Da­mon buffs up

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - NEALA JOHN­SON

IT’S just a day or two af­ter the Bos­ton bomb­ings and Matt Da­mon, a Bos­ton na­tive, is find­ing it all a bit hard to com­pre­hend. “It’s com­pletely crazy and hor­ri­ble,” he says, as sits at a ta­ble, frap­puc­cino in hand.

All in all, how­ever, Da­mon is in good spir­its. Only a cou­ple of weeks ear­lier, he had re­newed vows with his wife of eight years, Lu­ciana Bar­roso, in the Caribbean. And just last night per­haps a clue as to why he’s clutch­ing that caf­feine he’d danced the night away with Lu­ciana, Chan­ning Ta­tum and “a lot of tequila”.

He’s here to spruik his new film, Ely­sium, a sci- fi ac­tioner that could be termed a de­par­ture for Da­mon had he not al­ready played, among so many other things, a su­per- spy with am­ne­sia, Lib­er­ace’s gay lover, Liz Lemon’s pilot lover and the cap­tain of the South African rugby team.

As Ely­sium di­rec­tor Neill Blomkamp puts it, Da­mon is an ac­tor un­afraid to “dam­age his brand”.

“I never thought of it that way,” says Da­mon, sport­ing black- rimmed glasses and salt- and­pep­per hair to ri­val that of his old mate, Ge­orge Clooney.

“It’s so hard to break into the busi­ness that an easy trap to fall into is when you ac­tu­ally get some mea­sure of suc­cess, you don’t want it to go away. The only way, of course, to make sure it doesn’t go away is to keep risk­ing it.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to mi­cro­man­age an im­age, it’s im­pos­si­ble to con­trol your ca­reer. So it was al­ways just a mat­ter of try­ing as many var­ied types of projects as I could.”

It’s im­pos­si­ble to mi­cro­man­age an im­age, it’s im­pos­si­ble to con­trol your ca­reer. So it was al­ways just a mat­ter of try­ing as many var­ied types of projects as I could

Which is how Da­mon came to find him­self, head shaven, tat­tooed and bolted into an elab­o­rate ex­oskele­ton in the world’s sec­ond- largest rub­bish dump, out­side Mex­ico City.

Blomkamp, wun­derkind di­rec­tor of 2009 sci- fi break­out Dis­trict 9, trans­formed Da­mon into Max, an ex- con in a fu­ture world where the rich elite live on a space sta­tion called Ely­sium and the poor are left in squalor on Earth.

When Max is ex­posed to a lethal dose of ra­di­a­tion, his only hope for a cure is to fight his way into Ely­sium.

“I was des­per­ate to do it,” says Da­mon, re­call­ing his first meet­ing with Blomkamp.

“He came with al­most a school yearbook-sized hard­back book with prob­a­bly 80 pic­tures in it – Max in the suit and all that. Ev­ery sin­gle thing was in­cred­i­ble de­tail. He had an­other sep­a­rate book of weapons sys­tems. It’s stuff that you’ll see for only a sec­ond in the movie, but he lit­er­ally built this en­tire world.

“The only other time I’d seen that was Jim Cameron on Avatar, and I couldn’t do Avatar be­cause of sched­ul­ing. Jim was like, ‘ Well the script is the script, but here look at the world!’ and you go, ‘ Oh, my god!’ “So, I wasn’t gonna miss this one,” he laughs. While Da­mon has pretty much been able to pick and choose since the first Bourne film struck gold in 2002, he reck­ons it’s only now, at 42, that he’s struck Hol­ly­wood’s “sweet spot”. “A lot of the stuff out there tends to be writ­ten for men around my age. So, hope­fully, the roles will get bet­ter.” He had hoped to di­rect his first film ( Promised Land, which he wrote with John Krasin­ski) last year be­fore sched­ul­ing got in the way. He says fam­ily life has, if not changed his am­bi­tions, at least “changed prac­ti­cally what I can and can’t do”.

He and Lu­ciana over­see a brood of four girls, rang­ing in age from two to 14.

“My wife’s great, she wants to fa­cil­i­tate if a good job comes along, we’ll take the fam­ily on an ad­ven­ture and go some­where and live there. She loves to travel and our kids feel the best when we’re all to­gether that’s what home is to them, when the six of us are to­gether.”

But he reck­ons the girls have been on enough movie sets to de­mys­tify the busi­ness.

“They’re like, ‘ He’s a movie star?’ Yes, Un­cle Ge­orge is a movie star, be­lieve it or not.” Ely­sium opens at Vil­lage Cinemas on Thurs­day

READY FOR AC­TION: Matt Da­mon stars in sci- fi epic Ely­sium.

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