"I'm not angst-free," he says. "I mean, look, I've got a lot riding on this movie."
He's also more thoughtful, and far more cerebral, than his regular-guy image might lead one to believe. The intellect he inherited from his university professor mother and onetime stock¬broker father seeps through — it's there in everything from his articulateness when he speaks about clean water (his most prominent cause) to his taste in books. He has just finished Passage of Power, the fourth part in Robert Caro's ongoing biography of Lyndon B. Johnson.
"[Bourne director] Paul Greengrass sent it to me a year or two ago and said it was his book of the year," he says. "I came across it on the shelf and I'd forgotten about it. I looked at [its size], and I went, 'No way.' But I read it in a couple of days. I could not put it down. It's such a comprehensive picture. I walked away thinking, 'This guy is so f—ing complicated.' And of course, we all are. We all are."
He looks at me directly, almost as if challenging me to draw the inevitable conclusion about him. He has a striking mixture of intensity and ease, of emotions held back and wry humor. He hints at moments of loneliness ("lonely in a sense of, you know, you have to make a huge effort to see friends") and restlessness ("We might move back to New York") without revealing more. I wonder whether he's always this contained or whether, like that volcano — dormant, but not extinct — his emotions might one day erupt.
It's impossible not to be intrigued by the apparent opposites that Damon and Affleck represent, one as seemingly held back as the other is emotionally flamboyant — as if one is the other's id unleashed and spinning out of control. But Damon rejects that impression.
"In the marketplace, everything gets exaggerated," says their agent, WME's Patrick Whitesell. "These guys are both super interested in doing a range of things — Matt's diversity as an actor and Ben going down the road of writing, acting and directing. They're all things that come from an artistic place, and they love the challenge of it. That spark is where they are very similar. And on a philanthropic level, they're both very, very committed."
He and Affleck are developing other movies together through their Pearl Street Films, including a Robert F. Kennedy biopic (with Damon playing RFK and A Royal Affair's Nikolaj Arcel writing and directing), though no start date has been set. "It's a wonderful script," he says, acknowledging that he's more focused on his next movie,Alexander Payne's Downsizing, which starts shooting early next year.
As to the actor's long-held plans to direct, they're some time from happening, especially while he is back at the peak of his acting career with Martian and the new Bourne. "I have to find the time," he says. "I have to find the right project that's going to fit with my life."
[Ridley] Scott remembers the humor Damon displayed in that meeting and how easygoing he was, qualities he valued during the intense shoots. "He is the most polite, nicest guy I've ever worked with," says the filmmaker. "There's no star attitude; there's no attitude at all, which is really refreshing and nice. But, underneath it, he's very sophisticated in his awareness of what he's doing."
He refuses to be apart from his family for more than two weeks at a time; either they come to see him or he returns to Los Angeles. He is still getting used to the idea that his eldest daughter, Alexia, 17 (his wife's from a previous marriage), will not join the rest of the family in visiting him when Bourne shifts to London in early October. "She'll stay back with her grandmother and in school," he says. "So that's a big one for us. We've never split the family."
"I remember thinking, in my early 30s, that I wouldn't [get married], you know?" he reflects. "I didn't think it was going to happen for me. My brother found his soul mate very young; he'd just turned 26 when they were married. He'd been married for 10 years by the time I even met my wife, and I looked at this really happy, wonderful marriage and kind of went, 'I guess that's not going to happen for me.' And then it did."
“He is one of the rare actors. There’s not a lot like him in this business,” said Scott. “When you are directing any movie, you need team players, and I always try to work in a team, and as a unit, and Matt understands that. He is a great team player and very kind. Apart from his incredible talent, he is a wonderful, caring person.”
Drew Goddard, screenwriter
“Some of my favourite moments in the movie are the things Matt did,” said Goddard. “It’s little and subtle but it all adds up. He’s one of the rare actors that you can point the camera at and leave on and magic happens.”