"It's based on a book written by John Carlin called Playing the Enemy," Pienaar told Scrum.com in Johannesburg, "which they adapted to a screenplay to capture Nelson Mandela [played by Morgan Freeman] and what he did: his background in being a political activist, fighting for democracy, his release from prison, and how this game of rugby changed the nation. And that is how the film is written. Mandela, his years in prison, and how he got released, and what a shrewd tactician he is."
"I think it was Eisenhower who said that the art of leadership is getting somebody else to do what you want them to do, because he wants to do it. The same could be said of Mandela. In the 1995 World Cup, he saw the opportunity to unite the nation. He embraced the Springboks and the movie finishes with the final game, when the kick goes through the uprights and Mandela hands me the cup. Or rather, Morgan Freeman hands Matt Damon the Cup."
Pienaar will doubtless keep a close eye on the Springboks' performances, even though his life has changed irrevocably. "I play golf with Clint, I cook dinner for Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. In fact, Matt and I train together. It's been surreal."
Damon, who narrates the film, won't be at the screening, but two of the film's runners - Ray Zahab and Charlie Engle - will be on hand to talk about their trek. Engle said Damon signed on to "Sahara" when the two men ran 10 miles together through New York City. At the time, Damon was getting ready for his role in "The Good Shepherd." "He's a really good athlete," Engle said. "I give him a hard time because he has to gain weight and lose weight for movie roles, but generally speaking, he's a really good athlete."
History is teaming with education organization the People Speak for a dramatic documentary starring a host of celebrity talent.
Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei and others will lend performances chronicling key moments in U.S. history. Damon will appear in a vignette about John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," Tomei will play factory worker Harriet Hanson Robinson, and Eddie Vedder will read Bob Dylan's "Masters of War."
The network will air a two-hour special titled "The People Speak" during the fourth quarter of next year and release at least 24 shortform segments through 2010 for online and VOD distribution.
"This is a brand marriage made in heaven," History executive vp and GM Nancy Dubuc said. "Matt and Chris [Moore] are trying to show here that democracy is not a spectator sport."
"I am a firm believer in this project, proud to be part of it and proud that we are working jointly with History," Damon said.
"You've got Howard Zinn and Matt Damon and me and others. I don't think anybody denies that we lean toward the left, as they say," Moore said. "But the point of the piece is really to make people feel like they can make a difference ... that when you see something wrong in America, you can actually change that -- and here are these examples of things that have been changed by everyday people.
"So it's not very controversial," he said. "It's very much more designed to be inspiring and moving. It's an emotional piece; it's not an academic piece."
You founded an AIDS charity, Artists for a New South Africa, with Danny Glover and other actors. What's your latest project?
In July we are releasing an audiobook that I just directed of Nelson Mandela's favorite African folk tales. My Web site is ansaafrica.org. Go on there and look at all the stuff we do - we're 20 years old this year. ... I'll tell you who I got to record. I have Alan Rickman, Whoopi Goldberg, Helen Mirren, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Blair Underwood, LeVar Burton, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Gillian Anderson, Forest Whitaker, CCH Pounder, Sophie Okonedo, Jurnee Smollett - I got all these people and it is so good.