On film, Matt Damon looks like a larger than life hero, but he was worried he wouldn’t be large enough for his latest film. In Invictus, he plays real life South African rugby superstar Francios Pienaar.
Matt Damon Talks Invictus
“This guy is huge,” Damon said. “I’m 5’10. I told [director Clint Eastwood] on the phone and he started laughing and he said, ‘Oh hell, don’t worry about that.’ I said, ‘Alright.’ He said, ‘You go worry about everything else.’ And I said, ‘Alright, I’ll worry about everything else. You worry about the fact that I need to grow 6 inches to play the guy.’ I had about 6 months to get ready. I worked hard on the accent and on training physically to build myself up to try to pull off the illusion of being the captain of a South African rugby team.”
The real Pienaar was available to Damon, and also had a laugh at the height disparity. “The very first day, Francois invited me over to his house for a gourmet dinner that he was cooking. I just remember I rang the doorbell and he opened the door and I looked up at him, and the first thing I ever said to Francois Pienaar in my life was, ‘I look much bigger on film.’ And he laughed and laughed and he gave me a big hug and then took me into his house and that was it.”
If Damon indeed looks bigger in the role, it’s all… ACTING! “We were off and running and he was just an invaluable resource for me the whole time. I was constantly asking him questions, everything from what color is your mouth piece to what’s your philosophy on the captaincy and on leading a team and life in general. He just was incredibly available and a very articulate guy and he was incredibly helpful to me.”
Getting in rugby shape was easily the most demanding physical routine of Damon’s career. “I was in the gym every day and with Francois who came with me to the gym a few times. This is his life. I don’t want to embarrass him. I can’t. If Jason Bourne looks a little flabby, that’s on me. This is the fictionalization of somebody’s actual life. I didn’t want to let him down. It wasn’t going to be for any lack of effort, which really was what that team was famous for actually. Francois talked me through their training regimen. It was just unbelievable what those guys did, all of them, every single guy. It’s that great thing about a great team. It’s like when every single person commits to something and sublimates their own personality for the greater good of the whole team and that’s basically again the metaphor for that whole country.”