Matt Damon Talks 'Elysium,' Opens Up About 'Bourne' and Passing on 'Avatar,' 'Brokeback Mountain'

Promised Land is set to arrive in theaters on December 28 and writer/star Matt Damon sat down with Playboy to chat about the film, his upcoming sci-fi action flick Elysium and roles he passed on.

Before he got into any of that though, Damon shared his latest thoughts on the Bourne franchise, including his thoughts on the character and that ever persistent question of whether he'd be willing to come back.

"The thing that drove Bourne, the deepest source of his angst and anguish, what made him interesting, was the fact that he didn’t have his memory. By the end of the last one we did, he has his memory back. When he knows who he is and where he’s going, there’s not much left for me to play."

He backs off a bit though and follows with the contradictory statement, "They might have taken the Bourne series out back and shot it in the head. If that’s the end of it, that’s just the end of it. I hope not. I love the character and the three movies we did, so I’d love to figure out a way to do another one."

In other words, he'd like to do another Bourne movie, but it's not a priority.

The conversation moves on to roles that Damon passed on, including the lead in Avatar.

"Having to say no to Avatar was tough because I particularly wanted to work with James Cameron, and still do, because he’s fantastic. He knew he was the star of that movie and that everyone was going to go see it anyway. When he said, 'Look, I’m offering it to you, but if you say no, the movie doesn’t need you,' I remember thinking, 'Oh God, not only do I have to say no because of scheduling, but he’s going to make a star out of some guy who’s going to start taking jobs from me later.'"

Damon also passed on the role that eventually went to Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

"Way back, Gus and I talked about my doing Brokeback Mountain with Joaquin Phoenix, but I had just done The Talented Mr. Ripley and All the Pretty Horses, so I said, 'Gus, let’s do it in a couple of years. I just did a gay movie and a cowboy movie. I can’t do a gay cowboy movie now.' The right actor got the part. Heath Ledger was magnificent."

Damon was originally hoping to just direct Promised Land, but due to scheduling conflicts, he ended up starring in the film and bringing Van Sant on board to direct.

"John Krasinski and I wrote Promised Land with the intention that I would direct it. I loved working with him. I would have preferred to just direct and have someone else act, but it was easier on the budget for me to play in it too."

Turning his attention to Elysium, directed by District 9's Neil Blomkamp, Damon talked a bit about filming in a real human waste dump for two weeks.

"What you see on-screen is supposed to look futuristic, but it was actually just helicopters flying over us, kicking up dust that coats you and that you know is fecal matter. We were very careful, but it was unbelievably toxic. It’s the worst location I’ve ever heard of and could have been worse only if we’d filmed in the world’s largest waste dump, in South Korea. What was unbelievable and really sad was the ­giant community of people who are born, raised, live and die in that dump. They just pick through the trash."

There's a lot more from the interview conducted by Hitchcock book writer Stephen Rebello, including how Damon ended up not directing Promised Land, working with (and kissing) Michael Douglas in the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, his fears and how he still likes signing Team America memorabilia with his his name. "I always write 'Maaaat Damon,' like they say it in the movie."

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