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Gus Van Sant Steps In To Helm Matt Damon’s Former Directorial Debut

Gus Van Sant Steps In To Helm Matt Damon’s Former Directorial Debut

Update: Deadline confirms Gus Van Sant will direct the film, described as a Frank Capra-esque tale about two rival corporate executives. Filming begins in April.

Sleeping on a story to see where it develops will get you burned. Case in point: yesterday’s story on Matt Damon walking away from his untitled directorial debut, which had been co-written by the Academy Award-winning writer (“Good Will Hunting”) and his pal John Krasinski, whom he hit it off with while filming “The Adjustment Bureau” in which Damon co-starred with Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt (Krasinski is also set to appear in the upcoming film).

Damon’s decision to step down from the director’s chair (though he will still star) had been brewing since before the Christmas break and it wasn’t an easy decision for him. The actor-hoping-to-turn-director had been talking up his directorial debut in GQ and in a recent interview with KRCW’s Kim Masters. “I feel like there is more riding on this one then there will be on the second one that I direct, because you only kind of get one chance to make a first impression,” he told the reporter.

Why bail out? Yesterday Vulture reported that Damon was stepping down because of “script issues,” but why would the actor talk up a movie he was imminently going to make – that he co-wrote no less – and then suddenly decided the script wasn’t where it needed to be?  Sources have been telling us Damon felt squeezed for prep time. Some of it has to do with the extended shooting schedule for Neill Blomkamp‘s “Elysium” that is eating up space on his calendar, and apparently, there are also some unknown personal issues cutting into his time as well.

Knowing that he couldn’t commit to direct, Damon has been trying to find a director who could step in for him, and keep the project moving. While Steven Soderbergh did offer his services as director of photography last summer, timing won’t allow that and Soderbergh now has his own upcoming project, “The Side Effects,” to contend with (ironically enough, one of the reasons Damon couldn’t star in Soderbergh’s version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was because he was going to be too busy making his directorial debut).

However, another director might step in, who has worked with Damon before and has already discussed potentially taking on the gig – Gus Van Sant. He directed “Good Will Hunting” — Damon’s breakthrough role and Oscar-winning effort — and he also helmed the arty “Gerry,” which the actor co-wrote and co-starred in with Casey Affleck. Considering they have a good, existing rapport (Damon is nothing if not loyal and likes to work with comfortable collaborators), and if the two can figure things out – Van Sant wasn’t expecting to direct a movie as early as March 2012 and will need to get up to speed fast – it might just be the perfect match and could save the project. (Reps for Gus Van Sant did not return calls for comment).

Nothing is a done deal just yet, and though funding is tentatively in place for the $12 million project along with a looming spring start date, with no director officially on board, it’s conceivable that this untitled project, based on a Dave Eggers idea (but not written by him as Vulture reported) could fall apart. Anything’s possible in Hollywood, but knock on wood the adaptable Gus Van Sant will be able to step in and keep this film alive.

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