Q: I've read that there was some decision made that George Clooney would not be entered in the best actor Oscar race for "Syriana" but would try to compete for best supporting actor.
A: I don't know anything about that. It's an ensemble film. What is so great about his performance is that he blends in with everybody else. No one is greater than the other. Matt Damon and George Clooney, believe me, within the power structure of Hollywood, could take the movie. They could demand more scenes, force less scenes on other people. But they were really generous and didn't do that. They worked to make the ensemble work. I think they deserve a lot of credit for leaving $20 million in pay on the table so that the movie could get made.
Matt Damon has plans for the evening, and he's dreading it.
He has to attend the glitzy New York premiere of director Stephen Gaghan's political thriller "Syriana," in which Damon plays an energy analyst caught up in Middle East intrigue. Sounds like an exciting evening, but Damon is not a red-carpet kind of guy.
Since winning an Oscar in 1998 for co-writing (with Ben Affleck) the screenplay for "Good Will Hunting," he has pretty much shunned the bright lights and tabloid headlines for a low-key acting career that has had its share of ups ("Saving Private Ryan," "Oceans 11" and the "Bourne" films) and downs ("The Brothers Grimm" and "The Legend of Bagger Vance").
His career is up right now with this weekend's release of "Syriana," and three more prestige projects in the works -- "The Good Shepherd," directed by Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant."
One of the most well-liked actors in Hollywood, Damon's personal life also is heading in the right direction. He's bought a new home, is engaged to a woman with a 7-year-old daughter and has quit smoking.
Q. How long did it take you to figure out what "Syriana" meant?
A Pretty quickly because I asked.
Q. Why don't you enlighten me?
A. It's the name think tanks have come up with for the dream state you'd have with a unified Middle East.
Q. You're working with Scorsese and De Niro. That's some pretty heavy company you're keeping these days.
A. You're telling me. If I mess this up, I'm done.
Q. Why are you working so much?
A. These are things I can't say no to. It's as simple as that.