South African cricket

Movie on Cronje's life complete

Ajay S Shankar

August 6, 2008

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The role of Hansie Cronje will be played by South African actor Francois Rautenbach © AFP
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The filming of Hansie, based on the life of the late South African captain, has been completed by his brother Frans Cronje, who says he went through his "own King Commission" during the "incredibly tough" year of shooting. Frans told Cricinfo the movie, completed on Monday, will be released across Africa on September 24 with a possible international release to follow.

Frans said the film's DVD set will include a special documentary on Hansie and will feature interviews with his family, team-mates and friends including Jonty Rhodes, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Peter Pollock, Andrew Hudson, Gary Kirsten and Kevin Pietersen.

Hansie, which was shot in South Africa, England and India, traces the cricketer's "internal journey from stardom to losing everything and then the journey to rebuilding his life". Cronje was a role model and a national hero till his involvement in the match-fixing scandal was exposed eight years ago. He was banned from the game subsequently and died in a plane crash in 2002.

One of the most poignant moments during the making of the movie, Frans said, was the scene when Hansie breaks down in tears after confessing his involvement with illegal bookmakers to the King Commission that was appointed to inquire into the match-fixing scandal of 2000.

"He was very emotional and my dad and I were crying with him," Frans said. "When we filmed this, it was like seeing the real event happen again. The acting in this scene was really magnificent. While filming, I just sat there with tears in my eyes. Fortunately, when I looked around me, I realised that everyone else on the sets were crying as well."

The other scene that will touch people's emotions is one where Peter Pollock, the former South Africa allrounder, talks to Hansie after the King Commission. "Peter was instrumental in helping Hansie to begin the process of rebuilding his life," Frans said.

The movie has been produced by Global Creative Studios, a Cape Town-based production venture headed by Frans, who has won an Italian award for his earlier movie Faith Like Potatoes.

The filming went through a tough phase last year, he said, when an American firm that promised advance funding pulled out of the deal. "It was incredibly tough. In a sense, it felt like I went through my own 'King Commission' at a stage. Especially the last week in November last year, when we heard that the funding was not there, was difficult. Fortunately, some very capable businessmen got involved. Without their assistance, it would have been almost impossible. The fact the movie has been successfully completed has helped a lot."

South African actor Francois Rautenbach will play Hansie in the movie. Frans said he decided not to use cricketers as actors as the "movie is primarily a drama". He was assisted in filming the cricket action by Gordon Parsons, his brother-in-law, and former county player.

"We decided to use actors to play the parts of Hansie's team-mates like Allan Donald and Jonty Rhodes," Frans said. "As the movie is primarily a drama, it was important that we have experienced actors. To ensure that the cricket action was done well, we cast younger cricket players from a few different academies in South Africa and India. I was on the sets to ensure that the cricket sequences look real."

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has given their "official endorsement and support" for the movie after Joubert Strydom, then convener of selectors, read the screenplay "to ensure that the story is told with integrity".

"The International Cricket Council (ICC) were happy for us to continue, knowing that the CSA endorsed it," Frans said. "I think they were happy to see that we did not choose to try and uncover any more match-fixing dirt. Rather, we chose to tell the story of Hansie's internal journey."

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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