Clint Eastwood is known for his keen eyes and unyielding want of perfection in his creations. Despite striving for ‘perfectness’, he faced a terrible risk, similar to what Tom Cruise did when Eastwood decided to cast Matt Damon in his $122 million movie. Even with the risk of potential backlash, the famous director decided to trust Damon’s talent and skill.
It was the year 2009 and the movie was Invictus, and there was widespread skepticism about Matt Damon portraying a rugby player despite being too short in height. However, despite the risk, Clint Eastwood decided to gamble on his audacious choice.
Clint Eastwood Cast Matt Damon Despite Potential Backlash
Invictus was a 2009 biographical movie about the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It focused on how a predominately white rugby team captained by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) was used by Nelson Mandela to bring together their racially divided county.
While the movie fared well and Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman (who played Mandela) both received Oscar nominations, Damon’s casting was viewed with a lot of speculation. The reason was that while Pienaar was 6’3, Damon was just 5’10. But just as the message of Invictus (the poem) goes, being undeterred and self-believing, Clint Eastwood decided to take a leap of faith.
In an interview, the Dirty Harry star stated,
“Matt may not be the same height as Francois, but he has the same tenacity and power. He also worked out very hard and got himself in terrific shape for the film. And, by structuring setups and camera angles, you can make a person look the way you need them to look.”
Despite the potential of a severe backlash, Eastwood’s decision was appreciated and the movie was hailed for its portrayal of such a pivotal moment in the history of South Africa. While critics were considerate of Matt Damon portraying a man 5 inches taller than him, they weren’t as merciful when years later Tom Cruise faced the same crisis.
Unlike Matt Damon, Tom Cruise Received Severe Backlash For Being Short
While Clint Eastwood’s ‘leap of faith’ decision was well-received, fate was cruel to the makers of Jack Reacher when they decided to cast 5’7 tall Tom Cruise. Described as a towering personality with humongous shoulders, Reacher is 6’5 in the books. So, naturally, when the readers heard of Cruise playing the formidable former Military Police Officer, there had to be a huge backlash given the 10-inch height difference.
What Matt Damon lacked in terms of height, he surely truly compensated it in terms of his physique and acting prowess. But for Cruise, even his physique was unfulfilling to play the role, since the character had to look physically intimidating. Hence, the franchise was dropped, and Tom Cruise was fired from the role.
Invictus can be rented on Amazon Video.