A/V Room









The Brothers Grimm - Matt Damon interview

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Growing up, what was your own relationship to Fairy Tales?
My mom read me the Grimms' Fairy Tales. We had a book were I still remember the jacket of it. I actually didn’t remember how dark they were though. I think my mom might have edited a little bit. I was a little surprised when I re-read them for this film how macabre they were.

Q. It is interesting how people talk about how dark and violent comic books are today but they are almost tame compared to the darkness of some of these stories.
Comic books don’t have anything on the Brothers Grimm. Parents probably tell their kids more sanitized versions of them anyway.

Q. So what makes them so interesting?
I think there are life lessons in them. If you re-read them, you can see some judgments in life but more than that for me, I thought they were the first step that you could make up stories and go into these other worlds. I think that is the primary functions in which they serve for kids is that it can allow you to have this imagination and give you permission to tell stories.

Q. When in the process of this film did you come aboard? The script had been floating around for a while...
I came on last. Terry was already on it. I was doing Stuck On You and I got this call. I couldn’t believe that the script was still available.
The first thing I asked Terry when I spoke to him was why Johnny Depp was not doing this film. I was sitting with Chuck Roven and Terry and Chuck said, “No, we want you. We want you.”
Terry was just sitting there and asked him. He said that they wouldn’t let him do it with Johnny. Three months later Pirates Of The Caribbean opened and I am sure they were kicking themselves because they could have had Johnny Depp [laughs].
I was really amazed that a great role like this in a Terry Gilliam film was still available.

Q. There was talk in the beginning of you and Heath playing the others character.
Yeah, Heath and I switched roles. At the time when it was offered, I was offered Jake. Heath and I both lobbied Terry to switch roles because I always play the Jake role and Heath felt he was always the Will role so we wanted to flip flop. Terry said he did a similar thing with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt for Twelve Monkeys and he switched them.

Q. As an actor, what did you find interesting about the journey that Will takes that you haven’t had the opportunity to do on screen before?
He is just a total blundering fraud. He is very suave and debonair but the minute the shit hits the fan, he is a total coward and panics. I just thought that would be funny as a character.

Q. You and Heath play brothers and you have brothers in your own life. How closely do you bring elements of that into this performance? Did it enable you to shortcut the relationship?
Yeah. I have never had a sister but I assume it is a similar bond. I think we were lucky in this case that we had a month to rehearse. We used to time to get to know each other and so when we started to film, we had a very good sense of each other.
Obviously we would not be as close as real brothers but we had a good rappor with each other. We had a short hand for working together. That is what Terry asked for us and as we rehearsed all day or learned our accents, we would then go off at night and have dinner or drinks together and shoot the shit and that kind of bonding really helped with the chemistry of the two characters.

Q. When you start working with someone like Terry Gilliam, who is such a visual artist, how does that affect you as an actor on set?
Everything that he does is highly choreographed and so you always know where you are. He needs like 200 people for his vision to come to life and so he is good at communicating with everyone where they need to be and what their job is shot to shot.
Unlike most directors, he uses like 14 and 17mm lenses, which are really wide screen, and so he packs the frame from side to side and really deep. He has all these elements moving around.
When you sign up to do a Terry Gilliam film, then you are just one of his elements that he will use in any shot. You are aware of what you are but you are not in charge of your own choreography. I know my job is to walk from there to there but there will be geese in the background doing another thing and horses coming this way. He sits there with all the elements and tinkers with it until he gets the alchemy to his eye. Then you move on.

Q. Is he a Clint Eastwood style director who does three takes then moves on or other directors who do 40?
He will do as many as required. He will do a lot because he knows what elements he wants working in a shot and so he will adjusts them slightly. He is also capable of getting hung up on the bird that is not flapping its wing in the top right hand corner of the screen. What bird? But he sees it. The love and passion for him is down to the smallest detail.

Q. When you shot The Bourne Identity, you had to learn martial arts and weaponry. Did you pick up any new skills on Brothers Grimm?
I did study tango dancing for three months. It was Terry’s idea. I don’t know if it helped. I am kind of a sloucher and so it helped me stand up more straight. I also took yoga. Will is more of a dandy than I am so that was all of the physical stuff I had to do. I did have to work on the accent a lot. I also worked on sword fighting and took three days a week of that. It felt like I was in summer camp taking all the mini classes.

Q. The film changes its tone throughout the film. At first it seems more black comedy and whimsical and then it gets a little more serious. As an actor, were you aware of these changes in mood and was it easy to maintain your character development through that?
We kind of knew that coming in just from reading the script. You also know that Terry never makes anything that can be categorized. I wouldn’t even know how to describe this film other than to say it is a Terry Gilliam film. It has all those elements of humor, adventure and fantasy. It is really different from anything. Ultimately it is bizarre (laugh).

Q. Harry Potter has driven kids back to reading. What do you hope The Brothers Grimm might do for those who see it?
Hopefully another avenue to use their imagination. It can be a springboard to creativity as they were in my life. As it did with me, it can help people tell stories. The kids, who Terry showed the film to, really dig it. It gets their adrenaline going and they have responded to the story and they get the images and the references.

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