By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com December 20, 2011 at 12:00PM
They are still, as far as we're aware, the best of pals, but it's hard not to see a vague sense of rivalry between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. After all, they arrived together, the disgustingly young stars and writers of "Good Will Hunting," winning an Oscar for their trouble with the script, and swiftly became Hollywood's hottest properties. Initially it was Affleck who looked to be the bigger star, with "Armageddon" and "Shakespeare in Love" arriving in quick succession, but he soon became stuck in the likes of "Paycheck" and "Gigli," while Damon became a megastar thanks to "The Bourne Identity" and has barely put a foot wrong since.
Now, Affleck's redeemed himself thanks to a pair of strong directorial efforts, "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town," with a third, "Argo," on the way in 2012. But not to be outdone, his former writing partner is getting in on the act, and is finally set to make his directorial debut next year. The as-yet-untitled project is based on an idea by author Dave Eggers (who also penned the scripts for "Where The Wild Things Are" and "Away We Go"), and is written by, and will star, Damon and "The Office" star John Krasinski, in a project about a salesman who arrives in a small town, which causes him to rethink his life.
Damon's prepping the film at present, and revealed to Kim Masters on KCRW's "The Business" (via The Film Stage), that he's managed to land one of the best actresses you could ask for for the project. He told Masters that "Frances McDormand is in it as well, and we're trying to round out the cast." We could have sworn that Damon & McDormand had worked together in the past, and they have, but only in the 1995 Tommy Lee Jones-helmed TV film "The Good Old Boys," although the pair clearly have several pals in common, most notably the Coen Brothers.
As for his directorial approach, Damon explained that he's become something of a sponge, watching all the great filmmakers he's worked with work, and says what the greats have in common is being "highly collaborative and they know they understand it’s a dictatorship, albeit a benevolent dictatorship. So they will make the final decision. As a result their egos, they’re not threatened at all by ideas. In fact they are really solicitous of everybody they’ve hired, every department. An idea can come from anywhere and it’s about creating an environment where ideas can really get expressed and they can sit there and cherry pick which ones they think will work and which ones won’t. At the end of the day they’re the arbiters of taste. So they all come with a plan, but they’re completely willing to ditch it if a better one presents itself.”
He's aware that you only get one shot at being an actor-turned-director, and that it's easy for the film to be dismissed as a vanity project if it doesn't come off: "I feel like there is more riding on this one than there will be on the second one that I direct because you only kind of get one chance to make a first impression, so that I think about a little bit, but again those aren’t thoughts that are necessarily helpful or that will make for a better movie.” But considering he's worked with everyone from Steven Spielberg to Martin Scorsese, from Clint Eastwood to Neill Blomkamp, on the just-wrapped sci-fi epic "Elysium," we're confident that he'll have learnt a thing or two.
The film should go before cameras in the spring, during Krasinski's hiatus on "The Office," while Damon will next be seen in Cameron Crowe's "We Bought A Zoo," which opens on Friday, while McDormand next crops up in Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" in May.