The Good Shepherd star on playing hard to get and still getting his due. Plus: Watch Damon play dress up—and call his own shots—at our cover shoot. By Andrew Goldman; Photograph by Michael Thompson
Damon’s fingernails have been chewed down into ragged little Chiclets. He talks about the inevitable implosion of his career like a guy whose last two films were The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Waterworld, not one who stars in a brainy action-film franchise that has grossed $502 million worldwide and whose name makes it onto the same producer wish lists as Brad Pitt’s and Johnny Depp’s. The fact that those statements can even be made about Damon—who’s objectively not as handsome as most male reality-show contestants and hasn’t exactly been called the next Brando by critics—is empirical evidence that he’s a nervous wreck, a workaholic, and a control freak.
"A lot of actors let the director or the script dictate everything," [producer Frank] Marshall says. "Matt takes it to another level."
This sounds like the kind of bullheadedness that would have studio executives or directors who get the "Damon on the line" call rolling their eyes and reaching for the Maalox. But in fact, it seems that not only is he tolerated, he’s adored. A flotilla of heavy hitters promptly returned calls for this story and offered personal hosannas to Damon.
"Matt is rare in that he’s an actor who doesn’t like attention," Affleck tells me. "He’s not really comfortable with it, or all that comfortable with himself for that matter. Any attention just makes him feel self-conscious."
He’ll gamely knock back a couple of Peronis and do his scarily dead-on impression of Matthew McConaughey for you. He’ll even tell you to call him up if you’re ever in Miami. He just won’t show you even a flicker of vulnerability. Tighter is the word Hunting coproducer Chris Moore uses to describe his manner.
There is a long, uncomfortable pause on the line when I tell him that Ben Affleck says that based on the rough footage he’s seen of the film, it’s his friend’s best performance to date. "I think this movie has a chance to be really fantastic," Damon says at last, quietly.
"I gotta say, this is a very big disappointment for Matt, because he did run a very good campaign," Clooney jokes in the new issue of PEOPLE. "If you've been around him, you know he's sexy. His eyes pop. They have a twinkle. He's got a good smile. He's quite the dancer. He does rock a Speedo in Ocean's 13."