He caused a stir in the lead up to the last US Presidential election when in a television interview he described Republican Sarah Palin’s political rise as akin to “a really bad Disney movie.”
Damon’s latest film, Green Zone, is an action conspiracy thriller set in Iraq by Briton Paul Greengrass, who also directed the popular Bourne spy movies.
Also starring actor Greg Kinnear, the film is based on a behind-the-scenes account of how the Bush administration failed to find weapons of mass destruction and ran Iraq after the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Damon talked to Reuters about why he was nervous to order around real soldiers on the set and why he was disappointed by the troop surge in Afghanistan.
How was it for you acting alongside real soldiers who were in this movie with you?
Playing a guy who is barking orders at real vets who just got back from Iraq, as an actor was really daunting … It was a concern of mine. I felt like the movie actor who is acting like he is in command of these guys who have just really gotten back from a war. It is kind of a weird thing. And it was the guys, who said, ‘Look you have to do it and if you don’t, the whole thing doesn’t work’. But whatever you tell us to do we will do, we know how to follow orders.
You have downplayed your movie star life as humble in the past, but did you have any trouble connecting with these guys who have just returned from war?
Very, very different lives and different experiences. But I found it great to talk to them and fascinating to talk to them and it was really interesting. It was a great cross section of political views among them. It wasn’t partisan. It wasn’t like we made the movie with a bunch of Democrats. These are military guys, so there was a true representation of America both politically and geographically. We had guys from all over the country.
So you didn’t mention your past criticism of Palin then?
I made that one comment about Palin and it got so much play! I was really surprised by that actually. It has survived on You Tube.
But did you talk to the soldiers about how you feel about Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan? Were you disappointed?
The belief (in Obama) is still there. But I was very disappointed about the Afghanistan thing. Ultimately it is what I say at the end of the movie, that the reasons we go to war matter… So I don’t think that is a particularly incendiary thing to say, and I don’t think that is a partisan thing to say. I think that is a very honest thing to say. And I believe that. If we are going to make a decision, then it shouldn’t be rushed. To get something this drastically wrong … these people were guilty of groupthink.
What does this film say about the lack of finding any weapons of mass destruction and that effect on US soldiers for why they went to Iraq?
I hoped that the one thing the movie would do is to show soldiers in a very positive light … because what you have seen are the incredible risks these guys have taken because we have asked them to go.
So if we are going to ask that then we can’t send them somewhere where there are no weapons of mass destruction, that is why they were going in the first place.
How was the experience of working on this film, which is being billed as very similar to your Bourne films, different to Bourne when it was a lot of the same crew on set?
Bourne is kind of a superhero and this guy we wanted to make very human — that these things come at a price, that he is scared when someone pulls a gun up to his head. He is a real person and in that regard it was different.