela in “Invictus,” about a historic rugby match in South Africa in 1995.

MORGAN FREEMAN has been cast as God — twice — so he evidently has no trouble projecting moral authority. The challenge of portraying Nelson Mandela, then, was not the size of the halo, but knowing the performance would be measured against the real, familiar Mandela, and his myth. “If we can say any part of acting is hard, then playing someone who is living and everybody knows would be the hardest,” Mr. Freeman said in a phone interview.

I found Mr. Freeman’s performance in the film “Invictus,” directed by Clint Eastwood, uncanny — less an impersonation than an incarnation.
He gets the rumble and halting rhythm of Mr. Mandela’s speech, the erect posture and stiff gait. There is a striking physical resemblance, enhanced by the fact that Mr. Freeman, 72, is just a few years younger than Mr. Mandela was in the period the film covers.

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