I was honored to play a part in Clint Eastwood’s film “Invictus”. Honored? Really? Yes. Honored. Not only because it’s been a dream of mine to work for Mr. Eastwood because I’m such a huge admirer of his films, but because I grew up in South Africa and the 1995 Rugby World Cup was a big deal to everyone who was there.

The political temperature of the day was electric. Things were changing in a huge way, and fast! People didn’t really know what to make of it. At least I didn’t. I was a 17 year old kid who had grown up in a country that was divided in so many ways, but that’s all I had known. I didn’t agree with it. But that’s just how things were. I lived in a country that was hated by the rest of the world. We were banned from the Olympics. Athletes of all disciplines were making a mass exodus overseas and disavowing their citizenship so that they could compete on an international level.

It was humiliating to see your heroes choose their careers over their identity as a South African. In hindsight, I totally understand it. But at the time, it was a little slap in the face every time one of our guys competed under another flag.

So when Mr Mandela was released from prison and the regime announced to the world that change was coming to the New South Africa, we were allowed back on the world stage. The skunk of the world was invited back into the house. I remember thinking “Geez, I hope we don’t make a fool of ourselves. Everyone already thinks we’re crap!”

The status quo was being shaken to it’s roots and there was a tangible fear in the air. We were on the brink of civil war and in one genius stroke of compassion, Nelson Mandela appealed to his people to throw their weapons into the sea. Reconciliation not war. That was the answer.  And this coming from a recent prisoner of the state, a terrorist in the eyes of the authorities of the day, now president of a new country rising from the ashes.

I remember vividly the opening game of the World Cup. School shut down for the morning and we all watched the game on a projector screen in the art department. So there I was. Sitting in my school uniform amongst a mostly white class, watching the World Cup Rugby – which was being hosted by SOUTH AFRICA. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.

And to seal the deal and confirm that being South African was no longer a point of shame, but rather a point of pride, the crowd in the stadium spontaneously broke into song. “Shosholoza” echoed throughout the stadium and through the airwaves across the world. This was a song of protest that was banned in the apartheid era. Being sung proudly and in support of our new country, our new president, our team. Our world had officially changed and I’ll never forget the moment. It was extremely emotional.

So that’s why it was an honor to work on this film. I had a great time working on the Warner Bros lot, and will cherish the idea that I got to contribute to the telling of a story that means so much to me personally.