The narrative: In his first term as the South African President, Nelson Mandela uses the nation's appetite for sports as a pivot point to unite the apartheid-torn land. He enlists the national rugby team - a group and sport many black South Africans once perceived as the game of their oppressors - to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The result electrifies South Africa with what Mandela calls its moment of greatness.
Actor's push: At a 1994 press conference for Mandela's memoir "Long Walk to Freedom," Mandela appointed Morgan Freeman as the actor to portray him in film. "It sounds arrogant," Freeman said, "but my thinking was, 'Of course. Who else? and I can do it."
Director's pull: "Morgan is great," said the film's director Clint Eastwood of "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Million Dollar Baby." "I could not imagine anyone else in the role of Mandela. They have the same stature and same kind of charismatic nature. Morgan also has a similar vocal quality, and he worked very hard to capture Mandela's inflections. I think he did it quite well."
Did he meet Mr. Mandela? Very much so. Freeman spent time with Mandela to replicate the way he walked and talked. The pair eventually sat down to watch the film together. "I was sitting right next to him," Freeman said. "He pointed at the screen and said 'I know that fella.' So, yeah, I think he liked it."