Matt Damon Casts Frances McDormand in Directorial Debut; Talks About Learning from Great Directors

     December 19, 2011

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I am excited to see what Matt Damon can do as a director.  Over the past couple years, he has often spoken of his aspirations to direct after a decade plus working with the greats: Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers, the Stevens (Spielberg and Soderbergh), Paul Greengrass, to name a few.  In a recent interview, Damon discussed how these directors influenced him, and we’ll get to that after after that jump.  First, Damon revealed that he cast Frances McDormand in his directorial debut.  The project is based on an idea by Dave Eggers and John Krasinski, about “a salesman who goes to this small town and how the salesman is changed by his experience there.”  Damon and Krasinski will also star in the film alongside McDormand.  Damon says they’re trying to round out the cast, so hopefully we’ll receive the full list in the coming weeks.

Now back to Damon’s approach to directing.  Hit the jump for quotes.

While talking to Kim Masters on The Business, Damon discussed the benefits of being a writer/director/actor [big thanks to The Film Stage for the transcript]:

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“I just love the whole process of filmmaking and talking to actors and because I’m writer also, I get to collaborate with these directors that I work with and I really enjoy the other side of the camera. I’m in front of the camera in the first one I’m directing. It turns out if you write, direct and act for free, you can get pretty good creative terms for your movie.”

We learned firsthand that Damon is a born storyteller, which is a major reason I am excited to see the actor step behind the camera. Here, Damon recounted a memorable conversation he had with director Anthony Minghella:

“Years ago, the first time I met with Anthony Minghella and we were talking about The Talented Mr. Ripley and I was sitting and talking to him and I had just done Good Will Hunting and The Rainmaker and Saving Private Ryan, but none of them had come out and he started asking me all these questions about the directors. He started to ask about [Steven] Spielberg and [Francis Ford] Coppola and started to ask about Gus Van Sant and I was like giving him the one-eye I think because he just won like 100 Oscars for The English Patient. He was the toast of the town and here he was asking about how these other guys worked.

He smiled and he said, ‘You don’t know this yet but we all live on an island and we don’t get to visit each others islands. We just kind of make it up as we go along and that’s why I think actors make such good directors because you get to go to all these different islands. You get to see inside all these different processes and take what works for you and put it in your own process.’ And so that made a lot of sense to me and so I’ve been thinking about these last twelve or thirteen years as a chance to apprentice myself to these incredible people and I’ve learned a bunch from each of them.”

Damon elaborated on the one thing he has noticed in all the great directors that he’s worked with:

“They’re all highly collaborative and they know they understand it’s a dictatorship, albeit a benevolent dictatorship. So they will make the final decision. As a result their egos, they’re not threatened at all by ideas. … In fact they are really solicitous of everybody they’ve hired, every department. An idea can come from anywhere and it’s about creating an environment where ideas can really get expressed and they can sit there and cherry pick which ones they think will work and which ones won’t. At the end of the day they’re the arbiters of taste. So they all come with a plan, but they’re completely willing to ditch it if a better one presents itself.”

Production is tentatively scheduled for next spring.  Can’t wait to see how it comes together.

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