Damon just completed a grueling shoot on Martin Scorsese's Boston-set "The Departed" - is he ready to sign up for a "Departed" sequel?
"Well, without giving too much of the movie away, I don't know who would be in the sequel. It's a bloodbath."
It's a Gilliam spectacle, complete with moving trees, CGI wolves and bad hair. Damon plays the cynical brother, Will, although Gilliam initially wanted him to be the earnest Jacob. "I look innocent," jokes Damon, "so people assume I am." But the actors wanted to test their creative skills and switch roles, and the director obliged.
"Matt is a believable character whatever he does," says Gilliam, "and his performances are very subtle. Since he wanted to play Will, I thought, 'Let him be Ben Affleck for a day. Let him be the kind of guy who strides into a room.' He really rose to that. I enjoyed seeing him strut."
Damon laughs when he hears the comparison to his pal. The two men, who have shared billing in half a dozen films, remain close friends. Although Affleck didn't invite him to his recent wedding to Jennifer Garner, Damon forgives him.
"They had to do it quickly and quietly," he explains. (Affleck and Garner are expecting a baby this fall.) "It's a reaction to how insane [celebrity coverage] has gotten. [The wedding] was compromised because you don't have all the people there you wanted. But I got a phone call."
The situation seems to perfectly symbolize the pair's life choices: While Affleck has seemed to enjoy the fame that ensued after "Good Will Hunting," Damon has deliberately avoided it. "I found myself getting more publicly shy when the gala events and big crowds started," he says. "Some people embrace it. To me, it's not worth enough to risk my private life being public."
But Damon is quick to defend his friend. "Ben's with someone who's really famous," says Damon. "There's nothing he can do." When reminded that he used to date Winona Ryder, Damon says, "We stayed inside. But that's no way to live. Now I feel I have an unspoken deal with the paparazzi: 'I won't do anything publicly interesting if you agree not to follow me.'
"I'm not being a monk. I live my life in New York. I have a girlfriend [Luciana Barroso]. But it's not cost-effective for paparazzi to follow us. They can get one picture of us walking down the street."
With the political thriller "Syriana" and Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" completed and a Robert De Niro project, "The Good Shepherd," filming, can Damon now afford to step back and start a family?
"I'd love to be a dad," he says. "I hope I'd be great at it. That's every man's fear, yet his most important job.
"I'd probably have to take some time off and focus on it. I'm certainly ready to slow down. But there's a difference between taking your foot off the gas and hitting the brake. I think I could take my foot off the gas."
Q: What did Matt Damon and Heath Ledger bring to the film?
They brought intelligence, believability. They’re the core of the thing. If they’re brotherhood didn’t work, there wouldn’t be a movie there. And they just clicked very quickly. And they’re very different people. It was just nice…what I loved most of all was basically, cast you against type and watch what happens. And I’m always pushing for things. "Why not do this?" And I rely on actors to say, "No, the character wouldn’t do that." I really do, because I don’t push them to the limit. And sometimes I’ll say, "Oh, that’s kind of interesting. I’ll go that way." But you want actors who are really solidly grounded. It works better that way. I love pushing things as far as possible, but I want enough intelligent people around me to say, "Bastard! Stop there!"
Q: What was it like having Heath and Matt go against type?
I just thought it would be great for Matt to be Ben Affleck for a while. (Laughs) Heath was interesting. It was the first time I'd met him. Because I'd seen his work actually, in Monster’s Ball was particularly good. He was fantastic. But some of his other stuff, he was playing these really straight, stalwart, stand-up, heroic guys. And I met him and he’s not like that. He’s got all these jerks and twitches. And I said, "I love that," and he says, "Great. That’s the guy." And so I just encouraged him to do more and more. And he’s like a man made out of rubber. He’s everywhere, he’s always... and there’s that buzz. He’s got an extraordinary amount of energy. And it’s nice because Matt is much more contained. Matt holds it in. And I pushed him in certain areas where he’d burst out. And he’s solid. Heath can do this dance all over the place. I mean, Heath loved it because he doesn’t get to play those kinds of things.