Did you hear the news last week? Matt Damon died on a camping trip. Surprisingly, he showed up in Toronto the day after the news broke to promote his new film The Informant!.
“I don’t even know why someone thinks that’s funny,” Damon said, addressing a question about said rumour, at The Informant! press conference during the Toronto International Film Festival. “I was forwarded the story which, if you read it, just gets sillier and sillier and, by the end, the guy who claims to be my agent is quoting the lyrics from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Yet CNN called, the Boston Globe called – all of these reputable news sources called. Misinformation…you can get it around quicker because you motherf***ers (referring to journalists) are lazy.”
Don’t take his harsh words too seriously – he was all smiles while talking about it and said death was doing well for him.
In The Informant!, the fourth film he and director Steven Soderbergh have worked on together and based on true events, Damon plays Mark Whitacre, an executive turned whistle-blower who helped the FBI take down his employer, food manufacturing giant Archer Daniels Midland Co., over alleged price fixing of the animal feed additive lysine. To prepare for the role, Damon said he had to pack on an extra 30 lbs in order to appear “doughy”.
“Steven’s idea was he didn’t want any hard edges to the character. He wanted him undefined. You can’t quite pin him down…it’s a metaphor of who he really is as a character in the movie. I didn’t question it; I just started eating.”
When asked how he felt physically with the extra weight, Damon’s face lit up. “It felt fantastic! I’ve never had that much fun making a movie. I ate whatever I wanted and thought about nothing but the screenplay and the other actors – it was really nice. Compared to a Jason Bourne movie, where I go home after a day of work and I have to go to the gym…it takes way too much time away from my family. I just prefer to eat.”
Before jumping into the weight-gain process, Damon gave his colleague and friend Robert DeNiro a call.
“He’d obviously done it very famously for Raging Bull – where he put on 60 lbs, and I asked him about it and he said, ‘The first 15 lbs are really fun and then you have to go to work after that.’ It was true, almost, because I found the 30 lbs to be really fun and then, towards the end, I thought I should get rid of this weight but I wasn’t that excited about it.”
Actress Melanie Lynskey, who plays Whitacre’s wife Ginger, was in awe she was going to work with the “world’s sexiest man”.
“When I got the part, all my friends kept saying, ‘Oh my god. You’re going to be Matt Damon’s wife in a movie!’ And I was like, ‘I can’t believe it! Matt Damon! The sexiest man alive!’” But the role wasn’t as glamorous as Lynskey originally anticipated. “Then I got to the hair and make-up test and I was like, ‘oh, I see. Now it makes sense. He’s gained 30 lbs and has a crazy toupee on.’”
After working together on Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13, Damon and Soderbergh come across as though they’ve been friends for life, and watching them interact confirms it: they really play off of each other.
“Matt is one of those people who doesn’t like to watch other actors,” Soderbergh jabbed at one point.
“I can’t get enough of it. I’m going to go to every screening,” Damon added.
Unlike many actors preparing for a film based on a real person, Damon never met the real Mark Whitacre. “Once Steven made the decision to take it in a more comical direction tonally, it became less important to do rigorous character studies of the actual people [involved] and [became] more about having fun with this terrific script,” he said.
There is already Oscar buzz over Damon’s portrayal of Whitacre but Damon isn’t fazed by it.
“The only reason I did this movie was for an Oscar nomination. So I’m just going to come out and say it,” he admitted to the crowd early on.
On whether we’ll see another Ocean’s film, Damon joked, “We’re in talks with McG for Ocean’s 14.” Soderbergh got serious and added, “For me it was three [films] and out. But any possible way of revisiting that ended when Bernie Mac died. I don’t think any of us would want to go back and do that without him. So that’s it.”
As for another Bourne movie? Damon didn’t rule it out.
“We need to get a script that’s good. There’s not one in the next year at least. Maybe in two years we could shoot one. If we can figure out a way to do it, then we’ll do it.”