He might be a big-time movie star, but the truth is, Matt Damon is a regular guy. The fresh-faced Oscar winner (for co-writing 1997's "Good Will Hunting" with buddy Ben Affleck), star of the Jason Bourne series (2002's "The Bourne Identity" and 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy") and more than 30 other films not only does not own a cell phone, he eschews flying and prefers to drive his mom back home to Boston when she visits him in New York. "She has only complained about my speeding once," he says, grinning.
Damon is sticking to the metaphorical fast lane, starring in Dimension's planned July release "The Brothers Grimm" and Warner Bros. Pictures' planned September release "Syriana," executive producing a third season of "Project Greenlight" (now on Bravo) and executive producing the "project" in question, Dimension's upcoming thriller "Feast." He also has earned his second ShoWest honor, for Male Star of the Year -- his first came in 1998 for Male Star of Tomorrow. Damon chatted recently with The Hollywood Reporter's Randee Dawn about the award, being an unlikely action hero and keeping his eye on the ball.
The Hollywood Reporter: So, we hear you prefer driving to flying.
Matt Damon: It's the easiest way to get (to Boston from New York) nowadays. I like to drive because I'm alone. I don't have a cell phone, I listen to the radio, and it's nice; it energizes me.
THR: What does receiving this second ShoWest honor mean to you?
Damon: It means a lot because I never thought I'd get it. A couple of years ago, I was having trouble getting a job, period.
THR: How did you know that you wanted to continue acting?
Damon: Well, I love to do it. I did a play in London and got away from everything. And there would still be low-budget movies. Ben and I always feel like we can write something. No matter how bad it gets for us now, we'll be in a much better position than we were in 10 years ago, so we can always write our own thing and find a little money to make things small, to scale things down. Neither of us have ever really been big trailer guys.
THR: Despite your all-American guy persona, your most successful films have seen you playing against that type -- an action hero in the "Bourne" films and a con man in 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley."
Damon: The "Bourne" ones surprised me, too. Ripley was such a great role and so well-written that I had a huge advantage on that one. Action-movie expectations are such that I was really surprised when (director) Doug Liman offered me ("Bourne"). He said, "I want to make a James Bond for our era." And I said, "Oh, that's great. Who are you thinking of?" And that's when he said me. I was really shocked. The approach to those movies, too, is less an action-movie approach. The action grows organically out of the stories.
THR: The third season of "Greenlight" started airing Tuesday. Are you still excited by that?
Damon: I am. We found a great director this year, and I've seen the first couple episodes of the show. I was always less concerned about (the show) because the show's always good. But the movie -- if we don't have a movie this time that works, I think the project will be dead in the water. I can't imagine anybody else giving us a million or $2 million to go lose again.
THR: You've written, produced, acted -- directing seems the next logical step for you. Is that next on the horizon?
Damon: I feel like I want to write the thing I direct because I might feel too responsible for someone else's material the first time out. I know I'm going to make mistakes because that's what directing is a lot of the time: managing the number of mistakes you're making. ("Grimm" director) Terry Gilliam tells me he goes home at night and thinks about all the things he did wrong. (Steven) Spielberg once said to me, the first time you direct, (you should) do something very simple, and see if you have a knack for telling a story. Because some people get caught up in doing these shots, they don't keep their eye on the ball.