Has starring in “Contagion” as a dad desperate to keep his daughter safe from a deadly outbreak of disease Matt Damon a more protective parent? Nope. He was already that way to begin with.
“I think with kids I’m probably more protective than I’ve ever been now that I have children,” Damon admits. “I try not to be – I mean, my wife’s name for me is ‘Red Alert.’ I sometimes just check to see if the kids are breathing, but no, no. I think probably it’s my tendency to be a little overprotective, without trying to be a helicopter parent.”
Perhaps because of his inherent parental vigilance, Damon says he found it easy to plug into the mindset necessary for “Contagion. “I thought a lot was kind of easy to relate to,” he says, adding that he was also eager to reteam with Steven Soderbergh, who directed Damon in the “Ocean’s Eleven” films and “The Informant,” and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, who penned the latter movie. And he found out a lot about the more tragic side of the outbreak scenario when a family member take a medical downturn.
[If you haven’t seen the trailer for “Contagion” consider the next segment a medium SPOILER]
“One of my favorite scenes that we did was this scene that I find out that my wife is dead, very early on in the movie,” says Damon. “And I went to Steven and I said, ‘Look, I don’t know what to do. You know, how do you do this scene? It’s five minutes into the movie. We’re not invested in me or her, we don’t care – I mean, do I do…’ And Steven goes ‘…The Slump?’ Everybody knows The Slump: You’re down in the hall and just see that guy slump down. And I’m like ‘Sh*t, I don’t know – I mean, what do you do? We’ve got to find some shorthand to do. You can’t dwell on this thing.”
“And we had this doctor there who delivered this news a lot [in real life] and we talked to him,” Damon continued. “And he said ‘Yeah, sometimes people fall apart, but there is this other reaction that we get just as much.’ And I said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘Well, it depends on what kind of death it is. Is it the kind of death where you’re not expecting somebody to be dead?’ And I said, ‘Right exactly.’ And he goes, ‘Oh what you get a lot is absolute, it just doesn’t [sink in], it’s just too much to.’ So they have this specific way that they put it, and Scott had written it. It was close. He just kind of intuited it and it was close, but he had written words, like ‘She had passed away.’ And the guy says, ‘No, no, no. She DID die.’ Like you have to be completely specific and look at the person and you have the social worker with you. There’s a whole script that that they go on, and they expect you to not even get it. They expect you to go like, ‘Okay can I go talk to her?’ because that’s the reaction that people have.”
“I get up in the morning and I’m freaking out about how the hell I’m going to do this scene,” Damon concludes, “and I end up going to work and getting this scene that’s really interesting, and I’ve never seen it done that way, and I totally believe that that’s the way. And these doctors who actually do it say, ‘Yeah that’s actually how it goes down a lot of the time.’”
"Contagion" opens everywhere today