The new movie “Promised Land,” which Matt Damon co-wrote and co-produced, came in under budget and ahead of schedule because it had a script, the actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter said Tuesday night in New York. The talk was distributed on the Internet through Livestream.
Damon, who discussed the film along with co-star and co-producer John Krasinski of the NBC sitcom “The Office” and director Gus Van Sant, contrasted that to his last Jason Bourne movie, which he said they were writing day to day while they were shooting it. “It took years off our lives. It was so much pressure because you’re so aware of how much money … once you get on set, the money is just burning.”
He added, “(Director) Paul Greengrass and I would say like we’re in the wrong country. … It was 4 in the morning and we’re on a street and I’m going, Is there anything else we can shoot in Spain?”
Damon said watching “The Bourne Legacy,” the fourth movie in the series based on Robert Ludlum’s novels and the only one in\which he did not appear, was “very odd.” “It had a lot of same bells and whistles of the Bourne series but I didn’t know anything about it.”
That movie made it less likely that Damon will appear in another movie about the assassin with amnesia though “I don’t think it makes it impossible,” he said.
Damon said “Promised Land,” which opens in New York on Dec. 28 and nationwide Jan. 4, was made for slightly less than $18 million. It deals with the controversial procedure of capturing natural gas called fracking.
Damon and Frances McDormand play energy company employees who try to buy drilling rights from the residents of a rural town in western Pennsylvania, but their characters are not meant to be villains, the speakers said.
“All the characters should feel like people you know,” said Damon, who noted that Van Sant decided that none of the actors would wear makeup.
Damon had planned to make his directing debut with the movie but backed out about a year ago because of the workload.
“It was rough, but I knew that it was the right thing for the movie and I knew it was the right thing for my life,” he said.
The morning after he told Krasinski that he couldn’t direct “Promised Land,” Damon emailed the script to Van Sant, who agreed to direct it a few hours later, after he read the script. “I told John as the producer, the best thing I did on the movie was fire myself as the director.”
Damon and Van Sant previously worked together on “Good Will Hunting,” for which Damon and actor Ben Affleck won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 and on “Gerry,” co-starring Casey Affleck, in 2002.
Novelist and screenwriter Dave Eggers was involved in writing “Promised Land” early in its development and is credited with the story.
Damon said McDormand joined the cast after she read an early draft and writing went fast because with him and Krasinski, they knew three of the actors they were writing for.
Krasinski, who suggested the idea for the movie to Damon, said, “I had always wanted to write a movie about American identity.”
He noted that his father grew up in steel mill town outside Pittsburgh and said he was fascinated by how his father had described life there.
“I just wanted to bring it back to a conversation about people,” he said. “This idea of natural gas was an incredible backdrop. There’s huge potential gain and huge potential loss.”
Damon said they lost funding for the movie when he dropped out as director but later obtained backing from Focus Features and Participant Media. Participant has a deal with Image Nation, the production arm of Abu Dhabi Media, but Damon said he and Krasinski did not know of its involvement until they saw its logo on the rough cut.
Krasinski said he does not care what audiences think about the process of fracking. “Honestly, the only reaction I’ve ever wanted from this movie is to start a conversation. … I think that as a country, we just need to start taking a little more responsibility for where we’re headed together, rather than where we’re headed individually.”