"My wife was delighted that Matt was playing me," says Pienaar, with a chuckle clearly audible down the phone line from Cape Town. "But she was not impressed when I invited him to my house and said I'd do the cooking. Matt's first words when I opened the door were... well, he looked at me, he didn't even say 'Hi', he just said, 'I'm much bigger in the movie,' and then he hugged me."
Damon, as Pienaar quickly concluded, belonged in a category distinct from mere sportsmen, even world-renowned ones forever bracketed after 1995 and all that with a totemic statesman such as Mandela. "One night I was having a glass of vino with Matt when I told him about our Make A Difference charity's 110km cycle ride around the Cape to help disadvantaged children, and he said he'd do it with us. This was rock-star stuff. Everywhere there were people with banners and good-looking ladies shouting, 'Matt! Matt'!"
Pienaar has yet to see the film, in which Morgan Freeman portrays Mandela, but he visited the set with his two sons, and he and John Carlin, whose book Playing the Enemy was adapted for the screenplay, consulted with the leading lights. "Obviously it's Hollywood, and to dramatise the movie and for it to reach a crescendo there's a lot of licence in the screenplay," says Pienaar. "I'm very excited to see it in December, but there's also that little sense in me that's saying, 'I just hope they catch the moment like I remember it'.
"In the end, though, it's a magnificent story and I was privileged to be involved in that story. Morgan Freeman went into Mandela mode a couple of weeks before shooting – talking like Madiba, with his mannerisms. It was scary and, wow, it was impressive. Morne du Plessis [the Boks' manager in 1995] told me when he saw the prosthetic being applied to Matt's nose to look like mine, 'Oh my goodness, this is too close to the truth'."
If director Clint Eastwood delivers yet again on Invictus, the movie could be the one to beat for Best Picture. When I told Freeman how much I admired the Invictus script, adapted from John Carlin’s book by Anthony Peckham, Freeman said, "I guarantee you, we did not mess it up."
Soderbergh: Matt's fearless. He'll do anything. If we get this Liberace film made next year you will really see him do some stuff... Matt's an actor who became a movie star.
History Channel's "The People Speak" doesn't premiere until Dec. 13, but executive producers Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore and Howard Zinn will be here Friday at History's home base (E. 45th) to talk about the project, which encompasses "game-changing moments in democracy" and has its red-carpet premiere Thursday night. Marisa Tomei, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover and Kerry Washington -- also featured in the special -- will join Damon et. al on Friday.
The song that covers this topic best is "Men in This Town." In it, Shakira sings about looking all over and still not finding the right guy. However, don't mistake the Matt Damon name-check as a jab.
"I know Matt Damon," Shakira said about the lyric, "Matt Damon's not meant for me." "Actually, he's my neighbour in Miami, or used to be, I think he moved now to New York. I know him and his wife. It's all good. This is a song and Damon really rhymed with the other word. Matt Damon is actually a terrific dude — I'm saying it in a good way. What I'm actually saying is there aren't many great guys out there and Matt Damon is one of them. I love Matt Damon. He's so great. He's a good sport too. I'm sure he’ll be fine with it. And his wife too."
The affable actor has been married since 2005 to Argentine-born Luciana Barroso. Alexia is her daughter from a previous marriage and she and Damon have daughters Isabella, 3, and Gia, 1. He says he's not sure whether they will add to their family.
"I'm really happy," he says. "I couldn't ask for more, but in terms of another kid, you're going to have to ask the boss. I'm open to having more kids but I'm also perfectly happy if we stop. You know, we have three great kids and that's a total blessing."
"My story is that I'm married with kids, so there's not much scandal," Damon says. "As long as they get an updated picture every six months, there's nothing else to make money off. I don't think I've done much to create a mystique around myself, so I think that kind of disarms the whole paparazzi thing."
"I haven't seen any of the footage because Clint doesn't work with playback or anything like that, but I could just see in the scenes with Morgan that he was fantastic. He's going to be great in the movie."
Matt Damon protects the shy Luciana
Matt Damon and his gorgeous wife Luciana Barroso may look like a million dollars, but here's a couple who'd much prefer the comfort of home to the glitz and glamour of yet another Hollywood soiree.
Like a fish out of water Luciana reels from the spotlight, seeking refuge behind Matt in a subconscious bid to hide.
In a stance often adopted by the couple at public events, Matt stands protectively in front of Luciana, his body on a 45-degree angle and firmly pressed against hers, acting as a shield in a bid to protect her and offer her reassurance.
Despite Luciana's insecurities in the public eye, Matt's presence makes her feel stronger, with his body barrier giving her the courage to face the cameras front on.
Matt's open body language reveals his sheer confidence, his steady gaze saying "here I am" but giving away little else. Luciana's stance, her positioning, slightly hunched shoulders and firm grip on clutch reveal her discomfort and frustration.
Rather than try to fake an over-the-top smile for the cameras, her retracted smile and blank stare are her subtle way of saying, "back off".
A united front, their body language suggests that theirs is a strong partnership, built on mutual trust, support and love.