Clooney and Canalis's affectionate vibe was infectious at their table: Jolie and Pitt whispered in each other's ears throughout the night, Barroso nestled into Damon's shoulder during the performances, and Heming lovingly adjusted Willis's tie before his onstage appearance.
Among those in attendance were Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Matt Damon and his wife Luciana, with whom Elisabetta enjoyed a giggle.
After dinner, the couple braved the rain to attend an afterparty at Il Piccolino in Beverly Hills. Clooney and girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis, Damon and wife Luciana, Cindy Crawford and husband Randy Gerber, and Willis and new wife Emma Heming also attended the private party at the small Italian restaurant.
The bash continued until around 2 a.m., when all of the celeb guests had personal umbrella-holders walk them to their waiting cars.
"This is a really complicated story," Damon says, "and any movie that's gonna be two hours long, you're going to have some simplification. Each character is going to stand in for a different perspective."
The performances are similarly amazing. Damon bulked up to resemble Pienaar physically and hard work with a dialogue coach left him with an excellent South African accent. Audiences will not cringe, as we have had to cringe so many times in the past. It's a hard-working, detailed performance and the sequence on Robben Island, entirely silent, allows us to see in his eyes what he is too choked up to say out loud.
Question: Can you talk about casting Matt Damon?
Lori McCreary: We all thought Matt Damon was a brilliant idea, and I would never have thought that we could get the likes of Matt Damon for this film, although with Mr Eastwood and Mr Freeman it was a little easier. We had three icons, so I was very excited about it.
Mace Nuefeld: The power of the story won him over, and for us he’s got such a natural athletic physique and way about him that I thought he was a natural for the part.
Lori McCreary: And his accent was genius.
Francois found Matt to be "a great bloke… I was struck by his humility, being the success that he is, and I loved his wicked sense of humor."
"Matt worked out very hard, got into terrific shape, and by structuring set-ups and camera angles, you can make a person look the way you want them to look" offers Clint. "He did a lot of weightlifting, put on a lot of muscle, did sprints, which he’d never done before, and some boxing."
And although she did not interact with Damon too much, [Khumalo] describes [Damon] as a "sweetie".
"You just fall in love with him. And he is hot," she laughs.
The special is a collection of live readings of little-known speeches and letters collected in Howard Zinn's revisionist-history tomes A People's History of the United States and Voices of A People's History of the United States, read by such sincerely sincere actors as Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, and Danny Glover, in a manner that, says Damon, "hopefully won't put you to sleep."
Turns out the documentary, whose readings were filmed on stages in Boston (at the Cutler Majestic Theatre) and Los Angeles, works beautifully. The stars bring a full sense of drama and import to the voices of our democracy without turning the production into a pile-on celebrity vehicle. While an alternate to the History Channel movie featuring unknown readers would undoubtedly have its own virtues, "The People Speak" has vitality and momentum thanks to the skills of the performers. These seasoned actors and singers are able to highlight both the particulars and the general significance of the material they’re given.
They're more than just pals: They're also among the stars and executive producers of the History channel's The People Speak (Dec. 13 at 8 p.m.), a celeb-filled collection of dramatic historical readings. But when EW got Josh Brolin and Matt Damon in a room together, all they really wanted to do was compare the size of their...vocabularies.
Brolin There's already 96 hours of readings. And we'll film more and create Internet spots.
Damon There'll be a growing archive of voices of the past, performed by actors.
Brolin This is going to billow exponentially. [To Matt] That's pretty good, right? "Billow."
Damon I like it. I've never heard "billow" used before [when speaking to the press].
Question: Were you good history students?
Damon I was fine. But if I could go back and go to college again, I would be a history major, definitely, instead of English and literature.
Brolin And Chris Moore, he was a history major. You talk to Chris and you talk to Howard Zinn, and they have this plethora of knowledge of the truth of what happened...
Damon You just said "plethora."
Brolin Thank you. I'm raising the bar. He's getting angry at me.
Damon I'm down two nothing--"billow" and "plethora." Shutout.
Brolin Why are you even asking him questions anymore? He doesn't know how to speak.
You guys are also starring together in the Coen brothers' next film, True Grit?
Brolin Yeah, he got the bigger role. I don't know how that worked. I thought they were my friends. Obviously not.
Damon [Laughs] Wow. That's hurtful. Just hurtful.
Matt Damon was so good in Steven Soderbergh’s not totally cooked, "The Informant!" If the movie had been better Damon would be up for a lead actor Oscar. But it's not, so we turn to "Invictus." Damon is pumped up and buff as South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar. He’s also got the accent down so perfectly — and apparently the rugby, too — that you forget Damon isn’t a blond, white South African. Damon’s trajectory from "Good Will Hunting" to here is astonishing.
He's never embarrassed himself, and has chosen roles with a consistent approach. Without being showy, he's become a dependable Hollywood star in the old sense. And he can handle sensitive material, comic, and action of course (See under "Bourne.") Morgan Freeman has an easier time in "Invictus" because we know a lot about Nelson Mandela. In a script that doesn't do much to flesh out characters, Damon creates Pienaar from nothing, and holds up his end of the film beautifully.