When Joel and Ethan Coen make a Western, it’s as far from clean as you can get. In their truly gritty, violent, wittier-than-you-might-think, and much-anticipated adaptation (opening December 22), Cogburn is played with greasy bluff by Jeff Bridges (reuniting with the Coens for the first time since The Big Lebowski), La Boeuf by a wisecracking, mustachioed Matt Damon, and Mattie by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
[Steinfeld] (whose highest-profile role prior to this was talking about “blingitude” in a Kmart ad) made a point of seeing all the films of Bridges and Damon before shooting began, “so I’d know what they’re talking about if they’re talking about one of their movies, you know?” But they ended up behaving more like surrogate parents; both are well tested in raising daughters (Damon has four, Bridges three).
WS You’re on a bit of a bad-boy streak—first Wall Street 2, now True Grit. Do you like playing villains?
JB Actually, I’m getting a little uncomfortable with the bad-guy thing. But my True Grit character is a different kind of bad guy. He has a soft side.
WS What was it like on set?
JB What I saw Jeff [Bridges] do was phenomenal. Matt [Damon] was amazing, too. And Hailee [Steinfeld]—they found her after going through thousands of other girls.
Matt Damon, Hereafter - It is always harder to underplay than it is to slip into an exaggerated persona, or emote broadly. Damon takes what could have been a ridiculous portrayal of a psychic and not only makes it believable but makes us sympathize with his plight. Damon’s portrayal, in fact, reminded me a little of Robert Redford playing Death in an episode of The Twilight Zone. He doesn’t want to be able to touch people and read their pain. It is in the moments where he can’t touch them for fear of knowing more about them than he wants to deal with that Damon’s performance reaches a level of excellence beyond what we’ve seen him do previously. With all of the Bourne hoopla and the Sexiest Man Alive mishegoss, one tends to forget what a good actor Matt Damon is. He’s so reliable that he’s easy to see slip through the cracks. I dare say Hereafter is one of his best.