MY Marriage is a work in progress
The nice guy of Hollywood talks pranking co-stars and why he won’t let his kids watch his films
You get the impression that when Matt Damon does something, he does that thing. No halfsies for Matt – this is a man who’s all in, or not in at all, dammit. And whether that means writing, producing, screenwriting, losing 4st for a movie or even raising four daughters with his wife of 12 years, Luciana, this is a man who commits to things. Matt’s latest film, black comedy Suburbicon, is no exception.
The 47-year-old actor actually gained weight to play the role of middle-aged widower Gardner Lodge, and abandoned his usual nice-guy shtick for a character who very much embraces his violent side – including one bloody scene featuring a, erm, sandwich – as he battles mobsters in a small Philadelphia suburb. Written by the Coen brothers, directed by his good friend and fellow A-lister George Clooney, and co-starring Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, the film is set to make Matt a hot tip for next year’s Oscars. Here, he talks about finally playing the bad guy, how he’s still so happily married, and getting back to the gym – much to the relief of his wife…
You’re known as the good guy – what’s it like playing a villain?
It was really fun and liberating, so different from anything that I’ve ever been able to do. George Clooney and I would get a kick out of every scene that was worse than the last. Until finally, I’m at the table with [my co-star] and the sandwich. It was really enjoyable. So, obviously, I didn’t take the work home with me.
Not one for your kids, then?
My children [Alexia, 19, Isabella, 11, Gia, nine, Stella, seven] are not seeing this film! This character makes different parenting choices than I make in my own private life, and I don’t want to scare them. I’d like them to eat all the sandwiches that I put in front of them.
What about your wife – was she allowed to see it?
She loved it. It’s obviously a very different character than I’ve ever played before, or have been given the chance to play. So I had a lot of fun with that. It’s very different from how I am in my everyday life, so she enjoyed it, definitely.
We bet she likes your sandwiches…
First of all, I got really lucky. I think so much of it is who you choose to be with. I’ve always said that the concept of marriage seems totally insane to me. But I just love being married to my wife. So in that way, I was really lucky to find her. But yes, there is work. It is a work in progress and I think that we listen to each other and communicate really well. We are willing to do the work that it takes. We both still want to be there, and that helps, obviously. We have a lot of fun together. So, Matt, you look quite, erm, different in Suburbicon… I put on weight. I was a lot bigger in the movie, and so that was kind of a running joke. I think [Luciana] was happy when I finally wrapped and went back to the gym. Tell us what it was like working on set with your mate, Mr Clooney… It was very relaxed. I visited George on the first set that he directed, which was Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, and even back then the mood was just very relaxed. We all believe that’s the best way to get the best work, when everyone is relaxed and given space to do their work. We all have a job to do and we are aware of the job, but there is no reason at this point in our careers why it can’t be a pleasant experience. George was really good at creating a good space for everyone to get their work done. So, no on-set pranks, then? I was never a great prankster. On
‘Trump’s presidency? I’m just trying to get through it’
Good Will Hunting, Ben [Affleck], me, and [director] Gus Van Sant hired somebody to come in and accuse the producer, Chris Moore, of something. We were all at lunch and it was his birthday, so we hired this actress and she came in crying and started yelling at him about how he was mean to her, and all this other stuff she made up on the spot. He just kept saying, “I don’t know what’s going on.” Then we had the police who worked on the set come in and start to handcuff him. Meanwhile, we were taking pictures the entire time, and then we let him know it was all a joke and we brought out a cake. That was probably my best prank.
Are you sure George wasn’t pranking you with that scene in Suburbicon where you ride a tiny bike around?
I had to throw my knees out to the side – it was pretty challenging! They had a few of the bikes there, and we were going to test out which one. I finally got on the one we used and George just doubled over laughing and said, “That’s the one, that’s the one.”
They say never work with children – how did you get on with your character’s son, 13-year-old Noah Jupe?
He’s incredible. I’ve worked with a lot of kid actors, and normally what happens – more often than not – it’s the parents living their own dreams through the kids and the kids don’t really want to be there. Noah wanted to be there, and he really loves it. He’s a naturally talented kid . There is a scene at the end when he’s sitting there crying, looking at me with tears rolling down his face. At the end of the take, when George said “cut”, he just smiled and high-fived him. He really got it, and it was fun watching him. George had built in extra time to
work with him, assuming that we would need more time. Anytime you have a child on set, you want to have enough time to get the scene the way you want it. And Noah would get everything in one take. We’d all be going home early every day. You’ve been pretty vocal about disliking President Trump – how are you feeling about him now? There was a number of times I thought his candidacy would be derailed. But we’re just living in a different time. The “grab them by the pussy” comments… You are admitting that you are a sexual predator! For me, it’s just about trying to get through this presidency without this behaviour becoming normalised. Because we have to return to our sense of decency, we have to have a sense of shame. I don’t know how to raise children in the face of that kind of boorishness coming out of the White House. I just ignore it for now. The kids are young and aren’t reading every news cycle yet. But my 19 year old is and we have different conversations. Roger Ailes, Bill O’reilly [disgraced Fox News chairman and host] and now Harvey [Weinstein, who Matt’s previously worked for]. Do you think things will change in Hollywood, post-weinstein? Hopefully this is like a series of dominoes that will fall. I am hoping that the world I’m raising these girls to come into will be one in which you have a lot more women in positions of power and hopefully that will happen before my kids are adults. But if it doesn’t, then my kids will be the wave that put women in power. Because we just need more women in these positions. I have a good feeling that they’d use that power quite differently. It’s tough. Situations like the ones we’ve been reading about in the news with Harvey, I don’t know how you protect somebody from that. It’s tough. A lot of these women did everything right – they were pursuing their careers, they were doing everything professionally and wound up in these situations where they got pulled into a meeting, and then suddenly they were trapped in a room with a monster. So that’s a fear, I think, for any parent, or brother or friend of any woman. Day-to-day, you just try to instil your kids with self-esteem, because you’re not going to be there when they are making a lot of choices. And you want them to be able to make good choices. But again, a situation like that is the worst-case scenario. It’s definitely not just a Hollywood problem, it’s a problem across all different sectors – it’s a problem across a culture and it looks like we are waking up to it and getting ready to tackle it head-on, which is long overdue. ■
Suburbicon is in cinemas 24 November
Winning big in Invictus Looking tubby in
Suburbicon with Julianne Moore
Matt and the main ladies in his life
Finding fame with Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting
Hanging out with the lads in Ocean’s Eleven Small caption to go in here Nailing the action-man role as Jason Bourne
With his wife Luciana