Tuesday February 1st, 2011 · by Annie

Hollywood brings out Matt Damon’s true grit

Judging from Matt Damon’s body of work, one would think that Hollywood has definitely been kind to him. In fact, with his latest movie, it seems Damon’s lucky streak still holds. “True Grit,” his upcoming starrer directed by the Coen (Joel and Ethan) Brothers, is creating quite a buzz in the Oscars; but more so, it has been an opportunity for Damon to finally suck it up to the two directors he’s been dying to work with.

An adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel with the same title instead of a remake of the 1969 film, expectations are high considering the original movie was a John Wayne classic for which he won his only Oscar. “It’s hard to find material that feels like it’s not just a retread of something,” Damon says. “But this is a western that deserved to be made. I think Clint (Eastwood) did it to great effect 15 years ago but I read everything and I hadn’t come across a script that was this good, with directors of this caliber and a role like this. It was a very easy decision for me.”

The fact is, even Damon admits that choosing movie roles hadn’t been too hard for him since he did the Bourne series. “Suddenly my choices became really easy –like Paul Greengrass would call or Martin Scorsese. It’s ridiculous! Like, someone would ask me ‘why did you do this movie?’ Well, that’s easy, if Martin Scorsese asks me to do a movie I’m there. It’s not even a choice. If the Coen Brothers ask you to work with Jeff Bridges on ‘True Grit,’ that’s easy. I was in before I knew what the movie was. And then I looked at it and the script is great.”

But even Damon admits he isn’t playing on a level playing field—despite his stature. And this may, in fact, have kept his feet on the ground. “For years I thought I was inoculated by the Bourne movies,” he reveals. “I knew that I had another one two years down the road and that gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do because I had that as a backstop.”

While he recalls a 2007 Forbes magazine article rating him as “best investment in Hollywood because of what I got paid and what I delivered at the box office,” he notes that this distinction has been measured against his last three movies then. “Well, this year I’m one of the worst,” he laughs. “And it’s a pretty fickle business. My personal pay check didn’t go up in those ten years, just the movies didn’t work, a few in a row.”

But Damon isn’t the kind of actor who only chases the hits and big numbers at the box office. “If you are judging your own success by the opening weekend and suddenly there isn’t a [good] opening weekend, now [you feel] you are a failure,” he says. “For me, it’s about making films that are interesting to you. That’s what Clint Eastwood always talks about – he says, ‘I make these movies for me.’ He says, ‘The way I look at it, I’m a tour guide and you are on my tour bus and you are welcome to get off and if you get off I’ll invite you to the next tour but I’m giving the tour.’”

Touching on the economic situation having an effect on Hollywood, Damon candidly admits, “I’m encountering something that I didn’t encounter four or five years ago, which is I can’t get a lot of movies made just on my name. And I’ve talked to a lot of directors who say, ‘We tried to get this or that off the ground, but it didn’t happen.’”

Apparently, even the Coen Brothers were initially worried about not getting the funding for “True Grit.”

“Yeah, the Studio drove a hard bargain on this one – every nickel is up on the screen,” Damon shares. “But it’s worked out because this is a movie that has a chance to be a really big hit at the box office. But I know while we were making it they were concerned that they were working with really narrow margins. But every movie is under that kind of scrutiny right now. It’s a tough job to run a studio right now.”

But Damon is not just hopeful, he is proud of “True Grit.”

“I feel about this movie the same way I felt about ‘The Informant’ – they are the only two movies in my career that I wouldn’t want to change a frame of it.”

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Tags: True Grit