Downsizing star Matt Damon on living out of a bag for 10 years
Downsizing star talks about lean times when he owned nothing
The last couple of months have not been good for Matt Damon.
It started with some unfortunate, misplaced comments about the #MeToo movement that the 47-year-old US actor made in the press, provoking a backlash.
He seemed to support and defend US comedian Louis C.K., who has acknowledged masturbating in front of women, when he said: "I don't imagine he is going to do those things again."
His close connection with disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who helped kick-start his career, has also been criticised, especially after he claimed he had no knowledge of Weinstein's misdeeds.
Then he tried to distinguish between the many forms of bad behaviour in a TV interview.
"There is a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?" he told ABC News.
"Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn't be conflated, right?"
The social media reaction, accusing him of trivialising the victims of sexual harassment and assault, was fast and furious.
So much so that an online petition to remove his cameo - the Ocean's Trilogy's master pickpocketer Linus Caldwell - from the upcoming all-female spy caper spin-off Ocean's 8 has been signed by almost 20,000 people.
His father also lost his long battle with cancer last month.
But when we met at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills last October to talk about Damon's latest movie Downsizing, the furore was yet to come.
Back then, he was far from being vilified, where his closest brush with controversy was being outspoken about his political views and disenchantment with the current climate and the Trump administration.
"For me, it is just about trying to get through this presidency without this behaviour becoming normalised, because we have to return to our sense of decency. We have to have a sense of shame," he said.
"I don't know how to raise children in the face of that kind of boorishness coming out of the White House. I just ignore it for right now."
Written and directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) and opening here tomorrow, Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, scientists could shrink humans to 13cm.
Everyone's financial problems would be solved as well because money goes much further in a miniaturised world.
With the promise of a better life, mild-mannered everyman Paul Safranek (Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to make that irreversible leap.
Damon would not shrink himself if he had the chance.
"Definitely not. I talked to Alexander about this. I still don't think he figured out the whole birds and insects part of this whole thing. One beetle gets through the fence and that is a real bad day for you," he joked.
The social commentary in the satire interested him though.
"If you downsize, you can live like a millionaire. What does that say about where we are that we would be willing to do something that drastic just to have that feeling?
"Alexander does a really good job of showing the economic pressure that the characters are under."
Damon turned down the lead in 2016's award-winning drama Manchester By The Sea to do Downsizing because he wanted to work with Payne. Casey Affleck took the role and won an Oscar for it.
Said Damon: "When (Alesander) gave me the script, I (felt) it was a completely original story. Nobody has ever seen anything like it.
"It is this kind of crazy, digressive left turn it takes in the middle of the movie, and I get to Norway and am in love with a one-legged Vietnamese political dissident."
Has he ever downsized in real life?
The father of four girls said: "There were probably 10 years when I was living from movie to movie out of a duffel bag.
"I had my life basically in one bag and that was kind of as downsized as I have gone. But that was really fun.
"It was before I had children, and I was at the age where I could do that. There is something really liberating about not owning stuff."
It has been two decades since his breakout 1997 film Good Will Hunting with actor-pal Ben Affleck, for which they won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and he reminisced about the early struggle.
He was living with a roommate in a West Hollywood two-bedroom apartment when Affleck broke off an engagement to his then fiancee and crashed on their tiny living room couch.
"That was another thing that got us working on the screenplay because we really had to get out of that situation," said Damon.
He and Affleck were also among thousands of struggling actors when auditions for the 1996 film Primal Fear were announced.
"Ben and I had identified that part as the star-making role that changes your life overnight. I remember I hired a dialect coach with money I didn't have, and I really went after that part and got relatively close. But Edward Norton got it.
"I remember thinking, 'When is another such role going to come out and filter into the pools of thousands of us?'
"That was really why we dedicated ourselves to writing. We never had any interest in being screenwriters. It was out of total necessity and not out of a desire to write."
Those days are long behind him now.
Having done five movies back to back, including Suburbicon and The Great Wall, he doesn't have another planned yet but directing is always on his mind.
"I just have to find the right thing," he said.
Damon may be well occupied doing just that until the current uproar surrounding him dies down.