The film is based on the book Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela And The Game That Changed a Nation by John Carlin. The filmakers met with Carlin for a week in his Barcelona home, discussing how to transform the book into a screenplay.
Morgan Freeman was the first actor to be cast, as Mandela. Matt Damon was then cast as Francois Pienaar. He was given intensive coaching by Chester Williams at the Gardens Rugby Club. Filming began in March 2009 in Cape Town. “In terms of stature and stars, this certainly is one of the biggest films ever to be made in South Africa,” said Laurence Mitchell, the head of the Cape Film Commission.
On 18 March 2009, Scott Eastwood was cast in an unspecified role, but it is understood to be flyhalf Joel Stransky. Over Christmas 2008 auditions had taken place in London to try and find a well-known British actor to play Pienaar’s father, but in March it was decided to cast a lesser-known South African actor instead.
The ex Bath Rugby player Zak Feaunati, who now is head of Rugby at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar school in Sutton Coldfield, has been cast as New Zealand player Jonah Lomu. Primary filming in South Africa was completed in May 2009. Grant Roberts was cast as Ruben Kruger to play along side Matt Damon as the Springbok flankers.
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