The Oscar winner stars as a South African rugby player, opposite Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, in Clint Eastwood's Invictus (page 72)
Dan Patrick:Can you guarantee that Invictus will be the best rugby movie of the holiday season?
MD: I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that as holiday rugby movies go, Invictus reigns without peer.
DP:Is this a rugby movie?
MD: I was having this conversation with Clint about Million Dollar Baby. He said that's not a boxing movie, it's a movie about a father and a daughter. This movie's about Mandela and the spirit of that man, and about this incredible country that made the decision not to devolve into civil war. It's a great story about what's possible for humanity.
DP:What was more physically demanding: Invictus or the Bourne movies?
MD: I probably spent a little more time in the gym on this one because I had to put on weight. Fran√ßois [Pienaar], who I played, is huge. He's like a linebacker. My job is to not to take the audience out of the movie. If anybody's looking at the movie and going, He doesn't look like he should be on the field, then I've failed. Eating well and lifting weights, you can put on a lot of muscle.
DP:Could you make money with the Invictus diet?
MD: Putting on muscle like that, my wife didn't even like it. The leaner look is the one people tend to favor over the beefier look.
DP:In 2007 you were PEOPLE magazine's sexiest man alive. How does it work, where you're that sexy one year but then not the next?
MD: I think they were all smoking something in 2007, is what happened, and I haven't changed at all.
DP:What's more likely: The Patriots back in the Super Bowl or another Bourne movie?
MD: Both of them are pretty likely. I'm not worried [about the Pats]. Indianapolis, we played them pretty well. We beat them up and down the field for most of that game. I love [Bill Belichick's call on] fourth-and-two, by the way.
DP:No, it was a bad decision.
MD: It was a great decision. Did you read the Freakonomics column by Steven Levitt in The New York Times? It is statistically the correct move.
DP:Matt, you're going Good Will Hunting on me. Don't do that.
MD: You're not interested in my facts?
DP:No. They don't factor in that Peyton Manning is going to get the ball....
MD: Listen, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, all of them—you're dead within two minutes. Peyton Manning is going to score in two minutes against any defense in the league. The game is built for that. So you have to try to not give him the ball. If you give him the ball at his 20-yard line, he's just going to march down.
DP:I'm going to take my chances with my defense.
MD: You're going to lose every time.
DP:Will you be at the Super Bowl?
MD: I'm working on another movie then, so I'll probably have to watch it on TV. I'm going to be in England. It's another Clint Eastwood movie, coming out next year, called Hereafter. I'll be with Dirty Harry watching the Super Bowl.
DP:Is it another sports movie? Like jai alai? Ping-Pong?
MD: We're trying to identify more and more exotic sports and make movies about them.
Shortly before he found out he had finished fifth in the Heisman voting, Florida senior Tim Tebow—who won the award in 2007—made his case to me for why he should be given a chance to play QB in the NFL: "I'll work as hard as possible at the next level. If I get that chance and it doesn't work out and they don't think I can do it—then move me to another position, and I'll play my heart out there and do my best to succeed at that position. But just give me a chance to play quarterback."
James Carville has no problem with the federal government's getting involved in the BCS. "We need to subpoena these people," the Democratic strategist and LSU fan told me. "An appropriate use of governmental power is to see if this is anticompetitive. The only people that are for the BCS are people that are getting paid by the BCS. If you love college football, you have to hate the BCS."
Line of the week
Danica Patrick, who's going to moonlight in NASCAR next year, told me she hasn't been behind the wheel of a stock car since she drove one on a track in South Carolina seven or eight years ago. When asked if she was sure she'd be able to make the jump, Danica replied, "No, but we're going to find out."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Brandon Marshall discusses his record-setting afternoon.
2. Former Irish QB Joe Montana on Notre Dame's new coach.
THE FINE PRINT: TNT's ratings for the NBA are up 25%. Bad news. Now there's enough money in the wardrobe budget to get sequins for Craig Sager.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (DAN PATRICK)
GREG NELSON (TEBOW)
SIMON BRUTY (DANICA PATRICK)
JOEL RYAN/AP (DAMON)