Did you know that Nelson Mandela said that there was only one famous actor in the world that could portray him?
But then again, the two of them met several times so it’s likely that Nelson might have been a bit biased.
In this post, you’ll discover some fun facts about Invictus, a very inspiring sports drama movie!
Related: Check out Morgan Freeman’s top 10 movies.
1. The movie is based on a book
Invictus (2009) is a story about the 1995 Rugby World Cup that was hosted in South Africa. The odds of the home team winning were nihil as they were simply no match for the much stronger teams that competed in the competition.
Somehow, with the apartheid behind them and with the support of President Nelson Mandela and the entire nation, the team managed to do the impossible and win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The movie was based on a book written by British journalist and author John Carlin in 2008 called: “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation.”
2. It was directed by a legend in the movie business
Clint Eastwood made his name in the movie business in Spain as the “Man with no Name” in Spaghetti Westerns such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Since then, he has played dozens of roles in multiple fascinating movies.
He also picked up directing movies and has been equally successful in this job. Invictus is one of the many movies he directed, and in our opinion one of his best as well.
3. What does “Invictus” mean?
Invictus describes the performance of the 1995 South African Rugby Team in the World Cup as they remained “Undefeated,” which is the literal translation of the word from Latin.
4. Morgan Freeman was the first actor cast
When the man you portray gives his opinion and mentions that there’s only one man who can accurately portray him, then you better take note. To emphasize the importance of this statement, nobody else than Nelson Mandela is the one who spoke the words, so you better do as he says as well.
It comes as no surprise then that only one man auditioned for the role as Mandela and he instantly got the part, Morgan Freeman.
5. He had to make some adjustments to accurately portray Nelson Mandela
To portray the man who became his friend over the years, Morgan Freeman had to learn to convey the charisma of Nelson Mandela. Not an easy task by any stretch, but he managed to do so perfectly.
Secondly, he had to work on some details as well as Freeman is left-handed and Mandela was right-handed, and there are some scenes in which Mandela is seen writing.
What gave Freeman a big boost is when he visited Mandela and asked: “Madiba, we’re working on something important…” and before he could complete the sentence Mandela replied, “Ah, the World Cup!”
6. Mandela’s personal assistant thought that Freeman did an amazing job
A funny anecdote that confirms how good a job Morgan Freeman did in the movie came from Mandela’s persona assistant, Zelda La Grange.
Apparently, when they were preparing for a shot, Morgan Freeman got into character and La Grange, who couldn’t see who was talking, wondered “How did Mister Mandela get here?”
She also wanted Morgan Freeman to stop walking like Nelson Mandela because it was so similar that she couldn’t tell the difference between the two!
7. Matt Damon visited the man he portrayed in the movie
Matt Damon plays the role of the captain of the team called Francois Pienaar. To prepare for his role, he visited the man at his home in South Africa.
When he knocked on the door, Pienaar opened and the two of them just looked at each other. Pienaar was surprised to see a Hollywood movie star, Damon was surprised because Pienaar is such a huge guy!
After an awkward moment, Matt Damon simply mentioned: “I look bigger in movies!” That kind of broke the ice and the two had a great time together the day they spent together.
8. He isn’t nearly the size of Francois Pienaar
To say that Matt Damon is a bit shorter than Pienaar is an understatement. The man is nearly 2 meters tall and quite bulky as well. Damon is at least one head shorter and it made him worry a bit.
One of the funniest facts about Invictus is that when Matt Damon told Clint Eastwood about this, he simply said:
“Man, you worry about everything else, let me worry about that!”
He solved the problem by using special camera angles which made Damon look much bigger than he really is!
A typical funny Clint Eastwood moment on the set!
9. The stadium was filled with just 2,000 fans during games
Another trick was to make the stadium appear sold out when it wasn’t. In fact, only 2,000 people were in the stadium at any time.
Motion-capture techniques in combination with special effects made it possible to fill the entire stadium with people in each scene, pretty amazing!
10. Clint Eastwood’s son has a role in the movie
Another one of those fascinating facts about Invictus is that the player who scored all the goals during the final was actually played by Eastwood’s son.
Scott Eastwood took on the role of fly-half Joel Stransky, the man who personally ensured South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup!
11. The movie was far from popular in New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world in the sport of Rugby. You would expect that a movie dedicated to rugby would be a massive success, right?
Well, not so much. First of all, the final that was won by South Africa was played against New Zealand, so they don’t have great memories of the 1995 World Cup.
To make things even worse, the fact that just about all of the players of New Zealand suffered from food poisoning the day of the final, which actually made them vomit several times while they were on the pitch, was left out of the movie and actually angered them.
It’s fair to conclude that the movie wasn’t received well in New Zealand and that’s putting it euphemistically!
12. There’s a poem called “Invictus” and it’s featured in the movie
Invictus is actually a poem written by the Victorian Era British poet William Ernest Henley. He wrote it in 1875 and it was published in the year 1888. The poem goes:
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,Invictus Poem (1875).
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Parts of the poem were used in the movie as they were spoken by Nelson Mandela.
13. The movie earned 2 Academy Award nominations
The movie was a huge success as it received 2 nominations at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010, one for Best Actor (Morgan Freeman) and one for Best Supporting Actor (Matt Damon).
Unfortunately, they faced stiff competition as the awards went to Jeff Bridges for his performance in “Crazy Heart” and Christopher Waltz for his amazing performance in the Tarantino movie “Inglourious Basterds.”
14. Invictus was a box office success
The movie was shot on a budget of about USD 60 million and managed to more than double that amount in box office revenue, making it a pretty big success!
The movie grossed USD 8,611,147 during the opening weekend in the United States and went on to gross a total of USD 37,491,364 domestically and USD 84,742,607 internationally, bringing the total to USD 122,233,971 in total!