Casually dressed in a black T-shirt, denims and sporting a ponytail, Hollywood heartthrob Matt Damon, 44, is startlingly unstarry.
Making himself comfortable on a chair, overlooking the sea in a five-star hotel suit in Hong Kong, where we met him, he quickly adds, "I've always wanted long hair." Charming and witty, he spoke to us about his upcoming film The Martian directed by Ridley Scott, where he plays astronaut Mark Watney, who gets stranded on Mars.
In the film, you speak of growing plants on Mars. Are you as curious in real life as well, someone with strong survival instincts?
No! If you drop me alone in Hong Kong, I would be in trouble, let alone Mars. No, I am definitely not the person who would survive. I mean I am an actor. Are you kidding me, if you drop me on Mars, I would be looking around for someone to bring me a cappuccino.
Your role in this movie reminds one of your cameo in Interstellar.
(Smiles) Yes, they are in similar circumstances. I had taken a year-and-a-half off and the only thing I did was the cameo in Interstellar and then this role came along. I said to Ridley when I first met with him, "I just played a guy stranded on a planet. You want me to play a guy stranded on a planet!" We laughed about it but the movies are so different that it felt like apples and oranges. The circumstances are the same but it's a very different movie.
When do we see you in India next?
I came there in the fall of 2013. This year I am slammed. I am shooting near Hong Kong and then I go to Europe to do the next Bourne movie, so probably next year in 2016. I'd love to take my kids across the world so that they can start experiencing travel; they are getting old enough...certainly my teenagers.
While he has made a living playing the winning everyman on film, Matt Damon has an otherworldly presence in person. It’s those icy blue eyes, so bright they seem unreal; but there’s also that smile, so easy it seems like something Hollywood hasn’t changed.
He flashes that quick wit when he recounts asking Scott in jest on the set about the presence of extraterrestrial life. “I would joke, ‘Hey, is this the scene where we’re going to see the Martian? No, he’d say, you are the Martian!’”
The Martian's release date has been bumped up to October 2nd. When Aditya Sood (producer of the film) emailed to let me know he said "this is the film distribution equivalent of the Rich Purnell maneuver".
Imagine being 10 years old and your parents tell you Christmas has been moved up two months. That's how I'm feeling right now. Woohoo!
Why did they move it? I can only speculate. The trailer had overwhelmingly positive feedback, so they're probably feeling confident about how the film will perform. Money now is better than money later so why not release earlier? Also, they probably didn't want to go head-to-head with Mockingjay and the new Bond film, which both release shortly before Nov 25.
Mostly, though, I suspect it's because the earlier release date puts more distance between The Martian and Star Wars, giving Watney a chance to keep your attention for longer before Han Solo gut-punches him and takes the spotlight.