The M Interview: Matt Damon's lost in space again in The Martian
US actor Matt Damon tackles another cosmic adventure but this time, he gets to play the good guy
Stranded in space, left helpless on land.
The Martian star Matt Damon has certainly experienced the worst of both worlds.
In the Ridley Scott-directed space flick which opens tomorrow, he plays NASA astronaut and botanist Mark Watney, who is left to fend for himself alone on Mars after he's presumed dead in the wake of a storm.
In real life, the 44-year-old US actor knows all too well what it feels like to be left to his own devices.
Blame it on how he used to have a fear of flying.
"Happily, I've never lived through anything where people thought I was dead. But I've been stranded a lot when I used to drive across the country in my 20s.
"Statistically, this is more dangerous (than flying) but I didn't like to fly," a ponytail-sporting, buff-bodied Damon told M back in May at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Damon, who has made more than 10 interstate drives across the US when he was younger, said he used to experience car breakdowns in the middle of nowhere in his battered car.
"If I did it now, I'd make sure I drive a nicer car," he joked.
"(The fear of flying) probably had to do with my age then and the lack of control I would have. Perhaps it was an extension of the lack of control I had in my own life. I've since outgrown it," he said.
In The Martian, Damon finds himself stranded and helpless again.
With no one to depend on, limited food and water, his character struggles to stay alive as he awaits rescue in a mission steeped in challenges.
The movie also stars Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara and Michael Pena.
Incidentally, The Martian comes just a year after Damon's uncredited top-secret cameo in Christopher Nolan's 2014 sci-fi space epic Interstellar, which also featured him stranded in space as the scheming Dr Mann.
Damon was quick to shoot down the parallels between both roles.
"It's so funny the way things come together like that sometimes. I've never played a character in space before this and suddenly, I have two such roles back to back"
"When I told (Scott) that I just played a guy stranded on a planet, he told me not to worry because this role is different. It's true. The Martian is more about the celebration of that instinct in all of us to help each other," he explained.
There is no telling if there will be a third space-related movie in the pipeline but Damon is not ruling out the possibility.
"I choose my roles based on who the director is and what the script is like so I'm open to anything. I love movies that take place in space but never got offered a good one... and then I was offered two.
"For me, if Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott comes along with movies in space, in the desert, or in the ocean, I'll do it. It's an easy decision," said Damon, who is currently filming the fifth Bourne movie, which sees him reprise his role as assassin Jason Bourne.
But the next time he's trapped in space with no way out, he would like to have these three things with him - his Argentinian wife Luciana Barroso, his four daughters (aged between five and 17) and the entire discography of Irish rock act U2.
Yes, even the controversial album Songs Of Innocence, he said, which was forced upon half a billion iTunes customers for free in their accounts last year as part of a promotion strategy between Apple and the band.
"I would like my wife with me so I wouldn't be alone. We need music too so the entire collection of U2's albums would be nice for a 'lonely outer space' experience. I have to take my children as well... that is, assuming we have food and water," he said.
It's so funny the way things come together like that sometimes. I've never played a character in space before this and suddenly, I have two such roles back to back.
- Matt Damon, on playing a stranded astronaut in last year's Interstellar and new movie The Martian
The M Match-Up: Martian Matt v Interstellar Matt
It's very weird. Matt Damon has now played a stranded astronaut in back-to-back movies: last year's Interstellar and this year's The Martian. Will he forever be typecast as a stranded astronaut? The real question is, who's coolest?
Martian Matt: Damon plays Mark Watney, a botanist who gets stranded on Mars after a sand storm. With limited resources, he must "science the s***" out of his situation until help arrives. That means growing food in dead sand and creating water out of thin air.
Interstellar Matt: Damon plays Dr Mann, who winds up on a horrible planet, but tells everyone it's a great planet. He survives in suspended animation until help arrives and then tries to steal the ship! Mann uses his brain power for trickery and betrayal. He sucks.
ROUND ONE: MARTIAN MATT
They're equally clever, but Martian Matt isn't a psycho like Interstellar Matt.
Martian Matt: Damon hates working out, but he was willing to hit the gym and just say no to burgers and beer in order get in shape for this role. He's RIPPED. He's also full of charm. Sadly, he gets less handsome the longer he's stranded.
Interstellar Matt: Looking like a pudgy, middle-aged, exhausted dude, Damon is hardly dashing in Interstellar. It also doesn't help that he's a conniving, murderous weasel. That said, everyone looks cool in a space suit.
ROUND TWO: MARTIAN MATT
With his good looks and humour, Martian Matt is a primo space hunk.
Martian Matt: The Martian is both a crowd-pleaser and a quality motion picture. Director Ridley Scott has crafted a gripping epic that's as smart as it is stunning. Reviews from critics and audiences have been killer and it should clean up at the box office.
Interstellar Matt: Even though it has a dense plot, a crazy timeline and some ambitious themes, Christopher Nolan's US$165 million (S$235 million) mindbender was nonetheless a huge hit on all fronts. He was handsomely rewarded with worldwide grosses of US$675 million.
ROUND THREE: IT'S A DRAW
Both flicks are total winners.
THE WINNER: MARTIAN MATT
Damon has played a lot of creeps, as he did in Interstellar, but The Martian proves he's at his best when he's at his brightest.
- Jason Johnson
Joining Matt Damon are these other actors who were also the sole performers in their movies.
All Is Lost (2013)
127 Hours (2010)
Cast Away (2000)