Hereafter is the second movie that Matt Damon has done with director Clint Eastwood. The first was Invictus, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as South African rugby hero Francois Pienaar.
In Hereafter he portrays George Lonegan, a reluctant psychic medium trying to break from the desperate people seeking one last moment with loved ones that have passed on.
On the other side of the world, Marie (Cecile de France), a French journalist has a near-death experience and in London Marcus (George McLaren and Frankie McLaren), a schoolboy, loses his twin brother, Jason, in a tragic accident – both Marie and Marcus are looking for answers. Is George the one who can help them?
George was a complicated character, was it hard to get into his mindset?
It was beautifully written, and it’s a very subtle performance, but when you have Clint Eastwood directing you, you trust that that’s going to all come through. I just felt lucky to get the job really, seriously, it’s not like roles like this come around very often, where you’re working with a master director and with a beautiful script and a terrific role.
George is a very lonely guy. He has, within the last three years, made a big life change, because of this ability he has to talk to people that have passed on. It’s something he doesn’t want, that he looks at more as a curse than a gift. It interferes with his ability to be intimate with anybody because of what he experiences when he makes any kind of physical contact with them.
It must be amazing for you to know that somebody like Clint Eastwood accommodated his schedule to make sure that you could be in his film.
That was after a very prolonged lobbying campaign, with some begging too. I’m not afraid to tell you that I begged him. I said, ‘Did you just call me and say you have a Peter Morgan script that you’re directing? You want to offer me the part and it’s going while I’m working on another movie? I’d rather be tortured than get that call!’
Clint wanted to go in the fall and I was busy September, October, November, December, and I couldn’t get free because I was on another movie. I said, ‘I can do it in August, I can do it in January, just not those four months.’ And he said, ‘No, the train has left the station, we’re going.’ Obviously I was really bummed, and then he figured out a way to shoot the rest of the movie and then fit me in, in January.
You’ve done this and Invictus with Clint, what have you learned from working with him?
He’s a great actor, and he knows how to create an environment for his actors. He trusts his actors, he trusts everybody that he works with. His crew is great and he gives them all leeway to do their best work. He creates an environment where they can do it, and he doesn’t beat you to death with it either, and so you have plenty of time to prepare and be ready and it’s just kind of a blissful experience, it’s very easy.
What was it like working with George and Frankie, who play the twins?
Clint cast them, and I remember talking to him during that process, I think we were pretty resigned to the reality that we would probably have non-actors in those roles. Clint just loved their faces and I remember him saying, ‘I think the faces of these boys are really just terrific and they seem to be from the same neighborhood that these characters are from, and they’re not actors.’
They went and shot the first two stories without me, so I would get reports about how the boys were doing. But obviously the movie comes down to that scene in the hotel room (between Damon’s character, George, and Marcus). There’s a lot made of how few takes Clint does, but he does the number of takes that are required, and that day we both went into going, ‘We’re really going to have to get this from these guys.’
One really smart thing that Clint did was he interchanged the twins, even if he was only going to use one of them. He let them both do the scenes. So that took a lot of pressure off both the boys. And for that scene it allowed us to play them off one another, I would take one of them aside and get all this information, little things that they would think were funny and then while the camera was on them Clint and I would start revealing these things so that we’d get real reactions from them
Have you ever had a psychic experience?
No I haven’t. I’m completely open to it if I was referred to somebody. I certainly believe that it’s possible, but I haven’t had any kind of experience. If somebody can do what George did and connect me to somebody who has passed on, I’d be very interested in that. I think everyone when they get to my age has lost friends and family members, so there’s a list of people I’d like to talk to.
The ideas in this movie are universal. It deals with questions that people are grappling with all over the world and always have been and always will be. So, I think it’s great that it’s a big story with such an international feel, and that we went to all these different countries to capture that.