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.
DEADLINE EXCLUSIVE: Matt Damon is negotiating to join The Monuments Men, the period drama that George Clooney will direct in January in Europe as a co-production between Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Damon joins what continues to be shaping up as an amazing cast. Besides Damon and Clooney, the film will star Skyfall‘s Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, Argo‘s John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban. Clooney and Damon did the Ocean’s Eleven movies together and Syriana.
The drama, which was scripted by Clooney and partner Grant Heslov, confronts the final chapter of Germany’s rule, which came down to the absolute destruction of everything that makes a culture keep its standing, including the lives that are lost and the sacrifices that are made. All of this is in danger of being lost forever as Hitler and the Nazis try to cover the tracks of a murderous regime. A crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renown works of art that were stolen by Nazis before they are destroyed.
Heslov is producing through their Smokehouse banner. Alexandre Desplat is doing the score, and the crew is the same as from the Ben Affleck-directed Argo, which Clooney and Heslov produced and Desplat scored. Damon will next be seen in the Oscar-bait Gus Van Sant-directed Promised Land, which Damon and co-star John Krasinski wrote together and which Focus Features releases wide January 4 after an Oscar-qualifying run later this year. Damon is repped by WME.
Matt Damon knows the power of a good suit! And that’s what he told the audience when he accepted a Special Career Tribute honor at the 22nd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards presented by the Independent Film Project in New York City last night. “I was here 15 years ago at the Gotham Awards and I remember that because it was right before Good Will Hunting came out and it was the first time my life became surreal because Calvin Klein gave me a suit for free,” he said during his acceptance speech. “I realized I was putting it on, and I added up all the clothes I had ever owned in my life, they wouldn’t be worth as much as the suit I as putting on. I feel very privileged to do what I do. I have never taken it for granted and I never will.” Fast forward 15 years, he can still get as many CK suits as he wants—and picked another one for last night’s event, a symbolic decision (even though the label sponsored the ceremony). “I was putting it on, and I saw that it was Calvin Klein, another free suit, again, that surreal part of my life,” he told InStyle.com of wearing the slate gray style when we caught up with him backstage after his speech. “My wife would tell you that I haven’t transformed at all fashion-wise,” he added. “There are these things where they give you a suit, and so it looks like you know what the hell you are doing!”
The new movie “Promised Land,” which Matt Damon co-wrote and co-produced, came in under budget and ahead of schedule because it had a script, the actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter said Tuesday night in New York. The talk was distributed on the Internet through Livestream.
Damon, who discussed the film along with co-star and co-producer John Krasinski of the NBC sitcom “The Office” and director Gus Van Sant, contrasted that to his last Jason Bourne movie, which he said they were writing day to day while they were shooting it. “It took years off our lives. It was so much pressure because you’re so aware of how much money … once you get on set, the money is just burning.”
He added, “(Director) Paul Greengrass and I would say like we’re in the wrong country. … It was 4 in the morning and we’re on a street and I’m going, Is there anything else we can shoot in Spain?”
Damon said watching “The Bourne Legacy,” the fourth movie in the series based on Robert Ludlum’s novels and the only one in\which he did not appear, was “very odd.” “It had a lot of same bells and whistles of the Bourne series but I didn’t know anything about it.”
That movie made it less likely that Damon will appear in another movie about the assassin with amnesia though “I don’t think it makes it impossible,” he said.
Damon said “Promised Land,” which opens in New York on Dec. 28 and nationwide Jan. 4, was made for slightly less than $18 million. It deals with the controversial procedure of capturing natural gas called fracking.
A nice article from ComingSoon.net
As we mentioned in our Gotham Awards coverage, this is the week when Focus Features is stepping up their game to get word out on Matt Damon and John Krasinski’s Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant. Earlier today, ComingSoon.net was one of a couple dozen journalists invited to a special luncheon at midtown New York’s prestigious Aquavit restaurant, specializing in Swedish cuisine and famous for kicking off the career of superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson. Damon, Krasinski and Van Sant were all on hand to field questions and talk about their movie in between bites.
Our positive review of the movie is still under embargo, but the film has Matt Damon playing the salesman for a natural gas company who comes to a small town along with a co-worker, played by Frances McDormand, with the intention of leasing land from the local farmers where they can extract natural gas. Along comes an activist named Dustin, played by Krasinski, who throws a monkey wrench in their progress at convincing the locals to sign contracts, and that’s where the film gets interesting.
Damon met Krasinski when he was working with his future wife Emily Blunt on The Adjustment Bureau in New York and they began working on the script together two years ago after author Dave Eggers helped Krasinski develop the story but then had to go off and write his own book.
The film was shot earlier this year outside of Pittsburgh in a small town much like the one in the film and during his time at our table, Krasinski talked to us about how his father’s own small town experiences inspired him to write the screenplay and how freaked out he got when his father visited the set and started pointing out places where they spent time in his youth.
Krasinski also told us an amazing story about his early years as an actor in New York and how he was almost ready to give up when he traveled to Los Angeles and two weeks later booked the pilot of “The Office.” The rest as they say is history.
All three mentioned how the films of Frank Capra and Elia Kazan were hugely influential on the writing process and the feel of the film, and they’re trying hard not to focus too much on the political side of the story and how “fracking” for natural gas has become a huge political and environmental issue in recent years.
When Matt Damon came over to our table, we spoke with him about the process of writing Promised Land with Krasinski and how that differed from writing Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck over 15 years ago while they were both struggling actors. He told us how neither of them had any formal education on how to write a screenplay.
Damon complimented Krasinski on the speed at which his brain worked in terms of trying to figure out the mechanics of the screenplay and we heard some amazing stories from both of them about their co-stars, Frances McDormand and Scoot McNairy.
Krasinski was really impressed by what McDormand brought to her role, seemingly without even trying, although she did tell them at the very beginning of the project that she wouldn’t do any press. It’s a shame since it might be her best performance since the Coens’ Fargo, for which she won her Oscar.
McNairy’s audition so impressed the three of them that they changed one of the characters in order to give him a speech. The speech McNairy gives in the film was originally going to be performed by an older actor whose son went to war in Afghanistan, but after seeing his audition, they changed the role for McNairy. Apparently, McNairy did a reading on camera for Van Sant and after it was over, he started talking about his wife and her own struggles with the subject of the movie. Van Sant started rolling tape again to capture the emotion in McNairy’s story, and the part was changed for him. McNairy is having a bit of a moment, appearing not only in this movie but also Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, opening this weekend, and Ben Affleck’s Argo.
Krasinski also told us how he was crushed when right before last Christmas, Damon decided not to direct the film himself after they had all the pieces in places to go into production, but having to go right into pre-production in January would have kept Damon away from his family for too long.
Director Gus Van Sant filled in the rest of the story, telling us how he came on board in the project’s hour of need when Matt texted him asking if he would read the script and he sent it right over in PDF form before boarding a plane, and Van Sant decided to do it. Van Sant talked about some of his sound design and production decisions and how his style has changed from ten years ago when he made Elephant.
Since this was a fairly informal luncheon, we also talked about more esoteric New Yorker topics like the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn (thumbs up from Matt!), living on the Upper East Side (Krasinski and a couple other journalists, not us) and such. Even though both actors are from Boston, they both try to spend as much time in the city as possible.
Hopefully we’ll have more formal interviews with actual quotes from the trio sometime leading up to Promised Land’s release in New York and L.A. on December 28 and wide release on January 4, 2013.
In “Promised Land,” you get a chance to see Matt’s inherent likability. Some actors have that quality, some don’t. And that likability is necessary to play this kind of scam artist and still be as caring as you are for his trip.
His face is an open book from the first frame when he’s washing his face and he’s tormented and nervous about what’s to come. He handles it without pushing. And he ends the picure with a final speech before the town, telling them the entire truth and what’s he’s been involved with. It’s emotional and powerful without being pushed.
In some ways, Matt is like John Wayne, who had that inherent feeling of trust. Which you also get from Matt. There’s a direct truthfulness there that a lot of actors don’t have. They have to get tricky. Matt has this inherent shit detector. He’s a very good listener, but he also has the ability to handle lengthy dialogue, which is becoming a relatively lost art in film.
He produced this picture and wrote it, and from my own experience with doing dual roles, it never gets in the way for him. Matt has enough knowledge as a writer and producer to surround himself with the best people possible. He’s not threatened by talent. He enjoys it.
Promised Land opens on: December 28, 2012, on a limited release and wide release on January 4, 2013.
Here’s the trailer:
Matt Damon is committed to participating in a eight-part documentary series for Showtime from James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub, The Hollywood Reporter confirms.
Weintraub and Showtime declined to comment and Cameron did not return a call. However, sources say there is a deal with the pay TV service, but it is in the early stages, with financing and delivery date still to be determined.
The documentary, which is meant to show the human element of climate change, will be produced by David Gelber and Joel Bach, both of whom have worked at the CBS magazine show 60 Minutes. It is a timely subject in the wake of hurricane Sandy.
In addition to being a movie star and an Oscar winning screenwriter, Damon is also an active environmentalist and philanthropist. He is one of the founders of the Not On Our Watch Project, along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, David Pressman and Weintraub. The group brings global attention and resources to prevent mass atrocities.
Damon has a range of charitable efforts. He’s a founder of what is now Water.org, a charitable group that works to provide clean water in Africa, and is a supporter of the One Campaign, aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in the third world. He is also an ambassador for OneXOne, a non-profit that works to improve the lives of children. He’s been a spokesperson for Feeding America, a hunger relief organization. Additionally, he hosted and narrated the PBS Special Journey to Planet Earth, about the work of Lester Brown and other thoughtful environmentalists.
Damon’s upcoming movies include HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, which stars Michael Douglas as Liberace; and Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant, which he co-wrote with John Krasinski, Once again dealing with a controversial environmental subject, Promised Land, is about using “fracking” to produce oil. It is expected to get a limited release in late December.
Weintraub is a well-known Hollywood producer whose credits include Nashville, Diner and the Ocean’s 11 movies. He is also a philanthropist and in 2010, published a memoir written with Rich Cohen, When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man.It was also the basis of a 2011 HBO documentary, His Way.
When Avatar became a hit in 2009, Cameron came under fire from some on the right who claimed the movie was actually about the environment. The movie tells the story of an indigenous tribe whose land is taken by a big company that wants to exploit the resources. For the film’s home video release, Cameron partnered with Twentieth Century Fox, the environmental group Earth Day Network and others to promote the movie’s DVD release by planting a million trees.
Cameron has also done documentaries in the past that have explored the environmental impact of climate change in the oceans, and has lobbied governments including Canada to take the issue of climate change seriously.
Matt Damon, David O. Russell and Jeff Skoll have been chosen by the Independent Filmmaker Project to receive career tributes at the 2012 Gotham Independent Film Awards on November 26.
“It is with pride and great pleasure that we give tribute to these three luminaries, each of whom plays an amazing role in expanding the language of film, breaking boundaries along the way,” said IFP executive director Joana Vicente. “Each has a unique voice and clearly defined vision of cinema for today’s generation, bringing perspective and relevance to the film world today.”
The honors will be presented along with seven competitive awards at the organization’s 22nd annual event, which will take place at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
Damon, Russell and Skoll, the philanthropist and social entrepreneur who founded Participant Media, were chosen because of their independent film roots and support for independent visions. Damon has the socially conscious drama “Promised Land,” which was produced by Participant, hitting theaters in January through Focus Features, while Russell’s latest, “Silver Linings Playbook,” opens in November through the Weinstein Co.
Finally we have a synopsis of what Elysium is about! Here’s the report from Collider:
Though he spent a few years developing the high profile Halo film that never came to be, director Neill Blomkamp burst onto the film scene in a big way with his stellar 2009 sci-fi pic District 9. Not only did the film include some truly killer effects work, but it was actually about something and tackled social issues like segregation and xenophobia on a sci-fi platform. It’s been three long years since District 9 opened, and fans are eagerly awaiting Blomkamp’s follow-up, the futuristic thriller Elysium. Plot details have been firmly under wraps, but we know that it fits squarely into the sci-fi genre and stars Matt Damon, Jodi Foster, Wagner Moura, Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner and Diego Luna.
A full synopsis for Elysium has been brought to our attention, giving us a much better idea of what to expect. The film is apparently screening for preview audiences tonight and the ticket includes a fairly detailed logline for the pic. As with District 9, it appears that Elysium will also be dealing with grander issues than space guns and aliens. Hit the jump to read the synopsis. Elysium is slated to open on March 1st, 2013.
Here’s the synopsis:
In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), a hard the government ofﬁcial, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max (Matt Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.
The Candelabra was formely known as just “Liberace”, now has a new title and more actors:
Dan Aykroyd’s acting appearances have been pretty randomly spaced out lately, with his recent appearances on-camera including a couple of episodes of The Defenders, which put him opposite fellow former SNL star Jim Belushi. This latest bit of TV casting involving Aykroyd sounds like it might be a more serious role for the actor.
Variety is reporting that Aykroyd is set to join the upcoming HBO TV movie centered on musician Liberace, titled Behind the Candelabra. He joins previously cast Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Douglas is set to play Liberace, while Damon is set to play his domestic partner, Scott Thorson. And now Aykroyd has been brought on board to play the role of Seymour Heller, “Liberace’s long-time manager who disapproved of his relationship with Thorson.”
I haven’t read Thorson’s memoir, My Life with Liberace, which is the basis for this film, but it sounds like Heller might not be the most likable character. Aykroyd is great at roles that portray him as the friendly guy (see Ray Stantz in Ghostbusters or Elwood Blues in The Blues Brothers), but he’s just as good, if not better, at characters that are meant to intentionally rub you the wrong way (see Roman Craig in The Great Outdoors, Zalinski in Tommy Boy and/or the governor in Evolution). But that’s all based on his comedic work. He’s done drama before (Pearl Harbor, Chaplin), but this sounds like it could be a heavier role. So it should be interesting to see what he does with the part. He’s certainly in good company, and another reason to anticipate this project.
Production is set to begin on Behind the Candelabra this summer.