With the exception of the meeting with Mandela and a couple of family scenes, most of Damon's screen time is spent in training or on the field, and it's meant as highest praise to say that, if he weren't a recognizable film star, you'd never think he were anything other than a South African rugby player. Beefed up a bit (or, perhaps more accurately, slimmed down somewhat from "The Informant!") and employing, at least to an outsider's ear, an impeccable accent, Damon blends in beautifully with his fellow players.
Question: Have you been happy with the conversion of your book into a film thus far, through the filming, casting, etc?
Carlin: Could not possibly be more happy. A fine, sensitive script, written by a South African. A magnificent director. The best possible Hollywood actors to play Mandela and Pienaar.
Question: We've heard that the film-shooting process, not just the finished product, was a rich, authentic "1995" rugby environment. Were you happy with all the input?
Carlin: The authenticity derived from the fact that the whole shoot was conducted in SA; 90 percent of the people working on the film production were South Africans.
Question: Is it inevitable that accents and rugby screenplay will be particularly carefully scrutinised by local audiences, possibly detracting from the narrative?
Carlin: South Africans obsess on this point, or, at any rate, white South Africans do, when one of their own is represented in a Hollywood movie. Matt Damon does a great job.
Thus, on March 22, a Sunday afternoon, the small theater was packed with tired cast and crew — among them, several of the biggest movie stars in the world. The boys had cut their show in half for the special performance, deciding to go with only their best Queen hits, and they practiced them like crazy. It all paid off.
"Everyone in the crowd loved our show," said Ernie Bates, a tenor and the group's production genius. "Especially Matt Damon. He was smiling all the time.
After the concert, Damon was the first to ask for a CD, and he wouldn't take a free one. "He paid 100 rand (about $13), just like anybody," Bates marveled.
MTV: There was all this talk in terms of when you guys were starting to nail down casting. Everyone from Matt Damon to people we haven't heard of were in the running. How much of that was true? Did you ever consider going with a big name like Mr. Damon?
Abrams: I did, but not for the role of James Kirk. I went to Damon for the role of Kirk's father, and he declined in the most gracious and understandable and logical of reasons. We lucked out with Chris Hemsworth, and he did a great job. Maybe it would have been distracting to have someone as massively famous as Matt Damon in that role. The decision was made very early on to have actors who were not necessarily the most famous but the most right for the role.
"In all seriousness, I think it's one of the great performances of the year", Bakula says of Damon's immersive turn as Whitacre. "And if you look at the other actors in his out range, I don't know anyone else that could've done what he did in this movie. He handled it so beautifully. He's such a great actor. We spent a lot of time together because there was, not a lot of improv, but a lot of exploring – trying to figure his character out."