Matt Damon Q & A
Matt Damon is back as expert assassin Jason Bourne in the smart, action-packed hit The Bourne Supremacy. Academy Award winner Damon (Good Will Hunting) reprises his role as the former CIA trained perfect assassin on the run from his former handlers. Damon is joined by his Bourne Identity co-stars Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), Julia Stiles (Mona Lisa Smile), and Brian Cox (Troy), as well as triple Oscar-nominee Joan Allen (The Contender, Nixon, The Crucible) in the role of determined CIA operative Pamela Landry.
A few years ago when you spoke about the first movie you were adamant that you wouldn't do another one?
Yeah, I was pretty sure I wouldn't.
What made you change your mind?
Well, what I said then was that I didn't want to do it unless we could make it as good as the first one, because there are so many sequels that are disappointing. And just for me as a movie fan, if I go to a sequel to a movie I really liked and I feel like it was made cynically, as a money-grab by the studio, I end up really resenting the studio and the filmmakers that made it, plus it's just very hard to make a good sequel. I had a friend who said something really funny to me. He said "you have to be very careful about the sequel stuff because there've only been three sequels in history that are as good as or better than the original. He said the New Testament is better than the Old Testament, Huck Finn is better than Tom Sawyer, and The Godfather II is better than The Godfather.
Who said that?
A good friend of my family. I guess what changed my mind was…well, there were a couple of things; first of all that Paul Greengrass wanted to do it. Once I started to talk to Paul about what his vision of the movie was and heard, not only his enthusiasm, but also how he intended to do it, and keeping in mind that Bloody Sunday was one of my favourite movies of the last decade. I felt like it was something I couldn't say no to. And on the script side, there were three tent-pole moments in the movie that I thought were really bold for a sequel like this.
Did you approach your character differently this time?
No, it was pretty similar. It was interesting. I've played the same character on stage before, but never in a movie. And it was really helpful I guess. For the first movie I had about six months to prepare which is a really long time considering you can get a play up in a month. Physically the most important thing that came out of the first film was an idea that Doug Liman had, which was that the character should walk like a boxer. So I boxed for six months and it really changed me, not only physically but I don't know if it's a more self-assured gait or the way that you just kind of stand and listen to somebody. But it really had a subtle impact on that and I thought it was really right for the character so that was the first thing I started doing.
What was the most dangerous stunt you had to on set?
I did as many of the stunts as I could, the whole stunt team encouraged me to do absolutely everything that I could which was great. The water scene was the most nervous I've ever been on a set though because to drown is a very human fear, although I don't know if that was the most dangerous because you can pass out under water and survive for a couple of minutes and there were safety divers everywhere. But having said that I don't want to be one of those actors who says 'I do all my own stunts' because those people are full of s**t and if there's anything that's at all dangerous they get the professionals to do it.
Are you a new kind of action hero with a brain and a heart?
What's my opinion on being the new kind of action hero? I doubt that these two movies will mean that I only do action movies now. When I choose a movie I try to make it smarter, try to make it different, try to make it interesting and try to make it be about the character. In both of the Bourne movies we wanted to have them be character-driven action movies where the action grows organically out of the story so you're not setting your watch by the next explosion.
My theory on action movies is that they're like porn movies; a porn movie's got really bad writing, really bad acting, really thinly drawn characters and they have a scene where they sit there and say, "Hey I'm the milkman," and you know what's going to happen, and then you get the action, and then when the action's over you get another stupid scene, "Hey, I'm the mailman."
But I've never wanted to do the same kind of movie over and over. So my theory on it all is that I'm going to try to dodge being labelled and keep doing what I'm doing. I really like the fact that I can do a movie like this and then turn around and do Ocean's 12 or Syriana or Stuck on You. It's that that makes it interesting to me, things constantly changing is what makes me like to go to work.
Can you talk about your role in Ocean's 12 as well as the other movie you're doing, The Informant?
Sure, in Ocean's 12, I play Linus Caldwell again, the plot focuses on this master thief in Europe, played by Vincent Cassell, who wants to challenge us, he wants to prove that he's the greatest thief in the world and we're just a fluke. So we're forced to compete with him because we have a certain amount of time to get some money back or we're going to go to jail or worse.
The Informant is a Steven Soderberg movie, based on a real New York Times best selling book that came out a couple years ago by Kirk Eichenwald. It's a true story about a corporate whistleblower named Mark Whittaker who's an incredibly fascinating guy who basically wore a wire for two years as a high level executive at Archer Daniels Midland who were in a price fixing scam with some other huge international corporations. It turned out that he had a whole agenda of his own and he possibly had some mental health issues; it's a pretty amazing true story.
What was it like working with Brazil director Terry Gilliam?
Working with Terry, on Brothers Grimm, was exactly what I hoped it would be like. It was great. He shot mostly wide angle lenses. It's kind of mad. If you're in a close-up you can hope for a 17mm lens in your face, maybe a 21. It just absolutely takes in the entire world. And the production designer is a guy named Guy Diaz and he's going to be a superstar. He helped build the look of this world in a way that was just mind-blowing. It really is straight out of Terry's brain.
He built these huge sets, we took over five of the six stages in Prague and built an indoor forest, built a village on a part of the backlot that had never been used so that Terry could shoot 360 degrees. There were trees put in places where you couldn't see the cityscape in the background. It was just a massive kind of beautifully designed set and Terry just got in there and played with it. We shot for 110 days I think, It really was everything I could've hoped for. He's so passionate about what he does, becomes so deeply connected to what he's shooting. I think that's why some people on the studio side say he's crazy. He's far from crazy. He's a true artist I think.
Have you ever turned down anything that became a movie later?
A ton of them, yeah. Well, I don't want to tell you because they were all smart moves on my part but I'd feel bad because somebody did do the movie and it did come out...
Anything you've regretted turning down?
Nothing yet. Nothing I've ever regretted turning down.
A superhero movie?
No, I'm sick of those movies. I don't think there's a superhero I'd really want to play.
And finally do you think there going to be a third Bourne film?
I'm considering it, but I do feel like I did last time. I'm very happy to leave it at this. I'm really happy with how it came out. It was a lot of pressure for the creative team, we all shared that feeling that we didn't want to make a disappointing sequel to a movie that we really liked. But to go and do a third film we would really have to get a great script. The third book is called The Bourne Ultimatum and he feels to me very much like he's given his ultimatum at this point. But who knows.