Matt, the especially busy man (pun in Italian meaning the same as "especially busy man" and "special secret agent" (difficult to translate)
By Claudio Masenza, in CIAK issue February 2006
In Syriana (on our screens on Feb. 24th), the very requested actor Matt Damon is playing again with friend George Clooney. In The Good Shepherd directed by De Niro, he works for the CIA, whilst in the coming The Departed by Scorsese he'll play a gangster. And in his future there’s also a third film about Jason Bourne’s adventures. In the meantime he got married and soon will be the father of a baby girl. Matt tells Ciak about his golden moment.
Very good in the role of a father, an expert of energy resources in Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, produced by George Clooney, Matt Damon has already finished two important upcoming films: The Departed by Scorsese, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson, and The Good Shepherd by Robert De Niro, with Angelina Jolie.
And success is good to him. The shy boy with a smile that knows no boundaries is turning into a self confident man, aware of his great acting talent. It's only surprising he took so long, considering that in 1998 he won an Oscar with friend Ben Affleck for the screenplay of Good Will Hunting. But whilst Affleck's career has slowed down remarkably, due to a series of "artistic accidents", Damon's success has been more meditated and unstoppable. Now the third chapter of Jason Bourne saga is waiting for him, The Bourne Ultimatum, which will come in connection with the birth of his child with wife Luciana Barroso. In his spare time, Matt studies Spanish and keeps an eye on the redecoration of his Miami home, where the couple will live. And he's happy to speak about Syriana, that on February 10 will be at the Berlin Film festival and on February 24 on Italian screens.
"How could I say no to George's offer? He's got some very compromising photos of me! If that wasn't enough, he knew that I had already accepted to play in Syriana. This is a solid risk: George is extremely cautious in his choices. Stephen Gaghan's script was very good and I didn't expect anything else from the author of Traffic, but we didn't have the same guarantees about the director. Generally, even if I like the script, when I am not 100% convinced about the director, I prefer to decline the offer. So far that has proved to be a good method. But George was ready to rely on Stephen and so was I."
A winning choice: Syriana, whose title comes from a CIA word defining the possible resetting of the Middle East areas, intrigues viewers with a thrilling and complex mix of politics, oil and terror that doesn't demand to be fully understood but undergone, like the horror that everyday comes into our lives through the media. It's one of those very rare films that leaves the audience with a desire to confront the topic, or discuss it.
"It was for me a chance to try and understand the role and the responsibilities of USA and the CIA in the Middle East" says Damon. "Gaghan allowed me to read almost half of the texts he's read himself about it and it was useful for me to keep track of the whole topic. In this film there aren't goodies or baddies: just a lot of people who stand in between these two extreme positions."
"Has his film influenced your judgement over the US foreign politics and the CIA?"
"It gave me information I didn't really want to know. On the set there was a sort of interrupted conversation between us all. Everyone had tried to get information about it, to know more about it. There are actors able to act very well without knowing a thing about what they are interpreting. That's not possible for me. My first goal is to be credible and to do that, I have to absorb as much info as possible about that role, that person I am playing. But these are topics out of our daily routine, and the information, even if not complete, is in front of our eyes. As far as the CIA is concerned, it's the central topic of The Good Shepherd as well, and if my opinion about it is partially changed, it's because the CIA is not any longer what it used to be in the 60s. Even if there are conservatives, they are very unsatisfied with the present US government. Like Clooney’s character in Syriana, an agent that recognises himself no longer as a citizen in his own country."
"Gaghan seems to be very interested by Arabic culture. Do you think his attempt to show a different point of view will be considered by many as being anti-American?"
"When our soldiers are sent aboard to fight a war, it's anti-American to try and deny the right to disagree with this action. President Bush instead of accusing of being anti American who doesn't agree with him, should re read the constitution of the country he is, so to speak, guiding. The whole nation has the right to the freedom of speaking, even if this man is allergic to criticism and would like to live in a separate place to avoid every possible confrontation."[Text as translated - unsure of correct meaning/translation]
"Do you think it'd have been possible to make Syriana right after September 11th? Do you think Hollywood is gaining back courage to deal with those topics?"
"I don't know. When you make a film like this you don't feel you're speaking on Hollywood's behalf. We simply decided to do it. Nobody asked himself if the current situation would be friendly to it. But your question is legitimate, especially when we think about the American press position. For three years nobody dared to ask questions to Mr Bush. Helen Thomas, the journalist that did that during a press conference, was asked to sit in the back lines afterwards. I think the situation is changing and cinema may reflect this change also. But writing and making a film is a process that takes years. Actually it'd have been interesting to know if someone would have accepted to produce Syriana in 2002".