Matt Damon is one of his generation’s most respected actors from his Oscar-winning script for Good Will Hunting to his most recent role in Elysium. On a promotional trip to Australia, he spoke with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about working with Hollywood legends and what his future plans are in the entertainment business.
Damon has been fortunate enough to work with incredible actors like Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro and Gene Hackman throughout his career. He shared some great advice he got from Tom Hanks about working with scions of the industry while on the set of Saving Private Ryan.
Damon said, “I’ve been really lucky; the people I’ve worked with have been enormously helpful. And Tom Hanks said something to me when we were doing Saving Private Ryan that always stuck with me, which was I was asking him about the – a movie he did with Jackie Gleason and I said, ‘What was it like to work with Jackie Gleason?’ And he thought about it for a second and he said, ‘You know, I made a decision to not be nervous.'”
“And I went, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘I just – I knew everyone was so nervous around him and I just said, ‘You know what? I’m not gonna be nervous around him.” And once he realized I was treating him like, you know, a fellow human being, we really had this great working relationship. And it was really good advice,” revealed the 42-year-old father-of-four.
Even when working with big personalities like Jack Nicholson, the Behind the Candelabra star understands the key to iconic actors.
“Those guys are really good at demystifying themselves really quickly. Like, I remember I was rehearsing with Jack in his hotel room and it was me and Jack and Marty, and Marty went to the bathroom. And Jack went over to grab a cup of coffee or something and he turned around and he said, ‘You know, I never woulda made it this long if I wasn’t a great f***ing writer,'” said Damon. “And I remember thinking, like, of course you’re a great writer. How do you have a 40-year career – even if you’re not credited, but how do you – unless you have an eye for material which means, like, making small adjustments here and there, like, of course you can write.”
He continued, “And then I had this great thing with him where I watched him, you know, work, work on that role and hone it and it just – it just – he just cut through all of the mystique and just kind of – it’s like lifting the hood of the car up and going, like – you know what I mean? In one line, he just cut through it all for me.”
Now that Damon has conquered the film industry and he’s a first-time Emmy nominee for playing Scott Thorson in HBO’s Liberace biopic, does the actor have plans to follow in his buddy Ben Affleck‘s footsteps into directing?
He revealed, “Not plans, but projects, yeah. I’ve got my eye on some stuff and it’s really – for me it’s a matter of trying to make my life work around – you know, ’cause that schedule is incredibly – it’s very labour intensive and time intensive and you can’t do it halfway. You’ve gotta be – you’re responsible for every single thing that’s on the screen, every frame. There’s nothing arbitrary in any shot of any movie. It’s not a mistake that the vase is kind of green, it’s behind you and there are green flowers coming out of it. Like, those are all conversations that you’ve had months before.”
“And that – those decisions – you’re making thousands of decisions every day and you need to be there so your departments can stay ahead of the process. They’re trying to prep’ sets that are gonna – that you’re gonna shoot in two weeks. You can’t not be there. You gotta answer all the questions and be around,” said Damon.