John Carlin is a journalist and author, dealing with sports and politics, among lots of other things. His book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation about former South African president Nelson Mandela is the basis for a new Hollywood film “Invictus" directed by Clint Eastwood. It stars Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon and will be released in Spain on 29th January 2010.
John has lived in Sitges since 1998.
Knowing that you moved to Spain 11 years ago to work for the newspaper “El País”, how did you decide that Sitges was the place for you to live?
I will tell you why. I was working for the Independent in Washington before that and by far the most interesting story at that time was when I was sent to Barcelona to do a article on the guy who was the then the manager of Barcelona Football club, Bobby Robson, formerly the England manager.
I spent about a week with him and he was great. He gave me all sorts of wonderful access. I was with him during the week that finished with a Barcelona v Real Madrid game and Bobby Robson, being a very kind and generous good chap, invited me to spend the night at his home in Sitges. The thing about Bobby Robson (and those who know about football will confirm what I am saying) is that he was a tremendous enthusiast, doesn’t matter if its football or whatever, he was always really enthusiastic about life and he was terribly enthusiastic about Sitges. He thought Sitges was the most fabulous place. So I spent the night at his home and we went out for dinner and a drink that night.
The next morning I remember I had only seen Sitges by night, and then I saw it by day and Bobby took me for breakfast at Picnic and took me on a guided tour. It was almost as if he was trying to sell me property in Sitges! By the end of this tour I decided this was just an absolutely fabulous place.
I loved Barcelona the city, but I thought that Sitges was perfect. Near the airport, near the sea…but a very self contained “little big town” - strangely cosmopolitan and I doubt that there are any other genuinely cosmopolitan towns with its characteristics on the Spanish coast or certainly very few. I just loved it! I thought “Gosh - at some point in my life I would love to go and live in Sitges”.
At that point we are talking about May ‘97 and that my best chance would be when I would reach some ripe old age or retired. Then, six months later, astonishingly, completely out of the blue, El Pais offered me a job! I am not sure if there is any precedent for a British journalist being offered a job by a Spanish newspaper and they offered me a very, very nice job, and they also said I could live anywhere in the world, within reason. At which point I immediately thought …Sitges! And that’s what happened. By May ‘98 I moved to Sitges with my wife Sue, and have never regretted it for one minute.
What I like about Sitges its that’s its recognisably a Spanish/Catalan town with a Spanish/Catalan flavour, but at the same time its completely open to people from all over the world. I would be very surprised if I came across someone who in some way felt rejected or alienated or rebuffed by the indigenous Catalan population. It is a place where you have the local Catalan culture and the big cosmopolitan culture cohabitating in a very friendly and natural way, and I think that is a really nice feature of Sitges.
What thing do you dislike about Sitges?
I find it very difficult to come up with something that I dislike about Sitges. What is there not to like? The sort of thing that people typically complain about is the municipal authorities, the ayuntamiento. But actually, although I have very few dealings with them, my sense is that over the last few years they have done a lot to improve the infrastructure of the town, and the changes that have been made are definitely for the better. I mean the town has grown quite a lot and one of the typical complaints you hear is: “Oh my God why are they building so many more houses?” But it’s a nice place, so why shouldn’t other people come and live here too? Look, ok if you are going to get a bit fussy I suppose in August, when the place gets absolutely crowded with visitors I don’t find Sitges centre as inviting as I do the rest of the year. To be honest I prefer walking around Sitges town in the lonelier winter months than at the height of summer. But again it’s completely churlish to complain about that, people have as much right to come and visit Sitges, as I have to live here.
Well I have met Clint Eastwood on fewer occasions. Serene - if you want one word.
Well I have met him several times, I have done about half a dozen interviews one on one with him and I have had over 20 brief chats over time. He even invited me to lunch once.
If I had to produce one word I suppose it would have to be “big-hearted”. He has a very big and generous heart.
He’s serene. He’s tranquil, composed, all those kind of words that are all kind of synonyms of each other. The thing that struck me was that there was this big film he was making, and I say “big” in terms of logistics. Whether it turns out to be a big film success-wise we will see.
But it’s a big Hollywood production with a hell of a lot of people running around with a hell of a lot of vehicles, trucks and helicopters and whatever else, and he is at the centre of it exercising this cool, courteous, affable and serene command. I was very impressed.
No, it’s not decided yet, that is the original working title, and actually I have just been on the film set and at the moment its actually called, rather unglamorously “The Untitled Mandela Project” that’s about how close it has got to an official title. “The Human Factor” has been discarded and its defiinitely not going to be that. It could be the title of my book “Playing the Enemy” but I don’t think so, I don’t think life is so good or so kind! From what I understand what these big Warner Bros type outfits do is they subject these things to rigorous market testing, and they invest quite a lot of money in testing out the best names. Now they have finished shooting the film one of the things I am sure they will be working on in the next few weeks and months is market testing, and coming up with a title that does the business.
Press Release June 5th 2009: Just announced that the title of the film will be "Invictus" to be released stateside on December 11 2009
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