Not just a film hero

He's blown up buildings in the name of justice and partied with Clint Eastwood.

He's blown up buildings in the name of justice and partied with Clint Eastwood.

But Patrick Chamusso - the former rebel fighter who inspired the current Hollywood political thriller Catch a Fire- insists that he's an ordinary guy, happiest caring for Aids orphans in the dusty hills near the Kruger National Park.

"They like me in Hollywood," said Chamusso, with a boisterous laugh, at his modest home.

"In LA I was in the Four Seasons eating breakfast by the pool, but that isn't my life. This is my life, with these kids."

Once an apolitical father and husband, he was beaten and tortured by the apartheid government who wrongly accused him of sabotage. Incensed by the injustice, he became a freedom fighter.

But his audacious attempt to blow up a key refinery went wrong and Chamusso was jailed with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. He was released in 1992, 10 years later.

A lesser man might have opted for a quiet retirement, but not Chamusso. He moved to an impoverished village and spent his special pension on a home for orphans.

"What's the point of living an easy life if all the people around you are suffering?"

Catch a Fire, written by Gillian Slovo, daughter of anti-apartheid stalwart Joe Slovo, and directed by Phillip Noyce, premieres in South Africa next week.

Chamusso, who is played by Derek Luke, said he was disappointed when he first met the cast and crew.

"I thought Philip looked like a farmer, not a director, and I didn't know Derek Luke. I wanted someone like Denzel Washington or Wesley Snipes," he chuckled.

"Tim Robbins was much too handsome to play the part of the policeman, but when I saw them all in their roles I changed my mind."

During a trip to the US to promote the film, Chamusso partied with Clint Eastwood and Ricki Lake, ate breakfast with Morgan Freeman and watched baseball with Robbins.

He loved the attention and the glamour, but said his years in jail instilled in him the importance of serving others.

Chamusso, 57, and his wife Conney care for 14 children. They found foster homes for another 90 youngsters in the village, who visit them daily for food and Bible classes.

"Catch a Fire has a message of forgiveness.If other countries could offer our kind of leadership, Africa and even the whole world would be a better place,"said Chamusso. - Reuters