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Interview: Matt Damon Talks The Timing & Politics Of 'Promised Land' & How Ben Affleck Got Out Of Actor's Jail

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist January 4, 2013 at 11:40AM

This month, Matt Damon stars in Gus Van Sant’s eco-drama “Promised Land.” Seizing upon the hot-button issue of fracking, a dangerous and potentially environmentally hazardous method of getting natural gas out of deep subterranean pockets of earth, Damon plays an operative for the gas company who is sent to woo the citizens of a small, northern New York town into signing over their land for the process.
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Promised Land, Rosemarie Dewitt
Not that it's "The Sixth Sense," but can you go back and see his angle the whole time?
Yeah and we toyed with it as we were doing it. There's the scene in the bar where I buy him the beer. And he's like, "Do you think you have what it takes?" He's kind of assuming that I know who he is.

Do you have anything in mind for your directorial debut?
I have one project at Warner Bros. that they bought a year and a half ago ["Father Daughter Time"] that I talked about doing and I would like to do. And our company is getting a lot more submissions now that Ben has become the hottest director in town. So there should be some good stuff to develop.

Promised Land, Frances McDormand
Did his directing inspire you at all?
No, I mean we had both talked about it. He was forced into it, really, because he was in actor jail and couldn't get a job that he wanted. So that really limited his options five years ago so that’s why he started with "Gone Baby Gone." Once he had done that movie and it was received really well, he still wasn't getting acting jobs. So he rewrote "The Town" and was like, "Well, I'll direct it and be in it!" With "Argo" it was another great role, so it was another great two-punch for him. I think now what he wants to do is, he'll obviously direct again, but he wants to get some jobs from really good directors that he admires and just be an actor for hire.

And you guys are working on something together right?
The Whitey Bulger thing? Yeah we're developing it. Terence Winter is writing it, who's great. Hopefully something will come of it. Development is always tough but that story is tough too because it's tough to find a way in. There aren't really people to root for in Whitey Bulger's inner circle – they're murderous thugs who subsequently got fucking book deals and turned on each other. They're the worst people ever!

Matt Damon Elysium Header
You just got done with 'Elysium' reshoots right?
Yeah I had two days of reshoots. They literally had a bald cap made and they go, "Well, it'll take about three extra hours in the chair every morning but we can totally get away with it." And I was like, "No, I'd rather just shave my head." I didn't have a job this fall anyway.

So it was just minor tweaks?
Yeah just two days. It was just enough time to go, "Do I really want to shave my head?" But I realized I didn't have any job happening so there really wasn't any choice.

Is it going to be as cool as we all hope it is?
I think so. I think it's going to be pretty great. But people have such high hopes for Neill… He showed me some of the effects. It's pretty sick.

Are you planning to work with Paul Greengrass again?
Yeah. Whenever I can. Whenever I can. Apparently his movie he just did is brilliant, the one he just did with Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips." In fact, I had dinner with Paul a month ago in London and he said, "It's everything I wanted it to be." Which is insane that he said that. I have pretty high hopes for it.

Behind The Candelabra magazine scan header
And you just did the last Steven Soderbergh movie – how was that?
It was sad. It went incredibly well, I'm really proud of it. It's a wonderful movie.

When he comes back…
He'd better come back.

… You'll be there?
He knows I'm waiting. He knows I'll be there.

Is "Liberace" still on tap for Cannes?
Yes. We'd go to Cannes in May and then it'd premiere in Cannes also in May.

Have you seen it?
Yeah. I love it. I'm really happy with it. I'm dying to know what people think. I think it's pretty special. Michael is phenomenal.

"The Promised Land" is in wide release as of today, Friday, January 4th, 2013.

This article is related to: Promised Land, Interviews, Matt Damon


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