Yesterday, at the ripe old age of 39, Matt Damon was to receive the 24th American Cinematheque Award for his work in film – and the timing couldn't be better: His action-thriller Green Zone opened in the US this month and he has four other movies slated for this year: The Coen brothers' remake of True Grit, the Philip K Dick adaptation The Adjustment Bureau, Clint Eastwood's unearthly Hereafter and Steven Soderbergh's Contagion. And, as he says here, he almost made Avatar, too.
How do you expect working with the Coens on True Grit to compare with Clint Eastwood?
Well, I know from talking to people that their styles are very different. The Coen brothers actually give you their storyboards. If you go on a movie set, normally you get the day's sides: The lines will be broken down onto miniature sheets of paper, so you can see what work is being shot that day.
The Coen brothers give you those, but they give you storyboards as well, so you can look and go, "OK, I'm in the second shot, I'm in the fourth and fifth shots". And they stay, from what I'm told, pretty closely to the storyboards. They've basically planned it all out long before they ever get there.
Is it a coincidence that you're doing two Eastwood films back to back, Invictus and Hereafter, which you've just wrapped?
I was really lucky that there were two roles I could do in a Clint movie. The thing about Clint is, he keeps the same people together. The department where there's turnover is the acting department, because different movies require different casts. Every actor is always desperate to work with him again, and I just got really lucky. But I'm dying to work with him (again).
I told him I'm totally, unabashedly just lobbying for work from him every time I see him, cause it's just really a great experience.
Did he go about the two movies differently?
No, the process was the same. He's extremely fluent in the language of filmmaking, so he knows exactly how he wants to tell the story. It's a very streamlined process.
Do you have a favourite director?
I have a bunch of guys I've worked with again and again. Paul Greengrass, Clint, (Steven) Soderbergh, Gus (Van Sant) and Francis (Ford Coppola) would be the people that leap to mind.
What other directors do you still want to work with?
Jim Cameron. I almost did Avatar – I just couldn't do it schedule-wise. And I really wanted to see him direct, because I thought I'd learn so much.
There was talk that you'd work with filmmaker Gary Ross on a Bobby Kennedy project. Is that happening?
Evan Thomas did a biography of RFK that Gary had, and he sent it to me six months ago. We've been talking about it, and they're writing a script that's going to be done in about a month, so hopefully it's great and then I'll know where I'm working this fall.
You and Ben Affleck seem to be ramping up your production efforts with a new deal at Warners. How long is the deal?
I actually don't even know. These things, they take so long to get hammered out. I was high-fiving the Warners brass months ago, because we'd agreed – and I think the deal just got finalised. Hopefully we've found a home for a while.
What kind of projects do you want to do there?
Both our careers have been pretty eclectic, so it'll be more of the same. As directors, what interests us are the Good Will Hunting-type stories, movies about people. But that's not to say we're not going to want to go make a big sci-fi movie or something like that. Over the long haul, we'll hopefully build a pretty eclectic successful library for them.
You've said for a long time that you want to direct. When are you going to?
I'm just dying to do it, but I keep getting these jobs with these great directors. I'll learn more as a director watching the Coen brothers than I would making my own movie.
Maybe at some point I'll just say, "Don't send me any scripts, I'm gonna go direct", but for now I'm really enjoying these roles. It's one of the unfair [things] about Hollywood, that for men, right now is where the roles start getting great, right when I'm about to turn 40 and all the way to 50.
Do you want to write, still?
Yes, I do. When you're making a movie, there's so much collaboration; you're constantly making suggestions. And so I don't feel like I haven't written in a long time. I feel that part of me gets satisfied having my input, even though I'm not sitting down at a computer and actually writing dialogue.
Has marriage changed you?
Yeah, I think so. Somebody said to me recently, "Wow, you really love marriage", and I said, "No, I think marriage is ridiculous; I think it's a totally ridiculous idea". I love being married to my wife – she's the best thing that ever happened to me, but if she ever left me, I wouldn't do it again. Because it's crazy – to spend your life with one person and not be totally driven crazy.