Morgan Freeman's Invictus journey

Feb 12, 2010 at 3:04 p.m. ET

Morgan Freeman is quite familiar with the Oscar stage. His win for The Unforgiven and Driving Miss Daisy reflects the strength in this man's ability to play characters that honest, almost to a fault.

Morgan Freeman dishes Invictus

Freeman pulls no punches for what may be, to the actor, his most important role of his career. Invictus is no ordinary movie. It tells the tale of how newly elected, former decades-long Apartheid prisoner Nelson Mandela would enlist the aide of the national rugby team to elevate a divided nation's spirits.

Freeman shares a 2010 Oscar nomination with his co-star, Matt Damon, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

SheKnows: You've been mentioned as someone to play Mandela for over a decade now. How did it take so long?

Morgan Freeman: This started out with Madiba (Mandela's endearing moniker) naming me his heir apparent, so to speak, when he was asked during the press conference for his book Long Walk to Freedom. "Mr. Mandela, if your book becomes a movie, who would you like to play you." He said, "Morgan Freeman." So, from then on, it's like Morgan Freeman is going to be Mandela, somewhere down the line. We spent a lot of time, Laurie and I -- my producing partner -- trying all this time trying to develop A Long Walk to Freedom into a movie. It couldn't happen. Then, in '06 I believe, we got this book proposal (Invictus) from John Connor. It was perfect. We bought it, we got a script written and this was the role to play to give the world an insight into who Mandela is and how he operates.

SheKnows: What did you two know about rugby before Invictus?

Morgan Freeman: Nothing. I know American football. I know a little bit about soccer. I know baseball, I know basketball. But, rugby is a foreign language. I do know golf.

SheKnows: Morgan, finding the Mandela character, did it begin back when he made that fateful statement?

Morgan Freeman: I had to start then, when he said that back in the '90s. I met him soon after that. I said to him, "If I'm going to play you, I'm going to have to have access to you. I'm going to have to be close enough to hold your hand. Over the years, while we were trying to develop Long Walk…that's what happened. Whenever we were in proximately, like a city away, I would know about it and I would go to him. We'd have lunch, dinner or sit with him while he's waiting to go onstage for whatever. During that time, I would hold Madiba's hand. That's not for camaraderie. I find that if I hold your hand, it transfers an energy first. I have a sense of how you feel. That's important to me trying to become another person. I have a lot pressure to bring a character to life in any kind of real sense. The biggest challenge was to sound like him.

SheKnows: What is it about Clint Eastwood that keeps you coming back?

Morgan Freeman: He expects you to know what you're doing. He's going to take two giant steps back and let you do it. I have such appreciation for that part of him. The other part of him, Matt says it's a tight ship. I think it's a well oiled machine. Everyone that works with him has the same reaction, "Can I stay with you?"

Read on for more Invictus

Morgan Freeman and other nominees' reaction to the Oscar news
Morgan Freeman on the red carpet for the Invictus premiere
Invictus director Clint Eastwood gets snubbed...who else did?