By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood April 24, 2012 at 6:10PM
Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land," written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, begins production this week in Pennsylvania. Participant is co-producing with Focus Features, which holds worldwide rights; the film will be shopped at Cannes and is slated for release next winter.
Damon and Krasinski are also producing with Chris Moore, who also co-produced Van Sant's "Good Will Hunting," which ignited Damon's career, earned an Oscar nom for Van Sant and a screenwriting win for Damon and Ben Affleck. With this team and a cast that also includes Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, Scoot McNairy (he's starring with Brad Pitt in "Killing Them Softly"), Titus Welliver and Frances McDormand, the project should be an attractive buy at Cannes.
Damon and Krasinski's screenplay is an adaptation of a story by author Dave Eggers; see synopsis below. Krasinski said that he and Damon “wanted to write a story about American identity. In all of today’s political and economic rhetoric, I feel people often lose sight of the deeper, core principles of what defines us as a country. We knew we needed to find a contemporary issue that would serve as the backdrop to the story but, more importantly, allow us to fully explore this idea.”
Mr. Damon plays Steve Butler, a corporate salesman who arrives in a rural town with his sales partner, Sue Thomason (Ms. McDormand). With the town having been hit hard by the economic decline of recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company’s offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Mr. Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (Mr. Krasinski) who counters Steve both personally and professionally.