Courage Under Fire: Denzel Washington was impressed by Matt Damon’s performance on set

Edward Zwick discusses how impressed he and Denzel Washington were by Matt Damon’s performance in Courage Under Fire

Filmmaker Edward Zwick, whose credits include About Last Night, Glory, Legends of the Fall, The Siege, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance, Love & Other Drugs, Pawn Sacrifice, and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (not to mention co-creating Thirtysomething), recently published a memoir called Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood (pick up a copy HERE). This book contains some very interesting passages – like the one on Zwick’s Jack Reacher regrets, and another where he reveals how impressed Denzel Washington was by Matt Damon’s performance when they were on the set of Zwick’s 1996 film Courage Under Fire.

Zwick wrote, “As we finished Matt’s coverage, Denzel caught my eye and nodded approvingly. Later, he took me aside. ‘Who is that kid?’ he asked. I told him it was Matt’s first big role. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘Better get my game on. He almost blew me off the screen.’

Matt wanted to physicalize the ravages of his character’s (drug) addiction in the final scenes and went back to L.A. to lose weight. He returned, having lost so much so quickly – unsupervised – that I was worried he might not make it through filming. I knew it was a big moment in Matt’s career, but was it worth him jeopardizing his health? Watching him was terrifying, but also inspiring. His performance was wonderful, and his career took off. A great actor is an athlete of the heart.

Directed by Zwick from a screenplay by Patrick Sheane Duncan, Courage Under Fire has the following synopsis: During the 1991 Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally caused a friendly fire incident, a mistake that was hushed up by his superiors. Following the war, he is assigned to investigate the case of Army Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), killed in action when her Medevac unit was attempting to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter. But, as Serling interviews the members of Walden’s crew, he realizes their stories about the incident don’t add up.

Washington and Damon were joined in the cast by Lou Diamond Phillips, Bronson Pinchot, Seth Gilliam, Regina Taylor, Michael Moriarty, Željko Ivanek, Scott Glenn, Sean Astin, Sean Patrick Thomas, and, as mentioned in the synopsis, Meg Ryan.

Have you revisited Denzel Washington and Matt Damon’s performances in Edward Zwick’s Courage Under Fire recently? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Courage Under Fire Edward Zwick Matt Damon Denzel Washington

Source: Edward Zwick

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.