VENICE, Italy — George Clooney’s “Suburbicon” has a timely subplot — based both on present times and a 1957 incident — about racism in white America. That subplot, however, resounded deeply during the Venice Film Festival press conference for the film, which stars Matt Damon and Julianne Moore.
“I was watching a lot of speeches on the campaign trail about building fences and scapegoating minorities and I started looking around at other times in our history when we’ve unfortunately fallen back into these things,” said Clooney, talking about how the pic germinated.
While casting around for story ideas, Clooney found a 1957 incident that happened in Levittown, Pa., in which an African-American family moved into a suburban development; however, many white residents in the area reacted with violence. Then, while looking to try to make a film out of the Levittown story, he remembered that the Coen brothers had written a script called “Suburbicon,” so those two elements were meshed together.
Of course at that stage the Charlottesville, Va., race riots had yet to happen, noted Damon, who in the film plays a bad guy who goes all the way, to an extent that he’s “never been able to do so far” in his career.
“When we were filming we obviously could not have predicted the race riots,” said Damon. “We weren’t literally thinking that race riots would erupt in America right before this came out. But it does speak to the fact that these issues have not, and are not, going away. So there’s an honest reckoning in our country.”
As to the character Damon plays: “It’s kind the definition of white privilege when you are riding around your neighborhood on a bike covered in blood murdering people and the African-American family [who are his neighbors] is getting blamed for it,” he said.
Clooney pointed out that the film’s very dark tone reflects the anger he sees in the U.S. today.
“If you go to our country…depending on what side of the aisle you sit on, it’s probably the angriest I’ve ever seen it,” he noted. “There’s a dark cloud hanging over our country right now.” But he added: “I’m an optimist…I believe that we will get through all these things…but people are angry; a lot of us are angry.”
The “Suburbicon” director also underlined that the film “isn’t a movie about Donald Trump. … This is a movie about our coming to terms constantly with the idea that we have never fully addressed our issues with race.”
Moore, who plays a double role in the pic, made a clear-cut a statement on the issues being raised by Charlottesville.
“We are living in the United States where people are arguing about removing Confederate monuments: They must be removed,” she said. “You simply cannot have these figures from the Civil War in town squares and in universities for our children to see. As a parent and as a citizen I need to be active in the eradication of those, in the re-education of everyone. We have to take responsibility for it.”
Clooney joined her on a similar note: “This is something that is really festering right now in the United States: Talking about the Confederate flag, and the Jefferson Davis monument,” he noted. “Now, if you want to wear it [a confederate flag] on your T-shirt or if you want to hang it on your front lawn…have at it. But to hang it on a public building where possibly African American tax payers are paying for it — and it’s a symbol of hate — that cannot stand.”
Here’s a first look at Matt Damon in the upcoming Downsizing, and an interview with the director Alexander Payne.
Despite a significant budget, mighty stars (Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern), and a script over a decade in the making, Alexander Payne’s latest ambitious dramedy, Downsizing, features his tiniest characters to date: In an overpopulated world, scientists shrink humans to pocket size as part of a master plan to minimize all of mankind over the course of 300 years.
The film’s satirical tone — honed with longtime Payne collaborator Jim Taylor — touches on issues of immigration and the environment, though its Oscar-winning director hesitates to call Downsizing political. “It takes something inherently absurd, but tells it with utter earnestness,” he tells EW, likening the project’s sci-fi concept to Black Mirror by way of Robert Altman. “We’re more interested in making human films [but Downsizing is] an interesting prism through which to view our times.”
Finally, a movie that puts our society under the microscope. Read on for EW’s full conversation with Payne, and check out our exclusive first look image from Downsizing (in theaters Dec. 22) above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This film was shrouded in secrecy for many years. What can you tell us about it now?
ALEXANDER PAYNE: Downsizing imagines what might happen if overpopulation and climate change [prompt] Norwegian scientists to discover how to shrink people down to five inches tall and propose, very earnestly, the population’s two-to-three-hundred-year transition from big to small.
Jim Taylor and his brother had been kicking around the idea for a while. They were thinking oh, if you were only so big, you could have a huge house on a huge lot of only eight square feet! When Jim and I decided to do something with the idea, we saw it in more political terms… I don’t want it to sound too much like a political movie. We’re more interested in making human films. Humans are involved in politics, so we thought this story was an interesting prism through which to view our times.
You initially worked on the script for 2 and a half years between Sideways and The Descendants, right? Why did it take a decade to translate from script to screen?
This film was very difficult for us, and it was the reason why there was a long gap for me between Sideways and The Descendants. We spent a lot of time trying to perfect this screenplay. We don’t choose [when to make a film], it’s when we get financing [and] we couldn’t get financing for it. We also hadn’t quite cracked the screenplay yet; so as painful as that was in hindsight, I’m glad the film was made when it was made. The same thing happened to me years before on About Schmidt. About Schmidt was going to be my first feature in 1991, but I couldn’t get financing and maybe hadn’t quite cracked the screenplay, so it wasn’t made for 11 more years. It happens sometimes.
So it was still difficult to fund this picture, even after you’d just come off of winning an Oscar for writing Sideways?
There’s a huge leap in budget from a movie like Sideways to a movie like this one. Downsizing has a big scope, and we shot in many different places, and it has a significant visual effects budget. I was told a couple of times, and not in my words, it’s too intelligent to justify the budget it requires. But, I think people should just watch it and see it [for what it is].
Did working with a bigger budget affect your ability to retain your voice as a director at all?
Not at all. I always assume the audience is more intelligent than I am, I don’t care what the budget is… It’s a bigger canvas. People tell Jim and I that Downsizing is a real departure for us, but we think, no it isn’t, this is exactly what we do, it just requires a bigger budget. It’s exactly our same sense of humor.
I’ve heard the humor in this film is largely satirical. Which elements of society are you critiquing, here?
I don’t like to control the viewing of a viewer; It’s a movie. But, I guess like the previous movies I’ve directed, I don’t know if you’d call it a funny drama or a dramatic comedy, and I can tell you though that the “science fiction” element is really just a premise and an excuse to [set up] the story. I don’t think it fulfills the science fiction mandate.
But because you finished the script in 2009 and society has changed so much, the script must have evolved in response to everything happening in society.
Even on other films, like Nebraska, you write it at a certain point in time, and then, interestingly, when you’re finally able to make the film, events of the day have caught up to developments of the screenplay, which you’d already been thinking about. Given our bizarre political history of the last year, particularly the last eight months, it will shed new light on new some elements that already existed in the screenplay to begin with.
Were there specific things in society or culture you remember tailoring the script in response to?
We never do that. We’re not ripped-from-the-headlines or quickly responsive types, nor are we interested in being that. It just so happens that things that were in the air years ago when we started the screenplay are now in the air more than they were before.
Especially issues relating to the environment, because one of the reasons these people shrink down is to reduce their footprint on the environment.
Environment is huge in the movie, and that issue isn’t going anywhere. It’s been going around for a while. It’s just going to get worse. The film has a thread of immigration in it, for example, and that’s been in the news much more lately. Things that were in the air when we began years ago are just much more in the air now.
Is it foolish to ask you to elaborate on how the film tackles those subjects?
You gotta see the movie, and I wouldn’t be pretentious enough to say it’s tackling immigration. It isn’t tackling anything. It just has presence. It has an element of wit, which, depending upon what’s going on in the zeitgeist, will be more or less salient. Viewers may bring more perspective to the film given recent events, but my process hasn’t changed; the world is just a little bit different right now.
Why do you think this film has stayed with you so long, after all of the funding struggles and casting changes over the years?
The basic premise is a very delicious one, and it’s the premise that saw Jim and me through the many years to get this made… it’s very much like the previous movie Jim and I did, in that it takes something inherently absurd and ridiculous, but tells it with utter earnestness… kind of like what you see in Black Mirror. Some episodes of Black Mirror take a premise and run with it, but I’m not interested in the science fiction feeling; I always aspire to make a Hal Ashby or a Robert Altman movie, and the plot has a certain episodic structure.
You also reunited with Laura Dern here for the first time since Citizen Ruth. Were you actively seeking to work with her again?
Yes, I’m always looking to work with her, and it whetted our appetite for more… There was a small part in this, and she was kind enough to read the screenplay as a friend, and she said she’d love to play the part [though] it’s very small. It’s what they’d call a cameo in the old days.
Lastly, how does Downsizing reflect the filmmaker you’ve become over the years?
It has a lot of elements present in previous films I’ve directed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a summing-up, [and] hopefully I’m not repeating myself… It’s not for everybody, but I hope people like it.
Great news about Downsizing:
The film, directed by Alexander Payne, will be released by Paramount in December.
Alexander Payne’s Downsizing has been selected to open the Venice Film Festival, which runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9.
The satire, written by Payne and his frequent collaborator Jim Taylor, stars Matt Damon as a man who decides to shrink himself in order to find a better life. The cast also includes Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Laura Dern and Jason Sudeikis.
The Venice berth is a first for Payne, whose films have played Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance, but not the Italian fest, where Downsizing’s opening-night slot should position it for high-profile awards-season bid.
Paramount plans to release the film Dec. 22. The studio recently showed off footage from the film at the annual CineEurope international exhibitors convention in Barcelona.
Matt gave an interview to Variety where he talks the new Bourne movie, The Martian and Star Wars.
On a break, finally, from shooting the latest installment of the “Bourne” franchise, actor Matt Damon made it to Los Angeles earlier this month to discuss his work in Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.” With a worldwide box office haul approaching $600 million and plenty of Oscar buzz heading into 2016, it could net him a nomination for a largely solitary performance. He spoke to Variety about the importance of maintaining a light and positive tone in the film, letting time go by before circling back to the Jason Bourne character and how anyone at any time is on the verge of breaking out in this business. Oh, and “Star Wars,” too. Because “Star Wars.”
So do you and Tom Hanks ever commiserate about having acted opposite, you know, nothing for long stretches?
[Laughs.] You know what, I’ve thought about this, obviously, because I’ve had this question asked of me. But the key difference is, when I first met Ridley [Scott] about this, he said he always wanted to do “Robinson Crusoe,” and he felt like this was his chance. And then as we got into it we realized the key distinction is that in “Robinson Crusoe” — or in “Cast Away,” for that matter — the journey the character is going on, it’s about whether or not anybody is ever going to know that he was alive. Whereas the character in this is surrounded by these GoPros and every minute that he’s staying alive on Mars is a minute longer than anybody has ever been there and he’s got kind of a purpose. He’s got this chance to record for his colleagues the experience that he’s having. So that feeling of being useful is kind of the exact opposite of the existential crisis that somebody who’s marooned on a desert island goes through, which is, “Oh my God, is anybody ever going to know that this happened?”
And with a story like this, often you might have some sort of “back home” context, either family or friends that contextualizes the character, that the character is eager to get back to. You didn’t really have that in the text of the script here, so what kind of background work did you do to really get where he was coming from?
When I looked at it I felt like Andy [Weir], the novelist, did that, because what he was really interested in was kind of the thought experiment of whether or not somebody could survive. In the interviews I read with him, and subsequently when I talked to him, he said, “I just came up with that premise and then let the science steer the story.” So he wasn’t concerned with writing a novel about a guy. He was more concerned about, “All right, who would a person who could survive this incredibly challenging situation be? OK, he would be a botanist. He would be an astronaut.” And he kind of worked backward from there. So I think a family or a wife at home or kids or something would’ve felt, in an odd way, kind of an extra layer of artificiality to the movie or a conceit or whatever. It’s a pretty lean, focused story. We talked about it but it just didn’t feel right. And it felt good that you don’t know what he’s trying to get back to. He could be anyone. His story could be anyone’s.
What did that do for you as an actor in trying to bring that sort of inner life out when you’re dealing with something that’s so plot-driven, particularly given that you don’t exactly have sparring partners to help with that illumination?
I think any actor carries their own emotional baggage. It’s not that you go in there and there’s a vacuum. You go in there full and kind of, depending on the role, you’re teasing different things out. But he wasn’t a total cipher. I knew that he had gone through this training. In the book they go into detail about the training and how he’s particularly suited to this kind of work. Like, these guys who we send out there, they have to be incredible cooperators and they have to have this incredible positive outlook. Like one astronaut said to me, he goes, “We’re this kind of strange thing where we have to be very smart and there’s all these Ph.D.’s and all these very brilliant minds, but we have to be stupid enough to sit on X numbers of thousand pounds of rocket fuel and get launched into outer space.”
You have to be a little crazy, I guess.
Yeah. Yeah. They were doing this thing with the six astronauts who are literally pretending that they’re living on Mars and they’re sealed into this habitat together for like a year and they cannot leave unless there’s a medical emergency. Because we’re studying the effects of this type of work on the human psyche. It’s so much for a human being to endure. So [the character is] particularly well-suited to that and well-trained for this type of thing. When he comes up with this idea of these GoPros all over the habitat, those just become his de facto Wilson, basically. Although he’s recording these things and the expectation is that someday someone is going to come and retrieve these and they’re going to watch them. So even though he’s sending those missives out into nowhere, they are being recorded for posterity’s sake and he is operating under the expectation that he’s being watched, that he’s, like, in a lab. I think that’s something that buoys him, that keeps him going.
Article via Vanity Fair.
Who would win in a fight between Matt Damon’s super-soldier Jason Bourne and Ben Affleck’s superhero Batman? According Damon, Bourne would reign supreme.
Damon and Affleck never needed an excuse to hang out; the long-time friends were often spotted together even when they had no specific joint project in the works. But now that the pair have officially brought their old series Project Greenlight back to life on HBO, we can have regular doses of the Matt and Ben power hour Sunday nights on HBO. And anyone familiar with the Damon/Affleck friendship knows that the two have no mercy when it comes to teasing each other.
“Jason Bourne would kick the s–t out of Batman — absolutely!” Damon told Entertainment Weekly. “Batman’s gotta take on Superman first. If he could beat him, then maybe he could take on Jason Bourne.” I buy it. Sure, Batfleck probably has batarangs and other wonderful toys, but have you seen what Bourne can do with just a book?
We all know how this goes with Damon and Affleck by now. First comes the teasing joke, then comes the retaliation. I expect Affleck and Jimmy Kimmel are cooking up some delicious revenge at this very moment. Keep your eyes peeled for The Bat Supremacy.
As for Damon, he has no plans to play a traditional cape-wearing hero any time soon. “I think they’re kind of out of superheroes,” Damon said. “Ben’s going to be like the sixth or seventh Batman, so I don’t think there’s really any left. So I’m good. Jason Bourne is my superhero.”
Though it likely wasn’t his intention, Damon actually makes a great point about the recent debate over the superhero movie craze. Earlier this month, Steven Spielberg said the trend was sure to end soon. “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western.” But while capes and tights trend may fade someday, moviegoing audiences will always be invested in superheroes be they enhanced spies like Bourne, or the other seemingly indestructible protagonists of franchises like The Transporter, Fast & Furious, Mad Max, Crank, and Resident Evil. (To name just a few.) They may not have capes, but as Damon points out in his claim that Bourne can best Batfleck, they’re pretty super.
You can compare Damon and Affleck’s fighting skills for yourself when both the latest Bourne installment and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice open in 2016.
About one in nine people, or 750 million people globally, do not have access to safe water. Around the world, women and children are spending 140 million hours a day collecting water.
Water.org, cofounded and supported by actor Matt Damon, has been screening and certifying quality indigenous partner organizations for over 20 years who best understand the needs of their local culture. They can navigate the social, political, and economic issues which may impact projects, are better able to leverage local financial resources for cost-sharing, and know the local expertise which exists for project implementation. It is also more cost effective than hiring expatriate staff. The motto is “Safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all.”
Communities and individuals become invested owners by contributing to the project cost. Communities can contribute at least 10 percent of the total project cost through grants, either by financial contributions, securing local materials, or doing physical labor or “sweat equity.” The WaterCredit branch allows people to get loans through its network of local partner organizations such as join-lending groups, women’s self-help groups, and community-based organizations. Typical loans range in size from $50 – $200 USD.
One of the first steps is the community election of a local water committee which plays a critical role in the project’s success. Since women disproportionately bear the water collection burden, the committee must include female members. They serve as a liaison between the community and partner organization, facilitate the hygiene education program, and determine the project construction community work schedule. Committee members are also trained on operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation systems, and management of the finances.
Whether a project is grant funded or involves small water and sanitation loans, community ownership is integral to its success. Water.org insists on community involvement at every step from project planning, financing, and building through ongoing project maintenance.
The WaterCredit Initiative helps with the small water and sanitation loans to communities and individuals who have no access to traditional credit markets, empowering them to solve their own water issues more quickly. As loan payments are paid in, the money is assigned to other people with water needs. For details on WaterCredit, view the website.
New project for Matt and Ben!
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are teaming up to bring the FIFA soccer scandal to the big screen, adapting the upcoming book Houses of Deceit by Buzzfeed reporter Ken Bensinger.
As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. picked up the rights to Houses of Deceit, which will be produced by Damon and Affleck’s production company, Pearl Street Films. EW has confirmed that Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) is set to direct the film, reteaming with Affleck in their first project since wrapping up The Accountant. Warrior screenwriter Anthony Tambakis is attached to script.
News of the deal ends a studio bidding war for Houses of Deceit, which Bensinger hasn’t even been published yet. Based on a 2014 article by the Pulitzer Prize finalist that delves into the story of former American FIFA executive Chuck Blazer—who in 2013 admitted to accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes over the course of 20 years—the book has been picked up by Simon & Schuster and is slated for publication sometime in 2017.
Though no casting decisions have been made, Bensinger says he envisions Blazer being portrayed by someone like John Goodman, whom he says would bring “fury and comedy to the role.”
The story of Blazer’s involvement in a high-profile bribery scandal showcased the dark underbelly of soccer, revealing illicit corruption throughout the international body. At one point, Blazer used his position of influence to finance a Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan—just to house his cats. The New York native later cooperated with authorities in an in-depth investigation, and in May of this year, the 70-year-old pleaded guilty to 10 charges including wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, and income tax evasion.
“I love the con-man story and just love that this is about a very strong sense of good and bad,” Bensinger says. “There’s not a lot of ambiguity about how these people behave. The IRS and FBI, and all these people who sort of did the good work and brought down something that was untouchable, because the power of FIFA internationally is unbelievable. It’s as if you combined the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL into one organization.”
The cast of the upcoming action flick The Great Wall is shaping up rather nicely, and although it sounds like a historical drama, the film is anything but. Matt Damon has joined the cast alongside Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal and a roster of notable Chinese stars in the film from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou and Legendary Pictures, the folks who brought you Godzilla.
According to Variety, Damon is the latest to join the cast of the upcoming film, which also stars Willem Dafoe and Game of Thrones favorite Pedro Pascal. The Great Wall is being helmed by Zhang Yimou, known for his previous films The House of Flying Daggers and The Flowers of War. The trio of English-speaking stars are joined by Chinese actors Andy Lau, Jing Tian, Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Lu Han, Lin Gengxin, Zheng Kai, Chen Xuedong, Huang Xuan and Wang Junkai.
Henry Cavill and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Benjamin Walker were previously in talks to join the film back when The Last Samurai director Ed Zwick was attached.
The film is set in 15th century China and centers on a group of soldiers who stumble upon the famous Great Wall during its construction. It’s not long before the soldiers learn that the wall isn’t just being built to protect the Chinese from invading Mongol warriors, but to protect them from a far more dangerous threat: ancient monsters.
Max Brooks (World War Z) wrote the script for the upcoming film, which is being touted as the biggest production to ever shoot entirely in China. The Great Wall will hit theaters sometime in 2016.
Interesting article from Mental Floss:
On its release in 1997, the film Good Will Hunting proved to be a sizeable hit. It also garnered several Oscar nominations, with the late Robin Williams picking up a Best Supporting Actor gong.
Also taking home Oscar gold for the movie were then-debutant screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Their script earned them an Academy Award apiece, but whilst they’d had a lot of interest in their work, it was proving tricky to get someone to properly commit.
Not that there was a lack of interest. Damon and Affleck had several studios involved, and several were making offers to the pair. Yet they opted to go with Miramax, then run – with his brother – by producer Harvey Weinstein.
So why did they choose him over a big studio? Weinstein appeared on The Graham Norton Show in the UK last week, and explained all.
“Everyone in Hollywood wanted Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the film”, he recalled to Norton. “In the meeting with them, I said ‘I only have one really big note on the script. About page 60, the two leads, both straight men, have a sex scene. What the hell is that?'”
And that was a good question.
For there was method to Affleck and Damon’s madness. “That’s the scene”, they explained to Weinstein, “we wrote to see if guys like you read the script, because every studio executive we went to hadn’t read it. You’re the only guy who brought it up, so you get the movie”.
Good Will Hunting would go on to gross over $200m worldwide, reportedly costing just $10m to make.
With Paul Greengrass set to direct again
The Bourne Reunion is officially official (though it’s not called The Bourne Reunion that we know of). E! News tracked Matt Damon down to a red carpet in Hollywood this weekend, and he’s confirmed that he and Paul Greengrass will indeed both return for a new outing of the action franchise.
“Yes, next year,” Damon told E!’s team. “It’ll be in 2016 when the movie will actually come out. Paul Greengrass is going to do another one and that’s all I ever said. I just needed him to say yes.” Damon was out promoting the new series of his filmmaking competition reality show Project Greenlight that is returning to US cable channel HBO.
And the news was initially brought up by Damon’s pal and Greenlight collaborator Ben Affleck, who was asked to compare their muscle tone given his recent Bat-workouts: “Well, Matt’s going to be doing a Bourne movie next fall when I’ve just completely lost any semblance of physical fitness…”
Damon and Greengrass have said on the record that they had no plans to revisit a story they felt they had already told. But then, they have both also mooted a potential return if the right script could be written and they could work together again, and that is the case now. With Damon’s comments, it appears the new Jason Bourne-focused film will indeed inherit the July 15, 2016 release slot that had been handed to the Bourne Legacy follow-up that Justin Lin is developing to direct.