In 1987, when Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Ain't Got You", he was the biggest rock star in the world. He had vast estates in New Jersey and Beverly Hills, and he had not long returned from a honeymoon at Gianni Versace's villa in Lake Como. "Ain't Got You" was Springsteen's attempt to make a self-aware nod to his outrageous fortune, the Rembrandts on his walls, and how he had come a long way from his working-class upbringing.
Before he released it, Springsteen played "Ain't Got You" to Steve Van Zandt, his best friend since they were teenagers and a key cohort in his E Street Band. Van Zandt was appalled. "I'm, like: 'This is bullshit,'" he recalled telling Springsteen. "'People don't need you talking about your life. Nobody gives a shit about your life. They need you for their lives. That's your thing.'"
Time is up, the Berlin film festival premiere of Promised Land awaits, and Damon might need something smarter than his jeans and fleece. But before he leaves, I ask him what he makes of that dispute between Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt 25 years ago. His answer is revealing about his own career. "Steve Van Zandt is right," says Damon. "If you're trying to play an everyman, you've got to have the same concerns and be struggling with the same issues as the people who are coming to see the movie. A movie about a narcissistic, rich movie star would not work, unless you were making a take-down. If you are writing a story and trying to draw an audience to come and hear you tell it, it's got to in some way relate to them. Who wants to come and hear about your specific problems? It's not therapy – it's supposed to be a communal piece of entertainment."