Movies For The Money: Matt Damon edition
Matt Damon is currently promoting We Built A Zoo. It was once my hope that he, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt would run Oceans during award season. According to the experts, Zoo is not strong enough. Having said that, there’s always the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Golden Globe nominations come down on Thursday. Seeing the three of them get drunk together at the Beverly Hilton is good enough for me.
This is Matt last night with his wife Luciana at Zoo’s New York premiere. This is Matt on the cover of the new issue of GQ. And everyone is talking about his harsh words for writer/director Tony Gilroy.
It all begins rather innocently. Damon is praised for walking away from an easy $20 million for a 4th Bourne, insisting that while he wants to do it one day, now is not the time. The conversation then takes a rather adversarial tone:
“Another Bourne film is in the works, however. Tony Gilroy, who wrote or co-wrote the first three films, has written and begun directing the fourth, The Bourne Legacy. The movie is said to exist in the same world as the previous three, but it introduces a new main character, played by Jeremy Renner. Damon says he learned about the project one day while surfing online. "It was a surprise," he says, though he doesn't sound particularly miffed. Not yet, at least.
Damon tells me he thinks Gilroy is a great director (Michael Clayton, Duplicity) and that he admires Renner. And because Damon fully intends to make another Bourne movie someday, he says he's "really pulling for this one, even though I don't have anything to do with it. Selfishly, it's bad for me if that movie doesn't do well." He says he still feels "inoculated" by the franchise—as if it protects him from having to do anything that could be bad for him. "It feels like I can swing freely, like a baseball player—just be relaxed and really do the things that I want to do and not worry, because I know there's another one out there."
Later, though, Damon will wonder if maybe he has become a little too relaxed. Because suddenly, as we sit on a bench in the afternoon sunshine, he takes a major swing at Gilroy. Damon says that back in 2001, when the first Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity, was still in postproduction, Gilroy saw a rough cut and got worried. "The word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey," Damon says. "It's very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it's good. So Tony Gilroy arbitrated against himself to not be the writer with sole credit."
Typically screenwriters use the Writers Guild's arbitration process when they feel they've been denied credit unfairly. This time, Gilroy wanted to share the credit (and the blame), Damon says, "to have another guy take the bullet with him." And so someone named William Blake Herron is now cashing residual checks on Bourne, just like Gilroy is. (Actually Damon may have gotten his chronology wrong—one source says Herron initiated the credit dispute, but that Gilroy didn't oppose sharing credit.)
Gilroy wrote Bourne 2 as well: The Bourne Supremacy. Then, Damon says, for The Bourne Ultimatum, the third in the franchise, Gilroy struck a deal to write just one draft of the script, take no notes, do no rewrites, and get paid "an exorbitant amount of money."
"It's really the studio's fault for putting themselves in that position," Damon says. "I don't blame Tony for taking a boatload of money and handing in what he handed in. It's just that it was unreadable. This is a career-ender. I mean, I could put this thing up on eBay and it would be game over for that dude. It's terrible. It's really embarrassing. He was having a go, basically, and he took his money and left."
Gilroy's lackluster work left the production in chaos, Damon says. "We had a start date. Like, 'It's coming out August of next year.' We're like, 'Hang on, we've got to figure out what the script is.' " In the end, the shooting script was written under extreme deadline pressure by George Nolfi and Scott Z. Burns, with input from Greengrass, Damon says. And then Gilroy raised another challenge. "Before the movie came out, he arbitrated to get sole credit," Damon says, disgusted. The WGA looked into it and turned Gilroy down. (He shares credit with Nolfi and Burns.) "That was just a little bit of justice, I have to say," Damon says.
A representative for Gilroy referred all inquiries to Universal Pictures, where spokeswoman Kori Bernards reiterated the studio's support for both Damon and Gilroy. "We could not imagine replacing Matt as Jason Bourne, which is why we're so excited Tony's script creates a fantastic new character in The Bourne Legacy and also leaves open the option for Matt to return.... Tony has done everything we've asked of him on each of the Bourne films, and his work has been a huge asset to the franchise."
Damon ends up calling the journalist later on, when the article is ready to be published, to explain and to apologise. Needless to say, being a celebrity veteran, he knew this would be the headline. And it is. You may have already read about it somewhere else.
"If I didn't respect (Tony Gilroy) and appreciate his talent, then I really wouldn't have cared.... My feelings were hurt. That's all. And that's exactly why I shouldn't have said anything. This is between me and him. So saying anything publicly is fucking stupid and unprofessional and just kind of douchey of me."
You know me - my favourite interviews are the ones where they’re the most candid, when they don’t edit themselves, when they’re asked a question and they allow themselves to answer honestly. Obviously I love this so much. Damon tries to back up his sh-t talk with very specific reasons as to why Gilroy disappointed him. Should he have revealed as much to a magazine? Was that classy? Of course not. Classy is the EXCEPTION in Hollywood. It’s never the standard.
But, but, but...
You expect more from Matt Damon, right?
Everyone loves Matt Damon.
I love Matt Damon.
In an industry of pricks, he is certainly one of the nicer ones.
But ...that doesn’t mean he doesn’t make movies for money. And before you mount your fangirl defence of him - what, exactly, were all those Oceans movies about if they weren’t about the money? Come on now.
Actors make movies for money all the time.
And screenwriters get to write movies for money some of the time.
I guess I’m just saying I found it kind of funny that an Actor, no matter how likeable he is, was criticising a Writer for greed and vanity.
Click here for more from Matt Damon in GQ including his really cute relationship with his dad, his new bromance with John Krasinski, and his eternal bromance with Ben Affleck. Also, try not to squeal when he talks to his wife on the phone. I really love the title of the piece. Good Will Hunting is still great to me. Is that dumb?