Matt Damon on working with Ridley Scott and why being an astronaut could never have been a career choice for him
Versatility has become Matt Damon’s signature. The actor is as comfortable playing the rogue secret agent in the Bourne series as he is donning the role of the villain in The Departed. In his latest box office outing, he plays an astronaut stranded on Mars, pitting his brains against the Red Planet’s inhospitable environs. But while his role has been getting him applause, off-screen he’s been caught in a controversy or two—the latest being his stance on how racial diversity in films should be restricted to just the cast and not the crew. Shrugging aside the faux pas for the moment, Damon talks about his latest release.
How did you come on board for The Martian?
I read the script and really liked it. I went to meet Drew Goddard, who had written it and was going to direct it. But before we made a deal, he got offered another movie. So I kind of let it go. Then about a week later, I got a phone call saying that Ridley Scott wanted to do it, so I raced over to his office and that was that.
Had you met before?
No, I’d never met him, which was odd because we’ve both been kicking around here for a while. The meeting was pretty easy—he basically just went, ‘We’ve never met before.’ I said, ‘That’s right.’ Then he went, ‘This script is great.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Why the hell aren’t we making this thing?’ That was kind of the entire meeting.
Ridley is a very talented artist. Did he sketch how a scene would look?
Yeah, constantly. That’s his way of describing something. He’ll sketch out a frame and put a head in it, or put a body in it, and go, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to be like.’ He also sketches out storyboards, you know, so you get all these storyboards before you even start shooting. You have a really good idea of what he wants to do.
What did you like about the story?
It was really the character. What writerAndy Weir does so well in the novel, and what Drew captured in the adaptation, was all the tension of being in this horrible situation, but also the sense of humour that the character has. There’s a lightness that makes it really entertaining, without sacrificing any of the intensity.
It could have been a very different film without that lightness.
Yeah, I don’t think it would be that fun to watch if it were a guy just white-knuckling it for two hours. I think that’s a very different movie, a very different experience.
Did it make you think about whether you could’ve been an astronaut?
Sure, yeah, it’s tough to do a movie like this without thinking about some of that stuff. And no, I don’t think I’m built for it. Luckily there are some people who are.
What kind of personality do they need to do that remarkable job?
It’s that same spirit that the pioneers had. They crossed into the West, and many of them died doing it. It’s people who push the envelope. They’re explorers, and that’s what we need in order to keep going.
And is it true you’re going to do another Bourne?
Yeah, I’m leaving next week to start another Bourne and I’m looking forward to it.
The Martian is expected to release on October 2.