Add the Ocean’s films, and it is Damon who has emerged as the most bankable screen actor of our time. Not Brad, not George, not Tom, not Johnny. "I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit," enthuses Greengrass. "To my mind, he is the outstanding actor. He has an ability that only very few actors have: to create an iconic character. They’ll still fall in love with the Bourne trilogy in 20 years."
Meeting Damon – in LA, a place he visits only to tub-thump for a movie – is an enjoyable experience. Convivial, witty and articulate (he was a Harvard undergraduate when his film career took off), he also comes with an apparently sterling work ethic, the kind that has caused Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Soderbergh, De Niro and, to no less a degree, Greengrass to fall over each other to work with him.
At 36, he still brims with the boyish charm that saw him burst onto the scene 10 years ago. Buff and tanned (he did a lot of his own Bourne stunts), he is just back from a surfing trip to Hawaii, a long way in body and soul from, say, the anonymous CIA automaton of The Good Shepherd or the toady energy analyst of Syriana.
CHADWICK: You've seen "The Bourne Ultimatum." What do you think?
Mr. FRIEDKIN: Oh yeah. Well, first of all, I think it's probably the best action film in many, many years. It's state-of-the-art. It blows almost everything else away that I've seen in the same genre. It's done with intelligence and taste, and it's preserved the conventions of the action film, which is, you know, tension around every corner and suspense and really convincing performances, a story that makes sense and has lots of twists and turns. And so it's a great example of preserving a genre. There aren't many. The only other one that comes to mind would be "The Godfather" and "Godfather II."
Mr. FRIEDKIN: ...These guys just made a great film and I have no stake in it. I have no oar in the water. I don't know any of these people. I know Matt Damon slightly. And I saw it with an audience last week and they were rapt through the whole picture. Nobody moved, nobody left the theater. At the end it got applause, and that's sort of rare today.