Matt Damon to ‘Factor’ in rugby role

Actor joins Freeman in Eastwood's WB drama

Matt Damon has committed to star in “Human Factor,” joining Morgan Freeman in the Clint Eastwood-directed film for Warner Bros.

Shooting will begin early next year in South Africa.

Damon will play rugby star Francois Pienaar, who created, with Nelson Mandela, an event that gave whites and blacks in South Africa a common cause to rally around as the country was trying to heal from the wounds of apartheid.

The Anthony Peckham-scripted drama is an adaptation of John Carlin’s book “The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed the World.”

Mandela, freed from 27 years in prison and elected president, decided to get behind South Africa’s Springboks team when the country was selected as host country for the 1985 Rugby World Cup. The Springboks had been banned from international competition because of the country’s apartheid practices.

The majority of blacks viewed the team as a symbol of exclusion, but they rooted along with white countrymen as the Springboks won in overtime against New Zealand to capture the Cup. Pienaar was the Springboks captain who developed a relationship with Mandela during the team’s run.

Freeman and Revelations partner Lori McCreary will produce with Rob Lorenz and Mace Neufeld. Freeman got Mandela’s blessing and brought the project to his pal Eastwood and also to WB, where both Revelations and Eastwood’s Malpaso have their overall deals.

Damon wrapped the untitled Paul Greengrass-directed Universal drama based on “Imperial Life in Emerald City,” and he’s currently starring for Steven Soderbergh in “The Informant” for Warner Bros. He plans to rest up in the fall and make “Human Factor” his next starring role.

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