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Matt Damon: The Not So Bright Informant

Coming soon in the cinema is Matt Damon's latest project "The Informant" where he will be playing a character named Mark Whitacre, the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in U.S. history.

Damon discusses the offbeat comedy, directed by Steven Soderbegh, in the following interview:

Question: What drew you to the role of Mark Whitacre in The Informant!?

Matt Damon: It’s one of the best roles I have ever been offered. And what’s funny is that it came up a while ago. It was in 2001. I was on my fourth round of reshoots on The Bourne Identity, I’d had two movies come out that totally bombed, the Bourne movie had been delayed for a year, and all the signals were that it was going to be a disaster too. So it was in that climate that [director] Steven [Soderbergh] called me and said he had found something for us to do together.

Q: How did you get from there to here?

Damon: It’s weird because I did three other movies [Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen] with Steven before we got to this. We always knew that once we had a spare two months we could go and make The Informant! but we never seemed to have a spare two months that coincided. But in a way it was great to walk around for seven years knowing we had that bullet in our gun.

Q: Did you go and meet the real Mark Whitacre?

Damon: No, because once Steven decided to do it as a comedy—and I think it’s a very funny film, by the way—it became something different and it didn’t have to be a rigorous character study, so it didn’t seem like meeting him would be the right thing. I know that he has seen the movie though and he liked it.

Q: Why do you think he did the extraordinary things he did?

Damon: I had to decide for myself what made him tick and I don’t really want to say what I decided. But there are certainly several different theories that can be argued for.

Q: The big shock at the start of the film is how different you look. Among other things, you gained a lot of weight. What was the thinking behind that?

Damon: I’d emailed Steven about two months before we started work and asked him what he wanted the character to look like and he emailed back with one word: ‘doughy.’ And then he explained that it was sort of metaphor for the character because he was so hard to define. Steven didn’t want him to have any hard edges so it would look like you couldn’t quite tell where he began or ended in the same way that you can’t quite tell when he’s lying or telling the truth. They even changed my nose – they took the sharpness out of it with a prosthetic – and I had these things is my cheeks to make them slightly plumper and take away any hint of a jawline. I also wore a wig that’s really well done because in real life his colleagues had bets about whether Mark was wearing a hairpiece or not. He was, but they couldn’t quite figure it out. The screenwriter put it there as a direction in the script, ‘Even his hair was a lie.’

Q: You reportedly gained a total of 30lbs [14 kg] for the role. How did you gain it and how did you lose it?

Damon: All I did was eat like I ate when I was in college and it came on shockingly fast. Losing it was not any fun.

Q: Do you have a preference for making big blockbusters like the Bourne films or more character-based pieces like The Informant!?

Damon: I just want there to be space for both. A lot of the edgier stuff certainly seems to have gone to TV and it seems like films have to get bigger and bigger in order to get people to theaters. But I think if you keep to a certain budget and don’t take too long to shoot it, there is still room for more thoughtful films like this one.

Q: I understand you shot this film very quickly. Was that just about saving money?

Damon: We shot in 30-something days, whereas it takes months to do one of the Bourne or Ocean’s films. But saving money wasn’t the primary goal. Steven’s theory on comedies is that you take as long as you need on the script and then you shoot it really fast to keep the energy and pace there. And I like that a lot. By the time we got to set it was more like we were doing a play. I knew the whole thing back to front. It made for a very joyful experience.

The true-to-life film will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4, Greenbelt 3 and Trinoma) starting Oct. 21 and distributed by Warner Bros., a Warner Entertainment Company.

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