INT: Matt Damon

They really should have left Jason Bourne alone. All the guy wanted to do was live out the rest of his days in peace and quiet with his amnesia and his hot German girlfriend. But noooo, they just couldn’t mind their own damn business. And thank God they didn’t.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, the bad-ass follow-up to the sleeper hit of 2002, THE BOURNE IDENTITY. Reprising the role of Jason Bourne is acclaimed actor and friend of Kevin Smith, Matt Damon. Matt stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week to talk about returning to the role that made him a viable Hollywood action star.


How has success changed you?

I guess in terms of picking jobs, my whatever philosophy I have hasn’t changed. Obviously from doing one line in Chasing Amy it was, “Take any job I could get.” But since Good Will Hunting and since I’ve been offered movies rather than having to go audition for them, it’s basically just been three things that I look for. It’s always a script that I like, a good director and a good role. And usually I’ll settle for any two of those. The combination of all three are really hard to come by. I had all three with a movie like Ripley. It was a great script and a great director and a really great role, and kind of a different thing I don’t normally get a chance to do.

My philosophy hasn’t changed. Whatever success or failures I’ve had have always been with those kinds of things in mind. With movies that didn’t do well at all, like All The Pretty Horses – there’s a version of that movie that exists that was Billy Bob’s cut of it that I really do love. I’m really happy that I did that movie. I’m still really proud of that movie in that form and nobody ever saw it. (laughs) The process of doing that stuff, I got a lot out of it. I don’t know it’s weird to talk about my career in terms of success. Right before The Bourne Identity came out, I hadn’t been offered a movie in a year, because The Legend of Bagger Vance had come out and bombed and All The Pretty Horses had come out and bombed.

And the word on The Bourne Identity was that it was gonna tank also, because we had pushed back the release date a couple times and so people went, “Oh, well that’s always a sign that things aren’t going well,”  when in fact Universal had given us more money to go back and reshoot and pick up a couple things that we needed. And we were making the movie a lot better so we were holding the movie for the right reasons. But the outward signals from the industry were: “Oh God, this thing’s gonna suck.”  So nobody had really called and gave me any job offers for quite some time. I went and did a play in London on a Saturday night and Bourne had opened on that Friday. And by the time I got back to New York – I got back Sunday night – and Monday morning there were something like 30 script offers. So in terms of any success that I’ve had, it’s always this kind of tenuous. I don’t think anyone really feels secure.

Do you have any plans to work with Kevin Smith again?

Well, I was in Jersey Girl. I had one scene in Jersey Girl. I’m always ready to do whatever Kevin wants. He’s very good about giving me something to do in his movies. And sometimes, like in the case of Dogma, he gives me a big role. Kevin kind of writes what’s going on his life. Obviously, Jersey Girl there was this huge thing of when he became a father and he started (thinking) about what would happen if he lost Jen. And then suddenly Jersey Girl came out of that. As Kevin keeps kind of keeps living his life maybe a role will come out that he offers to me. But you know the second he does, I’ll take it.

We’ve heard that you and Ben Affleck are working on another Boston-based project. Can you tell us a little about it?

I think the one Ben’s talking about right now is the Dennis Lehane novel that he had, “Gone Baby Gone”. He’s got the rights to that one. But I don’t really know what’s going on with that right now. A lot depends on whether or not he wants to be in it or not. To direct it, or where his heads at. But I’ve been so busy doing all these other movies, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really do any writing. I mean I saw him last night. It’s something we talk about every time we see each other. We want to do it. But it’s a matter of kind of handling the logistics, and figuring out a way to get us in the same place at the same time. One of the things is having struggled for work for so long, even though now it’s been about seven years that we’ve both been working consistently. Having struggled for so long through our teens and early twenties it’s kind of an anathema to us to turn down work. And I think that’s what we’ll have to do to write something. We just have to block out the time and commit to it.

Do you want to get back to writing again?

Yeah. I think – for both of us, probably – the most creatively fulfilling experience for us was Good Will Hunting, just because we took an idea from the very beginning and shepherded it all the way through until it was a film. And that’s just incredibly fulfilling to do that. But even now, we’ll have a lot of creative input with the directors we work with. And it is a collaborative feeling. Taking a movie like Bourne, I was really involved in a lot of ways. But at the end of the day, you know, it’s the director’s vision and it’s gotta be because it’s a director’s medium and there’s no getting around it, you’re kind of hired labor at the end of the day. So in terms of writing and bringing something all the way from the beginning to kind of finished form is a feeling that I think we both want to have again.

Obviously, Robert Ludlum’s novels differ a great deal from the films. Was there any concern at all that fans would embrace you in the role of Jason Bourne?

It was a big concern when I took the job the first time. And it was something that Doug Liman and I talked a lot about. Because he thought it was really daring to cast me as this guy because of the way I look. I look so young and this guy clearly has to have a history and he’s got a very dark past And people who look at me don’t necessarily think that. So there was a lot of stuff, physically, in terms of getting ready. We just tried to look at every different aspect of how to make this guy as believable as possible, because the worst thing that could happen is if you have a good movie but the central character’s just not quite believable and he’s constantly taking your audience right out of movie. That’s a complete disaster. The movie will just fall apart. So Doug came up with certain things, he watched boxing on television and he liked the way boxers walked. There was a directness and an efficiency and a kind security in their bodies. And this kind of forward momentum that he really liked.

Is that why you run like that in that scene on the beach?

Yeah. Naw, I think that’s just the way I run. (laughs) I’ve never really seen myself run before. But so I boxed for about six months before the movie and that really did help. I found just the way that you move around other people. And it’s a very subtle thing. But I think the sum total of a lot of those little subtleties add up into making something either believable or not. And a lot of the weapons training, just little tips from the guy that I was training with, I put in so many hours. For one thing, there was that moment in the first one where he picks up a gun for the first time and he throws it down. What it said in the screen direction was, “It feels so comfortable in his hand that he throws it down, and from that moment on, any time he’s holding a gun it’s gotta look like an extension of his arm.”

So the only way to really get around that was just to go to the firing range and put in hundreds of hours and just shoot and shoot so that I didn’t have to think about the gun. It was just there and it would never be pointed at anything I wasn’t prepared to destroy. For instance, if you see a cop off-duty at a bar and you’re having a conversation, you know they’re a cop because they’ll angle their body, and you’ll know if they’re right-handed or left-handed, cause they’ll angle their right hip away if they’re right handed. Even if they’re not wearing a gun, they’re just used to...and that’s how you talk to someone, and this is incredibly deadly and harmful and you keep that away and you keep a distance and it’s always available to you but not to them.

So it’s just little things like that, that kind of add up throughout a course of a movie. If you just see someone’s body moving in a certain way suddenly they’re more believable.  And Doug’s other theory, which we applied to this one also, (when) it’s a fight sequence, that it’s really important to have me doing it because audiences are smart enough to know that when you cut to the wide shot of the really buff stuntman doing it, it’s a giveaway. And even if they can’t quite put their finger on it, it’s just something that takes them out of the movie. So it was working out all of that stuff to make sure that I could do it and the other actor could do it in a way that looked real and credible and kept the illusion afloat.

With the state of affairs in the world right now, do you think audiences will embrace an anti-hero like Jason Bourne?

What I liked about it is putting out in a mainstream movie right now a feeling that something terribly wrong happens to you, that your first instinct is to go to get revenge. But if you just sit back and think about it and you start to look at your self and your own life and take responsibility for your own actions, the most important (thing) you do to rejoin the human race is to go start by atoning for the things that you’ve done. And the last shot of the movie is him walking and joining kind of a sea of humanity in New York city of all places.

And it’s the first time we’ve ever seen him here in this country. So those were the things that I thought was a good thing to put out there right now. And I hope people accept that Who knows what the reaction of the movie’s gonna be. But that was the reason to me to do the movie. I thought in this day and age. I thought that’s a good thing to put out there. To take someone that we’ve established as an American, the ultimate American machine, that that’s the realization that he comes to. And in the end he does a very powerful thing. He does the only thing he can, which is attempt to atone and start to redeem himself.

What was your greatest challenge in making this film?

One of the biggest challenges starting off – just as an acting thing – was the fact that I don’t talk a lot in the movie. And that was another thing that I really liked about it. You can’t really tell in the final movie but reading the script I only had about four scenes in the movie where I speak. But I’m on screen for a lot of the movie, so that was a huge challenge. It’s a pretty dark journey that the guy goes on, so to get into that mindset every day, that was a huge challenge. The good news is I kind of got my requisite amount of laughter in every day when I’d go home at night. I’d unwind a little bit, get on the phone and talk to people, kind of rejoin humanity a little bit. It’s a pretty heavy role. Normally you’ll look for those contradictions, some scenes of levity, but in this case it was pretty intense most of the way through. But what helped is that Berlin in the winter, it gets light at about 9 in the morning and it gets dark – in terms of shootable light – around 3 to 3:30, and it’s overcast. So the kind of mood that we were all in for those months of shooting, we didn’t see the sun for quite some time. I think that probably was a subconscious aid throughout the shoot.

Can you tell us what the status is of Ocean’s Twelve?

We’re about 75% of our way through. We just came back from Europe and we’re finishing it up at Warner Brothers and it’s been going great so far. Everyone’s back for this one, plus Catherine Zeta Jones has a great role in this and then there are a few celebrity surprises.

Have you gotten a chance to see the stage play, Matt and Ben?

I haven’t seen it. And I don’t know, some people have said it’s funny. Some people have said it’s kind of a knock or whatever. I just figure it’s like an extension of Project Greenlight: it’s a chance to give people a job. (laughs)

Source: JoBlo.com



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