Matt Damon has managed to stake out a very interesting niche for himself as a filmmaker and actor, and I am constantly impressed at how he manages to pull it off.
By any standards, you have to consider him a major movie star, yet whenever I've had a conversation with him, he's one of the most normal, casual guys I can imagine. Someone like George Clooney has a sort of aura where you are constantly aware of the reactions of everyone around him, where even if he's not trying to turn it on, he creates this ripple just by walking through a room. I honestly believe Damon could get away with relative anonymity if that's what he wanted. He's certainly able to turn up the wattage for the films he's in, but in person, he strikes me more like a dad I'd meet at a Little League practice than a movie star selling a $100-million-plus production.
One thing I've heard repeatedly from people who have worked with Damon is that he's a great collaborator, willing to put the film's needs above his personal needs. There are plenty of actors who will ask for changes that are about their image or their public persona, but Damon seems like much more of a big picture guy, someone whose goal is always to make the film better overall.
The great thing about being Matt Damon is that when you see a movie like "District 9" and you decide that the filmmaker is someone you want to work with, that's pretty much just a phone call. "Hey, I'm Matt Damon. Whatever you're doing next, I'm in." Done deal. For Blomkamp, it could have easily been an experience where he suddenly wasn't in charge of his movie, working with stars like Jodie Foster and Matt Damon, especially since his first film didn't really star anyone we already knew. Instead, it appears Damon and Foster just handed themselves over to Blomkamp, wanting to have that experience instead of trying to make the film all about themselves.
I also love how much Damon seems to be entertained and impressed by Sharlto Copley, and after re-watching "District 9" right after seeing "Elysium," I am impressed all over again by how much Copley seems to disappear into his characters. I'm dying to see what else this guy can do, and it sounds like Damon feels the same way.
"Elysium" opens everywhere on Friday.