Matt Damon Damon gets kick out of playing the bad guy in Suburbicon
Matt Damon on playing a man of many secrets in George Clooney's Suburbicon
Suburbicon is Hollywood superstar George Clooney's latest directorial effort, and he was worried that his leading man and old pal Matt Damon would turn up on set with Jason Bourne's ripped body.
He needn't have been concerned, as the 47-year-old US actor, according to Clooney, is not only a "consummate professional, but he takes particular pleasure in playing a buffoon".
Of his period role, Damon tells us at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles: "I put on a few extra pounds. Men of the '50s didn't exercise the way we do today. They tended to be very thin or very beefy. My grandfather was kinda beefy, and I wanted to look like him, so I had to change the shape of my body."
In Suburbicon, Damon's character Gardner Lodge is a seemingly normal husband and father in 1950s America, but he is a man of many secrets.
He and his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) live in picture-perfect Suburbicon with their son and Rose's twin sister Margaret (Moore in a dual role).
When two housebreakers cause Rose's death during a home invasion, Gardner makes one bad decision after another as he attempts to regain his footing. While the innocent black family next door is being harassed, murder and mayhem is rife in the Lodge household.
Opening here tomorrow, the crime drama is based on a Coen brothers script that Clooney rewrote.
In Donald Trump's America, the racial storyline is particularly timely.
Damon says: "You can't predict what's going to be going on in the news when you start a movie because the movie is going to come out a year later.
"But at that time, it was during the (US presidential) campaign and Trump was talking about walls and scapegoating minorities and that's when George knew that was what he wanted to talk about. He had this great script and so he worked the stories together."
It was liberating for Damon to play a bad guy, as it was "so different from anything that I've ever been able to do".
"George and I would get a kick out of every scene which was worse than the last. So it was really enjoyable and obviously I didn't take the work home with me."
I don't feel I've been making the same movie over and over again, and that is the best part for me.Matt Damon
Reflecting on his 20-year career, Damon says: "I never got stuck. I don't feel I've been making the same movie over and over again, and that is the best part for me. It's been great because I've been making all different types of stuff... I can just really choose based on who is directing it and what I think of the material."
Damon says Clooney's sets are always fun.
"I visited George on the first set that he directed, which was Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002), and even back then the mood was just very, very relaxed. We all have a job to do and we are aware of the job, but there is no reason at this point in our careers that it can't be a pleasant experience. So he was really good at creating a good space for everyone to get their work done."
Damon and Clooney have been friends for more than 20 years. They first acted together in 2001's Oceans Eleven and forged a bond.
Damon asks him for notes on scripts he's working on and shows him cuts of his films in advance. Their families are friends and they hang out as often as they can.
He was one of the first to know Clooney was going to be a father (his British-Lebanese human rights lawyer-wife Amal Alamuddin gave birth to twins Ella and Alexander five months ago).
"He found out about the twins while we were making Suburbicon," said Damon. "He pulled me aside on the set and whispered it to me. And we gave each other hugs and then went back to work and pretended like nothing happened. But I always knew he would make a great father and so I'm happy he finally jumped in."
Damon has been married to his Argentinian wife Luciana Barroso for 12 years and they have three daughters together, along with a daughter from her previous marriage.
"I think I got really lucky," he says when asked about the secret of their relationship.
"I think so much of it is who you choose to be with. I've always said that the concept of marriage seems totally insane to me. But I just love being married to my wife. Yes, there is work. We listen to each other and communicate really well. We are willing to do the work that it takes. We both still want to be there and that helps, obviously. We have a lot of fun together."
The recent sexual harassment allegations that have consumed Hollywood lately has also hit home for him.
"People are feeling emboldened to talk. Hopefully, this is like a series of dominoes that will fall. I am hoping that the world that I'm raising my girls to come into will be one in which you have a lot more women in positions of power, and hopefully that will happen before my kids are adults. But if it doesn't, then my kids will be the wave that put women in power. I have a good feeling that they would use that power quite differently," Damon said.
"It's definitely not just a Hollywood problem. It's a problem across a culture and it looks like we are waking up to it and getting ready to tackle it head-on, which is long overdue."