Suburbicon: Star Matt Damon Talks about Film, Clooney, Wife, and Weinstein

George Clooney’s Suburbicon world premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Fest (in competition), but left the festival empty-handed as far as awards are concerned.  The film will be released by Paramount on October 27.

This is one of the best years of Matt Damon’s Career, marked by starring roles in two major films: Suburbicon and Alexander Payne’s Downsizing.

Ambience on the set of Suburbicon?

Matt Damon: We had a lot of fun. It was very relaxed.  I visited George Clooney on the first set that he directed which was, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and even back then the mood was just very relaxed. We all believe that is the best way to get the best work. When everyone is relaxed and given space to do their work.  We all have a job to do and we are aware of the job but there is no reason at this point in our careers that it can’t be a pleasant experience.   He was really good at creating a good space for everyone to get their work done.

Riding Small Bikes in Crucial Scene?

MD: I had to throw my knees out to the side, it was pretty challenging. They had a few of the bikes there and we were going to test out which one.  I finally got on the one we used and George just doubled over laughing and said that’s the one, that’s the one.

Best Prank Ever on Film Set

MD: I was never a great prankster.  On “Good Will Hunting” Ben, I and Gus Van Sant hired somebody to come in and accuse the producer, Chris Moore, of something.  We were all at lunch and it was his birthday.  So we hired this actress and she came in crying and started yelling at him about how he was mean to her and she made up this whole thing.  He just kept saying. “I don’t know what’s going on; I don’t know what’s going on.” Then we had the police who worked on the set come in and start to handcuff him. Meanwhile we were taking pictures the entire time and then we let him know it was all a joke. And we brought out a cake. That was probably my best prank.

Damon’s Children’s Reaction to Film:

MD: My children are not seeing this film.  This character makes different parenting choices than I make in my own private life.  And I don’t want to scare them.  I would like them to eat all the sandwiches that I put in front of them.

 

Reaction of Damon’s Wife

MD: She loved it. It’s obviously a different character than I’ve ever played before and have been given the chance to play.   So I had a lot of fun with that.  And it’s very different from how I am in my everyday life, so she enjoyed it, definitely.

Putting on Weight

MD: I put on weight, I was a lot bigger in the movie and so that was kind of a running joke.  I think she was happy when I finally wrapped this and went back to the gym.

 

Playing Bad Man and Bad Father

MD: It was actually really fun and liberating to play a character like that. It was so different from anything that I’ve ever been able to do.  George Clooney and I would get a kick out of every scene which was worse than the last until finally I’m at the table with him with the sandwich.  It was really enjoyable and obviously I didn’t take the work home with me.

Working with Child Actors

MD: He is incredible. I have worked with a lot of kid actors and normally what more often than not it’s the parents living their own dreams through the kids and the kids don’t really want to be there.  Noah wants to be there and he loves it. He is just a naturally talented kid.  He is incredible.  There’s a scene at the end when he sitting there and he’s crying, looking at me with tears rolling down his face.   George was working with him, and at the end of the take when George says. “Cut” and he just smiles and he high-fives George.  He really got it.   He really loves acting and loves being an actor and so it was fun watching him. George Clooney had built in extra time to work with him assuming that we would need more time. Anytime you have a child on set you want to have enough time to get the scene the way you want it. And he would get everything in one take. And we’d all be going home early every day.

 

Good Relationship with Wife

MD: First of all, I got really lucky.  I think so much of it is who you choose to be with.  I’ve always said that the concept of marriage seems totally insane to me.  But I just love being married to my wife.   So, in that way, I was really lucky to find her. But yes, there is work. It is a work in progress and I think that we listen to each other and communicate really well.  We are willing to do the work that it takes. We both still want to be there and that helps obviously. We have a lot of fun together.

 

Good Will Hunting: Making of…

MD: There were a number of drafts.  I was twenty-two and Ben was twenty when we started it.  We sold it to Castle Rock when I was twenty-four and Ben was twenty-two. Harvey got it when I was twenty-five and Ben was twenty-three. Then it came out when I was twenty-seven and Ben was twenty-five. So that was a five-year period and there were a ton of drafts before we sold it and then when we sold it to Caste Rock and worked for a year with the executives of Castle Rock during which time the script got a lot better.  They put it in turn it around, Harvey bought it and it was with Miramax for a year before we made it.

 

Working with Robin Williams

MD: I had gotten a part in “The Rainmaker” and I was down in Knoxville, Tennessee.  And Harvey Weinstein said, you’ve got a greenlight and Gus Van Sant is going to direct it.  So, we knew we were making the movie.  Then I was working with Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams had done “Jack” with Francis Ford Coppola.  And one day Francis said, “I got a call from Robin Williams and he was asking about you.” He wanted to know… because we vet each other you know, like would you vouch for this guy.  And Francis said that he told him that I was wonderful and so Robin Williams had heard from the writer of this movie that he was really interested in that the guy who is going to star opposite him was working with Francis Ford Coppola.  Francis put in the good word with me with Robin and shortly thereafter Robin signed on. But Robin really signed on because he had been tracking stuff with Gus Van Sant.  They were going to do the Harvey Milk film. Not the draft that Gus ended up making years later (in 2008).  Dustin Lance Black wrote that years later, but they were working on a Milk project together.  In the meantime Gus had taken “Good Will Hunting” and so Robin, who was always checking in with Gus, that’s how Robin came aboard.

Issue of Racism in Suburbicon

 

MD: It was really interesting.  I had never read the Cohen brothers script that George started with. You can’t predict what’s going to be going on in the news when you start a movie because the movie is going to come out or year and a half later.   But at that time it was during the campaign and Trump was talking about walls and scapegoating my minorities and that’s when George knew that was what he wanted to talk about.  He has this great script and so he worked the stories together.  So that’s what he did and I thought it was really clever.  Then when I read the screenplay I thought it was great. As he described it to me, you never get to know the Meyers family.  That is the African-American family that moves into “Subrubicon.”  And that is by design, because the way the story really happened it was Levittown, Pennsylvania and this African-American family, the Meyers, moved in and the mailman came to drop the mail off, He meets an African-American woman at the door and says is Mrs. Myers here? And she says, ”I’m Mrs. Myers.” And he goes, “oh, OK.” And then he goes from house to house. He called himself the Paul Revere of Levittown. And he told every family, “Have you met your new neighbor?” and in very short order they fenced the house in and had gone to the hardware store to get pots and pans and instruments and they were banging them, trying to scare these people and harass them until they left, I just thought this was really interesting way to attack it this perspective of the fact that the white people never bothered to get to know the Meyers. You see them from a distance. The children do, the children get to know each other, of course.  But the adults don’t.  And meanwhile you’ve got this picture perfect white family that when you peel back the veneer the truth is a lot more gruesome.  And then ultimately the kind of absurdity of a middle-age white guy riding around town covered in blood on a bicycle and nobody stops to notice because they’re over rioting at the respectable African-American family and blaming everything on them.

 

Trump Vs. Weinstein as P—y Grabbers

 

If you could explain that to me, I would appreciate that.  There was a number of times I thought his candidacy would be derailed.  But we’re just living in a different time.  The “grab them by the pussy” comments. You are admitting that you are a sexual predator and then when the Khan family, the gold star family who he insulted and got into an argument with.  I thought surely that’s got to be it and then there were so many times after that.   For me, it’s just about trying to get through this Presidency without this behavior becoming normalized.  Because we have to return to our sense of decency.  We have to have a sense of shame.  I don’t know how to raise children in the face of that kind of boorishness coming out of the White House.  I just ignore it for right now.  They are a little younger and they aren’t reading every news cycle or about politics yet.  But of course my 19-year-old is and we have different conversations. Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and now Harvey.  And people feeling embolden to talk. Hopefully this is like a series of dominoes that will fall and we will get to the point where the waitress who is getting harassed while she’s punching her time card fills in embolden enough to speak out as well without fear of retribution. I am hoping that the world that I’m raising these girls to come into will be one in which you have a lot more women in positions of power and hopefully that will happen before my kids are adults but if it doesn’t then my kids will be the wave that put women in power. Because we just need more women in these positions of power. I have a good feeling that they would use that power quite differently.

 

Educating Daughters about Women’s Positions in Society

 

MD: It’s tough. Situations like we’ve been reading about in the news with Harvey.  I don’t know how you protect somebody from that.  A lot of these women did everything right. They were pursuing their careers. They were doing everything professionally and wound up in these situations where they got pulled into a meeting that seemed completely on the up and up and then suddenly they were trapped in a room with a monster.  So that’s a fear, I think, for any parent, or brother or friend of any woman. That is the nightmare scenario. Day to day you just try to instill your kids with a sense of self-esteem because you’re not going to be there when they are making a lot of these choices in their lives. And you want them to be able to make good choices. But again a situation like that is the worst case scenario.  One of my daughters is 19, at the age-appropriate level for discussion.

 

Sexism, Not Just Hollywood Problem

 

MD: It’s definitely not just a Hollywood problem. It’s a problem across all different sectors and all different businesses. It’s a problem across a culture and it looks like we are waking up to it and getting ready to take it head on which is long overdue.

 

Message of Downsizing

MD: I think the film has a lot to say.  One thing I love about all of Alexander Payne’s movies is that they’re so rich that you get something different each time you go back and you find new themes.  I wouldn’t want to limit it and say it’s about this or it’s about climate change or the environment. Because I think there are just so many scenes in social dynamics in class and about capitalism, materialism.   And it’s really all in there and he is so painstakingly sets every frame in every minute the amount of work he puts into every excruciating detail.   For me, he is the type of filmmaker that you don’t want to try to reduce to one or two themes.  I think there is just so much baked into all of his movies.  I just watch “Sideways” again on the plane coming out here.  I hadn’t seen it in six or seven years and I got so much more out of it then I got out of it the first three or four times I saw it.  It has a lot to say, but it’s up to the audience.

Optimistic Character

MD: he’s very optimistic.  And by the same token; the movie takes that left turn and by the end of the film he is in love and he is relishing in the good daily deeds that we can do for one another.  I feel like it is optimistic at the end.  And that mirrors his own optimism.  He has the feeling that things are going to work out and then a lot of things don’t work out for him until they finally do.

 

 

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