When I fished about for Damon stories among his friends and colleagues, what came back were ultimately just confirmations of what a nice guy he is. Words like "lovely, intelligent, hard-working, humble" (Julia Stiles), or "genuine, talented and fucking funny, even though he doesn't know it" (Kristen Wiig). Clooney said "he's a terrific actor and a great guy, but you already knew that." Yes we did. But thanks anyway. It's yet further confirmation that niceness is core to Damon's brand.
The fun started in November 2014 in Jordan, shooting The Martian (2015) with Scott, which brought Damon his fourth Oscar nomination. Then they flew to China for five months for The Great Wall (2016) with Yimou — "a giant monster movie basically, set in 1100AD". They then moved to Tenerife for this summer's Jason Bourne — which also took them to Greece, Berlin, London and Las Vegas. And then, after six measly days rest, they shipped off to Toronto for Downsizing, by Alexander Payne (Sideways) and due out next year, which is why we're here.
"It's a really big arthouse movie," says Damon. "Like a Charlie Kaufman movie. It might be the best movie I end up being in in my career."
Set in the near future in Nebraska, Damon is an occupational therapist whose marriage to Kristen Wiig has seen better days: they can't afford the house they want, it's hard to make ends meet. However, Norwegian scientists have discovered how to shrink people down to 5ins in height as a way to offset climate change (tiny people consume less). So they "downsize", because big houses are even bigger when you're that small. But Wiig's character bails out at the last minute, leaving Damon at 5ins tall — and now she wants a divorce. "In one scene I have to sign the divorce papers, and I'm literally standing on the contract," he laughs. "It's such a great metaphor for divorce!"
Damon grew accustomed to watching himself, since he was always considered as much a writer as an actor. He was frequently invited into the problem-solving huddle with directors and producers, to watch dailies and cuts. And the experience shows. Neill Blomkamp, Elysium director, says Damon has "directorial instincts, he gets the bigger picture." And from a sheer skills perspective, his praise is higher still. "He would do the first couple of takes exactly how I asked. And if I wanted options for the editing room — he was like a computer. Anything I asked, he would just do. On a professional talent level, that was the first time I'd run into that."