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INT: Damon/Ledger

08.26.2005

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are the latest actors blessed with the honor of inhabiting the manic Terry Gilliam universe. The oddball director, known for brilliantly quirky films like BRAZIL and TWELVE MONKEYS, drafted the duo to star in his latest fantasy epic, THE BROTHERS GRIMM. Ledger and Damon showed up together at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week to talk about Grimm. Heath Ledger was completely unlike how I imagined he would be. He showed up with a shaved head, wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and bright red Adidas shoes. Matt Damon was, well, Matt Damon.

THE BROTHERS GRIMM opens this Friday.

Matt Damon Heath Ledger

These roles are pretty different from what we normally see you play. Why did you guys decide to change things up?

Damon: Well, I think that it was just because we felt like we'd played those characters before. But listen we both took it to work with Terry (Gilliam). No doubt we would've done it no matter what. I would've played any role in this movie just to work with him, but we did ask, “Hey, is there any way that you could change it?” He said that he'd done that for Twelve Monkeys. He said that Brad [Pitt] and Bruce [Willis] were kind of known for the other thing and he switched them and thought that it was a lot more fun to work that way. So he said, “Yeah.”

Terry Gilliam is known for being difficult at times. What’s it like to work with him? Is there a lot of yelling involved?

Damon: No, he doesn't yell at you. He's got the greatest energy, and it's totally infectious. You have 200 people, we had a huge crew because it was such a big movie and all of these people were literally feeding off of this guy's energy. I mean, he's involved in every decision – the production design, the wardrobe…

Ledger: The props, he's on his hands and knees.

Damon: …every frame he's adjusting and tinkering. He just kind of has this boundless energy, and so if he yells he's yelling at the world and not yelling at anyone. He would never yell at a crew member or anything like that ever. In fact he's like a really warm, loving leader.

Does he tinker a lot with your performance?

Damon: Well, he tinkers with the frame because he shoots all wide angles. So when you sign up to do a movie with him you're basically signing up to be one of 11 elements in a shot. So you could have a great take, but if the geese aren't right in the background or the smoke coming up in the chimney, it's like, “The fucking smoke in the fucking chimney isn't right.” And you're like, “Yeah. Heath and I were really good in that, weren't we?” And then you do one and you go, “Oh, that was bad. Yeah. That was bad.” And Terry's like, “I loved it!”

What’s the greatest misconception you had about each other before you worked together?

Ledger: I didn't have any preconceived notions.

Damon: I thought that he'd be a better kisser. I wasn't that disappointed. Just a little. (Laughs)

Were you able to develop a brotherly bond during this process?

Ledger: Yeah. To a certain degree we had to for the film. But I think it just happened anyway. Befriending each other wasn't hard. We had four weeks before shooting the film where we were doing accents and horse riding. It was just shaping our characters.

Damon: And we're total geeks about movies too.

Ledger: We were totally excited about working with Terry too. So we really put our hearts and souls into that creative process.

Damon: And that bleeds over into the friendship. And then we're in Prague where no one has their families and we're all just there making this movie. So we'd all go out to dinner and hangout. We'd actually would go bowl every Friday night, Friday and Saturday night with pretty much most of the crew. We'd take over this one bowling alley in Prague.

Ledger: There were about 50 people.

Who’s a better bowler?

Ledger: (points at Damon) This guy's really good.

Damon: No. I don't know that's tough. That's tough. It depended on how much beer we'd had.

Was it difficult working with the English accent?

Damon: For him, it's a lot easier than me. For some reason, I can do accents in this country, but I have a real problem hearing it and I don't know what it is. I think that it's just sounds that we don't have in America.

Ledger: We really had a good dialect coach.

Damon: Yeah, he was great.

Ledger: It was just a day. I remember, in just five minutes, it clicked for you. It's a matter of hearing it.

Damon: Yeah, it's a matter of hearing it, but it would go in and out for me. It was hard for me. A lot of people, especially English and Australians, guys who come here, and especially Australians are really good- I mean, to make a sweeping generalization - are really good with accents. I mean, look at the known Australian actors, there are probably 10 of them, they're all terrific with accents probably because they have to be in order to come and work in America. For us we kind of have the luxury, as long as we can sound like we're from Nebraska, we have the luxury of not having to do much. I mean, you can go to the south or specific pockets of the northeast.

What was it like working with Monica Bellucci?

Damon: It was terrible. She's talentless. She's cruel and she's really hard to look at.

That’s what she said about you.

Damon: One of us is a liar. (Laughs) She was great. She was really great. I almost kissed her. I was so close to kissing her in that scene. There was this cue where she was supposed to turn. She was about to kiss and then she had to turn and see Heath breaking the mirror and scream and I'd say, “You are the fairest of them all.” And I go into to kiss her and each take I'd get really close and she'd (scream). I was like, “You are the fairest of them all. Don't break the mirror, Heath. Don't break the mirror, Heath.” You could see him grinning behind me.

How much research were you able to do for these characters?

Damon: Oh, a lot is known about them. The real Brothers Grimm were these wonderful scholars. They were real huge figures in German history. They actually…at a time when Germans were really embarrassed by their culture and by their folktales, they thought of themselves as barbaric particularly in relation to the French who were seen as very civilized, these guys unearthed all of these stories and collected them and wrote them down and suddenly everyone got very proud of their heritage. Jacob was actually a really influential politician and they collaborated until they died. They wrote these tales. I think they wrote the German dictionary. They were really influential guys. And then there's our movie. (laughs)

What was it like being in that huge world that Gilliam creates?

Damon: Like Jonathan [Pryce] said about Brazil: on his first day of work he said, “I did the first take and I was fantastic.” He said, “I was nuanced. I was brilliant.” Then Terry came up to him and put his arm on his shoulder and he said, “Jonathan, turn around.” Jonathan turned around and looked at the set and he said, “You are competing with this set and you are losing.” (Jonathan said), “Oh, I get it. I gotta be a little bigger." He was getting chewed up.

So you have to be bigger?

Damon: Oh yeah.

Ledger: Otherwise, you just get eaten alive.

Damon: You just disappear. Definitely, I mean, every single thing is over the top. The houses are at an angle, everything, the clothes that we're wearing, Peter Stormare. It's like, do a scene with Peter Stormare!

Ledger: They were just brilliant, those guys. Jonathan Pryce, wow!

Any idea why this movie took so long to get released?

Damon: I think that a lot of it, I mean, my personal opinion, is just Harvey and Bob. They had kind of bigger fish to fry. They were trying to make their deal and get out of the Disney deal, start a new company and there's the whole fight, I assume it's a fight, over the library, the Miramax library. All of that stuff will be huge. That's a pretty rarified air those guys are breathing. Even a movie that costs $80 million takes a backseat to that kind of negotiations and that kind of stuff. I mean, they also had The Great Raid.

I don't know what the budget was on that. I saw a rough cut of "The Great Raid" while we were shooting "The Brothers Grimm." So it's been around even longer. So I think that they were trying to make their new company. So all of the things they had in production, they're releasing like 11 movies or something as part of this contract that they worked out. Just knowing them and knowing that they have to pay the interest, they would've brought this movie out a long time ago had things been operating kind of normally.

Can you talk about your experience working with Scorsese?

Damon: Yeah, it was great. It was great. I finished Friday night. It was everything that I hoped it could be working with him. He's an amazing, amazing director. He loves actors. I was pinching myself. I mean, this kind of run of work for me between guys like Terry Gilliam and Scorsese and I'm going to work with DeNiro next week, it's just like, that's it, if I screw this up...

You got to work with another Bostonian, Mark Wahlberg.

Damon: That was great because he and I obviously can fall into the whole accent and the whole world a little easier. Leo (DiCaprio) had to work really hard at it. And he did. He did a great job and Jack [Nicholson] also. But for me and Mark, it was easy.

Heath, do you live here or Australia?

Ledger: I just moved to Brooklyn. I had been based in LA for nine years. I probably spent three of the nine years here (in LA). I've never worked here. Lords of Dogtown was the first time I worked here in nine years.

Matt, how was it working on Syriana?

Damon: Great. That's coming out. I think that they feel really good about it because they're bringing it out in December. The way I describe it is that it's like Traffic, because (Stephen) Gaghan wrote it and he wrote Traffic. It's four storylines converging around one topic and it's oil instead of drugs. I think that it's a really complex movie because Gaghan researched it for a really long time and so I think that the three out of the four storylines are very clear. The last one they just did some slight like, I think, probably two pages of re-shoots just to clear up a couple of points in the most complicated storyline and then it's ready to go.

Is there going to be another Project Greenlight?

Damon: We don't know yet. It's up to all these guys as to whether or not they want to spend money on it. Feast, I think it's going to make money. It's going to come out around Christmas and so Bob is pretty bullish about it. So hopefully that'll be the first movie that gets its money back. So if that happens then maybe Bravo will put us back on. But nobody kind of tunes in to watch because nobody knew, even though I thought this season was terrific. I mean, we got nominated for an Emmy again. Maybe if we win the Emmy, Bravo will keep us around. I think that their argument is that, “Look, there's a certain number that's so low in the ratings that it doesn't matter if a show is good. You can't keep it on the air.”

What’s the status of the next Jason Bourne film?

Damon: Well, if we make it, it'll be way off in another year at least. So it wouldn't come out until the summer of…'07? But yeah, Tony Gilroy said he's got a great idea for it so that's always a good sign.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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