My first TV documentary was for the BBC in 1993 (‘War on Peace’) about South Africa’s so-called Third Force, the clandestine apartheid forces behind the brutal violence that hit South Africa’s black townships in the dying days of apartheid. I fronted it, voiced it and wrote the script.
I did the reporting and the script for an Emmy-nominated documentary on Nelson Mandela called ‘The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela’ first broadcast in America on PBS.
In 1997, I wrote an article titled ‘A Farewell to Arms’ for Wired magazine on cyberwarfare. This later became the basis of a 1999 film project, WW3.com. After the project stalled, the script was rewritten and transformed into the 2007 Bruce Willis film, Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0).
I wrote the script for a TV documentary for Channel Four on Diego Maradona called ‘Kicking the Habit’ and collaborated on another one, also for Channel Four, on the soccer rivalry between England and Argentina.
At the end of 2008 I wrote the script for a BBC documentary about Mandela’s 90th year.
In 2009 I worked on a documentary for ‘Informe Robinson’ (Canal Plus, Spain) about South Africa one year before the 2010 football World Cup.
In 2010 I scripted and produced a documentary for ESPN called ‘The 16th Man’ for which we won a human rights Emmy. The documentary was based on my book ‘Playing the Enemy’, as was the Clint Eastwood film ‘Invictus’, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. (Below is a mini-documentary that I worked on in the summer of 2009 about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 rugby world cup.)
Most recently I created, scripted and produced ‘This is Football’, an award-winning six-part Amazon Prime series exploring and dramatizing football’s extraordinary grip on the global imagination.
I stumbled into radio over Christmas 1982, when I was working in Mexico as a semi-starving young freelancer. I had no experience whatsoever but somehow, probably because everyone else was on holiday and the airwaves needed to be filled, the BBC World Service started using me.
I continued filing news reports – loads of them — for the BBC from Mexico and Central America over the next four years. I also added ABC radio (US) and CBC (Canada) to my list.
BBC producers would occasionally come over and we would make 45-minute documentaries about things like the huge Mexico City earthquake of 1985, which destroyed the flat I lived in but, thankfully, not me.
In 1986 I stopped doing radio to concentrate on my newspaper writing, though I have done countless radio interviews all over since as well as an award-winning documentary for the BBC on Winnie Mandela in 1992.