Promised Land - Matt Damon
Promised Land - Steve (Matt Damon) ©2012 Focus Features

Matt Damon and director Gus Van Sant, who collaborated on the Oscar winning Good Will Hunting, reunite on the new movie Promised Land, opening on December 28th.

With a screenplay written by Damon and his co-star John Krasinski, the story spotlights the controversial practice of oil fracking. In the movie Damon portrays Steve Butler, a corporate salesman who has been sent to a rural town hit by the economic decline to secure the drilling rights to various properties. But it’s not the easy sell that Butler expected, especially when Dustin Noble (Krasinski), a slick environment activist arrives on the scene.

Matt spoke of the movie Promised Land, and a possible return to his Jason Bourne character [The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)] at the press day for the film.

What attracted you to this story?

Promised Land - Matt Damon
Steve (Matt Damon) ©2012 Focus Features

What we really wanted to write about was America right now.

We were talking about American identity, and where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re headed.

We knew that we wanted to have a hopeful ending and we wanted it to be a pro-community, pro-democracy type of movie.

Did you already have a lot of knowledge about fracking or did you have to do a lot of research?

Promised Land - John Krasinski, Director Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon
Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Steve (Matt Damon) ©2012 Focus Features

We did a lot of research. I’d seen stories on it, but hadn’t really been paying attention to it. When it became a potential backdrop for our movie then we really started looking at it.

The more we looked at it, we went, ‘Wow, this is actually perfect because people are so divided.’

The issues are so complex. It is a temporary lifeline to some people. There are potential downstream horrific outcomes. If you believe the energy industry there are potential downstream benefits that we can’t even imagine.

It’s such a high stakes game that it was a perfect place to set a movie about the decisions we make as communities and taking responsibility for them.

You made Good Will Hunting with Gus Van Sant in 1997. What was it like working with him again?

Promised Land - John Krasinski, Director Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon
John Krasinski, Director Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon on the set ©2012 Focus Features

My life is different from 15 years ago, but my love of doing this hasn’t changed at all. I just know more. I have more experience.

I appreciated Gus more this time because Gus is one of those great directors who’s deceptively quiet, very relaxed and calm.

If you didn’t know what you were looking at you wouldn’t think he was doing very much, but he in fact is doing quite a bit.

I was in a better position to see just how he was doing it

Is Jason Bourne out of your psyche?

Promised Land - Matt Damon
Steve (Matt Damon) ©2012 Focus Features, photo by Scott Green

No. I want to do another one, we just can’t figure out the story. We were very close to making one a few years ago and then we just couldn’t crack the story. And the studio had made a deal with the estate and they had to get a Jason Bourne movie out for 2012.

That’s when Tony (Gilroy) came up with the idea of how to do one with Jeremy (Renner) [The Bourne Legacy (2012)].

I talk to Paul (Greengrass) about it occasionally, and it’s really just a question of how do you bring the character back? Is there a movie that’s as good as the other three, and if we felt like there was then we’d do it. But we just haven’t cracked it yet.

Matt was asked if he was up to doing the action sequences now that he’s a little older. Also how this would reflect on Jason Bourne? Click below to listen to his reply.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.