LISTEN to me. Pay attention. Some thing I must tell you: "The Good Shepherd" is possibly the best spy thriller ever made. No mindless soulless ice 'em, slice 'em, dice 'em fast-food chop suey, this film is for chess players, not checkers players. High school dropouts can stick to Daniel Craig's shoot-'n'-shout schlock.
Robert De Niro is a stunning director. The huge cast beginning with Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Keir Dullea, Timothy Hutton, William Hurt, Joe Pesci, Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, John Turturro, Billy Crudup, Ann Hampton Callaway and De Niro himself is threaded through seamlessly. He isn't self-indulgent. His camera doesn't linger. As Universal's CEO Ron Meyer put it to me: "Bobby was incredibly focused. So prepared. He loved doing this one."
A complex story of the early days of the CIA, of Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs, the '60s, post WWII Communist Russia, the days when idealists loved our blessed America, it's lengthy, but this director with towering ability moves it. My friends at the motion picture academy swear they will hustle for Robert De Niro for Best Director.
Angelina's acting ability is as powerful as her beauty. She's excellent. The whole cast is excellent. But this is Matt Damon's picture. Shorn of tics and tricks, his eyes, his body language, his intensity tells it all. Not a false move. Playing a CIA chief, Matt is a lesson in Acting 101. In "The Good Shepherd," Matt Damon is an Oscar nominee.
AND Matt Damon spoke of his and his wife Luciana's 6-month-old baby Isabella: "My best Christmas ever will be this one. You know why? Because it'll be my very first Christmastime with my brand-new daughter."
MATT DAMON decided to take matters into his own hands when word leaked out that he was planning to marry girlfriend LUCIANA BARROSO last year (05). THE BOURNE IDENTITY star and Barroso decided to secretly marry to avoid a media feeding frenzy during the upcoming holidays and tied the knot on 9 December (05). He explains, "We got married actually at the City Hall in New York. There was this rumour that we were going to get married.
"It was right before the holidays last year and we didn't want to have people hanging outside our house and stuff, so we just kind of nipped it in the bud and got it over with. "We had her daughter, my step-daughter there, and actually the mayor was there, MAYOR (MICHAEL) BLOOMBERG." He adds jokingly, "He works there. It was very nice of him to come in, it was a beautiful morning actually."
The CIA may get another recruiting boost after Matt Damon's performance in "Shepherd" is considered. The film takes a look at the agency's beginnings through the eyes of Edward Wilson, who was recruited out of Yale for a career in intelligence and national security. While the CIA and Wilson's paths contained their share of unpleasantness, it is Damon's grasp on the role that should draw admiration.
"It's a very quiet, interior performance," Rosenthal says of Damon, who joined De Niro on "Shepherd" shortly after shooting "The Departed" with Martin Scorsese. "It's all about subtleties, although he does have a couple of scenes where he does let go a bit more, which makes it all the more powerful because he's been so profoundly quiet throughout."
Rosenthal says Damon's background provided a unique window into Wilson's character.
"What Matt brought to us was certainly a knowledge of those Harvard-Yalie types," she explains of Damon, who dropped out of Harvard 12 credits short of a degree in order to pursue an acting career. "He has a background in that Ivy League-like world. He knew the character fairly well."
Damon didn't have much time to prepare for his "Shepherd" role, so he compensated by spending as much time as possible with a CIA technical consultant and by huddling frequently with De Niro.
"They were inseparable," Rosenthal says of Damon and De Niro, who is directing only his second film after "A Bronx Tale" in 1993. "Matt spent an enormous amount of time with Bob. Matt also comes to the set every day with an incredible attitude. He keeps the morale up and the general good feeling going on the set. He's just a hardworking, kind man."
He was also the right man for the job, says Rosenthal. "He brings his everyman quality to a character that is an idealist who becomes a realist in this," she explains; "that sense of patriotism and idealism embodied in that all-American boy.
"Bob always liked his work. He was perfect for the role in terms of how he can age and where he is in his life."
Next project: Co-starring with Mark Ruffalo and Anna Paquin in Ken Lonergan's "Margaret"; following that Damon returns to two franchise pics: "Ocean's Thirteen" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."