Roy Gilbert

Matt Damon’s Disappearing Acts

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“There’s a great lesson here for an actor,’ Matt Damon said, a dusting of gray in his short hair and thin goatee, fine age lines around his pale blue eyes. It was early May, and he was speaking via Zoom from a sparsely appointed, sun-splashed room in a rented house in Sydney, Australia, telling a story about working with Jack Nicholson on Martin Scorsese’s 2006 dirty-cops-and-criminals epic, “The Departed.” “The scene was an eighth of a page,” Damon said, arching his eyebrows devilishly and adopting Jack’s insinuating vocal tones. He was recalling the older actor’s talking about reworking a scene in which his character, the Boston gangster Frank Costello, is supposed to murder a man in a marsh. “Jack looked at that scene” — and, truly, it was almost startling how well Damon captured Nicholson’s disquieting energy — “and he goes: ‘What I did was I made the person being executed a woman. That’s sinister. Costello executes a guy in a marsh? We’ve seen that kind of scene in movies before. That’s not what I did.’”

Damon smiled, showing his big, bright teeth (his physical feature that is most undeniably a star’s), as he described Nicholson’s filigrees becoming increasingly macabre, adding, for example, intimations of necrophilia and then punctuating each with “Now, that’s sinister” to make sure his young co-star caught his drift. “I was like, ‘Yep, it is, it’s pretty […]

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