MATT DAMON’S had his share of hard-hitting roles in Saving Private Ryan, Green Zone and the Bourne series.
But even though he’s kicked, punched and shot villains in the past, Matt says his hardest task to date has been belting a teenage girl.
In a key scene in his new movie True Grit, Matt plays a boastful Texas Ranger who takes his 14-year-old co-star Hailee Steinfeld over his knee and wallops her with a stick.
A dad of four daughters, Matt has never raised a hand to a girl in real life so he and the film directors Joel and Ethan Coen took precautions to make sure Hailee was protected.
The star said: “They put a big pad on Hailee’s behind. And we practised. I said, ‘Hailee, does that hurt?’ And she said, ‘I can’t even feel it.’”
Matt is adamant it is a form of discipline he would never practise, saying: “I definitely don’t spank them.”
Newcomer Hailee was picked from a pool of 15,000 for the role. and Matt calls her performance “astonishing.”
It earned her a nod in the best actress category at the Baftas yesterday.
“This character is nothing like Hailee Steinfeld actually is in real life,” he said.
Matt loved being directed by Hollywood greats the Coen brothers in their remake of the John Wayne classic – and reckons he’s the one red-blooded male who hasn’t seen The Duke saddle up with Glen Campbell in the original movie.
Matt said: “When I found out about this one, I asked the Coen brothers if I should go see the original. And they said, ‘Actually, the book is where you should go because we’re not looking at it as a remake of that film, as much as a strict adaptation of this great book’.”
True Grit stars Hailee as a 14-year-old girl who hires a boozy US Marshal named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt down the dim outlaw (Josh Brolin) who murdered her father.
Tagging along on the manhunt is Matt’s lawman, who may be more windbag than wild west hero.
“I am,” said Matt proudly, “a true nincompoop in this movie.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t earn his spurs eventually.
His butch role is a million miles away from his life at home in New York with the five women in his life.
Baby Stella is the latest addition to his family.
There is Isabella, four, and Gia, two, and stepdaughter, Alexia, 12, his wife Luciana’s daughter from a previous marriage. He joked: “I might have to get a male dog.