Saturday February 5th, 2011 · by Annie

Matt Damon, a humble soul

Hollywood heavy-hitter Matt Damon has his head on straight, as CARMEL MELOUNEY discovers

MATT Damon is renowned as the consummate Hollywood professional, so it feels a little disconcerting to walk into a hotel room and be ignored by the man crowned Sexiest Man Alive in 2007.

It’s especially awkward because only two people are in the room.

In New York to discuss his new film, Hereafter, Damon is anxiously awaiting news from his wife Luciana, who is about to give birth to her fourth baby and the couple’s third child together.

The Oscar-winning actor met his Argentine wife while she was bartending in Miami in 2003.

Damon’s dedication to his family is evident as he frantically texts on a Blackberry after taking a seat, and apologises for his lack of attention.

“OK, I’m a terrible multi-tasker,” he says as he drops his Blackberry on the floor. While other actors may have appeared rude as they juggled a Blackberry and a waiting journalist, Damon is unfailingly polite about it and clearly uncomfortable with having to do so.

Damon could easily pass for 25 were it not for the flecks of grey hair on the sides of his head.

“I’m rapidly going grey – I tell my girls, ‘This side here is all because of you, and this side here is all you’,” he chuckles while discussing his 40th birthday last October.

“We had my family and a bunch of my friends come to town and we rented the back room at a bowling alley and had a big party. Forty, I don’t know, it feels a lot like 39,” he says.

Damon has almost 50 films under his belt and received critical acclaim for his dramatic roles in the Ocean’s trilogy and the Bourne films.

He is said to earn about $16 million a film and Forbes magazine recently listed him as the most bankable star, based on his films making an average of $29 for every dollar he earned.

Not bad considering Damon says he and friend Ben Affleck created careers “out of thin air,” referring to their breakthrough hit Good Will Hunting in 1997.

Damon is flying high, on our screens as the extravagantly moustached Texas Ranger LaBoeuf in the commercially successful Coen brothers remake of True Grit.

He has three more films due in the next month, too: Clint Eastwood’s drama Hereafter; a narration job for the global financial crisis documentary Inside Job; and a starring role opposite Emily Blunt in the sci-fi thriller The Adjustment Bureau.

Asked about his success, Damon reveals his humble nature by discussing advice given to him by other successful actors.

“I remember Tom Hanks saying to me on Saving Private Ryan, we were all sitting in a foxhole and he was saying to all of us young actors, ‘I don’t care if it’s your milkman, your mailman, anybody is one movie away from being the biggest movie star in the world, anybody,’ and he’s totally right,” Damon says.

“I just remember that always stuck with me, because he was somebody who stuck around and I asked him about that and he said ‘Look, they weren’t great movies – I was the guy who wasn’t on the A-list but I was dependable and if they couldn’t get any of the others, they’d go, well, what about that Tom Hanks guy, he’s a pro, he always comes in, he always does a good job’.

“That’s the other way to do it if you’re not going to write your own thing,” says Damon.

“That’s the only advice I can give because I hadn’t figured out another way to break into the business.”

In his latest film, Hereafter, Damon plays a working-class psychic uneasy with his supernatural ability and left socially isolated because of it. With a plot that encompasses three separate characters in three countries who are all affected by death, the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, has received mixed reviews in the US.

“Clint calls it his European movie because it has subtitles and we all know Americans can’t read, right?” Damon says.

He accepted the role because of his faith in Eastwood, with whom he worked on Invictus. Damon describes Eastwood as a master storyteller with a deep personal connection to all of the movies he chooses to do.

“The way he’s described it to me, and I like his description, he says, ‘I’m a tour guide, and you’re on my tour and if you don’t like it you’re welcome to get off and I’ll invite you on the next one’.”

Damon doesn’t even flinch when reminded that one prominent American critic has just labelled the role his “first boring performance”.

“I take full responsibility for the performance,” he says. “He just has to hop off the bus on this one because it’s not a ride he’s interested in taking.

“It’s why you have to make movies that are personal to you, because there is always going to be somebody out there who doesn’t appreciate it.”

Damon says he would love to join Affleck in directing films and hopes the pair can be reunited again on another project of their own.

“Yeah, I’d love to work with him again – if I can establish myself as a director that will give us a whole bunch of different ways we can work together; we can do it as actors, writers, directors, one directing the other acting, so I’m hoping to do that eventually,” he says.

They are still close, despite living at opposite ends of the country.

Damon would also like to take on a comedy role in film after enjoying his cameos on the TV series 30 Rock and his collaborations with US comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman.

“But there aren’t a lot of great comedic scripts,” he says.

“The ones that come out that I think are fantastic – whether it’s The Hangover or Will Farrell or Ben Stiller’s stuff – those normally don’t come my way.

“Those guys are creating their own stuff. I’d love to do a good comedy; it’s hard. I’d love to get offered a job on one of these things, but that seems to be a much more closed group than some of the others.”

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Tags: Hereafter