The ambition to move from a performer to a director is natural in nearly any scenario, though the impulse to do so could be for any manner of reasons. For some, there’s a feeling that those who have distinct artistic sensibilities as a filmmaker are being fussy, precious, and even pretentious about what is, in their view, a purely entertainment-driven enterprise. For others, they are inspired by those same people to follow their own sensibilities, after gaining some confidence and ambition by listening, conversing, and working with other filmmakers, crew members, and fellow performers. Ben Affleck has done it largely as a way to get scripts made that might not be made under other circumstances, often written or co-written by the Live By Night helmer.
So, it’s only natural that Matt Damon would want to get in on this, seeing as he’s worked on a variety of scripts as well and has ascended gracefully to the upper echelons of Hollywood, despite occasionally making tremendously unwise statements in the press. For a moment, he considered directing Manchester by the Sea, a job that eventually (thank heavens) went to the great Kenneth Lonergan. More recently, Damon signed on to helm Father Daughter Time, about a father who takes his daughter on a three-day crime spree, but now, according to Deadline, he has had to pass on this project too, due to a very hectic schedule. Gavin O’Connor, who has directed very good (Warrior) and very bad (The Accountant) movies in his day, will take over for him and he told Deadline that he already has a personal connection to the material.
Here’s what O’Connor said about taking on the project to Deadline:
“As a subject I’ve always wanted to explore the father daughter relationship…I was a single dad for many years. And being a good father – a good example to my daughter – was deeply important to me. But as fathers we’re human – flawed – we make mistakes – and maybe we didn’t have good examples growing up – no strong female role models. So a daughter can be like a Martian to us. Yet you’re a part of each other. You will always be a part of them and they will always be a part of you. We form each other. And I wanted to explore that. How do you live inside that? How do you become a great dad to a daughter when no one taught you how?”
This sounds just a bit too general but it’s still very early with this. There’s no way of telling if this will hew closer to Paper Moon or something like A Perfect World, where the story takes on the tone of a complicated, openly political American fable. Both are promising ways to approach the story Cleaner screenwriter Matthew Aldrich has given O’Connor here, and there are dozens of other stories that could influence the filmmaker’s taste. My worry with O’Connor is never whether he has the right influence, and always if he has enough personality and daring in his pictures. Throughout his career, there have been different answers to the question, so we will have to see where O’Connor goes with casting and his crew to get a better sense. As for Damon, one hopes he finds the time and the energy to realize what is clearly a major ambition for him. I have to imagine that would be a better use of time than whatever this Great Wall nonsense ends up being.