Only In Hollywood

Matt Damon on ‘Elysium,’ George Clooney and ‘unplugging’

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DAMON. Portrays a soldier who embarks on a mission to bring equality to polarized worlds.

LOS ANGELES—While Matt Damon recently laughed off reports that he will be Robin to his buddy Ben Affleck’s Batman, he is definitely working with another pal of his, George Clooney. Matt stars in “The Monuments Men,” which George directs and costars in, and is set for release this December.

Matt sounded more enthusiastic than ever about his friend of many years in a recent interview. He said, “I made this joke on ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ that George is one of those guys where God just went, ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to give this guy more. Why not? Let’s just keep going with this one.’ George has this abundance of talent in different areas. He gets more handsome the older he gets. Who does that happen to? And, he’s so loyal. It’s very frustrating to be friends with him sometimes, because he’s just wonderful! I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Matt is also in awe of Neill Bloomkamp, who directs him in “Elysium,” an action sci-fi set in 2154, when the rich live in a space station, while the poor are left behind on a ruined Earth. He plays Max, a soldier who embarks on a mission to bring equality to the polarized worlds.

According to Matt, Neill’s breakthrough movie in 2009, “District 9,” attracted him to do “Elysium,” which also stars Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga and Diego Luna. “It was a big movie that was original, and wasn’t a franchise, superhero movie or a remake. It was a completely original idea—and that’s extremely hard to find!”

Working with filmmakers he admires has helped Matt prepare for his much-awaited plunge into directing. Matt is in talks to make his directorial debut with “A Foreigner,” Chris Terrio’s adaptation of “A Murder Foretold,” an article in The New Yorker by David Grann.

Asked if he shares the bleak concept of the future by Neill, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, Matt answered, “I’m far more optimistic about the future than Neill is. It’s something that Lucy (Luciana Barroso, his wife) and I certainly talked about before we brought three more kids into the world—we already had Alexia (their eldest daughter) at that point. I’m hoping that technology will play a huge role in saving all of us.”

The star, who cofounded Water.org, which aims to bring safe water and sanitation to people around the world, said that while “Elysium” is set in the distant future, its story reflects the disparity between the rich and poor today.

“There is a shot of people running with jerry cans at one point,” he cited. “What Neill highlights is the abject poverty on one hand and the opulence on the other. The idea is that, as with any great futuristic fantasy or sci-fi movie, you make it about another place, but it’s really talking about today.”

Soul

According to Matt, “Elysium,” is, above all, a big popcorn movie that he hopes will linger in people’s minds longer than summer movies do. “It’s great to have a huge, entertaining summer movie,” he remarked. “But, it needs to have a soul if anybody is going to remember it.”

On the personal front, Matt said that balancing his professional and family lives is his biggest challenge.

The father of four girls hopes that being off from work for the rest of this year, except doing promo activities for his films, will help him find that balance.

“We just moved here to LA,” said Matt, who lived with his family in New York until this move. “The girls are starting a new school, so we’re going to make sure that the transition goes well for them.”

He and his family just spent a month’s vacation in Costa Rica. “We were completely unplugged,” he said, beaming about the refreshing hiatus from cell phones and the Internet. “It wasn’t hard for the kids to adjust to.”

In the ongoing Venice Film Festival, Matt has an entry, Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem,” which is also a sci-fi. The way he immediately agreed to be in the film reflects that Matt, like George, is a genuinely nice guy, too.

“Terry called me,” he recalled. He said, ‘I’ve got four days on this movie. Can you do it?’ I said, ‘Sure, where are you?’ He said, ‘Romania.’ I said, ‘Send me the plane ticket—and I went. It was great! I got to do two scenes with Christoph (Waltz), who’s such an inventive and amazing actor! It was a lovely time.”

Laughing, he quipped, “When you hang out with Terry, you feel both closer to and farther from, the meaning of life.”

E-mail rvnepales_5585@yahoo.com. Follow him at twitter.com/nepalesruben.

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