Back in June, as Matt Damon held his 2-week-old daughter, Isabella, he contemplated the vagaries of fate.
One day, you're celebrating the birth of your first child in Miami, only to learn that 1,300 miles north, your East Village apartment had been flooded by a malfunctioning sprinkler. Nothing survived the deluge.
"I got the phone call that literally everything you own in the world is gone," recalls Damon, 36, with a rueful smile. "Had it happened six months earlier, I would have been a mess. But I was sitting there with Isabella in my arms, and I didn't miss a step. I don't need anything else in the world."
"He really is the everyman," Jolie says. "Some guys are Hollywood versions of the everyman, but he really is. People can sense that. We watch him and believe him. He's such a real person."
Their relationship, says Steven Soderbergh, who directed Damon in all three Ocean's capers, "seems like a really good thing all around. He met someone he really cares about. He just follows his emotion and his feelings. He seems like one of the least neurotic actors I've ever seen, that's for sure. He has great equilibrium."
Just before Isabella's birth, Damon felt the rare intrusion of the media.
"People were outside our house, and that was a drag, particularly since it was something that personal," he says. "I drove us to the hospital when she was in labor, and this guy was following us. That's as close as I've come to jumping out of the car. You're having this intimate, personal experience, it's a medical situation, it's scary. Literally, thinking back on that experience makes my hair stand up."
Says Soderbergh: "Anybody who has worked with him respects him and knows he's a terrific actor. He's going to put together a pretty significant body of work. He's going to just get better as he gets older."
Damon's most exhausting shoot to date: playing the emotionless, tightly wound CIA operative in Shepherd, a film De Niro had dreamed of directing for years.
"It was a hard movie. (De Niro) had been thinking about it for years. You'd do take after take after take. His attention to detail is unbelievable. His drive to do this movie was intense. Every day was 16 or 18 hours. No exaggeration."
Q: You've stated many times that you choose the director primarily and that you believe yourself to be the "arrow in the quiver" of that director, regardless whether you agree with him or not. Tell me, is there anything that you would refuse to do on moral or ethical grounds? Maureen, New Brunswick, Canada
A: The thing that would keep me from a movie most would be gratuitous violence. Certain movies have such an obsession with body count that it's desensitizing. That's probably a non-starter. I've been asked to do the Bourne videogame a bunch of times. I assume it's a first-person shooter so I just won't do it. They're not allowed to use my face. I wouldn't feel right about doing that.