The actor has wanted to work with the Coen brothers for years and got his chance as the verbose Texas Ranger LaBoeuf in the western remake.
On a clear New Mexico morning this year, Matt Damon sat and watched the Coen brothers and the crew of “True Grit” as they prepared horses, six-shooters and the camera for the next scene. With more than three dozen feature films under his belt, it could have been just another mundane moment between close-ups, but instead Damon holds on to the snapshot memory with scrapbook affection.
“We were halfway through the movie and I was sitting on the set, we were doing this corn dodger scene — the characters are throwing these little cornbread cakes up in the air and shooting at them, it’s ridiculous — and it really hit me,” Damon recalled. “I turned to [cinematographer] Roger Deakins — he and I go back, we worked on ‘Courage Under Fire’ in the 1990s — and I said to him, ‘Roger, this is really special, right?,’ and he smiled and he said, ‘Yeah, it really is.'”
“True Grit” has just arrived in theaters as an idiosyncratic gun-smoke adventure with characters who talk like prophets as they ride through rivers, snow and ravines in search of revenge and reward. It’s the first visit to the Old West by the Coens — the Oscar-winning filmmakers best known for “No Country for Old Men” and “Fargo” — and their cast is led by a grizzled Jeff Bridges, the young newcomer Hailee Steinfeld and Damon, who plays a Texas Ranger who may be more windbag than Winchester.
“I am,” Damon declared with mock pride, “a true nincompoop in this movie.”
“True Grit” presents the story of a 14-year-old girl (Steinfeld) who hires a battered and boozy U.S. marshal named “Rooster” Cogburn (Bridges) to hunt down the dim outlaw ( Josh Brolin) who murdered her father. Tagging along on the manhunt is Damon’s Lone Star lawman, LaBoeuf (pronounced “la beef”), who fits in nicely with the Coens’ long cinematic parade of quirky and feckless souls.
That’s not to say that LaBoeuf doesn’t have his moments of valor. Joel and Ethan Coen, though, have stacked the deck against the character; their script is far more faithful to the 1968 novel by Charles Portis than the first Hollywood adaptation (which was released in 1969 and won an Oscar for John Wayne in the Cogburn role), but there is a major added scene of comedic mayhem that leaves the verbose LaBoeuf sputtering blood.
Damon can barely recount the filming of the scene without seizing up with laughter and a bit of lingering horror as well. Without giving too much away, LaBoeuf suffers a significant tongue injury and Cogburn, announcing that he once knew a teamster with a similar injury, reaches down to rip away the flap of flesh. On the set, Joel Coen advised Damon to really enunciate his dialogue, and on the big screen it’s hard to forget Damon’s stricken expression in the moment.
“It’s such a horrible situation, blood is gushing out of my mouth, I’ve been shot and there’s this guy sticking his filthy hand in my mouth, ‘I will rip it free,’ and I’m trying to get him to stop, and as soon as they yell ‘cut’ we just fall down laughing,” Damon said. “It was that kind of stuff. I would come home and tell my wife, ‘I am having so much fun on this movie.'”
Damon reserved a special brand of praise for Bridges, the 61-year-old star who grew up in Hollywood, put together decades of integrity work and now is enjoying a new stratum of acclaim as a celebrated elder statesmen.
“When he works and things are clicking like they were on this film, he’s in a state of just pure joy, and you can feel it, everyone can,” Damon said. “It was a relief in a way too. When you work with someone you really respect and admire, you always have that worry that they’ll be a [a jerk]. To have him show up and live up to his reputation in every way and be so wonderful, it made it all memorable. He’s a good guy, and that’s what you want him to be.”
And if Damon had to list the people who weren’t the good guys as he had hoped? The 40-year-old actor let out a sharp laugh. “That’s at the end of my career. Can I call you back on that one?”
Damon was speaking by phone from frosty Chicago, and he was in no hurry to hang up. The wind outside was too frigid, the hotel room too quiet and his wife and children too far away. “It’s like 10 degrees here, I’m not going anywhere,” said the father of three, “and it’s nice to have a grown-up conversation any time.”
The Illinois visit was for “Contagion,” the Steven Soderbergh pandemic thriller that also stars Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Elliott Gould and Jude Law. “It’s an ensemble movie because, you know, everybody is dropping like flies.” Damon will reunite with Soderbergh for the biopic “Liberace,” which has Michael Douglas slated for the lead role and Damon as the music star’s lover. The Cambridge, Mass., native is also reportedly in talks to star in the sci-fi film “Elysium,” from “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp.
Damon has become a signature Hollywood star for his generation after the Jason Bourne films, two Oscar nominations for acting (“Good Will Hunting” and “Invictus”) and his work with directors such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Soderbergh. There’s also his winking appearances on “30 Rock” and his ongoing comedy feud with Jimmy Kimmel and his good-karma portrayal in the tabloids as an earnest family man and co-founder of Water.org, which champions the cause of safe drinking water and sanitation in impoverished regions.
It was 13 years ago this month that Damon found his real breakthrough with the release of “Good Will Hunting,” which he starred in with Robin Williams and Ben Affleck. Damon and Affleck won Oscars for the script. That film followed the good notices Damon earned a year earlier in “Courage Under Fire” and was followed in short order by Damon’s successes in “The Rainmaker” and “Saving Private Ryan.”
Damon has a flinty American everyman quality that he can play against — as he does as the haunted-soul assassin in “The Bourne Identity” — or channel with unexpected tints, as he did this year in Eastwood’s “Hereafter.” “He’s a gem to work with,” Eastwood said. “He has this reticent Americana persona on screen, and he brings a lot to the set with his writing background and insights.”
Bridges echoed those sentiments: “For ‘Grit,’ he took this character and just ran off with it. He’s a guy that does terrific work and makes good choices, and that’s a big thing in the long haul of a career.”
For years, Damon has wanted to work with the Coens. Back when Damon was working on the 1999 film “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” he would lean forward as Philip Seymour Hoffman told tales of Coen filmmaking. The actors were especially impressed by the Coens’ tradition of giving their cast a daily visual aid by distributing the sketches of storyboard artist J. Todd Anderson.
“Phil had just done ‘The Big Lebowski’ with them, and he was telling me how every day on a Coen set when they hand out the sides — the miniature version of script pages for the day — they also hand out the boards,” Damon said. “You can look at the movie, in a sort of cartoon form, and know what all the shots are. Phil was like, ‘You’re not even going to believe it if you work with them, because you not only know what the scene will look like but you know what shots you will be in.’ That gives you so much as an actor.”
The flip side of that, Damon suspected, was that the shoot would be intensely regimented and perhaps even smothering when it came to improvisation. “But really what happened is they are so deep into the material by the time they actually are on the set shooting that they aren’t afraid to improvise,” the actor said. “They were pretty loose. We had a lot of fun out there.”
If Damon were describing his LaBoeuf character to one of his young daughters he might use a “Toy Story” example — the Texas Ranger dresses like Sheriff Woody but acts like the doofus do-gooder Buzz Lightyear. Damon said he and Joel Coen came to the idea of making the cowboy a sort of Cliff Clavin of the Old West by modeling him on Texas actor Tommy Lee Jones but subtracting the notable fact that Jones is a Harvard-educated intellect.
“The plan was a Tommy Lee who didn’t know what he was talking about — and never stopped talking,” Damon said. “And to practice for the tongue [injury] I actually took one of my daughter’s ponytail bands — one of her hair ties — and just wrapped it around my tongue to try to get this way of talking down. I’m sure the neighbors heard me and just shook their head and thought, ‘This whole Hollywood thing has just gotten to him.'”
By Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times. Source
Matt Damon chatted up an impromptu circle of female fans while on set for his newest film Contagion on Thursday in Western Springs, Illinois.
The film itself stars four Oscar winners: Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet, as doctors and ordinary citizens who have no choice but to try to contain the outbreak of a deadly virus.
More photos at celebuzz.com.
In June we posted a story that Matt Damon might join the cast of Cameron Crowe’s drama WE BOUGHT A ZOO and today we have confirmation that he will indeed play the lead in the film. The plot follows a struggling husband whose wife has cancer and they buy an estate that ends up being a zoo for exotic animals which they try to reopen to the public. WE BOUGHT A ZOO will also star Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning and is set to open December 23, 2011.
Anything Cameron Crowe touches is usually good and when you add an actor like Matt Damon it just ups the ante exponentially. This is on the (ever growing) list of movies to see next year. 2011 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for films (if they turn out to be any good) so start making your list to make sure you don’t miss anything!
Acting! The New York Times has assembled 14 actors to perform a variety of classic screen types in short films directed by photographer Solve Sundsbo. Javier Bardem, Michael Douglas, James Franco, Tilda Swinton and Natalie Portman provide highlights, but pay special attention to Matt Damon’s hilarious silent screaming fit and Jennifer Lawrence’s sexy horror homage. Once again, The Winter’s Bone actress shows just what she had hidden underneath that bulky winter wardrobe. Also of note: singer Owen Pallet did the accompanying music, which sounds an awful lot like Johnny Greenwood’s score from There Will Be Blood. Not that anyone is complaining. [NYT]
Hollywood star isn’t worried about turning 40 this year and says he wants to turn to direction in the new decade of his life. Damon, who will turn 40 in October, said: “I can’t wait to direct. The only thing that is stopping me from directing is that I keep getting these great roles.”
The Bourne Identity says he isn’t worried about ageing because his Invictus co-star Morgan Freeman, 72, told him that 40 is the best age to be, reports femalefirst.co.uk.
“I was talking to Morgan and someone said I was about to turn 40 and Morgan said, ‘Are you about to turn 40?’ I said I was and he said, ‘You are just coming into your prime.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he replied, ‘The 40s is the best decade by far. That’s when things really get good’,” said Damon.
Trivia on Matt Damon
Matt Damon (born October 8, 1970) is an American actor, writer, and philanthropist whose career was launched following the success of the film Good Will Hunting, from a screenplay he co-wrote with friend Ben Affleck. The two won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay for the work and Damon garnered multiple nominations for Best Actor, including the Academy Award, for his lead performance in the same film.
Damon went on to star in films such as Saving Private Ryan, The Talented Mr. Ripley, the Ocean’s series, the Bourne series, Syriana, The Good Shepherd, The Departed, The Informant! and Invictus. He has received multiple award nominations for his film performances and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Damon is one of the top thirty-five highest grossing actors of all time. In 2007, he was named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.
Damon has been actively involved in charitable work, including the ONE Campaign, H2O Africa Foundation, and Water.org. With his wife, Luciana Bozán Barroso, Damon has two daughters, Isabella and Gia, and a stepdaughter, Alexia, from Barroso’s first marriage.
Plans for a fourth “Bourne” movie stalled late last year when director Paul Greengrass walked away from the franchise and star Matt Damon followed, stating he wouldn’t do the sequel with anybody else. But the actor remained hopeful of his participation in the series, telling MTV News in December, “I think it’s going to happen someday.”
Damon continues to see himself in the role, more recently telling Empire that he and Greengrass are “probably another five years away” from the next chapter. But the next installment may be another thing entirely. Damon believes Universal will keep the franchise alive in the meantime with a feature-length flashback.
“There’ll probably be a prequel of some kind with another actor and another director before we do another one,” he told the British magazine while promoting the UK release of “Invictus.”
What such a prequel would consist of is now something for us “Bourne” fans to wonder about. The last film, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” seemed to clear up the character’s origins adequately through flashbacks and exposition. So maybe such a film would follow Jason on his pre-amnesia missions, in which the killing-machine character would be portrayed as more of an anti-hero.
Actually, a “Bourne” prequel seems a lot like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to me. Would Danny Huston again take over for Brian Cox? Would we see an early mission including all the Treadstone assassins? Younger actors filling in for Clive Owen, Marton Csokas, Russell Levy and that guy who awkwardly jumps to his death in “The Bourne Idenity”?
Or, maybe it will just be a romantic comedy about the affair between Jason and Nicky (Julia Stiles’ character). I’m really curious how that relationship could have possibly happened, however serious it was, given what we’ve seen of the characters over the course of the trilogy.
Would you be okay with the “Bourn” franchise continuing with a prequel? A Reboot? What would you like to see in a pre-amnesia “Bourne” movie?
Matt Damon is ditching the successful “Bourne” series, and will not star in the series’ fourth film. Damon, who played government agent Jason Bourne in the last three movies, admitted that the franchise’s future remains uncertain but expects that the next film will be a prequel to the original 2002 “Bourne Identity” movie.
“I don’t know you know. I think it will be a prequel of some kind with another actor and another director before we do another one.
I think we are probably five years away from another one. We gotta get a script. If you have any ideas please call Universal.”
Previously, Damon had said that he hoped to start work on a new Bourne movie in 2011. Later, however, he admitted that he wasn’t sure if he’d sign up again after director Paul Greengrass’ departure.
Damon, 39, would now rather spend his time focusing on directing, but only if the right project comes along.
“I want a simple little human story. Something like Good Will Hunting or something that’s smaller like that. Nothing too tricky the first time.
I don’t know if I’ll be in it. I’d prefer not to be. I’ve heard from other people and Ben told me it’s tough, it’s a lot of hard work.”
Universal is moving ahead with its fourth installment of “The Bourne Identity” franchise, setting George Nolfi to write the script. Nolfi was co-writer of the third film, which was based on a story by Tony Gilroy.
Though the series is based on the Robert Ludlum novels, the new film won’t be based on a Ludlum title, but rather an original story.
Director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon are attached to the new film.
Perez Hilton.com is reporting Matt signed for one more Bourne movie.
Read it all here.
Exciting news or what?
Hey! I got carried away again and I haven’t updated for a while. I will be bringing the latest (December 2007) candids later.
Just Jared is showing us the first picture from the set of Imperial Life in Emerald city, staring Matt and directed by Paul Greengrass.