What did you think of Matt Stone and Trey Parkers portrayal of you in Team America World Police?
I thought it was brilliant! I mean, I never understood it, and then I heard an interview with them and they said the puppet came in looking kind of mentally deficient and they didn’t have time to change it, so they just made me someone who could really only say his own name. All the comedy they’re doing is really next-level stuff. Also, I liked being included as a person who was against the Iraq war.
Are you worried that Jimmy Kimmel might show up and ruin this for you Matt?
I’m actually Backstage at the Kimmel show. I’m hoping to be on tonight, I’m told I’m going to get on tonight for the first time in 10 years. Except when I tied him up and hosted the show... George Clooney made a deal to get all the Monuments Men on Kimmel, so after 10 years of waiting I’m actually going to make it on the show.
Hey Matt, I'm from the Boston area as well. What's your favorite place to eat in the city?
Also, as a young filmmaker, what advice can you give as far as breaking into the industry like you and Ben Affleck did?
I also just wanted to say I'm a big fan of all your guys work. The bay state is proud of you guys.
I think my favorite place to eat in the city is my mother’s house. But for places that you could go, I’d say Legal Seafood is always a great spot to hit.
In terms of advice - it’s tough. The business is growing more accessible because technology is more available to people than when we started you had to shoot on film and it was very hard to get a movie made, and now kids are starting to have access to cameras at a much earlier age. In terms of breaking into the business there’s no set way to do it, you have to somehow make a movie and get it out there. In Ben and my case we wrote a movie because we were struggling to get a job. We wrote jobs for ourselves. We wrote Robin William’s character, we called it the Harvey Keitel part, because with Reservoir Dogs Harvey read his part and liked it, and that how they got funding. So we knew that was that character for us. There were so were so many ways to play that character, we were casting a wide net and just hoping to we caught a big fish, and our agent Patrick, who’s still our agent, forced him to read it and he loved it. He kicked it up to the lit department, and then we had lit agents. So we got lucky, but it’s just looking for creative ways to break in. If you just sit on your hands it’s never gonna happen, its just too competitive. Jobs are available, you have to go make your own.
Hey Matt, your amazing monologue about the NSA in Good Will Hunting is probably more relevant today than it was when the film was first released.
How did you come up with that scene, and are you at all surprised by the revelations on the NSA from the information released by Snowden?
Here's the NSA clip from GWH for anyone interested http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrOZllbNarw
Well, the first thing to that monologue is it’s safe to say that is the hardest that Ben and I have ever laughed while writing something. We were in our old house in Hollywood, in the basement of this house writing this thing and we were literally in tears because this monologue kept building on itself. We wrote it it one night and kept performing it back and forth, and pissing ourselves laughing.
You know, I was unaware, as I think everyone was, that they had that capacity. Snowden is literally changing policy. These are conversations we have to have about our security, and civil liberties, and we have to decide what we are willing to accept, and he’s provided a huge service kickstarting that debate.
When you play monopoly, which piece do you choose to represent you on the board, and why?
Top hat. I think that’s an easy answer. It classes up the joint.
Hey Matt, what was the best prank George played on you?
He just did one literally last week. I got these giant fruit baskets in the mail from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They had just made jokes at everyone's expense at the Golden Globes that were really funny. George made up stationary with my name on it, and sent a really wounded letter to Tina and Amy saying my feelings were really hurt, how could they do this, etc. So they sent two fruit baskets. One had a letter with an apology. Another said “If this is part of some Clooney prank, please know that we’re grown-ass comedians, and you have to do a little better to fool us.” So I photographed the letters and emailed them to George with a caption that said “Go fuck yourself.” He’s honestly a child. I can just see his shoulders shaking when he laughs alone in his house.
Matt, for reasons I can't tell you (but this goes back years), you would mean so much to my relationship with my sister if you tell me your feelings on ice cream cones.
Edit: I'm serious.
My feelings about ice cream cones? I like ‘em. I’m all for ‘em. Do I prefer the sugar cone or the waffle cone? I like any cone that’s like wrapped in chocolate and nuts. That’s a pretty decadent cone. I’m all for that one.
How often are you confused with Tanning Tatum, and do you have any funny stories about it?
I don’t think I’ve ever been confused with Channing. I do get confused with Mark Wahlberg a lot, and we just have a deal that whenever we get mistaken for each other we have to be very polite. Can’t give the other a bad name.
This happened to me yesterday, I was walking down the street with my kids, and this guy screamed “MARK WAHLBERG!” I just kept walking, because I’m not Mark, and he kept screaming “MARK WAHLBERG! I SEE YOU! DON’T WALK AWAY! MARK WAHLBERG! WE KNOW IT’S YOU!” and then he runs up to me and he says, “I love your work!” And then this woman comes up, and says “I love your family, tell your brother I said Hi!” So I said “Yes, I’ll tell Donnie Wahlberg you said Hi.”
If people are insistent, theres no convincing them I’m not Mark, so I just become him and try to be nice to them. My kids were with me and there’s no easy way to explain that situation to them.
If your future production involves you casting with a side-kick(s), which one would you choose? A horse-size duck or 100 duck-size horses?
I think I’d go with 100 duck-sized horses. I just don’t know how lethal a horse-sized duck could be. I don’t know enough about it to understand what issues would be at play in a battle like that. Whereas with the horses, it’s not like fighting 10 duck sized jaguars, which would scare the shit out of me because it would be like death by a thousand cuts. I don’t feel like the horse is going to spin around and kick me. And you can also climb a tree. But a duck could fly and just take you out in the tree.
This would be a great interview question by the way.
Did you enjoy working with Kevin Smith, and would you do it again?
Will he direct me or will he give me a job? I love Kevin, I love working with him. He’s awesome. I wish he directed more, but I think he’s retired.
Hi Matt, my name's Charlie, commenting from England. I'm a big fan of your work in The Departed, the Bourne trilogy and The Informant!, among others. They're some of my favourite films :-)
Also, my older brother recently got me Alan Shearer's autograph, and I need to pay him back in some way. He is a HUGE fan of yours and in particular the Bourne films. If you have the equipment available to take a picture of you holding up a note saying “Get some rest Henry, you look tired.”, or anything at all with his name on, then that would be awesome. No worries if you can't, though.
Thanks for doing an AMA! Hope you enjoy reddit.
Well, Ben is a lot bigger than those guys. He’s hopelessly uncoordinated, but he is a big dude with a huge reach advantage. Edward is smart though, so he might think of some brainiac survivor way to pit the others against each other and be the last remaining man.
Leo… I’m not counting Leo out. I’m just saying I don’t know about Leo. Anyway, Wahlberg would kill all of them.
My friend looks just like you and we call him Matt Damon all the time. Can you teach him to grow facial hair?
Wow. He really does. Much more than me and Wahlberg. I wish I could help with the facial hair, but I've never been very good at that myself.
As someone who was raised by two professors and married an art teacher, I can't thank you enough for your defense of teachers in this video. Do you remember how this discussion got started with the interviewer? And I have to ask (since I don't see it that often), why defend teachers so passionately?
I spoke to them at a rally for public school teachers a few years ago. My mom’s a professor and she’s become increasingly concerned, as have a lot of teachers, about the way policy is being designed in this country. It’s being designed by a bunch of people who aren’t teachers. They talk about accountability, but they’re measuring with these standardized tests, which I believe in my heart they will start fading out. It just demonstrably does not work. No Child Left Behind does not work. I’ve always believed that they have to invite teachers into the discussion to help design policy. We would never let business men design warheads, why would you cut out educators when you’re designing education policy? This was for one of those libertarian websites and they had an attack question planned about tenure. Diane Ravitch was there, she’s a huge figure in education and she jumped in and just set them straight about what having tenure meant. It just basically means you have the right to be represented, and have your side of something heard if someone is trying to get rid of you. But in terms of education policy, I think that far too much emphasis has been put on these tests. You’re going to get teachers teaching to the test and you’re not actually giving them the leeway to do their jobs. People get tired of hearing about Finland, but they do it better than anyone, and when you look at how, it’s very simple. They have very highly trained teachers. 50% of teachers here quit within 5 years. We just send these kids to these 6 week Teach for America training courses and expect them to perform well. In Finland, 1 out of 10 people get into these teaching colleges. You have to go through the entire program and come out with a Masters, and then you’re put in room with another teacher and a class size no bigger than 20. It’s highly regarded, people don’t quit. Finland kicks our ass on any metric. They keep the class size down, they’re aggressive about confronting poverty. We have the resources here it’s just whether we’re willing to focus on it.
Hi Matt, greetings from Austin, TX.
My dad leads trips to regions of Africa (mostly Kenya) to help dig and build wells and clean water sources. I want to say that I think it's really cool you spend your time and energy doing this - I know first hand, having lived in Africa for a time during my dad's efforts, how much hard work this is. You could be doing anything with your time, fame, and money, and you're paying it forward.
Also, every time I get a stack of junk mail in my mailbox I can't help but immediately think how detrimental this is to the environment and our way of living. How is progress coming along for Tonic Mailstopper?
What is the most challenging thing you have faced in your life? A struggle, or moment you can look back on that makes you really appreciate where and who you are now?
edit: thank you so much for the gold and all the support guys/gals. Very grateful and happy guy here. :)
I’ve heard of programs like that, which I’m all for. I think it would be great if we could make all that junk mail electronic.
Yeah, there are a number of kind of rugged times, particularly in a career like this. Nothing gets given to you, and you have to struggle for everything, and I think those struggles really do define who you are, and it’s really important. I’ve seen parents try to remove those struggles from their kids’ lives, to the detriment of the kid, and it’s something I think about a lot. I can’t make it too easy for my kids because that doesn’t really equip them to handle the world when I’m not around. Anytime you deal with death, anytime in my life on a personal level that I’ve lost someone, that’s always a moment to grieve and feel incredibly thankful that I’m still here and I’m still able to have my family around me. I’m just thinking of that because it’s kind of a shitty week because of Phil. It’s kind of on the brain.
If I come hang out with you in Hollywood what are the chances that we'll become best friends?
There’s a very good chance of that. I have 32 years of being Ben’s friend, I’m definitely ready for somebody new to hang out with. It’s gonna be a great time. We have a really fun night planned and we’ll probably be in some kind of competition to befriend the winner so they leave the experience saying that one of us is better than the other. I’m personally committed to making sure the winner likes me more than Ben. And if it means us starting a secret handshake or joining a bowling league, I’m in. Anyway, here’s the link: www.omaze.com/mattandben
How close were you to Hoffman? The Talented mr. Ripley is one of my favourites.
I mean, pretty close. We worked together a long time ago and I would see him here and there, all over the place. I’d go to his plays at the Labyrinth and I saw him just last year, we were working on Monuments Men and had dinner with him. The last time I saw him, I took my oldest daughter to The Hunger Games premiere in LA and we had a chat before the movie started. It’s just incredibly weird that he’s not around anymore.
I heard George Clooney said that you guys all took pay cuts for monuments men. Why did you decide to do that and are there other films you've done that for?
For most films you take a pay cut, especially if you’re working with an ensemble. They just can’t pay what everyone’s quote is, because the movie would be too cumbersome and no one could make it. I’ve done that with all of the Ocean’s movies. You have an established quote, and the studio decides what percentage everyone takes. So everyone cuts the same percentage of their agreed upon salary. Actually, I think the only time I got my full quote was for the 3rd Bourne movie.
Robin in the upcoming Batman.
You are correct. After I didn't get the part, it was really awkward between Ben and I for a while. But I've still got the costume I wore in the audition and am planning on wearing it when Ben and I meet the winners of our fundraiser.
1) I've seen you speak passionately about education. As a current teacher, I want to thank you. As an advocate for our school systems, what's the one thing you think everyone should do to improve education in the US? Besides your mother, did any other teachers inspire you to become an advocate?
2) What do you think of TFA (Teach For America)?
3) Have you ever visited sites where water.org has implemented projects? Where, and what was the experience like? I am stationed in West Africa with the Peace Corps (teaching) right now- any chance water.org will be opening operations in the Republic of Guinea? We're up and coming!
Thanks for these questions. I addressed the first two in other answers. But to the third question, I have many times. My initial connection to the issue resulted from a trip for a different purpose that eventually led me to co-founding Water.org. In 2006, I went on a field trip that was set up by Bono’s organization, which was an incredible opportunity, a chance to go to Africa (Zambia and South Africa), and learn about issues of extreme poverty. Each day had a different learning focus. One day we’d be doing urban AIDS and be in AIDS clinics in Johannesburg. The trip was probably a week or 10 days, and one of the learning focus days was water.
I think as I looked at it and started to grasp the enormity of the issue, it seemed like water underpinned everything and no one was talking about it. And yet, 2 million kids are dying every year because of issues of clean water and sanitation, and I’d never heard anyone talk about it. And so, as I was intellectually learning about it, I had this experience of going on a water collection with a girl who was 14. She picked up a jerry can, and I picked up a jerry can, and we walked a mile to this well and gathered water together. We talked the whole way, and had this real connection, and she confided in me. I asked her what her hopes were. She was going to move to the big city and be a nurse. The way she talked about it, I remembered being a 14-year old kid, and Ben and me talking about moving to New York City. It hit me that if someone hadn’t built a well a mile from her house, she never would have had had these dreams, she wouldn’t be in school. She’d have no prospects for any kind of dignified life. She’d spend all of her time trying to get water for her and her family. It wasn’t just these ridiculous deaths from things we’ve solved in the West, it was about human dignity. I started thinking about it and how it was what I wanted to focus on. Around that time my company did a documentary about ultra-marathoners running across the Sahara Desert, so I decided to use that as a way to identify water NGOs on the route that were doing great work, for whom I could raise money. So we started a foundation called H20 Africa. I kind of intellectually knew that was not the answer, that wells alone were not going to solve this problem, but I figured, what the heck, I can do some good, and something is better than nothing. I can probably reach thousands of people that way. We started to raise a good amount of money. I started to get more sophisticated with my understanding of the problem, and my thinking, and what my contribution could be. I started looking for the preeminent water expert and someone I could team up with. It led me to Gary White, so I went to him and asked if we could join forces and work together and luckily he agreed. We co-founded Water.org, and what makes it different is how we approach the problem and our perspective about innovation.