Matt’s the way

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Matt’s the way

Matt Damon’s in a jovial mood, after teaming with veteran director Clint Eastwood again for supernatural drama Hereafter

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Published: Sat 29 Jan 2011, 2:55 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:10 AM

Matt Damon’s last movie with Clint Eastwood, Invictus (2009), was about rugby. His latest, Eastwood’s new Hereafter, tackles a slightly more ambitious theme.

“The movie really does ask the question that’s on all of our minds,” Damon says. “What exactly happens after we die? We’ve all lost people close to us, and it makes you wonder where they went. It’s a question that can’t be answered in the here and now.”

Another question for Damon and director Eastwood: in a crowded movie season, is there room at the box office for a film that interweaves three different stories about death?

“It’s a subject I hope people find interesting,” Damon says. “Clint said, ‘If they don’t, then we’re (plumb) out of luck and we’ve lost a lot of money.”’

In Hereafter, Damon plays George, a former psychic now working in a factory. It seems that communicating with the dead had taken over his life, and now he turns his back on even the most lucrative opportunities as a psychic.

Meanwhile a French television anchor (Cecile DeFrance) has a near-death experience during a tsunami and a London schoolboy (George McLaren) struggles to cope with a heroin-addicted mother and the devastating loss of his twin brother.

“Everyone in this film is looking for answers,” Damon says. “It becomes their life quest. The twist for me is that they’re looking for these answers from a guy who doesn’t want to tell the answers. Each time he touches someone’s hand, he can feel those who they’ve lost – but he doesn’t think this is a blessing in his life or a gift. He feels as if it’s a curse.”


Having made Invictus, in which he played the captain of the 1995 South African national rugby team, Damon didn’t think twice before signing on for another Eastwood film.

“I would do anything with Clint,” he says. “I just learn so much from working with him.”

They were still shooting Invictus when Eastwood approached Damon with the idea for Hereafter.

“Clint really wanted to explore this topic,” the actor says. “It’s such a different story for him and for all of us. There isn’t a lot of action. It’s a very personal film.”

So is Eastwood’s reputation as a director’s director well founded?

“Morgan Freeman and I said, on the set of Invictus, that maybe if we sit it out for the next few years and let Clint get some more experience, he’s really going to be a good director,” Damon says with a laugh. “We’re going to let him get some more films under his belt.”

More seriously, he raves about Eastwood’s famously efficient filming process.

“It doesn’t get any better than the way Clint runs a film set. Clint says, ‘Look, I hire the best people I can and I put them in a position to do their best work. Then I get out of the way.’

“You walk on some film sets and it’s like an emergency room,” he coninues, “That tension bleeds into the performances and into the film itself. Clint runs an incredibly tight ship. It’s very laid back, but everybody is given enough space to do everything they need to do. And if you need something, it’s given to you.”

Eastwood’s laid-back approach extends to his actors.

“Occasionally he will come over and give a little bit of direction,” Damon says, “but it’s not a lot of chatter. It’s just a little suggestion here, a little suggestion there. Anybody who doesn’t want to hear a swear word should cover their ears. Clint’s favourite saying, after you do a take, is, ‘Well, let’s move on and let’s not **** this up by thinking about it too much.’ You hear it every day on the set with him.”


The 40-year-old Boston native is one of Hollywood’s busiest A-listers, so busy that he can’t find the time to follow up the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that he and Ben Affleck shared for Good Will Hunting (1997).

First seen onscreen with a single line in Mystic Pizza (1988), he scored his breakthrough in Courage Under Fire (1996), and went on to key roles in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and the Bourne trilogy.

More recently Damon has been seen in The Departed (2006), Iraq-war drama Green Zone (2010) and The People Speak (2009), a documentary that he executive-produced based on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) – the revisionist work of American history that also got a shout-out in Good Will Hunting.

“I probably react more strongly to things that I feel will have some social value,” says Damon.

“With The People Speak, we found great inspirational words and we have a website where teachers can access them. If you’re teaching about (anti-slavery campaigner) Frederick Douglass and you can bring a reading by Morgan Freeman into your classroom, I have a feeling that high-school kids are going to be much more interested and will be able to connect to those voices.”

Damon can also be seen in True Grit, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen from the Charles Portis novel, that became one of John Wayne’s most beloved films in 1969.

“It’s a really great script,” he says. “They adapted it from the book, and the book is amazing. Plus I love Westerns and I really love the Coen brothers, so it was another dream project.”

He also plans to work again with his friend Affleck, with whom he has a first-look deal at Warner Bros.

“I want to direct too,” Damon says, “so there are a bunch of different ways Ben and I can work together.”

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