A great new article from Improper Bostonian and photoshoot!
A suite on the 31st floor of the Waldorf Towers is a study in costly surfaces. Celeste blue wallpaper, cabriole legs, curtains slung in dangling brocade. The armchairs are plashed in old silk, the prints are a-trot with thoroughbreds. It is, in short, a stage.
In a chair by the tea service, John Krasinski is talking with the fluid animation of an Ivy League grad bolstered by nine seasons of an international hit sitcom and a marriage to Emily Blunt.
“It’s not about the control,” he says, referring to the production of his new movie, Promised Land. “It was about the camaraderie.”
As if on cue, one of the world’s top box office draws—and Promised Land’s costar and cowriter—arrives. Matt Damon is polite, even courtly, although his hair is shaved in a penal crop from reshoots on Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming sci-fi flick, Elysium. After shaking hands he swerves towards the refreshments tray, his brow furrowed over the breakfast china.
“Did you try the coffee?” asks the voice of Jason Bourne.
“No, is it good?” replies the voice of Jim from The Office.
“Well, mine wasn’t. Mine was really watered down. Maybe it came from the same pot.… We’re about to find out.” He sloshes it into a hotel issue cup. “No, no, no, no. This is much more rich.”
“They give me the good stuff,” laughs Krasinski. Rapidfire, Damon tosses shreds of muffin into his mouth and scoots up a chair.
“Awesome,” he says. “I’m in.”
People didn’t expect Matt Damon’s second major co-writing credit to appear alongside the name of John Krasinski. “Matt and Ben” is as much of a pop culture cliché as “My boy’s wicked smaht.” Krasinski’s former colleague on The Office, Mindy Kaling, made her name with those names, writing a play about how Good Will Hunting got made. But when the Internet started jabbering about an upcoming screenplay by Krasinski and Damon, it seemed like a natural match. Damon was a superstar, and by the second season of The Office, Krasinski had supplanted Barney Frank as Newton’s favorite son—his eyebrow alone expresses as much submission to cosmic absurdity as Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. And hometown ties count.
A great article on NY Times, which will be in print this sunday. Thanks Ali for the heads up!
“IT’S the moment every actor actually fears,” Matt Damon said, looking around a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria in mock terror.
The night before he’d been at Cipriani, of all harrowing places, to receive a tribute at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. “It was one of those career achievements that makes me feel like it’s over for me,” he said, not entirely seriously. John Krasinski, a star of “The Office” on NBC, had presented the award. Now he sat grinning in the next chair. The two men wore suspiciously similar sweaters.
“How did you like your time here, Matt?” Mr. Krasinski asked, affecting a stern tone.
“Wait, what, sorry?” Mr. Damon said, playing along. He mimed being dragged away. “Then they take you in the back room ——”
“And shiv you,” Mr. Krasinski finished, with evident relish.
The banter was spontaneous, the rapport hard-earned. Mr. Damon, 42, and Mr. Krasinski, 33, are friends; they met through Mr. Krasinski’s wife, the actress Emily Blunt, when she starred opposite Mr. Damon in last year’s romantic thriller “The Adjustment Bureau.” They’re also collaborators and co-stars in a new movie, “Promised Land.” Their ease at improvising a scene is the result of practice. In addition to acting in “Promised Land” they wrote and produced the film, running lines and hammering out drafts in between day jobs, working weekends alongside Mr. Damon’s four rambunctious children in his Los Angeles home.
The film, directed by Gus Van Sant, concerns what happens when a natural gas company comes to a small town somewhere in the Marcellus Shale in the rural Northeast, intent on persuading the town’s working-class residents to allow the company to drill on their land. Mr. Damon plays Steve Butler, a blithely confident representative of the drilling company; Mr. Krasinski plays Dustin Noble, an earnest environmental activist with a nasty edge. At issue is the technique of fracking, the controversial method that the company in the film uses to extract gas, and the corrosive influence of the vast wealth that Mr. Damon’s character can promise and that Mr. Krasinski’s character is intent on resisting.
In an interview Mr. Van Sant described “Promised Land” as a “simple learning film,” an earnest, Capraesque meditation on the conflicting dictates of stewardship, hardship economics and fraying community values. By Mr. Damon’s standards, it’s a small movie, made for a modest budget of about $15 million and opening Friday in a limited number of theaters. (A wider release will come in January.) But it’s also a turning point — and something of a departure — for both Mr. Damon, who was scheduled to direct “Promised Land” before bowing out at the last moment, and Mr. Krasinski, whose show “The Office” is ending after an eight-year run.
“I feel like I’m on a precipice, jumping off for good,” Mr. Krasinski said. “To not be sure what’s next after that is completely terrifying.”
For Mr. Damon the stakes are equally real, if more elusive. He does not exactly lack for work. Last year he starred in Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” and George Nolfi’s “Adjustment Bureau,” among other high-profile films, and next year he’ll be in “Elysium,” a science-fiction blockbuster from the director Neill Blomkamp. When shooting went long on that film, Mr. Damon was forced to give up the director’s chair on “Promised Land” for lack of time to prepare.
Uncharacteristically “Promised Land” will be the only film that Mr. Damon appears in this year. And that, he said, is a point of pride. “It’s a different feeling to work this in depth with a movie. Usually we show up, and we’re the mercenaries.”
His longtime friend Ben Affleck noted that it was neither easy nor politically simple for an actor of Mr. Damon’s stature to take a year off to work on his own project. “His career is full of the most extraordinary opportunities that an actor could ever dream of. So naturally the instinct isn’t to just turn away from that and say, ‘Let me sit at home staring at a blank page for six months.’ ”
On “Promised Land” Mr. Damon and Mr. Krasinski did everything from recruiting the cast, which also includes Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook and Frances McDormand, to scouting locations. That involvement provided “a much richer and deeper feeling of ownership,” Mr. Damon said.
The film may be Mr. Van Sant’s first collaboration with Mr. Krasinski, who previously wrote and directed an adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.” But Mr. Van Sant and Mr. Damon have some history together. The director is fond of recalling a wager he was once tempted to make with the producer Laura Ziskin, back when Mr. Damon was an unknown actor auditioning for a part in Mr. Van Sant’s mordant comedy “To Die For.”
“He came in, he did a regular reading like everybody else, and when he left, the producer said, ‘That’s a movie star.’ ” Mr. Van Sant recalled. “You meet a lot of magnanimous, forthcoming, attractive, intelligent, talented people in your casting sessions. But somehow she just thought he was the thing. And if I was asked to bet — like a Las Vegas bet — I would’ve voted against.”
Most moviegoers know the rest of this story. Mr. Damon did not get the part. But he and his writing partner, Mr. Affleck, did eventually win Mr. Van Sant over, persuading him to take on a screenplay of theirs called “Good Will Hunting.” That script led Mr. Damon and Mr. Affleck to an Oscar, cementing their reign at the end of the last century as “the most overpublicized writing duo in some time,” as Mr. Affleck ruefully put it.
This month is the 15th anniversary of “Good Will Hunting,” and Mr. Damon admitted he’d been thinking about the film more than he had in a while. Writing “Promised Land,” Mr. Damon said, “we’d basically just be in a room with a laptop open and kind of hashing out the scenes, pacing around the room. It’s really exactly the way Ben Affleck and I wrote ‘Good Will Hunting.’ ”
And how, a reporter tentatively asked, did Mr. Krasinski compare to Mr. Affleck?
“Strikingly similar,” Mr. Damon said, laughing. “Honestly. The writing experience is the same.” (Mr. Affleck said, by way of wry response, “I think John is very, very talented.”)
This time Mr. Krasinski originated the idea to write a film about “American identity,” as he put it, one that focused on the working people whom he saw as marginalized in the present political climate.
“My dad grew up in a steel mill town just outside of Pittsburgh, and all his stories of growing up seemed so incredibly inspiring,” Mr. Krasinski said. “I wanted to write a movie where these people were in a situation that was representative as a whole of everything that we’re going through as a country.” Mr. Krasinski called the author Dave Eggers, whom he knew from the film “Away We Go,” and the two men worked out a basic concept (Mr. Eggers has a story credit on “Promised Land”) before Mr. Krasinski took the idea to Mr. Damon.
“Promised Land” quickly found a home at Warner Brothers, where Mr. Damon has a production deal. But the financing was contingent on Mr. Damon’s directing.
“I knew that when I bowed out that we were going to lose our” — Mr. Damon used another word for emphasis — “money.” In desperation he e-mailed their script to Mr. Van Sant from an airport runway. By the time he had landed, Mr. Van Sant had signed on, and the project eventually found a new home with Focus Features.
“As a producer I like to say that the smartest thing I did on the movie was firing myself as the director,” Mr. Damon said.
The behind-the-scenes experience on “Promised Land,” both men said, was something that they were eager to repeat.
“It was my wife who said to me after we’d been writing for a couple months, ‘I haven’t seen you this happy working,’ ” Mr. Damon said.
“And it’s true. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to start from scratch.”
In the 15 years since Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Academy Award for their “Good Will Hunting” screenplay, Damon has worked with some of Hollywood’s best directors, become a humanitarian in Africa and even parodied himself with the help of Kevin Smith and Jimmy Kimmel. What he hasn’t done is write another script.
In partnership with John Krasinski of “The Office,” Damon, 42, has returned to the blank page, co-writing “Promised Land,” a script that he initially intended to direct, about a young comer in the natural gas industry who is selling the controversial practice of “fracking” to homeowners in struggling rural communities.
Despite the lengthy interlude between scripts, the process, he said, felt remarkably familiar to his collaboration with Affleck.
“John usually has his laptop, and we jump around the room gesturing at each other and he writes stuff down,” said Damon during a conversation with Krasinski, whom he credits with shepherding the project through. “It’s actually the way Ben and I did it. Ben and John are the two funniest guys I know, and it ends up that we just laugh for eight hours straight and at the end we have a few scenes that we really like.”
Krasinski would crisscross North America, meeting up with Damon on weekends in Vancouver, Canada, while Damon was shooting “Elysium,” or in New York when the married father of four was back home doting on his household full of women.
“We wrote in the middle of barbecues, pizza time. I was a villain for a month and a half, the dude that was taking their dad away,” said Krasinski, 33, whose wife, Emily Blunt, starred opposite Damon in “The Adjustment Bureau.” That’s how the men met.
Despite the almost 10-year age gap, Damon and Krasinski have a lot in common. Both hail from Boston, each could compete in a pearly whites contest with their bright Hollywood smiles and, surely if Damon were ever to hand off his “nicest guy in Hollywood” title, it would have to go to Krasinski. Still, despite the easy rapport the two have, the process of getting “Promised Land” to production was anything but simple.
First, there was their working styles. Krasinski is lightning fast; Damon not so much.
“John is like a supercomputer. His mind is fast. And I go in real time. I read at the speed in which I talk,” said Damon. “John would spit out all these ideas, and it would literally put me into brain freeze, where I would just sit there.”
Which in turn would throw Krasinski into bouts of insecurity seeing Damon’s stony reaction to his ideas. “I thought he hated me and wanted me to leave.”
That is until Damon’s wife unlocked the secret to that blank stare. “She said, ‘You know how Matt works? Before bed, I’ll say we’ve got to do this, pick this kid up, do this with this person, and he would just stare at me and I’d get really furious,'” relayed Krasinski.
“I’m just trying to make sure I can do everything she says,” Damon jumped in.
“The moment she told me that, the light bulb went off,” Krasinksi said. “The second half of [writing] was so much easier. I didn’t slow down, but I’d wait. I’d go watch a half hour of television. Then I’d come back and Matt would say, ‘Oh, I got it. I like it.'”
The next hurdle was the story itself. The project began as a story about wind farms. A two-hander, abstractly sketched with the help of novelist Dave Eggers. It featured Damon as a slick city boy in CAA-agent-quality suits and a female country mouse, to be played by Frances McDormand, with Krasinski as the interloper. But when the two writers went to scout locations in upstate New York to confirm their premise that fly-by-night companies were erecting wind towers only to collect the government subsidies and hand them over to coal companies — never actually powering up the towers — they were shocked.
“We couldn’t hear each other because the windmills were blowing so loud,” said Krasinski with a laugh. “They were working so well,” added Damon, that they quickly realized their whole premise for the film, which they had spent hundreds of hours writing, was completely wrong.
“It was devastating,” said Damon. “We had put in a lot of time at that point, and we knew we couldn’t carry out the story we had written.”
That was June 2011, and Damon was about to begin production on the sci-fi film “Elysium” opposite Jodie Foster. Rather than abandon the project, the duo, still attached to their characters, found a new backdrop to house them, landing on the natural gas industry with help from reports on “60 Minutes” and in the New York Times. Now Damon plays a representative of a natural gas company, and Krasinski, well, he’s still an interloper.
“Weirdly, not only did it work, it upped the ante and immediately became high-stakes poker,” said Krasinski. “It was no longer about neighbors pointing to a windmill and saying it’s big and makes noise. It was people saying, ‘I could be a millionaire’ and others saying, ‘Our town could be unusable in 50 years.’ The potential gains and losses were so dramatic.”
But the drama wasn’t over yet. Despite endorsements of the script from their high-profile friends, including Cameron Crowe, Affleck, Steven Soderbergh and others, and a financial commitment from Warner Bros., Damon gave up his director’s seat weeks before he was set to begin pre-production. Exhausted from his lengthy shoot and missing his family, he just wasn’t up to it, and there went their financing.
Luckily for the crushed Krasinski, Gus Van Sant, who had directed “Good Will Hunting,” stepped in quickly as the replacement, and Focus Features came in to finance and produce the film.
“Pretty much overnight I agreed to do it,” said Van Sant from an airport terminal on his way to Poland. “A lot of screenplays I read have a few things missing. To me, this one had it all. It was funny, entertaining, serious, romantic, tragic, everything. It was a nice, balanced story.”
DEADLINE.com has an exclusive interview with Matt Damon:
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.
More Promised Land promotion for Matt!
Matt has been promoting Promised Land and here are pictures. Huge thanks to DeAdele from RyanRenoldsFan.net for the pictures:
Matt Damon and his wife Luciana attended the premiere of Promised Land in Los Angeles last night, here are pictures:
I’ve uploaded pictures from last night’s New York premiere of Promised Land. Enjoy!
HBO has a video showing off 2012 shows and what’s to come in 2013, which has a quick view of Behind The Candelabra (must be like 2 seconds and must be hardly call footage, but hey, I’m taking what I can get here!). Around 00:02:07 if you want to skip.
Matt attended the NY Premiere of Promised Land yesterday and here is a video from Access Hollywood: