Getting down

Getting down

Pete Carroll chats to Matt Damon about shrinking for his latest flick and looking like a regular guy

Your most recent film, Downsizing, is a satire by director Alexander Payne which takes the premise of how much better our lives could be if we were to miniaturize (think 13 cm humans), as a solution to overpopulation. You play a man who decides to get small. What message is this film conveying? 

I think that there’s a lot to take away from the film. There are themes about a number of things that are going on in the world today. I just love the fact that when we downsize, we downsize all of our problems, our dynamics, class conflicts, all of that.

Do you think there is a political statement about the state of the US these days?

I don’t think that it’s a political movie – it’s a movie for everyone. It’s like holding up a mirror to nature, the film is not telling you what to think. Some of it was written 10 years ago, so it isn’t a commentary on Donald Trump. I hope that the movie will work in 20 years and that people will come back to it.

Is it also about the American Dream collapsing?

It is certainly about people who are struggling to live their version of the American Dream and make a drastic decision, in the attempt to achieve what they think will make them happy.

There is this existential question where we ask ourselves ‘What do I want and what is good for the environment?’ 

Definitely. It is increasingly becoming clear to all of us that our actions have consequences and we have the responsibility of being good stewards so we can pass it along. The argument for downsizing is that you can have everything; all you have to do is to be small. You won’t hurt the environment and you can consume more – I love that idea.

Alexander said that you are the only American star that could play every role…

In more blunt terms, he came to meet me the first time and said, ‘What I like about you is that you don’t look like a movie star’. I was just coming out of the Jason Bourne movie and he was sending me text messages like ‘I hope you are eating marshmallows tonight. I don’t want you to look like Jason Bourne. I want you to look like Paul Safranek (my character) and you know what that means.’ If your look is versatile – you can take it in different directions. Some movie stars are so beautiful that it’s hard to accept them as a regular person.

Do you have to work hard to look like a movie star when you play Jason Bourne?

Yeah! That is really hard work. People come up to me, like 45-year-old guys asking what it takes to look like that. And I say: ‘It’s not worth it. It’s like 6 hours a day working out.’ Who wants to do that? It is completely ridiculous.

Which version does your wife prefer?

When I was doing Stuck on You, I was a little heavy. She has to accept it. I think she likes variety. [laughs]

Not looking like a movie star means going out without being recognised, right?

In my experience I can compare it to Ben (Affleck). Ben is 6’4 foot, I’m 5’10. I walk around with a baseball hat on and it’s no problem. He walks around and draws attention just because he sticks out naturally. It’s much harder for him to be anonymous walking down the street in New York than me. I can camouflage. But someone who’s really great at camouflage is De Niro. Martin Scorsese told me this great story when we were making The Departed: A French director, I can’t remember who it is now, was coming to New York so he called Martin and said: ‘Would you put a dinner together and invite your friend Bob DeNiro?’ Martin said, ‘Absolutely’. So Martin got some people together in a nice restaurant in the village, the director was there and they were having a lovely evening. An hour and a half into it, the director turned to Martin and said, ‘When do you think your friend Mr DeNiro will come?’ and Martin said, ‘He is sitting next to you.’ I worked with De Niro on The Good Shepherd – he can really come into a room like a ghost and is the most observant person I have ever seen. He would be an incredible spy.

You’ve also made many movies with another friend, George Clooney?

Yes, I’ve lost count. I think we’ve done seven or eight movies together.

Did you give him tips on how to raise kids?

It’s totally different for him, as he has twins. I always said to my wife each time we had a baby, ‘Could you imagine if we had two of these at once?’ When I ask George how he’s doing, he just says, ‘Oh my God!’

Do George and Alexander have anything in common when it comes to shooting a movie?

Yes, they are both very well prepared. It’s very easy to work for them. The day follows a very sensible course and there’s never a panic. Nobody ever raises their voice, which happens a lot. You can really feel the stress on some movie sets. But with those two, it’s one take after the other.

Text: Pete Carroll/The Interview People; Photography: gallo/gettyimages

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