Matt Damon truly knows what it means to work both sides of the street.
While he spent most of yesterday in press and promotional sessions for his latest film, The Informant, he managed to carve out a quiet hour over a lunch of organic chicken, beet salad and a Diet Coke at the Royal York to discuss his greatest passion: the charitable foundation called One X One.
"Who isn't interested in trying to improve the lives of children around the world?" asked Damon. "I enjoy spending my time doing it."
Damon admits that he wasn't able to do much during the formative years of his career but, once things clicked for him, "I was in more of a position when my status became secure. Then I could start focusing on this kind of stuff. That's when I had enough time to do it."
He grins the patented Damon grin. "And enough people who would listen to me."
On water issues in Africa
"That kind of depriviation isn't even on our radar in North America, but in Africa it's the central preoccupation of many people's lives. Every 15 seconds a child dies because of lack of clean water. There's two and a half billion people in the world without any toilet facilities."
The usually cheerful Damon grows quiet before speaking again. "When I get back from one of these trips, I sit with my wife and finally, after hours and hours of silence, I'll start talking about what I've just seen and experienced.
"You see the need. You feel it. And it does mark you."
Soderbergh: He really nailed it. It’s a great piece of physical business. He is so smart.
Even though he has been Oscar nominated, even though he has been in a string of successful movies. Yeah, I still feel like... he is... now, people are beginning to go he’s a really, really good actor, a good actor. There is not a director who’s worked with him who doesn’t want to repeat the experience.
He jumps off the cliff, he is totally fearless. Well, the Liberace movie is going to be interesting. I think we’ve got the money. So it will be next summer.
And when Soderbergh—who comes across like a precocious but slightly brooding graduate student—talks about the film, he seems, uncharacteristically, joyous. Compared to his epic, Che biopic (his last major film before he turned to The Informant!), which he says was “difficult at every stage,” he says that making The Informant! was “easy.”
“It reminded me of Erin. The shoot was very fun, there were not big issues, and it was put together pretty quickly, then we finished it. Often, you feel suspicious of that, because there’s this assumption that the only good art has agony involved.”
Asked what acting tips he picked up from the Oscar-winning Damon—who plays Mark Whitacre, the real-life Archer Daniels Midland whistleblower affected with a bipolar disorder—Joel cracks: “I learned to ‘Be better, Joel.’ Because this guy’s amazing.”