I could never tire of interviewing an intelligent, witty, grounded and engaging person like Matt Damon. His last interview for the recent box office hit THE DEPARTED, left me completely enamored and impressed with the brilliant actor. Having graduated from one ingenious director to the next, Damon has again demonstrated the ability to actualize and execute another challenging role in the upcoming film, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, thus illustrating his talent and gift for deception, and inviting Oscar to buzz around again.
What’s your favorite thing to do with her [Isabella]?
Well, she laughs. She has this laugh. You do this thing… you can either give her one of (he makes a zurburt sound) those on the stomach or you can munch under her arm – you go, ‘Whomwhomwhom’ – and she goes ‘Aaaacchhhh, aaaaaccchhhhh.’ It’s just the funniest. She sounds like a little machine gun. She, in particular, is really in a hurry to kind of grow up because she’s got a big sister and she’s got cousins, and when they’re all in a room she just sits there and watches them. She wants to play. You know how babies, they can’t (he goes through this whole set of visual reactions).
[on the success of The Departed and the lifespan of fame]
Departed, obviously, just surprised all of us, how well it’s done. And then this, which is kind of epic, but it’s a tougher sell when you’re talking about getting a mass audience to the movie. It’s longer. Departed is over two and a half hours, also. But, as you say, the lead character, the protagonist, I’m not out there trying to get sympathy, elicit sympathy from the audience. It’s a tougher character, which I really like. I really like that kind of challenge. I have a real limited chance to choose certain movies and I’m happy with the choices so far, because I think they’re a little more challenging. And it doesn’t last forever. You guys see everybody come and go. I know the deal. I’ve been around. It’s like you breathe this rarefied air for a real short time and then there’s an ebb and flow to everything. Particularly with the choices I make and the material I tend to be drawn to, I can’t be up here for long.
[on the work of Robert De Niro and the long hours on Shepherd]
Nothing got spared, which maybe to his detriment at times. I mean, Soderbergh said to me that a big part of directing- - this is what I am, a collection of things people have said to me, but what he said was 'A great thing to know about directing is every scene does not have the same importance. And when you shoot it, you can't place the same weight on it or else you'll end up doing 110 18-hour days, which is what we ended up doing on Good Shepherd. But Soderbergh just says, 'No, you gotta know this scene is just getting you into that scene.' He cuts in camera. It's a very different thing, whereas working with Bob it's just every single detail was poured over and just- - I mean, the amount of work that went into this movie is just really incredible.
And every department too. It was one of those movies that they were saying to me halfway through, 'This is already a legendary movie in the New York circle.' These prop guys who were the sons of the sons of the sons of people who have been in the prop business are talking, 'Oh, you were on the Shepherd.' This is a movie that just, we would start at five in the morning Monday and we would finish at five in the morning Saturday, and that was our five day week. Just keep getting pushed and pushed and pushed. It was really grueling, but all of those things, the angles that he shot me at was I'm sure the subject of great discussion between he and Richardson.
Because nothing was left- - there was no stone left unturned. I think the other thing was that he didn't- - to leave after a 12-hour day to him would have felt like he wasn't taking advantage. If he had money to shoot and it was for a certain amount of time, and he was going to use every second. And they were going to have to come and take the camera away. There were times when I had to write a check back so that while we were in the Dominican Republic, because they were trying to take the cameras, and we had more shooting to do. It was just one of those movies.
How did you decide on Matt Damon as the right choice for the lead role?
"I was originally going to do it with Leonardo DiCaprio, so I went to Matt and he said he would do it. There are only a few actors I would do it with, and I’ve been very lucky to do it with him on every level."
Why Matt Damon?
"Because he could do it. If there were certain actors that I would be given the option to work with… Not that they wouldn’t have been great in other things, but it just wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t have turned me on to do it. It would have been all that work for nothing. You already go through an enormous amount of work and you at least want to believe that the people in it are doing it for the right reasons."