He speaks animatedly of his first meeting with Mandela and passes round his Blackberry to reporters to show off his screensaver - a picture of the statesman with Damon's wife, former bartender Luciana Barroso, and their two daughters, three-year-old Isabella and year-old Gia.
'He has an aura about him that even my kids were affected by, they couldn't take their eyes off him. When Mandela saw the kids, he lit up, so my few minutes with him were spent watching him bounce my kids on his knee,' he says.
His Invictus co-star Damon, who plays Springboks captain Francois Pienaar, also met with Mandela and Damon proudly shows Metro the screensaver on his phone.
"This is my wife and children meeting with him," he smiles.
"Look at the way my baby girl is looking at him with such admiration. He definitely has an aura about him."
One of the benefits for Damon playing Pienaar was he got to get back in shape after playing the pudgy Mark Whitacre in The Informant!
"I was in the gym constantly putting on the muscle but it got a little too much. My wife didn't like it, either. She was like, 'Oh God, gross.' So I think she liked my Informant body better."
As for Matt Damon, seeing him filming in South Africa it was easy to see why Eastwood had automatically chosen for the role of Francois Pienaar. It was a matter of temperament, besides talent. Like Freeman and Eastwood he is a Hollywood star, but at the same time, an unpretentious professional. Dressed in the uniform of rugby player Francois Pienaar, if you didn’t know who he was, you might have thought that he was not different from the 14 extras who accompanied him dressed in green and gold, the colors of the Springboks.
Damon looks like a typical young American, fresh, intelligent, friendly and natural, that happens to be rich and famous, but one who doesn’t seem to feel any need to call attention to that aspect. When asked why he accepted this role, as he is always the protagonist in his films, he said it was because he had loved the story and the script. "Besides, I felt there was a message of enduring value to the world, and that's not something you can say about a lot of films made."
What attracted you to Matt Damon, who plays François Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks?
Eastwood: His seriousness and his professionalism. I had liked him in Good Will Hunting and The Good Shepherd, among other films. Without knowing him personally, he had made an impression on me that he would be somebody that integrates well, as this was reflected in his choices as an actor. Physically, he possessed the presence that matched perfectly with his character, despite the size difference. A difference that was easily remedied through shooting when adjusting the camera view so that Matt appears bigger on screen.
Matt Damon, 'Invictus'
Holding your own opposite Morgan Freeman is no mean feat. Holding your own opposite Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela—well, that's an accomplishment that should probably be classified as Olympian, at the very least. Yet Matt Damon manages the seemingly impossible task of going toe-to-toe with one of our greatest living thespians.
The two share an instantly believable rapport, a bond that seems to strengthen as the film progresses. As apolitical South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, Damon captures a certain kind of quiet grace. When he rallies his team, when he experiences a moment of triumph out on the field, we can't help but cheer.
And yet Damon doesn't make Pienaar a one-dimensional sports hero; he also gives the character a rich inner life. There's a scene in which Pienaar visits Mandela's old cell and takes a minute to close himself in behind bars, experiencing the miniscule space as Mandela once did. As Pienaar envisions Mandela's years in prison, Damon allows the moment to breathe, fully and completely. Muted horror plays across his face as the full weight of the now-president's journey to freedom sinks in.
This scene could have been a ham-fisted moment, a bit of melodrama that beats us over the head with its message. But Damon's restraint ensures that it's anything but; rather, it's a moment of quiet revelation and realization, a moment that finally gives Pienaar a greater level of understanding and sends his entire mindset spinning in a new direction.
It's a performance that caps off a banner year for the actor, as detailed by Washington Post writer Ann Hornaday: "If 2009 had a most valuable player award for the movies, it would have to go to Matt Damon…. He has been consistently spot-on and almost breathtakingly self-effacing. He has become that most unlikely Hollywood rarity: a character actor with a matinee-idol face."
Q: It, of course, was a comedy, and "Young Victoria" is a drama. Do you have a preference, comedy or drama?
Blunt: "I don't. I've done a lot of comedy. Right now I'm finishing a drama, which is really fun and it's contemporary, 'The Adjustment Bureau,' based on a Phillip K. Dick story. It's with Matt Damon."
Q: What's he like?
Blunt: "He's just made for it, Matt. He's made for this job. He's the coolest guy. His family's wonderful. He is easy peasy to get along with, he really is."
Throw a stone in Cambridge, and chances are you will hit a writer of some note. This kind of star power shines through in “Cambridge Voices: A Literary Celebration of Libraries and the Joy of Reading,” an anthology put together by the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library to celebrate the central library’s expansive addition.
Nearly 50 writers with ties to the city - from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to Junot Díaz, Robert B. Parker, and Alice Hoffman - contributed essays or excerpts from their works.