Weeksy talks to Matt Damon


Matt Damon has flown to Australian for both “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy”. Cheesed that he didn’t get to meet the Oscar Winner on either occasion, Adam Weeks was over the moon when informed that Damon was headed back to town to promote “The Bourne Ultimatum” and wanted to speak to him, personally (alongside some other journalist type people who knew that Weeksy was gonna be there and called “Shotgun”).

Q. Hi Matt, hope you’re enjoying your stay in Australia – I’ll ask before anyone else does, what’s the feeling being the number 1 box office star in the world?

A. Ah – Shocking! I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a movie that was number one at the Box Office – probably… I’m sure some of them, probably the “Ocean’s” movies were, but yeah, it’s wonderful – it’s great for everyone – you know there’s a hundred other people who worked on these movies who for the last 7 years have been on & off working on these “Bourne” movies, so it’s great for all of us.

Q. Yeah – and you’re not feeling underpaid?

A. (Laughing) I’m definitely underpaid – and I want you to print that in as many places as you can!

Q. I’m interested in Jason Bourne as an unusual action hero – we see him in gunfights and car chases, but I think perhaps the most compelling thing about him is his amazing resourcefulness – he can fight with a biro, or a book in this film – I was wondering about that part of the character – is that part of what drew you to playing him?

A. That was something that kind of came out of – well, there are a few – I mean in the first script, there was always that speech which I love where he’s saying that he can tell the license plate numbers on the six cars outside and he just – he doesn’t understand why these things are happening – and I always loved that aspect of him.

In terms of the resourcefulness, what I really liked was how he always did a smart thing. Doug Liman in the first one arranged that sequence which I really liked in the embassy where Bourne has a gun and all the Marines are coming after him and he throws the gun away – and rather than go out the front door which you’d expect in a Hollywood movie, he goes up the stairs and he gets a radio and he gets a map, and he’s very calm and he’s walking through, and just methodically working his way out of a situation and I always liked that aspect of the character because I think it’s smart, and as an audience member too, I like having a smart protagonist, ‘cause you know, it’s a guy to root for – he never has the advantage – if it’s a car chase, he’s in a Mini-Cooper, or he’s in a Russian Volga, it’s that he never has the advantage, but he turns it into an advantage somehow, he uses whatever the car’s good for, either its small size to get through alleyways or it’s weight to crush whoever he’s after.

Then there’s the actual the fight sequences, and that really came out of the training. I had about 6 months to get ready for the movie, and we had a martial arts demonstration – Doug Liman & I before the first movie – and these guys were experts at all these different martial arts and they were doing this demonstration for us, and we were just trying to pick the kind of fighting that Bourne would do, and they got into this really vicious trapping sequence where they were right on top of each other and their hands were moving a hundred miles an hour – and we went “Whoah! Whoah! What was that? What was that?” and they said “Oh, that’s called Kali, and it’s a Filipino style of fighting”, and so that was the one that we trained in – and in the course of that training, they were showing me all these disarm techniques – “Here’s how you take a knife out of somebody’s hand. Here’s how you take a gun out of somebody’s hand” – little things and he said “Yeah, when you get it, you can instantly – boom, boom, boom, boom and you can reverse if it’s a knife or a pen or anything”, and I said, “Wait – a pen? What do you mean a pen?”, and he’s said “Well, you know – any sharp object”. I said “You can do it with a Pen? Show me with a Pen!”, so he showed me this whole sequence with a pen and so we just put that in the fight in the first movie, and then so the second movie, Jeff Imada, the choreographer who comes up with all this stuff – I showed up to work and he had a magazine rolled up, and he said “This is it”, and I said “Really? Are people gonna laugh?”, and he goes “No – feel this” and he actually rapped me with this magazine and it felt like he hit me with a lead pipe – I mean it was unbelievable how effective it actually would be , and so in this one it graduated to a hard back book you know – versus a candle stick – because the other guy’s a “Treadstone” guy too, so he picks up a candle stick, and I pick up the book and – but you know, when we’re making it, we go “Are people gonna laugh at this?” – you know, you can see like the Leslie Nielsen version where they’re just picking up every object in the house, but I think it works. Like a lot of these movies, it’s about selling things that seem utterly preposterous with total conviction, and just never cracking – and it ends up working.

Q. Over the years, you’ve seen so many of these secret agent action movies where you’ve got sort of a hero that’s kind of invincible – do you think that today’s movie audience are more receptive to a character that’s a lot more human and has those vulnerabilities – and obviously, you know he might get injured, that he’s hopping around; he’s limping – do you think people are more receptive to that more realistic hero, rather than someone that can do absolutely anything and have bullets bouncing off them?

A. I think so – I mean I know I am, just speaking for myself I am, and also we kind of felt like this movie – and really on the last movie – that a damaged Bourne is a good thing, so you wanna see this action going on but you wanna see him paying a price for it. In fact on this movie, I would have been way more damaged by the end of it if we had a full script the whole time, but we didn’t know exactly how some of these set pieces were gonna go until we were already shooting. So I’d shot stuff on the backside of the movie that we couldn’t go re-shoot, and put in a bigger limp or more blood basically because – just because we’d already shot it and it was too late, and that’s a regret that we had because we don’t want…. you know that car crash was absolutely brutal, we put in that extra shot of me wrapping the seatbelt around my arms before I hit, anticipating exactly where the impact is gonna be – so you go “Ok, well, he knows he would have pinwheeled in there so he grabbed the belt that way” – so that mitigated some of that beating that his body must have just taken – but if we had our druthers and we could go back and shoot that post accident stuff, I would have been more bloody; more wounded, because it only helps the character, because we wanna try and show these things as real – although some of them are a little preposterous like the first movie diving down the stairway – riding on the heavy set guy down the stairway, that is like… you know we did the stunt, and I did it from like two floors up and then they CGI’d and suddenly I was jumping from the seventh floor. It was like – “Wait a minute guys, that seems like a little far of a fall” but for the most part we try to make it – you know, in the last movie I got shot, then I have the car crash and I’m basically bleeding out by the end of the movie. So we liked that aspect, and that these things come at a great price for him, and that they come at a great price emotionally too. He’s a guy who has tremendous guilt and remorse for the things that he’s done, and that’s also something that you don’t see in most action movies where they’re just racking up a body count, and it’s just killing with conscious-less killing.

Q. I was just wondering – a lot of our readers have said that the thing they like the most about the three “Bourne” films was the continuity from film to film, whether it was Chris Cooper coming back for the first two, Joan Allen; Brian Cox, and yourself obviously – I was wondering, what was the biggest difference you noticed between working with Doug on the first film, and working with Paul on the next two – was there a big difference in terms of style?

A. Well, they’re both – I mean they’re both great Directors, and they’re friends of mine both – I think they’re very similar in the way… I mean certainly Paul responded to something in “The Bourne Identity” that made him want to join the series, and then do not one, but two more, So I think they’re kindred spirits in that regard artistically speaking. They’re very similar, and they have very similar taste when you talk to them about movies that they like – they’ll reference the same movies. So I do think that we got lucky in fact that these guys who both are incredibly hip guys who both come out of the independent film making world, and that these movies are – they work because of that sensibility – the guy who makes small movies about people, that sensibility colliding with this big Hollywood franchise sensibility, and there’s something that happens when that collision occurs – that you get a movie that is satisfying as a popcorn event, but it seems a little smarter maybe than your average action movie.

Q. In this film you work with actors who have been in the previous films – Joan Allen, Julia Stiles – you also work with a new bunch of people including Daniel Brühl, Paddy Considine, Albert Finney – I know you like working as part of an ensemble, and you have worked with a whole bunch of great actors in films before, but I mean, how is it to work with such a great group of people?

A. Well, I mean the theory always was just get the absolute best actors that we could to fill in the other roles, and the biggest downside for me is that we have, you know, these movies with actors like Chris Cooper; David Strathairn; Joan Allen & Brian Cox, and I don’t get to do a lot of scenes with them, so I’m off on my own doing my side of the story, and then they’re off having all the dialogue. So we definitely knew that when we killed Chris off in the first movie, that created a big vacuum and we needed a great actor to come in and substitute – and Paul had the idea of Joan Allen, which was a great idea. So we made a female character to go against Brian Cox’s character – you know, two people basically on the b-side of the story in an antagonistic relationship, because that helps kind of lay the pipe for the plot through the course of their arguments – and then for this movie, when Brian got killed – because he was a big part of the first two movies – so now with him gone, we had another vacuum, so we filled it with the best actor we could find, and none of them were available, so we got David (Laughing). No – so David, who was our first choice obviously – I’m sure you guys all saw “Good Night, and Good Luck” – along with many other things that he’s done. I’ve known him for a long time, and started watching him on stage…I don’t know…15 years ago, so we were really lucky to get him, and the movie is better for it. It’s one of those things where you just feel you’re on a classier type movie just by the fact that those are the actors that are laying out the plot for the audience – it’s David Strathairn; Joan Allen & Albert Finney – it’s just unbelievable.

Q. As an actor, you’ve discussed over & over with all sorts of people about the action aspects of these films, but how hard is it as an actor to get to the heart of Jason Bourne, considering that in a way, he barely even knows himself?

A. Yeah, we never wanted to make a movie about Amnesia necessarily – it wasn’t an illness movie, so it’s weird – you’re trying to walk the line of being entertaining, but you want the character to have depth and soul. I really like the duality of the character. He feels inherently like a decent guy, but he’s got these impulses to do these other things. He knows that his past is bad, but he doesn’t know how bad, and this movie is about fulfilling that quest and just committing to finding out, “Was I always this way, or did they make me this way?”, and then to kind of move on from there. I mean, I really like a character who takes responsibility for what he’s done, and what he’s going to do – and particularly now in America when our own leaders don’t seem to be taking responsibility for their actions. So I think that’s a good thing to put out there.

Q. One of the unique things about the Bourne films is that you’re always fighting someone within the C.I.A., it’s always America fighting itself type of thing – is there a statement being made there? Because we know some of your political views so……

A. Well, I think it’s…I think each movie is very much a product of the year in which they were made, and in twenty years, people will be able to look back and easily identify which year without looking at the back of the box. I mean, this movie has the more obvious kind of images of Black Hoods & Water-Boarding, but it’s got Bourne shooting a guy in the corner of the room in cold blood, and before he shoots him, he actually says “What did he do?” – and he’s not given an answer – so here’s this guy, he’s being denied a trial, he’s being denied due process, so that’s kind of a reference to Guantanamo Bay, and then you have the film ending essentially with the Bourne character, who’s become kind of an iconic American character, holding up a gun to the head of Albert Finney – Read: Neocon – and saying, “You mislead me”, essentially, “You lied to me, you essentially misled me into a war, and I see you for what you are now, and I’m no longer Jason Bourne”, and putting the gun down and walking away. That again is very much a sentiment in America right now, and if you look at the movie, the movie is basically a series of defections, the Daniels character at the beginning is talking to the press, he’s defecting – he’s not OK with the turn that things have taken – the Nicky character is defecting, she says “I can take you to Daniels….. my car’s outside”, you know – and all of these characters have started this process as a reaction to essentially an assault on the constitution as far as they’re concerned…how far this program has gone. You know, there are different striations within the intelligence community – Joan Allen is a member of the C.I.A. and she’s very proud, and she’s spent her whole career working there, but she says to David Strathairn, “You better get a good lawyer”, because she’s not OK – you know she essentially defects when she faxes all that stuff through, so it’s not just like the story of – this is the big bad government and this is the guy, and the big bad government is after the guy – a lot’s going on within that governmental character, and there’s a lot of conflict within that, and I think that that is an honest reflection of things that are happening today – I mean, there are huge arguments within the intelligence community about the state of the country.

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM commences Thursday around Australia