In “The Martian,” Matt Damon is forced to, as he puts it, “science the s— out” out of his predicament, when he finds himself alone on Mars. If being isolated 140 million miles away from home isn’t bad enough, Watney is injured, with only a limited supply of food and water. Bummer. But the more-than-resourceful spaceman transforms the research station into a field to cultivate the not so humble potato. Meanwhile, his crew – including Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara) and Melissa Lewis Damon, who might well be responsible for turning an entire generation into would-be science superstars, talked while on set at Korda Studios in Budapest, Hungary.
Best lost in space, again: “The first thing I said to Ridley is, ‘I’ve done this cameo in [“Interstellar”], and I play a guy who is stranded on a planet by himself. Then I’m going to take a year and a half off, and then I’m going to do a movie playing a guy who is stranded on a planet by himself. This might be a really bad idea.’ Ridley laughed it off. He said, ‘The movie’s feel and characters are so different. Plus people’s attention spans are so short, that by the time this comes out one year later, they’ll have forgotten all about you being in ‘Interstellar.’”
On loneliness: “I would be dead probably within 20 minutes. I mean, I’m an actor, so, ‘Wait, nobody’s going to bring me a coffee?’ It would be suicide. I think the loneliness part is a part that I try to protect in my life. I was talking to a friend of mine a few years ago and we were talking about technology. There are all these wonderful things that come along with it, but the ability to be deeply reflective is getting lost. It’s almost something you have to practice: putting your phone away and going for a walk, putting your hands in your pockets and walking for a while. That’s the way we all used to because usually that’s where the better ideas come from — from being reflective. So a little bit of loneliness is great, but I wouldn’t last very long, no.”
Does he “science the s—” out of real life?: “No [Laughs]. I don’t do science in my spare time. If my kids have something to do, I’ll do experiments with them or if they have stuff for school, but otherwise no. I try to read about everything that’s changing and what’s kind of happening in technology. I’m interested in where we’re going and the Ray Kurzweil type of thinking. I love hearing those guys lecture or watching them on YouTube, and trying to guess what kind of world my kids are going to live in, because it’s changing so rapidly and it’s going to happen exponentially. The life they’re going to live isn’t going to bear that much resemblance to the one that we did, so that’s very interesting.”
On the mind of Ridley Scott: “Ridley always reminds me of [Steven] Soderbergh and [Steven] Spielberg. He’s cutting in his head as he’s filming. When I was here a month, month and a half ago, he was doodling, and he’s a great artist and he’ll doodle storyboards. We spent a couple of days just talking through the entire movie from page one to the end. He talks to you like an editor and thinks visually.
“Soderbergh always says every image in a film has to collide or connect with the ones before it, so if you’re in a close up, cut to a wide, or if there’s a color that can connect the two or whatever it is, so the shots aren’t random. And when Ridley’s talking, he’s colliding those images or connecting those images in exactly that way. So as an actor you know the exact movie. The only excuse we have for sucking in a movie is: I didn’t know what movie I was in. I thought we were doing this and it was that, and that’s why my performance was weird. But if a director can help you understand what movie you’re in, it’s going to be — it should be — a good movie.”
From cult book to Hollywood screenplay: “Drew Goddard, who wrote the screenplay, fell in love with this book. I’ve read interviews with Andy Weir where he said, ‘I just came up with this premise and let the science dictate what happened.’ [Mark Watney, his character] just does everything how a person would behave if he were a scientist stranded on Mars, and these would be the actions he would have to take. And so he let the science drive the book. Drew said when I first talked to him that he wanted it to be a love letter to science."