No matter how big a star he’s become (and thanks to the Bourne franchise, he’s become very big indeed) Matt Damon has always seemed refreshingly removed from the silliness of showbiz. Following the birth of his fourth daughter, the Harvard drop-out, activist and aspiring director is even more determined to play the Hollywood game on his own terms.
In a midtown hotel suite, Matt Damon looks intently at the view over Manhattan. He points out the Brooklyn Bridge, where a key scene in his latest film, The Adjustment Bureau, was filmed. In dark jeans, a white T-shirt and brown lace-up boots, with a turned-up nose and pale blue eyes, he looks, well, just like you’d expect Matt Damon to look, though at 178cm, perhaps slightly shorter.
Directed by George Nolfi (a screenwriter on The Bourne Ultimatum) and based on a Philip K Dick short story, The Adjustment Bureau is a sort of Sliding Doors love story, with Damon’s politician running around Manhattan’s streets in pursuit of a ballerina called Elise (Emily Blunt). But the forces of fate, led by Mad Men’s John Slattery, seem to keep them apart. At least, that seems to be the plot from a collection of film clips journalists were shown. The final cut wasn’t yet available.
No matter, Oscar-winner Damon has plenty more movies on his dance card. There’s the Coen brothers’ True Grit, which came out in January, plus Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, both slated for release this year.
The Matt Damon-starring movie “Hereafter” was pulled from theaters in Japan earlier this week, and Warner Bros. is using the film’s Tuesday release on DVD and Blu-ray as a way to raise money for relief efforts.
According to the L.A. Times, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is donating an unspecified percentage of DVD and Blu-ray sales to the Japanese Red Cross Society following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the nation last Friday. Those familiar with the matter tell the Times that the donation will be in the ballpark of $1 million.
The Clint Eastwood-directed film focuses on grief and the afterlife, but it does contain a scene depicting a tsunami wreaking havoc on a coastal town. It’s been playing in Japan since February. A Warner Bros. rep explained to CNN, “In deference to the tragic unfolding events in Japan, we have pulled ‘Hereafter’ from the theaters.”
The Warner Bros. rep added that the opening of Anthony Hopkins’ horror thriller “The Rite,” which was originally scheduled to bow this weekend in Japan, has been postponed.
Quick, what’s the oddest thing about Matt Damon’s career? The obvious answer is that he has played a lot of oddballs. The drug-addled Gulf War veteran of Courage Under Fire (a role for which he lost 40 pounds — and he wasn’t exactly chunky beforehand). The troubled megamind of Good Will Hunting. The moody parasite-sociopath of The Talented Mr. Ripley. The amnesiac ex-government fighting-and-killing machine of the Bourne films. The lost-inside-himself CIA cipher of The Good Shepherd. The whistleblower-without-a-twinge-of-idealism in The Informant! The melancholy psychic of Hereafter. No question about it: For an actor who has long resembled a clean, upstanding, gleaming-white-toothed Boy Scout, and who now looks like a slightly older Boy Scout, Matt Damon has spent a long time going out of his way to cast himself against type.
But that’s still not the oddest thing about his career. That would be the fact that, in nearly 15 years as a major movie star (I’m dating his leap to leading man status from the explosive success of Good Will Hunting), Matt Damon has never starred in a romantic comedy. Not once. He has never tried to lighten his image, or rebound after a box-office failure, or simply play the game by agreeing to do some fluffy-sexy chick flick in which he plays a carefree executive bachelor who flirts with, gets taken down a peg by, and falls for Julia/Sandra/Jennifer/Kate/ Renée/Drew/etc.
The desire to steer clear of those kinds of movies has been an almost ideological decision on Damon’s part, and for anyone who follows him, it’s a choice with a ready explanation: Chick flicks are Hollywood at its most cheesy, formulaic, corporate, and even embarrassing — for the most part, they’re happy-face gobs of product masquerading as movies — and Matt Damon is not a cheesy guy, and not a formulaic or corporate actor either. He doesn’t make movies he doesn’t believe in. That’s why he’s virtually the only actor of his generation who was able to become an action star and hold fast to his integrity while doing it. The Bourne films aren’t quite works of art, but they’re super-smart about exciting audiences. They’re thrill rides with a vision.
Writer/director George Nolfi leads MTV News through the film’s trickier scenes.
So far, 2011 has been woefully lacking in the damn-that’s-cool sci-fi department. “I Am Number 4,” alas, just didn’t cut it.
But this weekend brings us a sci-fi respite, before summer movie season begins, in the form of “The Adjustment Bureau.” Based on a Philip K. Dick story, the flick’s conceit is that there’s a vast, supernatural force — the titular adjusters — that controls and guides the fate of humanity. For star Matt Damon, that means his quest to achieve political superstardom and bed Emily Blunt is propelled, and sometimes compromised, not just by free will, but by the adjusters dictating his fate.
The adjusters, played by the likes of John Slattery and Anthony Mackie, have abilities that range from “freezing” people to make behavioral changes to turning normal doors into geography-leaping portals. For all this high-concept trickery, though, the entire movie maintains a realistic feel — partly because of the filmmakers’ aesthetic and partly because they weren’t working on an “Inception”-like budget.
Writer/director George Nolfi (making his directorial debut after penning scripts like “The Bourne Ultimatum”) gave MTV News a call to take us behind the scenes of the film’s coolest elements.
Why Are the Adjusters Dressed Like “Mad Men” Extras?
Perhaps it’s just because Slattery, a star of “Mad Men,” rocks a slick-looking suit throughout, but many people have been wondering: Why do the adjusters looked like they just stepped out of the hit AMC show?
“I wanted the bureau to have a throwback quality to suggest they’ve been here forever,” Nolfi explained. “They have to blend into our world and yet the audience has to be able to pick them out of a crowd. They’re wearing suits that you’d just think, ‘They’re very well-dressed, that’s a guy who reads GQ.’ The suits and hats are all from different eras — ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s.”
But not all adjusters wear suits — just the ones, for instance, who follow a suit-wearing politician like Damon. Each adjuster dons gear that allows them to blend in with the person they’re following. “I cut out some scenes where other people from the bureau are much more informally dressed,” the director said. “They’re in black jeans and leather vests and baseball caps. They’d be following someone like me around, when someone in a suit and a fedora would be very obvious.”
How sweet is that?
Matt Damon is convinced he was destined to meet and marry his wife Luciana – because there were so many things that should have prevented the chance encounter in a Miami, Florida bar.
The movie star turned down an action movie to star in madcap Farrelly Brothers comedy Stuck on You on his mother’s advice – and then the shoot location was changed from Hawaii to Florida.
But that was only the start of the weird combination of incidents that brought Damon and his future wife together.
The actor tells U.S. TV host Ellen DeGeneres, “I had never really hung out in Miami and one night in the middle of the shoot, the crew, a couple guys, said, ‘We’re going to get a beer somewhere.’ I said, ‘I’m not really into it.’ They said, ‘Come on,’ and kind of dragged me along.
“We ended up at a bar where my wife was the bartender. I literally saw her across a crowded room… and eight years and four kids later, that’s my life.
“I don’t know how else our paths would have crossed if that didn’t happen… The moral is that when you’re tired, suck it up and go to the bar because you might meet your wife.”
A sure way to get a laugh out of “Adjustment Bureau” star Matt Damon these days is to mention that oddly, two directors whose only link in this world is having both worked with Damon more than once have both announced seemingly premature “retirements” from movie making.
The quixotic and generally quite successful Steven Soderbergh seems to mean it. With Kevin Smith, who has had a lot of trouble getting his latest movie made and into theaters, it’s hard to tell. But both have announced a one-or-two-more movies and done career path.
So is working with Damon and the memory of Matt what drove both over the edge, and will Matt be in either filmmaker’s “final” film?
“I hope to be in both of their last movies,” Damon says. “But I hope neither one of them is making his last movie NOW. I hope not. I hope not. We need good directors.
“I’ve talked at length with Steven about it. He is going away for a while, I think. He genuinely wants to paint. And he feels if he really dedicates himself he can be really good. He’s not yet 50. He will put in the hours. He has a work ethic like nobody I’ve ever seen. He feels if he puts a hard decade of work in, he could really be doing something.
“But I see it as a waste of this incredible depth of knowledge of filmmaking. But his thing is ‘form. I’m only interested in what I can do with form. I’ve made almost every movie I want to,’ he says. ‘And if I see another over-the-shoulder shot, I’m going to kill myself.’
“I said to him, right after I did ‘Invictus,’ ‘Steven, I just finished a movie with a guy in his 70s who still charges out of bed every morning because he can’t wait to get to the set. He has a blast and is really loving it and he’s been doing it a lot longer than either of us.’ And without a blink, Steven says ‘But Clint’s a storyteller. A great storyteller. I’m not interested in stories. I’m interested in form.’
“I don’t know what to say to that. It’s his life to do with what he wants. So in the meantime, I’d doing as many movies with him as I can. I’ve definitely got him on the hook for one more. Hopefully, on the set of ‘Liberace’ I can convince him to do another one.
“This ‘Liberace’ script is just wonderful. Michael’s going to be just phenomenal in that part. We’re shooting that in 2012. I just did ‘Contagion’ with Steven last December.
“He has the most varied body of work of anybody I can think of. He’s at this point where we could shoot during the day, and him being the cinematographer and the director, we’d go home, have an hour or two off, and then meet him back at the hotel bar in Chicago. They’d have a back room where he’d sit, have some pretzels and a drink and he’d take a look at the day’s work. Scott Burns, the writer, Greg Jacobs, his first-AD, and me, we’d show up, get a drink and hang out with him. Steven would have his headphones on, sitting at his laptop. And in about 20 minutes he’d cut together the day’s work. ‘OK,’ he’d say, pull his headphones off and turn the computer around and show us, right there, what we’d shot that day and how it would look on the big screen when the movie comes out. THAT FAST. He’s a FREAK.
“When we did ‘Ocean’s Twelve,’ we did a wrap party at a bowling alley. I went up to him and said, ‘Hey Steven, thanks. Great time working with you. Thanks. How do you think the movie’s going to be?’ And he say, ‘You wanna SEE it?’ He’d finished cutting it and had it on a laptop. Right there, he shows me the movie!’ (LAUGHS)
“He’s a phenomenal director, a prodigious talent with a non-stop brilliant mind. He’s been pushing himself since the very beginning. Sometimes failing, but always pushing.”
Damon is “a little miffed, frankly” at the “Oscar snub” his pal and sometime collaborator Ben Affleck seems to have gotten over “The Town.”
“Don’t get me started, but he did such a great job writing and directing that, and acting in it. At least some acknowledgement for the screenplay. And there are ten best picture nominees, It wasn’t one of the ten best? I think so. Anyway, he’s hot as a firecracker right now. I’m glad to see it.”
I’m interviewing The Farrelly Brothers on Friday about “Hall Pass,” their new comedy. Damon and Greg Kinnear played conjoined twins in their comedy, “Stuck on You” some years back. Damon has a vivid recollection of working with those guys, too.
“My favorite direction I’ve ever receieved was from Peter Farrelly. Greg and I were wearing the suit, stuck together. We do a take and it just doesn’t work. I’d flubbed a line, Greg missed one of his cues and there was this long pause after we hear “Cut” over the walkie-talkies. They were sitting way over in Video Village, where the monitors were. Must have been a quarter of a mile away.
“And Greg goes, ‘Well that stunk. Let’s just go right away’ We were hoping they’d keep the cameras rolling and we’d take another shot at the scene.
“But we see Peter walking all the way over to the set. Long walk. Greg says, ‘Oh nooo. He’s coming ALL the way over just to give us a note. Not good.’
“Peter’s chewing gum. And he finally gets over to us, looks at me, looks down at his feet, takes a long pause, ‘Um, yeah, hmmmm.’ Looks back up at me and finally just says — ‘Suck less!’”
“Greg and I go ‘Yeah, THANKS Peter. We got it.’ He turns around and walks all the way back to the monitors.”
Matt Damon had to double check he hadn’t hurt his co-star Hailee Steinfeld every time they filmed a fight scene in True Grit.
In one controversial scene, 14-year-old Hailee’s character Mattie is slapped by Matt’s character LaBeouf.
Hailee said: “I thought it was fun, and also funny. After every take, Matt would ask if I’m OK and that I wasn’t hurt.”
The actress added that working with Matt, Jeff Bridges and directors the Coen brothers was a good laugh.
She said of the directors: “They’re really big kids…They are amazing. You know when they like something – they just giggle.”
And Jeff revealed he and Hailee played Pass The Pigs in between takes.
“Her pig was Bo Bacon, and mine was the Pig Man,” he said.
Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are both taking over the covers of Men’s Health and Women’s Health together. The Adjustment Bureau co-stars not only talk about health with the magazines, but also talk chemistry!
Matt and Emily must have become very close on the set of their new film! They both joined each other on the cover of Men and Women’s Health March 2011 issues!
“I met Matt and he was lovely and very funny, and instantly, I thought, ‘Oh, we could be like teenage boys together,” she explains. “Just be weird and stupid and silly.’”
And what did Matt think about working with Emily?
“There are a lot of great actresses her age right now,” he says, “But Emily is just…unbelievable.”
And their chemistry sold director George Nolfi to casting Emily!
“It’s an ineffable thing, he said. “She had incredible chemistry with Matt,” he says.
Matt Damon would “never sell” out a director.
The actor-and-screenwriter says once he has agreed to appear in a movie or has hired a filmmaker for the project he could never get rid of them, even if he didn’t think it was working out, because he’d already committed to the project.
He told Men’s Health magazine: “My movies being really good or watchable always depends on everybody being really good, not just me. I’m particularly sensitive about making sure we secure the best possible people in each role because I am not somebody who can overcome if we don’t.
“And then, for me, once I make that commitment, I never will sell the director out on that project. You cannot change horses midrace. Even if your horse is losing, you ride the horse as hard and as fast as you can. If there was a mistake made, it was made in your initial decision to work with that person.”
Matt – who is currently starring in thriller ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ alongside Emily Blunt – also revealed he and writing partner Ben Affleck never take offence when their ideas are criticised by the other person.
He said: “When one of us comes up with an absolutely f**king horrible idea, which happens all the time, the other person, without batting an eyelash, says ‘That’s a terrible idea.’ And neither of us has our feelings hurt, and we just kind of move on.”
Had you wanted to work with Joel and Ethan Coen for sometime?
Matt Damon: Yeah, forever. I first met Joel in 1994 when I did a cable TV movie [‘The Good Old Boys’] with his wife Fran [Frances McDormand] down in West Texas. So I had met Joel in West Texas 16 years ago and it took them that long to offer me a job! [laughs]. But I was dying to work with them and any actor you talk to would say the same thing. If you ask for a shortlist of directors, they would be right there.
Was it fun building your character, LaBoeuf?
MD: He’s a great character and it was a lot of fun. I worked with Tommy Lee Jones in 1994 when he directed ‘The Good Old Boys’, which Fran and I did with him and that’s when I first met Joel and Ethan. And Joel and Ethan subsequently worked with Tommy to incredible effect in ‘No Country for Old Men’ and Tommy gave a remarkable performance in that. And actually, I had Tommy as a frame of reference [for ‘True Grit’] because he’s from West Texas. And he’s also somebody who is really fun to listen to, he knows a lot about a lot, and there’s something of the English teacher in him – you can ask him an obscure question and he enjoys knowing what he knows [laughs]. And so we kind of riffed on that. It’s not exact but it’s a similar way of presentation. My character in ‘True Grit’ is supposed to be a windbag – it’s like he comes over as a man who knows everything but actually doesn’t know very much at all! Not that Tommy’s like that, but Tommy is a great storyteller. And that was where we started to build the guy.