When Matt Damon saw himself on-screen in “Elysium” — after months of dieting and four-hour gym sessions to get him into sci-fi action hero shape — all he could do was laugh.
“It just looked ridiculous to me,” he says. “It’s so indulgent, but it’s part of the magic trick. I understood why [director Neill Blomkamp] needed me to look like that to establish the character. He didn’t want any fat on me because he said, ‘I want you to look almost Haitian, like you’re incredibly fit, but you’ve been working so hard and perhaps you’ve missed some meals.’”
While it worked for the film, Damon was happy to let the workout regimen lapse.
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“It’s just not a natural way for somebody to look. These people who look that way are either genetic freaks or they’re just living in a gym,” he says.
“[My wife] was fine with me buff, but she was fine with me [40 pounds overweight] on ‘The Informant!’ I think she likes variety.”
While he might not find it easy to relate to the look of his character, Max — an ex-con factory worker taking on the rich and powerful on their satellite sanctuary, Elysium, orbiting the ravaged slum Earth has become — he can at least understand him emotionally and intellectually. “He’s doing the best he can in a world that’s getting increasingly difficult to live in,” Damon says.
“A lot of people can relate to that in this prolonged economic downturn, where it feels like the world keeps putting its boot on your neck a little more forcefully every day.”
Speaking of the current state of the world, Damon has never been one to shy away from addressing political issues, and “Elysium” offers him a great chance to talk immigration — one of the major themes in the film.
“Look, it’s a nation of immigrants and I’m from a family of immigrants, so yeah, clearly they’re going to have to figure that one out,” he says.
“But the politicians don’t talk about it at all. They just see it as an issue where with the polling on it, they’re just confused on which way to go. So the Republicans just send out Marco Rubio to speak Spanish to everybody.”
Not to suggest, though, that Damon thinks he has all the answers: “I don’t have a comprehensive immigration plan, no,” he says. “But I can work on it.”
How the other half lives
As for relating to the have-nots, like his character in the film? “F--- them,” Damon offers, with a laugh. “No, at least in my case, I think the values that I have are consistent with the values I was raised with. I vote against my own self-interests constantly. If you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’re probably more likely to be the Koch brothers and think that you shouldn’t pay taxes on things.”