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Consultant Helps Recreate 1995 Magic

Tuesday Sep 8, 2009 in Off the Field General

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When films are made with sports themes special consultants are generally brought in to give the action scenes authenticity. That becomes even more critical when the action sequences reflect real life events, which is the case in the upcoming movie Invictus. Scheduled to open on Dec. 11, the Clint Eastwood-directed Invictus tells the story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup that took place in South Africa and brought together a nation through rugby.


Eastwood and executive producer Morgan Freeman, who portrays Nelson Mandela in the film, used a company called Sports Studio, which has staged the action sequences for films such as Coach Carter, Semi-Pro, We Are Marshall and The Game Plan as well as Miracle, the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won gold.

Aimee McDaniel served as the sports coordinator for Invictus, a job that entailed everything from hiring the rugby players to literally teaching each player/actor the action needed to replicate what happened in the actual 1995 matches.

“We spent two-and-a-half weeks at training camp to train all these players,” said McDaniel, who worked with 1995 Springbok star wing Chester Williams to put everyone, from star Matt Damon (who portrays captain Francois Pienaar) to all the rugby-playing extras.

“Beside the two and a half weeks of training camp, I put in probably about six weeks. I watched every film, every game, probably about 25 times. We broke down the action — from scrum, ruck, whatever it was — in detail,” McDaniel said. “We taught these guys exactly what was in a game. We said, ‘You need to pass the ball here. There’s a ruck here. Then we get a scrum here.’ We broke that down and visually showed them the games.


“We would film them practicing. We’d show them what they did or didn’t do right. As close as we could to actually match those ’95 games is what we did.”


With one small change to allow for the passage of time. The guys in the film are mostly in their early- to mid-20s, so they are used to playing rugby as it’s played in 2009, not 1995. Their enthusiasm to accurately depict those historic matches enabled them to adapt to most old style aspects, but there was one thing they just couldn’t get.


“Back in ’95, when you would do a lineout and they would throw the ball in, the guy had to jump before you could lift him, whereas nowadays you’re able to lift your guy and you’re already stable,” McDaniel explained. “Our guys had a hard time jumping and then the guys had to lift them up.”

Williams got frustrated and was concerned the first look most Americans would get of rugby would look uncoordinated.


So after conferencing among themselves and with Eastwood, they decided to keep it new school, McDaniel said. “I said as long as we all knew it and we all embraced it, that’s what we did.”

– Lois Elfman

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