Morgan Freeman brings touch of "God" to Mandela film

Wed Dec 9, 2009 2:36pm EST
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By Corinne Heller

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nelson Mandela received the touch of "God" -- Hollywood-style -- when Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman prepared to play him in new movie "Invictus."

Freeman said he was asked by the 91-year-old former South African president to portray him in the Clint Eastwood-directed film that debuts on Friday and also stars Matt Damon.

"I said to him, 'If I'm going to play you, I'm going to have to have access to you. I'm going to have to be close enough to hold your hand,'" Freeman told reporters recently.

The Academy Award winner for his role in Eastwood's boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby" has portrayed many characters over the years, a slave-turned abolitionist leader, a fictional U.S. president and even "God" in "Evan Almighty," but rarely one who is alive and important to so many people as Mandela.

The elder statesman of African politics was jailed for 27 years due to his militant work to end apartheid in South Africa before being released in 1990 and going on to become the president of his country four years later. In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Invictus" tells of how Mandela brought the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship to his nation, utilizing the South African team around which to rally his countrymen and ease racial tensions between black and white citizens.

The word invictus is latin for "unconquered" or "unconquerable" and is the title of a poem by Englishman William Ernest Henley, published in 1875.


<p>Actor Morgan Freeman (L) poses with actor Matt Damon at the Los Angeles premiere of director Clint Eastwood's film "Invictus" in Beverly Hills, California December 3, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>