Matt Damon recently sat down with Playboy for an interview in which he talked a lot about his life and his career. There's a few cool things that he talks about, like turning down James Cameron's Avatar and a couple of other movie roles. He also talks about his extremely cool looking sci-fi film Elysium, which is being developed by District 9 director Neill Blomkamp.
When asked about if he sweats movie roles that go to other actors, Damon opens up on what it was like to say no to James Cameron,
Having to say no to Avatar was tough because I particularly wanted to work with James Cameron, and still do, because he’s fantastic. He knew he was the star of that movie and that everyone was going to go see it anyway. When he said, “Look, I’m offering it to you, but if you say no, the movie doesn’t need you,” I remember thinking, Oh God, not only do I have to say no because of scheduling, but he’s going to make a star out of some guy who’s going to start taking jobs from me later.
I actually would have loved to see Damon in Avatar, but Sam Wothington ended up doing a solid job, and it definitely did launch his career. He's then asked about some other movies he missed out on such as Milk and Brokeback Mountain.
Milk was another hard one because I was excited it would have been for Gus Van Sant, and I would have had the chance to do scenes with Sean Penn. They pushed the schedule and it ran into the slot for Green Zone. Steven Soderbergh’s mantra is “The movie gets the right person; the right actor gets the part,” but I was like, “Shit, no. That was my part.” But when I saw Milk, Josh Brolin was so fucking good that I knew Soderbergh was right. Way back, Gus and I talked about me doing Brokeback Mountain with Joaquin Phoenix, but I had just done The Talented Mr. Ripley and All the Pretty Horses, so I said, “Gus, let’s do it in a couple of years. I just did a gay movie and a cowboy movie. I can’t do a gay cowboy movie now.” The right actor got the part. Heath Ledger was magnificent.
Later on the interview they start talking about Elysium. We got our first look at the movie earlier this year at Comic-Con, and it looks incredible.
The concept of the movie is that Earth has been ravaged and Elysium is an orbital habitat, 120 kilometers up, where all the rich people have gone.
We shot in that human-waste dump for two weeks. What you see on-screen is supposed to look futuristic, but it was actually just helicopters flying over us, kicking up dust that coats you and that you know is fecal matter. We were very careful, but it was unbelievably toxic. It’s the worst location I’ve ever heard of and could have been worse only if we’d filmed in the world’s largest waste dump, in South Korea. What was unbelievable and really sad was the giant community of people who are born, raised, live and die in that dump. They just pick through the trash.
Damon is then asked what prompts an actor like like him to work in such crazy conditions,
Shooting a big action set piece in a third-world dump was a great idea, visually and dramatically. We did it toward the end of the schedule, and everybody bought in knowing it would be tough but also knowing we would be happy we did it.
When asked if it was worth it he said,
Between the concept and the script, it’s going to be really good. I genuinely believe the director, Neill Blomkamp, is the next guy—our generation’s James Cameron. I hope I can work with him a lot more.
Blomkamp tends to mix sci-fi with social commentary, and Elysium is making a statement about pollution. When this is brought up in the conversation Damon says,
Yeah, future generations will not look kindly on us. Our grandkids and great-grandkids are going to have to live here. With the “greatest generation,” the attitude wasn’t “Well, I’m not going to be around, so fuck the rest of you,” it was “Well, this is our problem, so let’s work on it together.” It’s like we have this weird block when it comes to projecting beyond ourselves, as though we’ve become selfish on some very deep level.
He goes on to talk about how he prepared for his role in the film, which is very physical,
The script wasn’t just run, run, run. It has real characters, so that was great. I worked with an NFL trainer who said, “I’m going to make you stronger and faster. As a by-product, you’ll look the way you want to.” It wasn’t a Hollywood vanity workout.
The full interview is pretty long, but there some good stuff in there if you're a fan of Matt Damon.