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Matt Damon Adds Frances McDormand To Directorial Debut; Talks Influence From Working With Master Filmmakers

Posted by , on December 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm 

Since breaking out with Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon has gone from huge franchises (Bourne, Ocean’s films) to smaller independent projects (Margaret, Gerry) to prestige films (The Departed, Syriana) to bigger gambles like this year’s The Adjustment Bureau, all while having some fun (Stuck On You, Dogma). He will now be taking his career to the next level (as his pal Ben Affleck has done with success in The Town and Gone Baby Gone), by directing his first feature.

This fall we got some new details on the untitled drama developed by author Dave Eggers (Where the Wild Things Are) and co-written with The Office‘s John Krasinski. They will both star in the film that follows “a salesman who arrives in a small town only to have his whole life called into question.” We finally have some more insight into the project, as Damon stopped by KCRW’s The Business to have a chat with Kim Masters.

Damon confirmed he will appear with Krasiniski, stating he “had a blast working with him,” and then popped the scoop that “Frances McDormand is in it as well and we’re trying to round out the cast.” Despite appearing in Tommy Lee Jones‘ TV movie The Good Old Boys together back in 1995, the actress has never collaborated on a theatrical film with Damon before, but they’ve both worked for the same directors such as the Coens and Cameron Crowe. She’ll next be seen in Wes Anderson‘s highly-anticipated Moonrise Kingdom, arriving this summer.

Damon didn’t stop there though, opening about his excitement to jump behind the camera and how he will have creative control. He said, “I just love the whole process of filmmaking and talking to actors and because I’m writer also, I get to collaborate with these directors that I work with and I really enjoy the other side of the camera. I’m in front of the camera in the first one I’m directing. It turns out if you write, direct and act for free, you can get pretty good creative terms for your movie.

He then said he has been influenced by all the directors that he has worked with and shared a piece of helpful advice from one of his early collaborators. Check it out below.

Years ago, the first time I met with Anthony Minghella and we were talking about The Talented Mr. Ripley and I was sitting and talking to him and I had just done Good Will Hunting and The Rainmaker and Saving Private Ryan but none of them had come out and he started asking me all these questions about the directors. He started to ask about [Steven] Spielberg and [Francis Ford] Coppola and started to ask about Gus Van Sant and I was like giving him the one-eye I think because he just won like 100 Oscars for The English Patient. He was the toast of the town and here he was asking about how these other guys worked.

He smiled and he said, “You don’t know this yet but we all live on an island and we don’t get to visit each others islands. We just kind of make it up as we go along and that’s why I think actors make such good directors because you get to go to all these different islands. You get to see inside all these different processes and take what works for you and put it in your own process.” And so that made a lot of sense to me and so I’ve been thinking about these last twelve or thirteen years as a chance to apprentice myself to these incredible people and I’ve learned a bunch from each of them.

Damon also shared the one thing all the “masters have in common.” “They’re all 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.” He went on to say, “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.”

In the end he does admit he has been wanting to direct for awhile, looking for the right material, and that he finally feels like he is ready. “I feel like there is more riding on this one then 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, as for his mindset post-directing, he jokingly commented he’ll “probably be completely jaded” and will “look like I’m a hundred years old.”

Matt Damon’s untitled directorial debut is looking to shoot in the spring while We Bought a Zoo arrives in theaters Friday, Dec. 23rd.

What do you think about Damon’s approach to directing? What about McDormand joining the cast?


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