Even before Focus Features made Promised Land a late Oscar entry, the film’s writer-stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski came under fire from the energy industry. Their film deals with “fracking,” which mixes chemicals, sand, water and drilling to loosen underground shale deposits to harvest natural energy. Damon and Fran McDormand play gas company reps using the lure of potential riches to convince struggling farmers to allow fracking on their lands, despite the risks for their crops and livestock. Krasinski plays a grassroots activist fighting the reps as the town prepares to vote. Promised Land reunites Damon with Gus Van Sant, who directed Good Will Hunting, which brought Oscars and fame to Boston neophyte scribes Damon and Ben Affleck. Damon and Krasinski are fun guys, the type who’d be a blast to invite over to watch football…as long as you aren’t a fan of the New York Giants and the two Super Bowls they won over the New England Patriots.
DEADLINE: Matt, you’ve said recently that the Bourne Legacy spinoff didn’t make it any easier for Jason Bourne to return. What has to happen for us to see your signature character back onscreen?
DAMON: Just a couple things, really. Paul Greengrass has to want to do it, and secondly and equally important, it comes down to Paul and I knowing what the hell we want to do. We just don’t have a story, and we haven’t had one. I quietly went to Jonah Nolan, because he and his brother Chris did such a brilliant job on Batman and that whole mythology. I just said, can you put your brain on this? I can’t figure it out. And he took a run at it and he couldn’t crack it either. Paul and I have been talking about it for years. And we can’t quite see what the movie would be. If we could get line of sight on that…
DEADLINE: We are force-fed so many unnecessary sequels, and here is a smart thriller that we actually want to see more of…
DAMON: Neither of us is against it. I would love to do another one. I love that character. To me, the reason to make that movie is because people want to see it. Paul and I have said that to each other. We don’t take for granted the fact that we’ve built an audience for Bourne, that’s a real privilege. But our part of that bargain is that the movie is good and belongs with the other three. Until we can deliver that, we just can’t make it.
DEADLINE: I watched last week as Brad Pitt’s bankability got questioned after Killing Them Softly tanked. How much do stars like you and Brad worry about taking on projects like that or Promised Land? You see them as specialty pictures made at a price, but if they fail, they go down in the loss column.
DAMON: Some actors don’t make these movies for exactly that reason. I couldn’t bear to have a career like that. These are exactly the kind of movies I like to go see. That might put me in the minority of the movie-going public, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make them. In writing Promised Land, John and I talked a lot about films like Local Hero and The Verdict, a movie I absolutely love. I don’t know what that movie would do today, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to be in The Verdict.
DEADLINE: How helpful then are hits like Bourne?
DAMON: It’s always nice when one hits. It buys you relevance in the industry for a couple years and gives you cover to do these other things. But I would never just protect my beach head. That would be a career built out of fear and I won’t live that way. I want to challenge myself in different genres, playing different characters, and I don’t want to get pigeonholed and forced to do the same things. If Promised Land does not do a lot of business, it’s not going to end my career. But I am mindful like we all are that you don’t get to keep doing this if your movies don’t perform at the box office.