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:
Matt Damon talks again about a possible Bourne sequel. Honestly, in my opinion, as much as I love the movies, I think it’s time to let it go. The Bourne Legacy had a weak plot and it’s time to let it rest. Reboot it in 30 years.
Last time Matt Damon, star of the original ‘Bourne’ trilogy, was out doing press, he said he hadn’t seen “The Bourne Legacy,” this past summer’s extensive reboot of the franchise that placed Jeremy Renner at the center of the action. The film upped the franchise’s science-factual underpinnings by having Renner’s character (part of the next generation of government-sanctioned killers) controlled by a series of drugs that would boost his reflexes and intelligence. When we spoke with Damon about the sequel/prequel yesterday, during the actor’s press rounds for the upcoming “Promised Land,” he did confirm that he’s seen the movie but said that it might make it harder for him to re-enter the franchise.
“I did see it…” Damon said, trailing off. When we asked him what he thought of the movie, he said: “I think it’s going to make it harder for us to make another one. I’m just trying to figure out like… Because they used our characters, anything that happens in that world, that’s the ‘Bourne’ world now. So the pill popping and all that stuff happens.” When we suggested that Damon’s Bourne character was actually from a different era of the project, he conceded a little bit. “Right, I’m from a different program,” Damon said.
When we asked if he would do one with Renner, he sounded even more skeptical. “I don’t know what that story would be,” Damon said. “I love Jeremy and I’m a huge fan of him and I know him personally and love him outside of work, too. But I just don’t know what that story would be. I could never see Bourne teaming up with anyone. And all he said was – he wanted out, he wanted out, he wanted out. So how do you get that character going again?”
Damon said that this was a problem that he had faced before, back when he and Paul Greengrass (who directed “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” and re-teamed with Damon for “Green Zone”) were trying to hammer out plans for the fourth film in the franchise. “Literally, we couldn’t figure out how to do it three years ago,” Damon said. He then broke down why, exactly, a ‘Bourne’ movie came out this year anyway. “The studio had a deal with the Ludlum estate and they had to get a ‘Bourne’ movie out. So they said to us, ‘Why don’t you guys do one?’ And we said, ‘We don’t know what to do!’ So once they realized we weren’t going to solve that problem, they went a totally different way.”
We’ll have more from our interview with Damon as “Promised Land” release date approaches at the end of the month.
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.