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The Hollywood shine has not affected Matt Damon, whose family keeps him grounded even as his career reaches yet another level with The Bourne Supremacy; but he has to remember his mother’s admonitions about screen violence, he tells Andrew L. Urban.

Matt Damon doesn’t look like one of Hollywood’s hot male stars – because he’s not. Not of Hollywood that is. He lives with his wife and two little kids in Miami, away from it all, and he admits that none of his family are especially impressed by his stardom. Especially not his mother, a Professor of early-childhood development and non-violent conflict resolution, had indoctrinated Damon from an early age to look for ways to avoid the sort of altercations that are part of daily life for Bourne.

“The reason I'm allowed to do this movie and still have a relationship with my mother,” he explains, “is because the character bears the responsibility for his actions in a way, and you see the price that he pays for the life that he's chosen to lead. Violence is part of life, but there are consequences to violence, which we see on screen in the Bourne films, which is really important.”

"a dry sense of humour"

But Damon doesn’t stay serious for long; he has a dry sense of humour, so when he’s asked how does he keep grounded and real in a world that’s famous for excess and fakery, he quips deadpan: “I’ve got a great entourage …that’s important.”

In a dull grey top, with the sleeves pulled up to the elbows, and dark blue slacks, Damon is not flashy. His chunky black boots smack of treading the pavement, not the backseat of a limo, as his chunky steel watch smacks of telling the time not advertising his wealth. He responds to questions thoughtfully and seems to have no pat replies. Talking about acting (as a young actor he studied the Meisner technique, an uncomplicated variation on the Stanislavski method) he’ll often recall anecdotes, like the one about Robert de Nero, an actor he admires. “He taught me that no matter what happens, you just keep going in a scene. There may be something that’s bad, but you just power on because what you’re looking for is that one great moment. So you don’t stop.”

As for the creation of the Jason Bourne character, he recalls how the director of The Bourne Identity, Doug Liman said to him as a note, “Walk like a boxer…and I asked him, how’s that, but Doug didn’t really know…” So Damon went and had six months of private boxing lessons and he learnt how a boxer moves, “all focus and economical…and how to duck a punch, a boxer moves forwards and sideways, not backwards … all that stuff.” So now, before each Bourne film, he goes back to boxing training.

Working with director Paul Greengrass on the last two Bourne films has been sheer pleasure, says Damon. “He’s the sort of director that grew up on documentaries so his brief to the camera operators is always to follow the actors.”

"morally ambiguous"

Greengrass, in turn, says he could not have inherited a better actor to play Jason Bourne. "He's got a particular skill set as an actor that makes him perfect for this. He's a brilliant actor of duality. He's done it on a number of films back from the beginning. The Talented Mr Ripley is a classic example. Because he's got that open face, and yet it's capable of dark actions. It makes him very, very morally ambiguous. I think he's been at his best on the screen when he's explored that. Particularly so as Jason Bourne, because the character itself is a duality, with the dark … renounced past. This is his time."

Published August 30, 2007

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Matt Damon

Director: Paul Greengrass
Australian release: August 30, 2007.
When London’s The Guardian runs a story about his real identity being secret, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) believes that security journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Consadine) must have a source who could finally lead him to discover who he really is before he became a professional assassin for the CIA. He makes contact with Ross, but the ever vigilant, technically empowered spy Agency picks up the scent; under orders from the head of the special ‘dirty’ branch, Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) a team is sent to kill them. This sets off a chase from London through Paris, Madrid, Tangier and New York as Bourne tries to evade his old employer, save his collaborator Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) and make contact with a CIA bureau chief Neal Daniels (Colin Stinton) who knows the truth of his beginnings as an agent. But Daniels is killed before Bourne can get the information, and Vosen puts the heat on to have the evidence destroyed and Bourne terminated before he can discover and possibly divulge details of Blackbriar, the top secret operation that spawned him as its first killing machine.

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