"I have a lot of stuff that keeps me busy and connected to things that I feel matter," says Damon.
About his work, says Damon, he's picky. And he selects projects based not on cold career calculus, but on what his gut says.
"I've read so many, thousands of scripts. I've written scripts. It's a lot of the way Clint directs — it looks like improvisation and intuition, but it's 60 years of filmmaking," he says. "If you feel a personal connection to something, you could have an analytical conversation about a piece of material, but at the end of the day, it either moves you or it doesn't. That's why your choices have to be personal, because you're never going to please everybody."
Damon is booked for the next few months. First, he spends three weeks shooting the thriller Contagion for his friend and frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh, followed by Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo in January. He also finds time for passion projects like the documentary Inside Job, now in theaters. Damon narrated the doc, which explores the 2008 financial crisis.
"He's Captain Delightful," says Emily Blunt, who plays his love interest in 2011's The Adjustment Bureau. "He's a mega movie star, but he'd rather throw up than hear that from people."
Damon will banter about football with a photographer there to shoot him. He'll rub the belly of the pregnant reporter during a later interview and suggest tongue-in-cheek baby names. And at a glitzy party celebrating Hereafter, he sits surrounded by his wife, mother-in-law and stepdaughter.
It helps to be wed to a non-famous woman he met in Miami in 2003 and married in 2005 in a private city hall ceremony. Blunt calls Damon's wife, Lucy, "his greatest achievement. We hung out with them all the time. They're the coolest family. There are kids climbing on his shoulders."
His better half remains bemused by his celebrity status, Damon says with a smile.
"She thinks it's a little silly. We don't relate to each other on that level at all. We have a great life in New York, a really normal life. The more normal we feel, the more normal people treat us," he says. "We feel like a part of the community. That's what we want. That's how we've always been. We both grew up with working moms."
MATT DAMON: DO BELIEVE THE HYPE
Is Damon really that nice? "Not really," jokes Clint Eastwood. Actually, he is, according to his co-stars.
"I know he's often called The Mayor by Brad (Pitt) and the boys, because he's so even across the board. He's that guy: professional, pleasant. He's also just one of the most disciplined, hardworking actors I've ever worked with."
-- Angelina Jolie, 2006's The Good Shepherd
"He's gentle and soft-spoken but with a huge sense of humor. He's always joking around and talking to the crew people. Matt would play a game with me called Pass the Pigs. Matt had the lucky hand the first few times. He had beginner's luck."
-- Hailee Steinfeld, 2010's True Grit
"I was really struck by how he really insists by the way he behaves on there not being a hierarchy and no distinction between the crew and him. It's not that he has to try to be nice. It comes very naturally to him. He's one of the gang."
-- Emily Blunt, 2011's The Adjustment Bureau
Across the table from Eastwood, drinking coffee, sits his friend Matt Damon. He’s half Eastwood’s age and perhaps two-thirds his height, but he shares some of the old master’s famed tenacity. He’s also, as Eastwood used to be, an action hero with a brain who harbors long-term plans to use it by making movies of substance and integrity. In a show of affection rare in nature between alpha males, the two men greet each other with broad, sweet grins that even trained actors would have trouble faking.
They’re cute together.
Peter Morgan: Do you think he’s good?
David Poland: I think he’s terrific.
PM: I think he’s fantastic.
DP: He is one of the most under-rated actors, ironically.
PM: America should be so thrilled about him, because he’s a treasure, that guy, a treasure. A cultural treasure. He is fast becoming a great American actor.
DP: What’s funny is that I don’t think there’s a box to put him in...
PM: Thank God...
DP: That everyone’s looking for. They’re always trying to figure out is he Cooper, is he Jimmy Stewart. He’s just something else. It’s very uniquely himself.