Aug 14, 2007

Matt Damon: Accidental tourist

"I didn't know where I had come from. I didn't know where I was going—which are things you really need to know as an actor." —Matt Damon to Time magazine on his role in The Bourne Ultimatum.

"Nobody goes to a movie because Matt Damon's in it," I argued with my life partner a short while back, who stubbornly insisted that exactly the opposite was true. This was only a day or so before announced that Damon was the most bankable star in Hollywood: $29 return per movie for every dollar he gets in base salary and perks. So what else do you think you know, smart guy?

Though actually I'm still not convinced. Maybe it's simply that Damon sells himself cheaper than most of the other monogram bankrolls, like Sandler and Depp and Cruise—or Brad Pitt, who wound up second on the list. So for every hypothetical $100 mill a movie takes in, Damon gets less than five while Cruise might claim up to ten. Which, to a certain extent, does seem to be the case—"a bargain" is how describes his contractual millions vis-a-vis the bigger-ticket stars. Well, that makes sense, Matt being a respectfully humble sort. Or more likely invisible, though "terminally recessive" seems a better description yet. Which apparently he's becoming more and more of with every film he makes . . . not his fault, mind you, since it all depends on how they use (or abuse) you and where they decide to set up the camera. Or if you're expected to act—make that run—with your back toward it through at least two-thirds of the production.

Still it's a kind of art—a presence in nonpresence, verging on giddy experiment—that in its own empty way seems pretty intriguing. I like the visual abstraction of The Bourne Ultimatum, aka Crank 2 with more sophisticated chops, and how Damon effectively disappears into it . . . not the role so much as the shape-shifting topography. Just another ambulating tourist in the perennial casbah of the mind—or maybe the new Chauncey Gardiner on anonymous undercover assignment. Being There, done that.

*This article is written by by Pat Graham, published at

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