Mandela film took years to reach best picture contention

Origins: “Morgan and I met Nelson Mandela in 1993 after he saw Morgan’s South African film ‘Bopha!,’” McCreary says. “We started in 1996 to produce a film about Mandela based on his autobiography, with Morgan attached to play him; it went through many drafts. … (Author) John Carlin heard Morgan was developing a Mandela project and told Morgan about his book, which focused on South Africa winning the 1995 World Cup. … However, we had promised Madiba (Mandela’s nickname) to film his autobiography and didn’t want to option Carlin’s book without Madiba’s blessing. … One was able to get a sense of Madiba’s greatness from the World Cup event: He poured tea for the team, knew the players by name, walked out in a jersey. … When Morgan first spoke to Madiba about our change in plans, he said, ‘You know, we’ve been working for a long time to bring your story to the screen, but we read about an incident that captures your essence.’ Before Morgan could finish, Madiba smiled, exclaiming, ‘Ah! The World Cup!’”

High Hurdles: “Twenty-two hours on the plane and traveling back and forth as well as negotiating with the South African government, which isn’t accustomed to breaking and bending the rules for filmmakers,” Lorenz says. “We were turned down four times before we were actually permitted to shoot in the presidential offices — the first to shoot there in 25 years; it’s quite picturesque.”

Domino effect: “After Clint signed on, Alan Horn suggested Matt Damon, an idea we embraced since he’s a great actor and very athletic,” Lorenz says.

Setting the record straight: “The producer is the keeper of the passion. We have a rule here at Digital Revelations: If we bring in a project, we have to work on it for seven years. It has to be so compelling that it keeps us, the producer, invested as the cheerleader,” McCreary says.

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