So the two found a completely different rhythm when writing their second script together than the first time. “It integrated well into our lives,” says Damon. “We got up in the morning, took the kids to school, ran errands, and then we met in a very relaxed environment, working four or five hours before going home to do all of our family responsibilities.” He describes how they walked around a lot in these sessions and re-enacted scenes before one of them approved what they had worked out. “He’s a better writer than me,” says Damon. “But sometimes I’m closer to the laptop.”
They also soon realized that they needed something else. Damon’s initial suggestion was to tell the story from the main characters’ different perspectives, and it became clear that they needed a third writer, someone who could write the damaged woman’s story in a way they never could. So they brought the director and author Nicole Holofcener on board.
“I mean, what a great story, what a unique story and what a feminist story you just have to tell,” says Holofcener. “I felt honored and respected to do justice to her and to portray her as a whole person. She was exceptional for telling the truth, despite the dire consequences that it could have had. “
The way the movie’s staff speak of it, their aim was beyond unpacking a he-says / he-says / she-says story to uncover some of the poisonous consequences of allowing such a story to be followed is processed in this way. “If ‘Merciless’ is the anti-western,” says Damon, “then this is the anti-chivalry movie … I think it’s a really good movie. We’ll see what people think.”
Both Damon and Affleck can imagine working together more often in the future. “It’s so much more enjoyable and rewarding and wonderful to go to work and work with people you love,” says Affleck. But at the moment Damon has no further projects planned after the release of “The Last Duel”. He wants to take the rest of the year to settle in New York.
At some point he will also direct. He’s been close to it twice already: originally he was supposed to direct “Promised Land”, a film about fracking that he co-wrote with John Krasinski, and also “Manchester by the Sea”, which was based on an idea Krasinski’s suggested to him at dinner. But when Kenneth Lonergan presented the script they had commissioned, it was clear to Damon that Lonergan should direct instead. (He likes to joke that the best step he took as a producer on the film was firing himself as a director.)
Most likely, acting will be the first priority for Damon. “I have the feeling that I’ve been steadily improving in my job for a long time,” he says. “And that’s a great feeling.” He ponders how films can sometimes fail despite your best efforts. “I really want people to be as passionate about the films I’m working on as I am,” he says. “And you know, some of them really worked and some of them didn’t.”
The question is: is there anyone who makes films who doesn’t make mistakes? “It’s impossible to do it perfectly,” Damon believes. “You try again and again like an addict. Each time you know more and more, but you also know that you can never know enough.”
When the smooth image starts to crack
Aside from the pandemic, Matt Damon’s career has taken a long hiatus – he stopped making films for over 18 months between late 2016 and summer 2018. He spent the first year of this period in his hometown of Boston with his ailing father.