Even as camera flashes lit up Broadway and taxis shot uptown, Matt Damon’s mind was focused on the small, rural towns that dot the American landscape.
His new film, Promised Land, debuted Tuesday night on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, providing a smooth, celebratory push for a project that has already had a stormy path to the big screen, thanks to the politics of environmentalism and corporate influence.
Damon, who co-wrote the Gus Van Sant-directed film with co-star John Krasinski, stars as a hotshot salesman for a natural gas procurement company; his job is to get residents in down-on-their-luck rural towns to sign away the rights to drill deep into the shale deposits located underneath their land. It’s a controversial practice called fracking, which many scientists believe pollutes local water supplies with various chemicals, killing farmland and endangering the citizenry. Damon’s character, Steve Butler, argues that the sometimes-rich contracts are a godsend for the fading heartland, but is frustrated when a small Pennsylvania community decides to vote on whether to allow Global’s drills into its town. He also is surprised when he learns of some inconvenient truths about the process.
The natural gas industry and conservative organizations have already attacked the film as a liberal polemic (Focus Features CEO James Schamus jokingly thanked the Heritage Foundation in his introduction Tuesday), and while the movie does explain the downside to fracking, Damon’s main concern was using the issue as a greater statement about who controls American democracy.
“One thing [natural gas companies] are very worried about is decisions being made at the local level,” Damon told The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere. “They really would rather have decisions being made at the state level. And their argument is that it’s far more efficient for them to understand what the regulations are for an entire state, rather than try to argue town-to-town about how to do things and have different zoning laws.
“Okay, that’s an understandable argument,” he continued, “but the flip side of it for these local communities is like, are we going to let somebody legislate from the other side of the state what can and can’t be done in our actual backyards? So you can see each side there and we’ll see what happens. But this definitely takes the view that we should be in charge of what happens in our communities.”
In that sense, the outcome of the deliberation — which takes twists and unexpected turns — is not the film’s main concern. “The democracy has been hijacked,” Damon explained, and “it’s not about how they vote, it’s about them taking the vote back.”
One of the many big-name New Yorkers in attendance was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the lawyer and environmental activist, and he was far less circumspect on the issue of drilling for natural gas.
“I think that fracking ultimately is going to be a big mistake in our country,” he explained to THR. “It has a promise, which is that it will help make us energy independent, but we have much cheaper ways, more efficient ways, more patriotic ways and more wholesome and safe ways to do that. I think one of the things that the producers of this film wanted to show was the subtle ways that fracking doesn’t just poison water supplies but it poisons human communities, it poisons human relationships. It’s not a good thing for our country.”
One of the movie’s more subtle displays of corporate power comes when Steve and his co-worker Sue (Frances McDormand) shop for flannels and other regional-appropriate clothing at a local store. In order to convince the residents they have their best interests in mind, they must look like them — even if they’re just playing a part.
“Well we talked with landmen who do this, and a lot of them said ‘Look, the car you drive up in matters. You drive up in a foreign car in some of these places and they’re not really going to want to talk to you,’” the star recalled. “I talked to one guy who said he always puts on a John Deere hat before he goes out. It’s just something these guys do; they’re salesmen and they’re trying to make a sale and they want the people to identify with them as much as possible. So they have little tricks that they do.”
Whether or not the film changes any minds, it’s determined to at least open some eyes.
DEADLINE EXCLUSIVE: Matt Damon is negotiating to join The Monuments Men, the period drama that George Clooney will direct in January in Europe as a co-production between Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Damon joins what continues to be shaping up as an amazing cast. Besides Damon and Clooney, the film will star Skyfall‘s Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, Argo‘s John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban. Clooney and Damon did the Ocean’s Eleven movies together and Syriana.
The drama, which was scripted by Clooney and partner Grant Heslov, confronts the final chapter of Germany’s rule, which came down to the absolute destruction of everything that makes a culture keep its standing, including the lives that are lost and the sacrifices that are made. All of this is in danger of being lost forever as Hitler and the Nazis try to cover the tracks of a murderous regime. A crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renown works of art that were stolen by Nazis before they are destroyed.
Heslov is producing through their Smokehouse banner. Alexandre Desplat is doing the score, and the crew is the same as from the Ben Affleck-directed Argo, which Clooney and Heslov produced and Desplat scored. Damon will next be seen in the Oscar-bait Gus Van Sant-directed Promised Land, which Damon and co-star John Krasinski wrote together and which Focus Features releases wide January 4 after an Oscar-qualifying run later this year. Damon is repped by WME.
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.
A nice article from ComingSoon.net
As we mentioned in our Gotham Awards coverage, this is the week when Focus Features is stepping up their game to get word out on Matt Damon and John Krasinski’s Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant. Earlier today, ComingSoon.net was one of a couple dozen journalists invited to a special luncheon at midtown New York’s prestigious Aquavit restaurant, specializing in Swedish cuisine and famous for kicking off the career of superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson. Damon, Krasinski and Van Sant were all on hand to field questions and talk about their movie in between bites.
Our positive review of the movie is still under embargo, but the film has Matt Damon playing the salesman for a natural gas company who comes to a small town along with a co-worker, played by Frances McDormand, with the intention of leasing land from the local farmers where they can extract natural gas. Along comes an activist named Dustin, played by Krasinski, who throws a monkey wrench in their progress at convincing the locals to sign contracts, and that’s where the film gets interesting.
Damon met Krasinski when he was working with his future wife Emily Blunt on The Adjustment Bureau in New York and they began working on the script together two years ago after author Dave Eggers helped Krasinski develop the story but then had to go off and write his own book.
The film was shot earlier this year outside of Pittsburgh in a small town much like the one in the film and during his time at our table, Krasinski talked to us about how his father’s own small town experiences inspired him to write the screenplay and how freaked out he got when his father visited the set and started pointing out places where they spent time in his youth.
Krasinski also told us an amazing story about his early years as an actor in New York and how he was almost ready to give up when he traveled to Los Angeles and two weeks later booked the pilot of “The Office.” The rest as they say is history.
All three mentioned how the films of Frank Capra and Elia Kazan were hugely influential on the writing process and the feel of the film, and they’re trying hard not to focus too much on the political side of the story and how “fracking” for natural gas has become a huge political and environmental issue in recent years.
When Matt Damon came over to our table, we spoke with him about the process of writing Promised Land with Krasinski and how that differed from writing Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck over 15 years ago while they were both struggling actors. He told us how neither of them had any formal education on how to write a screenplay.
Damon complimented Krasinski on the speed at which his brain worked in terms of trying to figure out the mechanics of the screenplay and we heard some amazing stories from both of them about their co-stars, Frances McDormand and Scoot McNairy.
Krasinski was really impressed by what McDormand brought to her role, seemingly without even trying, although she did tell them at the very beginning of the project that she wouldn’t do any press. It’s a shame since it might be her best performance since the Coens’ Fargo, for which she won her Oscar.
McNairy’s audition so impressed the three of them that they changed one of the characters in order to give him a speech. The speech McNairy gives in the film was originally going to be performed by an older actor whose son went to war in Afghanistan, but after seeing his audition, they changed the role for McNairy. Apparently, McNairy did a reading on camera for Van Sant and after it was over, he started talking about his wife and her own struggles with the subject of the movie. Van Sant started rolling tape again to capture the emotion in McNairy’s story, and the part was changed for him. McNairy is having a bit of a moment, appearing not only in this movie but also Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, opening this weekend, and Ben Affleck’s Argo.
Krasinski also told us how he was crushed when right before last Christmas, Damon decided not to direct the film himself after they had all the pieces in places to go into production, but having to go right into pre-production in January would have kept Damon away from his family for too long.
Director Gus Van Sant filled in the rest of the story, telling us how he came on board in the project’s hour of need when Matt texted him asking if he would read the script and he sent it right over in PDF form before boarding a plane, and Van Sant decided to do it. Van Sant talked about some of his sound design and production decisions and how his style has changed from ten years ago when he made Elephant.
Since this was a fairly informal luncheon, we also talked about more esoteric New Yorker topics like the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn (thumbs up from Matt!), living on the Upper East Side (Krasinski and a couple other journalists, not us) and such. Even though both actors are from Boston, they both try to spend as much time in the city as possible.
Hopefully we’ll have more formal interviews with actual quotes from the trio sometime leading up to Promised Land’s release in New York and L.A. on December 28 and wide release on January 4, 2013.
In “Promised Land,” you get a chance to see Matt’s inherent likability. Some actors have that quality, some don’t. And that likability is necessary to play this kind of scam artist and still be as caring as you are for his trip.
His face is an open book from the first frame when he’s washing his face and he’s tormented and nervous about what’s to come. He handles it without pushing. And he ends the picure with a final speech before the town, telling them the entire truth and what’s he’s been involved with. It’s emotional and powerful without being pushed.
In some ways, Matt is like John Wayne, who had that inherent feeling of trust. Which you also get from Matt. There’s a direct truthfulness there that a lot of actors don’t have. They have to get tricky. Matt has this inherent shit detector. He’s a very good listener, but he also has the ability to handle lengthy dialogue, which is becoming a relatively lost art in film.
He produced this picture and wrote it, and from my own experience with doing dual roles, it never gets in the way for him. Matt has enough knowledge as a writer and producer to surround himself with the best people possible. He’s not threatened by talent. He enjoys it.
Promised Land opens on: December 28, 2012, on a limited release and wide release on January 4, 2013.
Here’s the trailer:
Captures from We Bought a Zoo in Blu-Ray quality have been added to the gallery:
Collider.com has posted the first pictures of Matt on the set of Terry’s Gilliam’s sci-fi film “The Zero Theorem”:
The first images from the set of director Terry Gilliam’s upcoming sci-fi film The Zero Theorem have surfaced, and they’re unsurprisingly a little out there. The film stars Christoph Waltz as Qohen Leth, a computer hacker who searches for the meaning of life while being distracted by Management, a shadowy figure from an Orwellian corporation. We recently learned that Matt Damon would be reteaming with Gilliam for a small role in the pic, and these first set photos give us a look at Damon’s fantastically flamboyant character. The actor recently revealed that he ran into a bit of trouble when he had to shave his head for Elysium reshoots, but Gilliam decided to take advantage of the look and present Damon in a way he’s never been seen before.
A new still from Elysium has been release:
Set to open on March 1st, 2013, here is the synopsis:
In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), a hard the government ofﬁcial, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max (Matt Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.
Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace biopic being produced by HBO. Set to be released in 2013.
Steven Soderbergh is directing Behind the Candelabra from a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese. The story follows Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson, that lasted from 1977 to 1982. Liberace consistently denied allegations that he was homosexual throughout his career. He died of AIDS in 1987.
Behind the Candelabra comes to theaters in 2013 and stars Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Debbie Reynolds, Boyd Holbrook, Cheyenne Jackson. The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh.
From Vanity Fair and the photo by Norman Jean Roy:
As Gordon “Greed is good” Gekko in Wall Street, Michael Douglas personified and immortalized money on the make. Now, improbably, inspiringly cast as the capering prince of the piano Liberace—!—in the upcoming HBO original film Behind the Candelabra (produced by the legendary Jerry Weintraub and directed by Steven Soderbergh, hot off the beefcake sizzle of Magic Mike), Douglas plays money dolled up for an eternal night on the town. Like Elvis Presley, another poor boy and social outcast who was glory-bound (each had a twin who died at birth!), Wladziu Valentino Liberace, born in 1919, rocketed through the gray flannel of the 50s in a riot of color, pomade, and mascara. Elvis’s gold lamé suit and Liberace’s sequined jackets could be spotted from outer space—“I’m glad you like it,” he would say after modeling his latest outfit onstage. “You paid for it”—and exploded out of the postwar closet of Puritan repression. Only, in Liberace’s case the closet held more than his wardrobe. Lee (as his friends called him) was a camping, vamping gay man who never “came out,” inhabiting pop culture’s original glass closet. As Dave Hickey writes in his essay “A Rhinestone As Big as the Ritz,” “Liberace’s closet was as democratically invisible as the emperor’s new clothes…. Everybody ‘got it.’ But nobody said it.” Until the shattering came. In 1982, Liberace’s former live-in chauffeur, bodyguard, secretary, and boy toy, Scott Thorson (portrayed by Matt Damon under a sandy thatch of 70s hair), sued for “palimony” and later wrote the memoir on which this movie is based. Liberace would die of aids in 1987, but his extravagant legacy lives on through Elton John, Lady Gaga, and the diamond skull of Damien Hirst.
On Set pictures: