Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Was this an irresistible opportunity, working on a script
from Philip K Dick and with John Woo?
A. Yeah, like John I had seen the Philip K Dick movies and
read a few of the stories. However, I have been a fan of John
since one of the first movies I saw of his, which I guess was
either The Killer or Hard Boiled (I can't remember which one came
first). But I've had these posters of those movies ever since.
Without embarassing John, this represented a brilliant opportunity
for me to get to work with somebody who I had admired for many,
many years, and who I think has been responsible, in a lot of
ways, for kind of elevating the way that a particular genre of
movies were made. Yeah, it was an easy decision, put it that way.
Q. The theme of the movie enables you to see the future, is
there anything you might have been tempted to change in your own
life, if such a machine existed?
A. One of the things this movie talks about is this notion
of whether or not it's a good thing for us to see the future,
or to erase the past.
I think it's probably suggested in the movie that it's an unhealthy
desire, you know, I think it's a good thing that we don't see
the future, or perhaps we'd dwell on maybe the negative things
that are going to happen. It's also important to remember, well,
the good and the bad that happens in our lives. It builds character,
and if you don't remember the past, then you'd just keep making
the same mistakes over and over again. Some people do that anyway!
Q. So is it fair to describe you as a fatalist? That you play
the cards you're dealt?
A. Yeah, I think so. I think you have a certain amount of
choice, and a certain amount of control over the things you have
control of, and that which you don't you can't really worry about
Q. Were there any times, while filming, that you became paranoid,
like your character? And you look very dapper in this movie. Have
you ever considered playing down that image?
A. The look of the movie, in some ways, was Hitchockian. John
had talked about North by Northwest at one point, and some homages
are in the movie that you can see. The look was a part of that.
There are some movies where I just want to please the director,
and help the director accomplish whatever vision they have for
it, so in this case I was happy to do whatever John wanted.
However, if he had said, you know, to smear myself in mud... I
would have done that.
In terms of being paranoid, yeah, you know, it's interesting,
as you can't help but absorb a little bit of what you're doing.
I found, while filming this, I had these really weird dreams,
so I guess a little bit of that bled over, yeah.
Q. How much of the action hero in the role is a realisation
of your boyhood fantasies?
A. Well actually just being able to work with John, and to
be in a John Woo movie, that, by itself, was a big deal for me.
Doing that action stuff definitely fufils a kind of adolescent
fantasy, although I liked that, ultimately, this wasn't about
a guy that was a superman, but he was more of a real person, and
that many of his struggles and many of the action elements in
it were kind of intellectual action, in a way. I had to unravel
a logic puzzle, really, which was an interesting take on that,
and a credit to John's ingenuity.
Q. So did you get to do many of the stunts, for the motorbike
sequence, for instance?
A. I loved it [laughs]. There were a lot of stunt guys, but
I loved the stuff that I got to do, and then loved it even more
when I saw everything else, when it had been cut together. I love
to ride bikes, so that was really fun.
And it was fun to be on the tow rig with Uma, but it's a lot easier
to do motorcycle stunts when you're actually being held up by
an iron pipe, so you haven't got any fear of falling over. It
actually made me look a much better rider than I really am.
Q. It was on the internet that Matt Damon was originally offered
John Woo: That's true, but unfortunately, he was already committed
to another movie, and he didn't want to do the same role, but
he highly recommended Ben Affleck. He said Ben would probably
do it better than him.
But I love Ben, and I love all of his work, especially Good Will
Hunting and Changing Lanes. I find that Ben has great charisma
and actually reminds me of a young Cary Grant.
Actually, I had a great time working with Ben, and I think that
he's a real person, and really right for the role. He was very
humble and always happy to work with anybody. He would never say
Q. And what did you think of that, Ben? Are you grateful to
Matt for recommending you?
A. Yeah, yeah, and one of the things that's nice is that I
have a friend, who I can bounce ideas off. I mean Matt and I have
been fans of John for a long time, and I got this phone call after
he had met with John...
As John said, he had just done an amnesia move [The Bourne Identity],
and he didn't want to do the same thing again. But he told me
the script was really good, you should work with John Woo, and
you should talk to him.
So, you know, it's nice to have somebody who you respect, who
you knew from before, who's in a similar position that you are.
I guess most actors, on a certain level, don't really know each
other, or if they do, not to the extent where they'll call each
other up and say 'how about this', or 'how about that'?
I think I'm in a nice position, that way, and I suppose I should
give him a little kick back [laughs].
Q. Are there any specific movies you've done that you'd like
to erase from your memory, or ours?
A. [Laughs] You know, that's interesting. It's funny because
often times the experience of making a movie, and the things that
you learn, are not necessarily mirrored in the final product,
I've had some really interesting and valuable experiences, when
the movies didn't work out that well.
If you've got a great director, that you can really trust, like
John... or put it this way, no one really knows. It's hard to
make a good movie.
But, again, in some ways, I think you learn more from failure,
than you do from things that work, because they're just much more
pointedly instructive, in that way.
I don't know, it's hard to say, I might be depriving myself of
something valuable by erasing those films.
Q. Tom Cruise said last week that he didn't read his reviews.
Do you, bearing in mind that you appeared on the David Letterman
Show and read out some of your bad notices. Was that more of an
exercise in damage control?
A. That particular talk show appearance, I had got some of
my... I had a collection of a sort of greatest hits of the banners
of the particular reviews of that, which were particularly bad.
I actually had Ken, my publicist, put together a sort of list
of excerpts, which spared me having to pore over them all, and
just had some greatest hits lines from them.
In general I don't read my reviews, because I find often that,
you know, for one thing, film critics these days are sort of like
writing for telling people whether or not to go see a movie, and
not really approaching film criticism from the point of view which
is the kind of criticism which would be helpful to you as an artist.
Like what were you trying to do? Did you accomplish this? You
know, sometimes it's just about being clever, or whatever, and
that's ok, but it's not particularly helpful in the sense that
it's not really about what you're doing.
It's the same with me reading press clippings, or anything else,
I avoid reading reviews, because it's sort of distracting. You
don't want to be there making a movie and, in the back of your
head, anticipating what people will say about it. I think that
can be pretty distracting.
Q. When you start to read the stuff that's written about you,
I would imagine that you start to think who is this person, because
the one you see in print and the one who is really you are completely
A. Yeah, it's true. But I think it's a natural thing that
happens, you know, you can become a projected image, in a way,
whether it's the iconic, or some image of an actor who develops
some point of view, or another. Inevitably, it's a kind of reductive
simplification of who you are, and really, often times, much more
about other people's ideas, and their projections; what they're
thinking about, and what they're responding to.
So there's not much point in spending a lot of time going over
Q. What do you think of the accelerated pace of success you
have enjoyed since Good Will Hunting?
A. Certainly the accelerated pace of success is something
to adjust to, but, you know, it's probably a lot easier to adjust
to than the accelerated pace of failure [laughs]. Given the choice
between those, I've had the opportunity to work with great directors,
so it's a dream come true.
It comes with its own attendant, unique issues, that are unusual,
but I think it's important for someone in my position to focus
more on the fact of how grateful I am, and how fortunate, and
really very blessed, than dwell on what particular difficulties
it brings with it.
But yes, the short answer is I'm extremely pleased and very lucky,
and just happy to be given the opportunities that I have. And
mostly I focus on looking forward and continuing to improve, and
make myself a better person, and a better actor, and all that
Q. Which gives you more satisfaction - acting or writing?
A. Well, they are different in some ways. Writing gives you
more of a sense of authorship and that is interesting, but lately,
what I've been drawn to, is working with directors from whom I
can learn a lot. And that's an aspect of acting that you don't
get from directing, which is finding somebody that you admire,
and that you think is really talented, and sort of dedicating
yourself to apprenticing from them.
That's the real gift of being an actor, is that you can do a number
of movies, while even directors, it might take John a year and
a half to go through a movie, whereas I can do three in a year,
and in that time work with several different directors and get
to see how they work and how they think. With somebody like John,
every day is an education, and valuable to me.
They both have their own merits, but I've been really interested,
lately, in trying to learn from the great directors.
Q. Movies aside, have you ever had a forehead striking moment
of 'oh shit, I've forgotten that?'
A. Too many to mention, unfortunately. I constantly forget
people's names, so I have sometimes, with someone I've known for
two years, I know their name is Don, I'll blank on the name for
a second and then take a guess. 'You know Steve', and then realise
I just called him Steve, when it's Don. So that's something I
try to avoid, making those sorts of blunders, but in general I
try not to dwell too much on that sort of thing. And I have pretty
good friends who are forgiving.
Q. In the film, your character gives up three years of his
life for work. Is there any project you'd give up three years
A. It's a tricky question, but one of the things I thought
was interesting about the movie was no matter what we do, I think
most people grapple with this notion of how much of our lives
are we going to give up for our professional work, to make a living,
and so on.
For many of us, we're lucky enough to work in things that we really
like doing, but still there are attendant sacrifices that go with
that. That balance is a tricky one to maintain.
I probably would have given up three years and worked for free
with John, but they didn't ask me to, so I took what I could get!
Q. What was it like working with Uma Thurman?
A. Well, she's obviously quite beautiful. And she also
has an ease about her. Sometimes, maybe it's because she has been
successful for quite a long time now, and doesn't suffer from
the insecurity, sometimes mixed with desperation, in the character
of actors who are made a little nuts by the business, she's extremely
well-educated, refined and yet accessible. It's a rare combination.
She's also quite talented and a really great mother. She had these
two great little kids who were always dragging around the set,
and very precocious [says joking]. You felt like they were smarter
than you, and didn't want to talk to them for too long.