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Matt Damon News Column
Interviews, reviews
  • Matt and Cameron Crowe will be interviewed on Charlie Rose tonight (Friday). The interview will be available in full at the PBS site.

  • A great interview with Matt, Cameron Crowe and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone is at ABC in two parts: part 1 and part 2. Matt and Cameron talk about each other and Matt discusses the songs he sings to his children.

  • Peter Travers also loved the film and Matt's performance - excerpt below. Other review excerpts are from Leonard Maltin, New York Post, Examiner, Collider, SF Gate, Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

    Rolling Stone
    Damon is extraordinary. He's heartfelt performance has a tough core of intelligence and wit.

    There's a lot of fun waiting at We Bought a Zoo, but it's the feelings that run through every scene scene that'll make you glad you came.

    Leonard Maltin, Indiewire
    How often do we get to see a movie in which a loving family, faced with challenges, finds a way to reconnect and grow stronger? This may not be considered cutting-edge storytelling, but I can’t think of anything more relevant or worthwhile.

    New York Post
    Damon, who also did a great job playing a widower in the wildly different “Contagion’’ this year, is a commanding presence as he struggles to help his son deal with grief over his mother’s death. Damon brings an especially sensitive touch to scenes where Benjamin recalls his late wife (Stephanie Szostak) with love and affection, even as his relationship with Kelly begins to deepen.

    This is Damon's show, and as we've seen twice this year in The Adjustment Bureau and Contagion, he has an everyman charm that makes you want to cheer him on. He carries the bulk of the film's emotional heft, in particular when revisiting the pure happiness of his life with his wife, seen in flashback and still photos played by Stephanie Szostak. Crowe knows instinctively how to calibrate each of these heart tugging moments, emphasizing the tiny details that spark our memories of those we've loved and lost. Some of the film's finest are the quietest, when the people in the midst of this great human adventure stop and take stock of their surroundings.

    In the past, Crowe can justifiably be accused of getting a little heavy handed with the sentimentality, bordering on schmaltz. Some will no doubt accuse of him of the same here. A film this lacking in cynicism, a film this genuinely hopeful is a rare breed nowadays. We Bought A Zoo is a nearly perfect feel good film with heart and soul to spare.

    But as always, every movie is made better by Matt Damon. He can ground the maudlin moments with honesty, and lighten the mood with humor. His range is tremendous and though his performance you believe in Mee’s struggle to reconnect with his kids, deal with his grief, and his desire to make the zoo work.

    San Francisco Gate
    The cadences of the film are equally soothing, providing inspirational ups and prefabricated downs, all of them weathered by Damon with a relaxed, assured grace. He's believable as a man who adored his wife, and he's believable - simultaneously, often in the same fragment of dialogue - as a man who might imagine himself loving again someday. "We Bought a Zoo" isn't the last word on grief, but it isn't meant to be. It's only a start.

    Wall Street Journal
    Matt Damon stars in, and gracefully carries, Cameron Crowe's family film about a widower who gives his two kids a new life by buying a rural house that comes with a zoo. It's really an achievement, when you stop to think of it, for Mr. Damon to switch from tough-as-nails Jason Bourne to tender-hearted Benjamin Mee, but he makes the transition look effortless.

    New York Times
    What Mr. Crowe’s films also share is his delicate touch with actors. Ms. Zellweger has never been better than in “Jerry Maguire,” which found both Mr. Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. at their most appealing. Matt Damon, the star of “We Bought a Zoo,” is a stronger actor than those with whom Mr. Crowe often works, and the combination might initially seem off. Mr. Crowe leans toward lightness while Mr. Damon, who can do glib as well as the next star, likes to roam around in the shadows, so that even his comedies carry a sting (as with “The Informant!”).But this seriousness, which complicates his boyishness with pathos, gives ballast to a movie that might have drifted along on charm.

    The creaks, groans and clichés of the screenplay, which was written by Aline Brosh McKenna (“27 Dresses”) and reworked by Mr. Crowe are, however, finally outstripped by the attractiveness of the performers, those with two legs and more, and especially by the tenderness that Mr. Damon brings to his role. Mr. Crowe doesn’t linger over Benjamin’s despondency.

    Rather, he gives it gentle due in passages that remind you that there’s often a strain of melancholia in this director’s work, a sadness that suggests that Mr. Crowe intimately knows the darkness and uses his movies as a way to resist (or deny) it. Whatever the case, you may not buy his happy endings, but it’s a seductive ideal when all of God’s creatures, great and small, buxom and blond, exist in such harmony.

  • Various interviews: A Jewish pop quiz at MTV. Cameron calls Matt the modern James Stewart at Collider and praises him at Coming Soon. Jonsi's animated video for Gathering Stories from the Zoo soundtrack is at NY magazine. Matt interviewed at ABC about how he will convince his kids to go to college when he dropped out. Matt and Cameron from Buzzinefilm:

    SA: What has been your favorite scene of all movies you’ve watched in your life?
    Matt: Boy, that’s a tough question. There’s a scene in Rain Man that I always loved, with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. At the very end of the movie, when Tom Cruise realizes that he has to send him back, and it’s just this dolly shot that pushes in, and they’re framed against this window, and it’s the two of them – it’s like a 50/50 shot, and it’s going in, and Cruise is explaining to him that he meant what he said and he had a great time with him, and at the end of it, he says, “I like having you for my brother,” and there’s this long pause, and he says, “I like having you for my big brother.” And maybe it’s because I have a big brother, that just always got to me. I don’t know if it’s the greatest scene of all time, but for me, it’s up there.

    SA: I understand that there is a lot of music passion in the film and the soundtrack, and you were talking with Cameron about that. What are you playing on your iPod, or what’s your favorite music?
    Matt: I would always have said that The Beatles were my desert island band, if you could give me one band. But I think that they’ve been supplanted by U2. If I had one band that I could take the complete works of, I would take U2 to a desert island.

    SA: I know you’re used to working with big stars, but how was work with Matt and Scarlett on this film?
    Cameron: Matt Damon is gonna be a wonderful director. He’s worked with so many really great directors, and I think he took lessons from all of them, so he’s the consummate pro but has the enthusiasm of a teenager. Same with Scarlett. You’d think that after all the movies and projects they’ve worked on, they’d be like, “What’s the next shot?” No. They’re alive with the opportunity of telling the story, and that’s consistent with all of the people that have become super famous making movies. The joy of doing it comes through in their performance, and it’s real. It’s who they are.

  • From an interview with Maggie Elizabeth Jones and her family:

    And then there's Matt Damon, of course. He couldn't hold a candle to Crystal the monkey, but he was pretty cool to work with, too, she said.

    "Matt Damon was wonderful," said Maggie's mom. "Since he has daughters who are close in age to Maggie, it made it easy for him to play the dad role. He and Maggie would joke around and talk to each other in British accents between takes. It was a lot of fun for everyone to bring their families to the set."

    "Matt would bring his family, so it was always a real family atmosphere," said Maggie's dad. "In fact, on one Saturday our family and Matt's family and Cameron Crowe all went to the Magic Castle, and another person from Newnan, Ken Scott, who's a magician, was performing there. It was really nice to know that even though these are big, Hollywood people that they can hang out with the rest of us. It was kind of neat."

  • Cameron talked about Matt at Access Atlanta:

    Q: Why did you think Matt Damon fit this role?
    Cameorn: I saw his parenting skills and how much he cared about that part of his life. He's one of those guys who's not always looking over your shoulder while you're talking to him, waiting to see who's coming in the restaurant, what bigwig he's going to connect with.

    He's the guy with a BlackBerry going off about when homework starts ... You see this guy who's just filled with natural human nobility and also takes care of his job and also takes care of stuff at home. And I just thought that guy -- pounding on the kid's door saying [as Benjamin does to Dylan in the movie], ‘I'll teach you how to shave!" -- I can't make the movie without him.

  • Cameron talks about how Matt was the best "sexy, sad dad" at SheKnows, and Matt says his risk-taking days are behind him now he has kids.
  • 20 comments or Leave a comment
    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 24th, 2011 05:31 am (UTC) (Link)
    Thanks so much for all the interviews and photos and everything you find that you post! Really looking forward to seeing We Bought A Zoo on Boxing Day.
    Merry Christmas!
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 24th, 2011 05:44 am (UTC) (Link)
    Thanks Karen and seasons greetings to everybody. Lots of great interviews appeared in the last couple of days. And the Charlie Rose interview seems to be good (mention of John Krasinski etc) - it airs at 2am Sunday on Bloomberg in Oz.

    I'm going to a Christmas Day showing and expect a mostly empty theater (it's not traditional to attend movies on Christmas Day in Australia). And then it will be Happy Feet 2 on Boxing Day.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 24th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

    we bought a zoo

    I saw the movie yesterday and loved it. Matt seemed so sincere in the part.
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 25th, 2011 09:36 am (UTC) (Link)

    Zoo reactions

    Saw Zoo tonight. It's really interesting to consider why Matt agreed to do this movie, which is an old-fashioned, solid family drama that doesn't really appeal to modern audiences (as seen by the box office). It's quite long and slow in parts, but builds well and I thought the ending scenes were fantastic.

    I'm not sure who the intended audience is for the movie, but it's pretty clear the slapstick movie advertised to US audiences is very different from the family drama that's on screen (and there are no back-flipping monkeys in the film). The advertising campaign as a whole was clearly pretty disastrous, and ended up appealing to no-one. (Gift-wrapped zebras, really?)

    It's pretty clear that Matt has changed the dialogue in certain parts to his own normal speech (preferred words etc).

    Alexia is credited as a zoo staffer in the credits.

    ETA: Just found an interview with Elle Fanning where she talks about Alexia - from the New Paper:

    Question: It sounds like he makes the experience upbeat and interesting.

    Elle: He is great. The mood was so relaxed on set and he always had his music playing. The tone of the whole set was great; he wanted it to feel like a family.

    His kids and Matt Damon's kids came on set and everyone felt united, as though we were all doing something special together.

    Matt's daughter Alexia has become my friend and she has a little part in the movie. We had a great time together. Every day was so cool.

    Edited at 2011-12-25 10:02 am (UTC)
    loganx2 From: loganx2 Date: December 26th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
    Saw the movie and liked it. I thought Matt and Scarlett had good chemistry and I liked that they seem to get along well in real life also. Fox really messed up the advertising for this and it really hurt the movie imo. It should not have been released this weekend, there were just too many movies out this weekend and it was never going to find an audience. It has an A audience score so it will have good word of mouth but it too late for it to be any kind of box office success. The trailer and the tv commercials were terrible. If Matt wasnt in the movie there would be no way I would have gone to see it from the advertising. It's funny or not that many of Matt's movies seems to get screwed over the terrible way the studio markets it. I know many people are complaining that matt should stick to action type movies but I like that he changes it up. He would be bored with just doing Bourne type movies. We are going to have a whole year of no Matt movies and I dont know what I am going to do. It's probably for the best though I think people need a little less matt.
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 26th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)
    Agreed on pretty much everything. It was a good movie (with many script flaws), and a really strong and likeable performance by Matt, but terrible marketing all round, including the title. It's surprising that a movie that is so well regarded by the paying audience was bungled so badly. I'm interested to see if the movie does better internationally where the marketing wasn't so cutesy.

    I think Matt will be severely muzzled by studios next time round. They pushed him hard to promote the movie (when they likely knew the outcome) but he didn't sometimes help the cause. A quiet and humble 12 months would be welcome.
    loganx2 From: loganx2 Date: December 26th, 2011 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
    I love Matt and I mostly agree with his political views and his right to say them, but sometimes I just wish he would hush for the sake of his movies. I really dont know the degree that it hurts the movies, but I would think it would hurt Water.org and that's pretty important. Like I said he has a right to say what he wants, Im not one of those people that think actors shouldnt have an opinion, but I think he really should every once in a while say Im not going to talk politics right now. I really hope Elysium is a hit. AB and Contagion were mild hits, but Matt is going to need a money movie soon. Liberace is going to be Michaels movie and "Gold mist" probably wont be a huge hit.
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 26th, 2011 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)
    I think there will be a lot of commentary in the weeks ahead about how the movie was affected by both the Bourne and political comments. I don't think it was sigificant, but it will be a talking point for a while.

    I do love that he chooses not to do an easy hit, but he needs to be a little smarter, and not so emotional, with his choices. And consider the quality of the script again, rather then the name of the director.

    Bring on ComicCon.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 26th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Matt's politics and the marketing

    Right wing websites will trumpet anytime something of Matt's (or,for that matter, George Clooney's) doesn't do well and attempt to attribute it to his politics. But it's easy to see how ridiculous that argument is. Somehow when he as a hit, that argument completely disappears.

    Or should we attribute the phenomenal and ongoing successs of Good Will Hunting to the public's love affair with Howard Zinn?

    All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, and that's the end of the argument as far as I'm concerned.

    It is shocking how a studio can grab defeat from the jaws of victory with bad marketing. The Cinemascore for this movie is over the moon. People love it. But when I mentioned to my neice at Christmas dinner that I'd be seeing 'Zoo' soon she said, "Oh, I wouldn't see that movie" and her attitude came strictly from the trailer and advertising. And she really likes Matt! She didn't want to see one of her favorites in what the advertising told her was a lame movie.

    The studio killed all awards talk in one blow with their first trailer.

    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 26th, 2011 04:27 am (UTC) (Link)

    Another point of view

    Interesting and insightful observations on the marketing strategy for the movie.
    On another note, I have very different political and social views than Matt (conservative, republican, executive), but what makes me such a huge fan of Matt is his passion, his intellect, and the fact he wears his heart on his sleeve. His politics and statements may be sometimes radical but it does not stop me from being a fan of his movies nor does it stop me from supporting his foundation. I respect the fact that he doesn't play any games with what he believes. I also think he is the best actor on the planet.

    Thanks for all of your hard work to keep this site interesting and informative. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 26th, 2011 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Another point of view

    Thanks K. And thanks to all readers for their contributions during the year.

    Has anybody else read that Matt and Cameron came up with the '20 seconds of courage' line together?


    And although Damon would probably never say so, Crowe noted that, “We wrote that line together… but he’s shy about it… I went to Hawaii to visit him while he was on vacation with his family. He said, ‘Come over and we’ll work on the script.’ So we did and it ended up being one of the greatest collaborative experiences I’ve ever had, and that line came out of it.”

    Sidenote: Happy Feet 2 was just wacky.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 26th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)


    ..."I do love that he chooses not to do an easy hit, but he needs to be a little smarter, and not so emotional, with his choices. And consider the quality of the script again, rather then the name of the director"...
    I agree with your comment.
    In my country, "Zoo" opens on January 5 and of course I'll go see it. After all, the movie has 3 of my favorite things: children, animals and Matt!! (◕◡◕)
    Happy Holidays.

    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 27th, 2011 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Zoo

    It's a sweet movie, and doing OK.

    Matt could attend the Heat v Celtics game on Tuesday in Miami.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 27th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Zoo

    At least Zoo had a pick up over the weekend.

    "... among those making a surge was Fox comedy We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon. It saw ticket sales jump 139 percent from Saturday to Sunday"

    I don't understand why Fox bothered to release it on the Friday, when its target family audience would inevtiably be otherwise engaged both Fri and Sat.

    From: (Anonymous) Date: December 27th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Zoo

    At long last I finally had a chance to see Zoo today. Took my husband and my mom and we all enjoyed it very much. My husband and I agree that while it may not technically be 'as good' a movie as the Descendants (which we also saw this week) it was the more enjoyable movie-going experience of the two. It's a great answer to the post-Christmas blahs.

    The ending had me tearing up. The theater was pretty full for early afternoon on a weekday and the audience was very responsive, laughing a lot, and occasionally exclaiming over how cute the little girl was. I think it's one of Matt's very best performances, and really shows his range. As we were walking out my mom (whom I've obviously trained very well!) said, "He is such a wonderful actor! He can do anything - any kind of movie." Lol. Like mother like daughter.

    Thanks for all the hard work you've put into the site this year. I really enjoy coming to check it out.

    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 28th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Zoo

    Thanks Paula, and thanks for contributing to the site, and indeed wise words from your mother.

    Descendants hasn't opened here yet, but I'm interested to compare them - Roger Ebert did in his Zoo review and Cameron Crowe calls Descendants his favorite movie of the year.

    The Charlie Rose interview is really good and includes discussion about working with John Krasinski (and how much Matt admires John), George, his friendship with Ben etc. Cameron and Matt really seem to be interested in each others lives and words.

    Are there any new U2 documentaries coming out, or was Matt referring to something he could be narrating?

    Edited at 2011-12-28 03:51 am (UTC)
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: December 27th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Charlie Rose

    Matt and Cameron Crowe's interview on Charlie Rose is now online:


    And this is a pretty endearing junket interview with the cast from a guy who loved the movie. Love Matt's honesty at the start:


    Edited at 2011-12-28 03:42 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 1st, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

    ur a perfectioist

    your work is great and you travel from one type to another in the selection of movie you choose ..that makes you interesting although i would like you do be the" Born" all the time and just thought i would add your great in it!!!!
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: January 1st, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Re: ur a perfectioist

    This is a fan site only.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 1st, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

    missed..but good at it

    You would be missed but I would like to see you direct a good movie......and write some good material. Also, I love seeing you on the web, tv,( even though I think you are taking your heart in your hands with some of the talk shows; what I'm trying to say is too much is over done. I don't want you to be the over done star because of talk shows..........get a good guy to protect your company.......just a comment of one who thinks you are a kind and honest person...also u look like my son...and i would tell him the same thing................if I'm wrong, ignore....
    20 comments or Leave a comment