Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning walked the red carpet for the New York City premiere of We Bought a Zoo, where Damon's co-stars talked about what makes him one of the most likable guys in Hollywood.
"I think he's just incredibly warm and present and gracious," Johansson gushed. "And I think everyone appreciates that, especially from someone who's had as much success as Matt, and has been in it as long as he has. He really has maintained his sort of groundedness. It's very refreshing."
Current Hollywood "It" girl Elle Fanning echoed the sentiments.
"I got to see him on set with all his daughters, so I saw him be real dad and movie dad in the film, so that was really neat," she explained. "And he's just such a nice guy."
Matt, on his favorite recent present
I just got a really good gift from my wife. It was our anniversary a few days ago. She gave me a dog tag, it has all of our kids birthdays on it, and on the other side it has "In case of emergency call Lucy" and our phone number. I thought that was cool.
Do you find it challenging to be in the entertainment industry and make projects that are non-cynical but also have some brains behind them?
Damon: I think it’s probably more difficult to be non-cynical and be a critic. I think it probably takes more guts for a critic to admit that this movie gets to them than it will for them to bash it, you know. But I love movies. And a movie like “Jerry Maguire,” for instance — I don’t have any problem admitting that that movie made me cry. And it made me cry a month ago when I saw it again. It just gets to me. I don’t feel like an overly optimistic or overly cynical person, but I do, I will give myself away to a movie as long as the movie doesn’t betray me. So a movie like ”Jerry Maguire” is perfect because I have that cathartic experience, and I don’t feel cheap afterwards, you know?
But I think that’s harder for movie critics. I remember Anthony Minghella telling me — he was a guest critic for a newspaper in London. He said, “It was incredible how quickly I devolved into vitriol and how I had to restrain myself from being just reductive.” He said, ”And I make movies, and I know how difficult it is even to make a bad movie.” There’s so much work that goes into this. So he goes, “I understand critics better now after having this experience of being critic for a month for this paper.”
Scott Rudin, the über-producer who worked with Damon on the Coen brothers' True Grit, says he's been a "crazy stalker fan" since he read Good Will Hunting fifteen years ago. And Rudin's regard for Damon has only grown, he says, as he's watched the actor carve his own path through Hollywood.
"He's done such great things with his stardom," Rudin says, recalling how Damon turned his nonleading role in True Grit—the buffoon with a romantic streak, LaBoeuf—into "the beating heart of the movie." There's something about Damon—a melding of his talent and his public persona—that gives him a "compact with the audience," Rudin says. "And he retains it, whether every movie works or doesn't."
[Cameron] Crowe has a theory about Damon's elusiveness. "Matt's a guy who skewers pretension. Hourly and by the minute, nothing is going to get pumped up into some lofty thing with Matt around," the director says. "It may not be as subversive as him trying to be tricky about not letting the interviewer get to him. It's more that he would skewer the guy that you mostly read in celebrity interviews. He laughs at that guy. He's very careful to not be that guy."