What: Museum of the Moving Image Salutes Clint Eastwood
When: Tuesday Night
Gala screening: "Invictus," Paris Theater, New York City, 6:30 p.m.
Gala dinner: 583 Park Ave., New York City, following screening
As part of the museum's special Clint Eastwood Salute on Dec. 1, the museum will be screening the filmmaker's latest work, "Invictus"—the South African rugby drama starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon—at the Paris Theater. It'll be followed by a gala presentation that will bring to the podium such past Eastwood collaborators as Hilary Swank, Marcia Gay Harden, as well as Freeman and Damon in person.
Eastwood, shooting on location in Cape Town and enlisting Chester Williams (the single black player on the Springboks team) to coach Damon, lets action define character. The rugby action electrifies the movie. But the performances make Invictus a movie you bring home with you. Damon may be shorter than Pienaar's 6'4" Afrikaner god. But he brings athleticism and grace to the role and a sense of burning conscience. Freeman seems born to play Mandela, and he never delivers a false note.
Eastwood's modest approach to these momentous events shames the showboating that passes for filmmaking in today's Hollywood. Invictus reveals a master at the top of his game. Eastwood's achievement is something rare: he's made a film that actually is good for the soul.
Given Eastwood's decades-long relationship with Warners and reputation for bringing in productions under budget, it was no surprise the film got a quick green light with a budget in the $60 million range.
But the production soon was hit by a series of delays. First, Freeman wanted to work with director Mike Nichols on a Broadway revival of Clifford Odets' "The Country Girl" in spring 2008. Then Matt Damon expressed interest in playing Pienaar, but his wife was pregnant and he wanted to spend time at home with the baby.
A small part of the problem? Greengrass, who has been busy toiling away on "Green Zone," was not consulted by Universal in the hiring of a new writer. This obviously did not make him happy, but that's only part of the issue that's been ongoing for some time (meanwhile, no one seems to love Nolfi's version).
What's Matt Damon's take on this? He's "loyal to Paul" which means he's likely not going to star in any "Bourne 4" film without him. Or at least not without his blessing and even then, it would have to be a spectacular script (and right now one of those doesn't exist, but Universal has been exploring other options....)
So with the recent Comcast/Universal deal on the horizon (Comcast will likely buy 51% of NBC Universal from General Electric, i.e. proposing to take majority control of the movie company) what does that mean? Well, one of the first things Comcast apparently did was call Patrick Whitesell (Damon's agent) within the last two weeks to ask if Matt was going to do the 'Bourne' film or not because it was going to figure in their valuation for the studio.
Some have suggested Greengrass walking away is a "typical Paul move" and again, that he possibly could be back on the project in a few more months, but at the very least it does strongly indicate the tension and problems that have been brewing between the director and the studio for several months now.
A Universal spokesperson said the studio would not comment on the situation.
Off the success of the "Bourne" franchise, he's been able to write his own ticket, working only with the directors he wants. This has led to an improbable string of smart, multifaceted turns that reveal an actor of precise physical control and dense emotional shading, whose action heroes are given the same detailed treatment as his indie film grotesques, all of which are at the center of the most influential films of the decade. He's a subtle miniaturist who also happens to be a gigantic star, a rare and wonderful thing.