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Damonisms at the Berlinale: Matt on Ben, the Reception of ‘Promised Land’ and the Long-Delayed New Berlin Airport

Damonisms at the Berlinale: Matt on Ben, the Reception of 'Promised Land' and the Long-Delayed New Berlin Airport

While Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” — starring and written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski — has already come and gone from US theaters, it made its international debut in official competition at the Berlin International Film Festival. With that came an extremely entertaining press conference where the very quotable Damon charmed the room with musings on his BFF Ben Affleck, whether “Argo” will win best picture, the reception of “Promised Land” in America, and somehow even the long-delayed construction of the new Berlin airport.

Some choice quotes:

On Ben Affleck’s recent successes…
“I’m really happy for him. He’s worked so hard and he’s taken it on the chin for years from the press and from everyone… He was really in a rough spot 10 years ago. And he would say to me in the middle of it all ‘I’m in the worst place you could be career wise. I sell magazines but I don’t sell movie tickets. It’s absolute jail.’ And he basically just took himself out of the scene. He rebooted everything and started again. And in the last 5 years, he’s directed 3 fantastic movies. And his acting… He’s fantastic in ‘Hollywoodland,’ he’s fantastic in ‘The Town,’ he’s fantastic in ‘Argo.’ He’s done remarkable work in this short amount of time and I’m really just happy for him.”

On not tiring about talking about Affleck, and their company together…
“His life is so interesting that I never get tired of talking about him. He’s been on this rollercoaster for 15 years. We have a company together and with the success of “Argo,” he called me a few months ago and goes ‘we gotta get offices.’ We’re gonna rent an office this year and it’ll be a much more official company. We might even get a letterhead and a sign or something.”

On the chances of “Argo” winning best picture…
“Who knows what his chances are for [winning] best picture. I’m obviously pulling for those guys. But you know, they’ve been in the business a long time and they’re humbled by it and realistic about it. He’ll be fine either way.”

On the performance of “Promised Land”‘s U.S. release…
“We wouldn’t go back and do anything differently. We’re really proud of the movie. It didn’t get the reception that I hoped for. But that happens sometimes. And sometimes people find movies later on. I’ve had movies bomb worse than this one and actually make their money back later… I’m leary of becoming one of those people who lives so much in a bubble that I just everything I do is great. So I try and at least look at the objective metrics that are out there… I try to be mindful of that and listen. I’ve had a lot of movies that haven’t been received well critically or financially and I’m realistic about that. But with this one I just really love it and a big part of my heart is it. I don’t understand what I’m hearing back. Maybe in time I will.”

On the difficulties making smaller movies these days…
“It’s getting harder and harder to get money to make movies about things. We were really lucky to have Focus and get the amount we got. We made this for under $18 million, which was plenty of money for us. Everybody did fine. But that’s dissappearing. It’s much harder to make movies now that it was a few years ago. The whole business is contracting. And it’s only going to get harder. Meanwhile, a lot of the interesting stuff is migrating to television… So maybe that’s the answer?”

On his upcoming role in George Clooney’s “Monuments Men,” which is about to start shooting in Berlin…
“Everybody is excited because I’m coming back and I’m bringing George Clooney with me. Next month we start shooting. It’s a really great script that George wrote with Grant Heslov and George is going to direct as well. It’s a really fun cast. It’s got Bill Murray and John Goodman and Bob Balaban and Cate Blanchett and Jean Dujardin. It’s a really cool group of people. I’m really excited. And I love coming here. “Good Will Hunting” was here, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “The Good Shepard”… Some of my favorite movies I worked on came here. So I have some really good memories of Berlin.”

On Berlin’s long delayed new airport…
“When I was here 10 years ago, I was told it would be done in 5 years. Will I miss the layover in Frankfurt? No, I will not. I would love it if Berlin had the international airport it deserves, being the capital of the country. As somebody who loves coming here and shooting here and has spent hundreds of hours in the Frankfurt airport waiting to get my connecting flight, I would love it if I could fly directly here.”

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