Q: In "Invictus" you play the captain of the South African rugby team. Can you describe the movie?
A: "Invictus" is one of those scripts that I read and said, "Oh, my God," it was so well written. And Clint Eastwood directing, he's somebody I've been dying to work with. And then Morgan (Freeman) playing Nelson Mandela. The assistant I had 10 years ago heard me talking about Morgan Freeman so much that she actually called his assistant and arranged for us to have dinner together, and it was a Christmas gift to me, basically like a Make-A-Wish dinner. Do you remember the Chris Farley show on "Saturday Night Live" where he'd sit with somebody and go, "Remember when you did that? That was awesome!" That was basically the dinner that I had with Morgan Freeman. He was extraordinarily tolerant of a young actor just sitting there and badgering him with acting questions.
The movie is about the first year of Nelson Mandela's presidency, which culminated in the South African rugby team being welcomed back on the world stage and allowed to host the rugby World Cup. And the improbable victory they had. ... And how Mandela inspired them and the nation to come together and walk toward the light instead of the darkness. It's really a Mandela movie, with a number of really good supporting parts, of which I have one."
Damon says Eastwood is a mentor.
"I don't get starstruck in front of someone like him because I don't care about the superficiality in this business. I care about his talent, and what really intrigued me was the fact that Clint transitioned from acting to directing.
"He started directing when he was 39. I'm 38 now," Damon says. "I'm hoping to have the same career trajectory where I make movies as an actor until I'm 40 and then I start directing. Few people in life get to do something they love so much. I talk to other people I respect like Ben [Affleck] and George [Clooney], and all of us look up to Clint."
The People Speak
"It came out really, really well," says Damon proudly. "It's coming out on the History Channel, but we're also hoping to get it in schools. Because the format we came up with is actors reading historical documents without editorializing. It's really powerful, actually.
"And then we have musicians singing songs throughout American history. Like John Legend sings `No More Auction Block,' and Bruce Springsteen sings `This Land Is Your Land.' Eddie Vedder sings `Masters of War.' Bob Dylan is in it, and he sings `(If You Ain't Got the) Do Re Mi.'"
On writing scripts
As far as his own scriptwriting career, Damon says he's not writing now.
"I really haven't had time or pressing need. Once the employment dries up again (he laughs), I'll have to start writing again. Or unless I find a great piece of material that I want to adapt and direct, I'm not writing."
Since then, he's made three "Bourne" thrillers, three "Ocean's" comedies and the Oscar winner "The Departed." But he says the biggest life change was becoming a father.
"It changes everything and makes you reprioritize your entire life. It really is all about the family and what makes them happy," says Damon, who is married to Luciana Damon and is a stepfather to Alexia, 11. He's also Dad to his daughters with Luciana, Isabella, 3, and Gia, 1.
He is teaching them to be baseball fans with an emphasis on Boston.
Who can hold their booze better, Matt Damon or George Clooney?
"Me!" says Steven Soderbergh, who's in town promoting his comedy The Informant!, starring Damon as a shifty whistle-blower. Soderbergh, who also helmed all three Ocean's flicks, reunited with Damon and Clooney at a hotel bar Friday night til the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Soderbergh can really outdrink the famously social Clooney? "Ask him. I don't know if I should be saying that," said Soderbergh. "I'm not proud of it. All I'm saying is, I was the last one standing last night, and I have witnesses. I'm fine."
Is Damon really as great a guy as everyone says?
"Maybe he's lying to me. I certainly put him in situations where he had opportunity to misbehave and he never has," said Soderbergh.
With this movie, Damon reveals himself to be one of the few A-listers with real range, in terms of both versatility—his pusillanimous, smarmy Whitacre is as far removed from the steely Jason Bourne as you can imagine—and girth. He put on over thirty pounds of pure fat for the role, and his muffin-top paunch is almost certain to impress Academy voters, who are notorious pushovers for actors who uglify themselves for a role, e.g. De Niro in Raging Bull, Charlize Theron in Monster.
(Not to worry, Damon fans: the actor looked as studly and trim as ever on stage last night.) But his performance is transformative as well, his most nuanced yet. He nails Whitacre's moral languidness, his inner panic, and his unjustified narcissism. (Whitacre imagines himself as Tom Cruise from The Firm but he's closer to Milton from Office Space.) The best part of the film for me was his voiceovers, read in a slightly high-pitched tone that goes up at the end of sentences like when a six-year-old tells a rambling story, and veering off into unrelated tangents as Whitacre zones out the world around him.
The festival spilled over onto the streets last night as hundreds of fans swarmed the environs of Sassafraz Cafe in Yorkville. There was total chaos at Bellair and Cumberland in anticipation of seeing stars Matt Damon and Michael Douglas who were dining inside.
The street had to be shut down to allow Damon to exit the restaurant. Michael Douglas is presumably still trapped inside.
"I call it the 'testosterone deficit.' But I'm happy with that," Damon told PEOPLE at Friday's premiere of The Informant! at the Toronto International Film Festival of his home life. "I love my girls and it's lot of pink, a lot of princesses and a lot of fun."
With his bachelor days behind him, Damon, 38, and his wife, Luciana, are in domestic bliss, celebrating special milestones in the lives of their daughters: Gia, 13 months, Isabella, 3, and Alexia, 11.
"Gia is just ready to start talking and making sounds," said the proud papa. "It's been really exciting and we are anxious to hear what she says."
The budding linguist, however, already is a skilled walker. "She's been walking since 9 months, which is pretty incredible," he said.
Gia's big sister Isabella is getting ready to attend pre-school – possibly leaving the star in tears. "I think I will get emotional when we take her. Her mom and I will probably be a big mess. She's ready but I don't know if I will be."