This story was originally published June 9, 2002.
Yes, Saturday's special screening of "The Bourne Identity" in Boise was everything you would expect. The movie was exciting. The reception was a Matt Damon love fest. And the charming 31-year-old actor sat down, focused his gaze and gave Idaho Statesman reporter Dana Oland an exclusive interview.
How do you like Boise?
I love it; it's beautiful. This is my first time here. I have friends who grew up here who moved back East. So I've been hearing about Boise for a few years.
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Thanks for doing this interview. I know you have a tough schedule. In the last few days ...
Yeah, we've been going city to city. (His schedule included Los Angeles, Dallas, Boise, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City in six days.)
So, why Boise? I mean, we are off the beaten path.
Well, Frank (executive producer Frank Marshall) has been coming here for years. This is the 10th film he's brought here. So he's been a big Boise advocate for a long time. And there was no reason not to come. I don't know what else I would have done today.
I was excited to see Boise, plus to raise money for BCT -- that's good. I raise money at home for the ART (American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.) It just seemed totally logical.
You're also here promoting "The Bourne Identity, " in which you play spy Jason Bourne. Did you want to become a big action star?
No, I mean that was definitely not the intent. I'll only do another action movie if there's another great script. I'm not genre-specific about how I choose material. I'm kind of like a material whore. If it's a script that's good and a director that's good, I'll do it. Ideally, I'd like to work in all genres. I haven't done a comedy in awhile. I'm game for anything if it's good. There was no grand design or strategy to move into action movies.
Did you like making it?
Yeah, yeah. I had a great time. I didn't know if it would be so different from other kinds of movies that I wouldn't enjoy it, so I only signed up for one of the "Bourne" films. But having done it, I really like the character and the story and love the people I did it with, so I would definitely do it again.
The fight choreography was pretty intense. How much did you do?
I did it all. That was fun. I had like five months of martial arts training and weapons training. We choreographed that fight for six weeks, rehearsed it every day. It was really fun to be able to do that.
But I do that stuff for every movie I make. I kind of never know what I'm going to get. Like with "The Talented Mr. Ripley, " I was stuck playing piano for three months. I was really frustrated with that.
For "Courage Under Fire" (he played a heroin addict.) you lost a lot of weight?
Yeah, I did a lot of stupid things to my body. I ran a lot and didn't eat. But it does help the performance.
A lot of stars shy away from this; do you like doing appearances like this?
Yeah. First of all, when it's raising money for a great place (Boise Contemporary Theater) I don't mind it at all. I certainly don't live my life like that. I live in New York. I walk down the street. This is an irregular day for me.
When you started acting, did you think this is what it would become, this level of ...?
No. You know. I hoped this is what it would become. You hope to get to a level where you can choose the projects you're doing as an actor. That's the greatest luxury you can ever have. But I knew so many actors who I thought were fantastic that I saw not break though. So I had a realistic view of what the odds were.
If you hadn't broken through, would you still be working at it?
Oh, yeah, definitely. I always said that if I didn't make it I'd do it until I had children. Then once I had children I probably would have become a teacher. My mom's a teacher, and the man she was with for 16 years was an economics professor. So I would have taught maybe English. Well, acting and English.
Are you writing?
Ben (Affleck) and I are talking about it. We've been recently lamenting the fact that it's become a physical impossibility for us to write together because we've been working on different movies. We're both really hungry to do it again. We just got to get a good idea.
You don't have a good idea yet?
Naw. We've got a bunch of half-baked ideas.
You act. You write. You're involved in the creative process. What do you like to do best?
I like all of it. It all kind of runs together. Writing for us was more about acting than it was about (writing) ... We didn't sit down. I was an English major in college, so I know staring at the blank cursor is not my strong point. We wrote entirely out of improvisation. It was a very, kind of energized ... we were up and moving around, using a tape recorder and then transcribing. I see all of the different trades that come together to make a movie are really kind of related to one another, you know, and directing being the captain of them all. As a director you have to know something about every other single trade that's at work on your set.
You have to be able to communicate to the people; it's your vision that these people are trying to fulfill. You have to communicate with them to bring out the best in them.
It's incredibly ... an almost impossible job.
Do you want to direct?
Yeah. I would do it with something we wrote. I'm sure I'll make a lot of mistakes, and I don't want to butcher someone else's work.
You're such a nice guy. How to you keep focused on your life and keep a balance?
It doesn't go on around me as much as it probably seems just because we are where we are right now. That helps.
And my family is just not impressed with, you know ... They're very happy for me and happy if I'm happy. They're very critical of the work that I do, in a good way, constructively critical of the work that I do. Those dynamics never change, and that's good.
So you said you enjoyed filming "Bourne." Are you going to sign up for another?
That is totally up to the movie-going public. If there's interest, if people want to see another one. The only way we can gauge if they want another one is if enough of them go to see this one. If they do, yeah, I'll do another one.
So, do you like Jason Bourne?
Like him? I love playing the character. He's one of the funnest characters I've gotten to play. Because of all the stuff he can do. He's kind of like a superhero. Every guy's dream. You can speak all these languages, you have culture, you can defend yourself and just about anybody else. It's a pretty fun role.
Are you going to hang out for the weekend?
No. We go to Boston tomorrow. Then Philly and New York, then it's off to London.
I'm flying on a night flight that gets me in at 7 a.m. Then I'll sleep for a few hours more and go to the theater for two shows.
It's the closing weekend, right?
Yeah, then I go back to New York.
So you're perfecting how to sleep on a plane.
If I haven't yet, I will by the end of this trip.
I hear you have a girlfriend.
Yeah. (Her name is Odessa Whitmire and yes, she is traveling with him.)
I read somewhere that you're engaged?
No. That's the first time I've heard that. It's nice when reporters announce your engagement. It's not that I don't love her. She's great. We're just not getting married right now.
When I found out I was going to interview you, a lot of people sent me questions and it was really personal stuff, like what do you have for breakfast. Does it weird you out that people want to know that level of detail about you?
I've been fans of people, actors, you know, like (Marlon) Brando, (Al) Pacino. I'm intrigued by a lot of these great actors. Thoroughly intrigued by them, and I would with no embarrassment at all be fascinated by what Brando has for breakfast. Just for me it seems strange.
Well, you know you.
Of those actors, which have you gotten to work with?
Well, (Robert) Duvall I got to work with. I've gotten to work with a lot of great actors: Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Danny DeVito, Mickey Rourke.
Who would you most like to work with?
There's just a ton. You know, everyone would want to work with Brando. My Christmas gift from my assistant was dinner with Morgan Freeman, so that's how much of a geek I am. (It) was like the Make-A-Wish dinner.
After you close the play, what are you going to do?
Ah. Go back to New York and possibly write.
The reason "The Bourne Identity" and Matt Damon came to Boise is Frank Marshall. He is the film's executive producer and has a special connection to the City of Trees.
Marshall first came here when he was a fledgling filmmaker in the 1970s to visit an old high school buddy from Newport, Calif.
He invested in the Sandpiper Restaurant and eventually in the Piper Pub. Marshall bought a second home in Boise and spent a lot of time here over the years, premiering 10 of his films here.
"It was my escape hatch, " Marshall said.
He's the Marshall part of Kennedy/Marshall productions and has helped create such hits as the "Back to the Future, " the "Indiana Jones" series, and "The Sixth Sense."
His next projects include "Signs, " starring Mel Gibson, and "Indiana Jones IV" with Harrison Ford.