Matt Damon enters the Coconut Grove recording studio with a smile of obvious relief, notwithstanding the fact that in moments he will have to pronounce words like Kangerdlugssuaq. (You know, the glacier in Greenland.) Narrating a PBS show about the environment, no matter how tongue-torturous, is an easier gig than the one he just left, debating the moral implications of Santa Claus mythology with his daughter.
"We don't allow lying under any circumstances," Damon explains ruefully, "and we've always taught her that. But now she's found out the real story on Santa Claus. 'So you were lying!' she says. 'But it's like a great cultural lie,' we tell her. No. 'It's everyone,' we tell her. No. 'It's a fun lie.' No. … The argument is just not going well."
"What we liked about Matt is that he's Harvard educated, so he's a very smart guy," says Hal Weiner, who with his wife Marilyn produces Journey to the Planet Earth, the television series Damon has narrated for the past eight years and was working on last week. "But he's also a little political."
The Weiners discovered just how political when Damon started arguing with them about some lines he was supposed to read in one episode, which said rising Chinese soybean consumption was leading to slash-and-burn farming in the Brazilian Amazon.
"He really objected," Hal Weiner recalls. "He wanted to make sure we were not just bashing China. We had to bring in some scientists to talk to him before he'd do it."
A lot of producers would have simply snapped that Damon was being paid to read lines, not write them, but the Weiners — not exactly apolitical themselves — were delighted. "I really loved it that he wasn't willing to just say something without it being confirmed," says a laughing Marilyn Weiner.
Damon's intensely political take on life and art was on full view in the Cineart Group studio last week as he taped an episode of Journey to the Planet Earth for telecast. No chit-chat about cars or makeup or agents, and the only sexual discussion concerned the rampant promiscuity of the slutty fish lurking in the reefs off Belize. (Less weird than it sounds; the show was about the health of oceans.) **
Matt Damon is one of Hollywood's most sought-after talents and a passionate advocate for environmental and human rights issues.
As a philanthropist, Damon helped to create Water.org, is one of the founders of Not On Our Watch, an organization that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur, and supports the ONE Campaign, which is aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in developing countries.
Damon has been honored for his work on both sides of the camera, most recently winning a Golden Globe Award® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy for The Martian. He was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the same film. Earlier in his career, Damon won an Academy Award® for Best Screenplay and received an Oscar® nomination for Best Actor, both for his breakthrough feature Good Will Hunting.
Damon and close friend Ben Affleck formed Pearl Street Films to create stories in film and television. Pearl Street produces “Project Greenlight” for HBO and recently co-produced the theatrical film Promised Land.” Jennifer Todd (Memento, Alice in Wonderland) serves as President of the company, which has a first look deal with Warner Brothers Pictures.
Damon is best known for his starring roles as Jason Bourne in the films The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum for director Paul Greengrass - a role he is reviving for the fourth time in a yet-to-be-named 2016 Bourne sequel.
Matt and his wife, Luciana Barroso, have four daughters Alexia, Isabella, Gia, and Stella.
** Excerpts from The Miami Herald by Glenn Garvin