Matt Damon
News Archive

Matt Damon and Amy Adams Attend Justin Timberlake Concert, No Sign of Jessica Biel

(Photo) Celebrity date night. Times two!

Matt Damon was spotted taking his wife, Luciana Barroso, to Justin Timberlake's concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Decked out in a hoodie, jeans and a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, the Oscar winner sported his 20/20 Experience World tour badge and carried his tickets as he made his way inside.

Also on hand was Amy Adams, who was accompanied by fiancé Darren Le Gallo. Like Damon, the American Hustle actress kept it casual in a blue top covered by a black blazer as well as a pair of cuffed jeans and leather boots.

Lily Collins, along with a few friends, also brought her adorable self to the big show.

One celeb who was not seen, however, was Timberlake's wife Jessica Biel. While there's no word if the singer's significant other was actually there or not, it certainly shouldn't be cause for alarm.

After all, when fans took to Twitter last Sunday to question why the brunette beauty did not attend the American Music Awards with Timberlake, she quickly replied, "I'm watching from home tonight. Calm down, Internet."

And so, we will do just that in this case as well.

Jason Patric battles for in-vitro son

Actor Jason Patric is fighting back against California’s confusing laws that have kept him away from son Gus.

Patric fathered the boy, 3, with girlfriend Danielle Schreiber via in-vitro fertilization. But the couple later broke up and Patric wasn’t recognized as the father, according to California law, which gives sperm donors no parental rights unless they are married to the mother or have a written agreement.

“The Lost Boys” star says he hasn’t seen Gus in 38 weeks since Schreiber cut off contact. Now, the distressed dad is taking action. He hosted the first Stand Up for Gus fund-raiser in Los Angeles Wednesday night to raise money to support a legal defense for families who have been “broken down from this system.”

Patric explained to us: “I don’t have nights with Gus anymore, so I’m going to have this evening, and we’re going to shine a light on this injustice.”

­A-list supporters of Patric’s cause on Wednesday included Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jon Hamm, Chelsea Handler and Kiefer Sutherland. Damon committed $15,000 to the cause during a paddle raise, but Mel Gibson trumped Damon’s offer and coughed up $20,000, to which emcee Joe Buck quipped: “Well Matt, you know what just happened .?.?. Mel just made your 15 look like nothing.”

Patric plans to make the fund-raiser more than a one-off event — “not only an annual thing, it’s a movement,” he said. “It’s going to continue every day and we need more than one event a year. I hope one day Gus will be running it on his own.”

Matt Damon earns $3M for 20-second ad

Hollywood heavyweight Matt Damon earned a healthy $3 million for appearing in a Nespresso ad for just 20 seconds with George Clooney, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Damon raked in an impressive $150,000 per second he appears in the ad, which was produced for the UK market and directed by Grant Heslov, a producer and co-writer on his upcoming film “The Monuments Men.”

A source close to Damon’s fruitful coffee deal exclusively told us: “Matt is one of the few Hollywood stars to have turned down most ad and product-endorsement deals. But this one came with a huge fee and the fact that he’d be working with people he trusts, his ‘Monuments Men’ producer Grant Heslov and co-star George Clooney.” The source added that Clooney has a long-standing contract with ­Nespresso — he’s been the face of the Nestlé brand outside the United States since 2006, so his deal would have been handled differently.

In the past, Hollywood stars have raked in millions by appearing in foreign ads that wouldn’t be seen by the US market, saving them embarrassment. But now any ad is guaranteed to be seen around the world.

Not surprisingly, the “Bourne” star appears a little awkward in the slightly cheesy commercial, produced by McCann Lowe and titled “In the Name of Pleasure.”

The ad focuses on Clooney’s ­famous charm and irresistibility, showing him being snubbed by an attractive woman who would rather drink her coffee alone. “George Clooney’s inside,” she yells, causing a mob of women to chase after the actor and leave her in peace. (Video)

Then, in a shorter complement to the ad, Clooney uses the same ploy to enjoy his own coffee, drawing the frantic females’ attention to the presence of his old friend Damon.

A rep for Damon, who last year signed a multiyear deal to be the voice of TD Ameritrade, didn’t get back to us.

Matt Damon Takes His Kids to Disneyland-See the Cute Pic!

(Photo) Nothing like a family trip to Disneyland!

Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, treated their three daughters to a day of fun at the Happiest Place on Earth on Monday, Nov. 4.

The 43-year-old actor looked to be having a blast as he went on the exhilarating Cars Land ride with his girls. The father of four could not mask his excitement, grinning widely as the car moved along the track. He also put up his arm, while holding a Boston Red Sox hat, to fully enjoy the experience.

Cars Land is a themed area of the theme park, inspired by the 2006 Disney Pixar film Cars.

The Elysium star looked casual for the fall outing, sporting a gray T-shirt, baseball cap, jeans and tennis shoes.

A source tells E! News that Damon also enjoyed watching his kids interact with the princesses at Ariel's Grotto and Donald Duck at Paradise Pier, which are both located at Disney's California Adventure, during a separate trip last weekend.

He snapped lots of pictures and was "smiling, laughing and having a really good time." After his girls met the characters, he was very appreciative and thanked everyone for showing them such a nice time.

Since the family didn't want to get backdoored into the location, where VIPs can skip lines to meet characters and ride attractions before regular guests, the group opted instead to wait in line.

Sounds like they several successful visits, taking in the rides and attractions, as well spending time with Mickey Mouse and the gang.

Matt Damon Describes His Secret 'Man Area' at Home

How does Matt Damon cope with being the lone male voice in a household that consists of his wife and four daughters?

A man cave, of course.

Actually, more like a man corner, as Damon describes it.

"I barely manage," Damon told PEOPLE before being honored at this past weekend's 23rd Annual Environmental Media Awards in Burbank. "I do have a little 'man area' that I can go to that is kind of mine that they don't know about."

Rather than outfitting his space in movie-star splendor, the actor-writer-activist – and cofounder of Water.org – says with a laugh, "It's a couple Sports Illustrateds and my iPhone … basically like a closet where I go and shut myself in if the estrogen gets too crazy."

Damon, 43, adds, assuredly, "The man cave is a work in progress, [but] that's my happy place."

And while the Behind the Candelabra star apparently doesn't put that much of a premium on "me" time, there is one area of his life to which he gives close attention: date nights with wife Luciana.

"[We] just literally go out to dinner and just sit and catch up and talk," the actor told reporters. "We've got to be vigilant about it because if we don’t make the time for it, it will never happen. We just make the time, basically."

2013 Environmental Media Awards-The Complete List of Winners

On Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, Hollywood's greenest gathered to honor those going beyond being just eco-friendly at the Environmental Media Awards. Darren Criss opened the show At the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., singing "What a Wonderful World" while playing along on his guitar. Stars like Lance Bass, Wilmer Valderrama, Daryl Hannah, Malin Akerman and more were on hand to present awards.

Newly engaged Hayden Panettiere received the Futures Award. "Twerking is not going to solve global warming," the Nashville star joked as she accepted her honor.

Matt Damon was named the Ongoing Commitment Honoree for his work with Water.org. Check out the full list of winners below!

Documentary Film: Gasland 2

Digital Content: Overview
Futures Award Honoree: Hayden Panettiere
Reality Television: Gangs & Oil, Vice
Television Episodic Drama: "Chapter 9," House of Cards
Feature Film: Promised Land
Lifetime Achievement Honoree: Bill McKibben
Television Episodic Comedy: "Mother Fracker," Last Man Standing
Green Production Honoree: Screen Actors Guild Awards
Children's Television:"What's the Deal With Fracking?" Nick News With Linda Ellerbee
Green Parent Award: Anna Getty
Ongoing Commitment Honoree: Matt Damon

CBS Nabs Comedy Produced By Ben Affleck & Matt Damon, Starring Tom Papa And Written By Cathy Yuspa & Josh Goldsmith

After a heated bidding war, one of the highest-profile comedy packages this season – a half-hour starring comedian Tom Papa that boasts Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as executive producers and Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith as co-writers — has landed at CBS with a put pilot commitment. 20th Century Fox TV is producing.

Based on the stand-up of Papa and the experiences of Damon, the multi-camera comedy, titled More Time With Family, centers on a guy (Papa) who changes his career and gives up a life on the road to spend more time at home with his family — but when he gets there, he realizes no one asked him to do that. The project originated with Papa and Damon who had worked together on two movies, The Informant and Behind The Candelabra. They teamed with Damon’s childhood friend and frequent collaborator Affleck, whose company, Pearl Street Films, is making a big push in television. The three met with a number of writers, going with Yuspa and Goldsmith and setting up the project at 20th TV where the scribes are under an overall deal. Damon and Affleck will executive produce through Pearl Street along with Papa, Yuspa, Goldsmith and 3 Arts’ Dave Becky and Josh Lieberman. This marks Pearl Street’s second TV sale and second big commitment — the company also has crime drama The Middle Man at Fox, which has a pilot order with Affleck directing and Glenn Gordon Caron writing.

Affleck and Damon were previously partnered in LivePlanet, which produced several TV shows in the early 2000s, including drama Push, Nevada and docu series Project Greenlight. In addition to his successful stand-up career, Papa, repped by ICM Partners, 3 Arts and Del, Shaw, Moonves, previously co-created and toplined the 2004 NBC comedy series Come To Papa. Last season, The King Of Queens alums Yuspa and Goldsmith, repped by ICM Partners, wrote and executive produced the NBC comedy pilot The Gates. Oscar winners Affleck and Damon are with WME.

Trailer: 'The Monuments Men'

Sony Pictures is readying for the December 18 release of The Monuments Men — the Oscar-season sweet spot — with the latest trailer to drop. George Clooney directs and heads the cast of the thriller about a World War II platoon of art historians and museum directors tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue priceless art from the Nazis. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett also star. Check it out.

Matt Damon & His Family Have Poolside Party in Miami

Talk about making a splash.

On Saturday, Matt Damon, wife Luciana and a large group of family members (26 in all) lounged poolside at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

The group enjoyed a leisurely lunch at La Cote, the hotel's ocean view Mediterranean restaurant, where they ate, drank and played with the children. On the menu? Chicken Caesar salad, lobster thermidor, grilled vegetable platters, seared haloumi, lentil salads, fried calamari, conch ceviche and a variety of kids' food (including special milkshakes). Pitchers of Margaritas and pina coladas flowed freely as well.

A source tells PEOPLE the Elysium star – who reserved a private section at the upper level – and family were celebrating Luciana's mother's birthday.

"The entire group was extremely kind," staffers say, adding that the whole family had "a fabulous time."

Damon was also a very generous tipper. "He left an extra $500 on a check that already included gratuity," the source adds.

Luciana – who is originally from Miami – and Damon may have been spending some last moments at their waterfront Miami Beach estate, as they recently put the house on the market for $20 million.

Matt Damon in talks for directorial debut, also joins Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar'

Matt Damon is in early talks to make his directorial debut with "A Murder Foretold," and has joined the star-studded cast of Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" for a small role, people close to the respective projects have told TheWrap.

Written by Oscar-winning "Argo" scribe Chris Terrio, "A Murder Foretold" tells the true story of a man who's gunned down in Guatemala, and leaves behind video evidence implicating the South American nation's president, his wife, and other close aides.

Set up at Paramount and Indian Paintbrush under Steve Zaillan's Film Ritesproduction banner, the project is another shot at the director's chair for Damon, who was supposed to direct "Promised Land" - before "Elysium" reshoots got in the way.

Damon's "Interstellar" role was not disclosed, but ThePlaylist, which broke the news of both his casting and "A Murder Foretold" talks, said he'll shoot for two weeks in Iceland, a small fraction of the four-month production. Damon adds another marquee name to the jaw-dropping cast led by Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain.

The epic sci-fi movie also features Topher Grace, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck and Mackenzie Foy, as well as David Oyelowo, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Bill Irwin, David Gyasi and Timothee Chalamet, whose castings were first reported by TheWrap.

The hush-hush plot follows a group of explorers who travel through a wormhole and into another dimension. Nolan is producing with Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst.

Matt Damon Circling 'The Foreigner' As Directorial Debut

He dropped out of helming Promised Land because of his Elysium schedule but now Matt Damon may have found his first directing project. Long rumored and then denied, the Oscar winner is now in preliminary talks to direct The Foreigner for Paramount. Based on an April 4, 2008 New Yorker article “A Murder Foretold” by David Grann and with a script by Oscar-winning Argo scribe Chris Terrio, the film details corruption and a series of high-level murders in Guatemala that reached all the way to the country’s president. The whole thing broke open at the funeral of Rodrigo Rosenberg when a videotape was circulated that implicated the president, his wife, and other close aides in the wealthy businessman’s killing. The film will be produced by Film Rites’ Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch and Indian Paintbrush’s Steven Rales and Mark Roybal. Grann and Indian Paintbrush’s Michael Pruss are co-producers. Damon is repped by WME.

Matt Damon defends Ben Affleck: 'It's Batman, not King Lear'

Matt Damon has thrown his support behind controversial plans to cast Ben Affleck as Batman, telling disgruntled fans of the franchise, "It's not King Lear."

Director Zack Snyder announced on Friday he wants the Good Will Hunting star to play the Caped Crusader in a sequel to Superman movie Man of Steel.

The surprising news sparked fury among many fans of the franchise, and an online petition to reverse the move had attracted more than 80,000 signatures by Wednesday.

Now Affleck's close pal Damon has spoken out to silence critics, insisting the role is not a taxing one and is well within his friend's "skill set".

He tells The Times of India, "I think it will be great. It will be terrific. I know there are a lot of people grousing on the Internet. I just think it's kind of funny. You know, he's not playing King Lear. It's Batman! Certainly within his skill set.

"If anybody saw Argo or The Town and all the work he's been doing lately, it's way more nuanced and interesting and way more difficult than Batman! Batman just sits there with his cowl over his head and whispers in a kinda gruff voice at people.

"Bruce Wayne is the more challenging part of the role, and Ben will be great at that... But it's safe to say I won't be Robin."

Damon, Panettiere get Environmental Media Awards

The Environmental Media Association is honoring Matt Damon and Hayden Panettiere for their dedication to ecological causes.

The organization announced Monday that the two actors will be honored at its 23rd annual Environmental Media Awards this fall.

Damon will receive the Ongoing Commitment Award for his work with Water.org, the organization he co-founded that aims to bring safe water and sanitation to people around the world.

The 42-year-old actor says he hopes the award brings attention to Water.org's efforts "to bring clean water to communities around the world and inspire new friends and partners to join the fight."

Panettiere will accept the Futures Award, which recognizes younger entertainers for their potential to be environmental activists. The "Nashville" star is active with the Whaleman Foundation, an oceanic research and conservation group.

The 24-year-old actress said she's excited to talk about her work with the Whaleman Foundation and "using my voice to protect our oceans and their amazing inhabitants."

The prizes will be presented at a ceremony on Oct. 19 at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif.

Matt Damon's Daughter Drummed on His Bald Head

Matt Damon‘s hair grew back just in time for him to walk the red carpet with wife Luciana at the premiere of Elysium on Wednesday at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood, Calif.

Elysium, which is set in the year 2154, required Damon, 42, to shave his head. His character, Max, looks not just tough, but also futuristic, since he wears robotic parts that are drilled into his body.

Damon said that going through the change in appearance was “really fun” and that going bald was freeing.

“And as far as just shaving the head, it’s really liberating to jump out of the shower and run a towel over your head and be done,” he told PEOPLE.

Damon’s family enjoyed the transformation as well, especially his 2½-old daughter Stella, whom, Damon admits, he goes to great lengths to entertain.

“Once my kids got used to it, and my wife, then the rest is kind of easy. They liked it,” he says. “My youngest was less than a year at the time, and she used to drum on my head. She thought that was the funnest thing, and so, you know, when you’re a parent, you’ll do anything to make your 10-month-old smile. So I would put my head in her lap and let her bang away as long as she wanted.”

Box office: Matt Damon's 'Elysium' kills the competition, 'We're the Millers' flies over 'Planes'

"Elysium" had a heavenly opening night, landing itself at the top of the box office. Director Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to 2009's surprise smash "District 9," starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, earned over an estimated $11 million at the Friday box office, easily killing the competition.

The battle for the second place film was a much closer fight. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikus' "We're the Millers" topped Disney's "Planes" with an estimated $8.5 million over $8.1 million, respectively.

The Top 10 is as follows:

1. "Elysium," $11.2 million

2. "We're the Millers," $8.5 million

3. "Planes," $8.1 million

4. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," $4.9 million

5. "2 Guns," $3.4 million

6. "The Smurfs 2," $3.1 million

7. "The Wolverine," $2.4 million

8. "The Conjuring," $2.1 million

9. "Despicable Me 2," $1.9 million

10. "Turbo," $0.7 million

'Elysium' reviews: does Matt Damon's futuristic adventure soar?

Critics are praising Matt Damon's "Elysium" for its ambition, even as some reviewers gripe that its sharper insights are overwhelmed by a few too many explosions.

The science-fiction thriller involves an impoverished man's struggles to break into a luxurious spaceship where a group of one-percenters bliss out. Any allusions to Occupy Wall Street are purely unintentional, the filmmakers claim.

"Elysium" co-stars Jodie Foster and marks Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to "District 9." It hits theaters Friday, armed with respectable, if mostly earthbound, reviews from critics. "Elysium" currently holds a 67 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In TheWrap, Alonso Duralde said Blomkamp's film lacks subtlety, but hailed the director's staging of the movie's action setpieces.

"Blomkamp is a master of creating action out of a grimy, quotidian kind of next-gen hi-tech, but when it comes to metaphors, he prefers the sledgehammer," Duralde wrote.

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis agreed that Blomkamp's allegory could have employed a lighter touch. However, she praised Damon for grounding the film and for making the audience feel for his character's plight. It's the kind of charisma that only a favored few film stars enjoy, she wrote.

"Mr. Damon has become the greatest utility player in movies: No one can better vault across rooftops and in and out of genres and make you care greatly if he falls," Dargis wrote. "He's so homespun that he could have sprung wholly formed from a corn silo (he shares James Stewart's extraordinary likability if not his later-life, postwar neurotic edge). But it's the ease and sincerity with which Mr. Damon conveys moral decency — so that it feels as if it originates from deep within rather than from, say, God or country — that helps make him a strikingly contemporary ideal of what used to be regularly called the American character."

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post praised Blomkamp for finding new avenues to explore in a genre that has been oft-exploited by Hollywood - though she did complain that his social commentary was a little too on-the-nose.

"A high-low tension runs through 'Elysium,' not only in the narrative itself, but in Blomkamp's own cinematic language, which can be lofty one moment and gleefully pulpy the next," Hornaday wrote. "If that juxtaposition isn't quite as bracing as it was in 'District 9,' Blomkamp is still clearly on his own mission: to bring new intelligence and even principles to bear on a genre too often dominated by banal cyborgs and recycled plots."

Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer gave "Elysium" points for asking its audience to think instead of just pummeling moviegoers with mindless spectacle.

"As summer movie sci-fi extravaganzas go, 'Elysium' is easily the best thing out there right now," Rea wrote. "And the bleakest, too."

Not everyone was a fan.

New York magazine's David Edelstein found the performances of the leads a bit off - writing that Damon lacked the mercenary air his part required and ranking Foster's villainess among her worst offerings.

" accent is either English, South African, or Martian — it's hard to tell, since it's different in every scene — and she moves more stiffly than the robots," Edelstein wrote. "With 'Elysium,' Foster joins the ranks of outspoken liberals (hello, Tim Robbins) who can't manage to play their political opposites without turning themselves into caricatures."

Hollywood wrote Blomkamp a blank check after the success of "District 9," but Slate's Dana Steven's implied he never should have cashed it. The film's aspirations to be something weightier are eschewed in favor of numbing action sequences, she wrote.

"'Elysium' has some very basic structural and story problems: The last half is essentially one barely interrupted chase, leaving no breathing time for either the characters or audience, and the incoherent, absurdly simplistic ending—which I should probably discuss in a second location, so as not to spoil—would be an insult to the intelligence of an audience of llamas," Stevens wrote.

Elysium: 5 Things to Know About Matt Damon's Sci-Fi Flick

High above the clouds (like outside Earth's atmosphere high), life is better. The year is 2154. Mankind is divided into two classes: the 99 percent that still live on Earth, a barren wasteland with extreme poverty, crime, disease and the lucky 1 percenters who've relocated to a space station orbiting the once green planet. On Elysium, there is no war, poverty, or even illness. Cancer can be cured with a quick scan using a DIY home med bay.

Working in a robot factory in burned out Los Angeles, Max (Matt Damon) is accidentally exposed to deadly levels of radiation. He has five days before he'll expire. His only hope is to sneak on to Elysium. But first he'll need to get his body equipped with some upgrades.

In 2009, writer-director Neill Blomkamp had an incredible debut with District 9. The film grossed over $200 million worldwide, was a critical darling and nabbed a best picture nomination at the Oscars. For his follow-up, he's got a bigger idea, a bigger budget and even some big name stars.

Critically, Elysium has been receiving positive reviews overall, but there's definitely more of mixed reception vibe-feeling than with D9.

Such a high concept was bound to not gel with everyone. Our take? Blomkamp still has plenty to show us about ourselves and the best way to experience such massive set-pieces is on the big screen. However, there are a few script issues that are goofier than The Jetsons' Rosie the robot.

Damon leads a cast that includes Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna and Alice Braga. Check out five things you need to know about Elysium:

1. It Really Is Better Up There: At least they don't have silly flashbacks! As a kid, Max dreams of going "up there" compete with soapy visuals, slow-motion and new-age music. At nearly two hours, those moments kill the pacing and are beyond unnecessary especially since adult Max is played by the ever likable Damon.

2. Damon and Foster = Star Power: Part of Blomkamp's deal for a mega budget movie was putting name actors in key roles. Damon is a perfect fit for all that gearhead speak. Early scenes with Max berating his automaton workmates is a wonderful use of the actor's natural charisma. As the tale gets darker, we're stay in his corner. Jodie Foster's pro-military tool Elysium's Secretary Delacourt could have been an interesting change of pace for the veteran actress, but the character really has no shading. She simply has no sympathy for the citizens of Earth because she isn't one.

3. Robots are the New Prawns: District 9 impressed with a moderate $40 million dollar budget and many cat food-loving aliens dubbed prawns. Elysium has no aliens to muddy up all those pretty future mansions. Robots though are everywhere. That they move with forcefulness that implies their weight is incredible.

4. Not-So-Subtle Political Overtones: Great sci-fi is almost always not about the future as much as a direct comment on the now. Think the overcrowding of District 9 and the complete ignorance of the main worker bee character as he begins his journey. Here the problem isn't quite the illegal immigrant allegory, although that is pretty hardwired in all the dialogue, so much as the lack of any genuine reason for why the folks living in Elysium are such jerks. Part of Max's character arc is that he ain't in it for a revolution, he just wants to be cured. (Think Keanu Reeves' "just Johnny" in Johnny Mnemonic.) But is there ever a doubt he'll come to the aid of his former childhood friend's dying daughter? If the caricatures of the rich are meant as satire, then humor would have helped this tale immensely. Even the so-bad-it's-good Mnemonic this knew this.

5. That's Quite a Rig: As he demonstrated in D9, Shalto is very engaging for someone so despicable. Ex-solder for hire Kruger (Shalto) is so cruel he could be related to Freddy. He has some of the best action and clever dialogue in the whole film. Just like Freddy! If only Kruger and Max had teamed up—that would have been far out.

Matt Damon's 'Elysium' is grimly enthralling

With its scorched Earth and brave new world themes, Elysium (***out of four; rated R; opening Thursday in select cities and Friday nationwide) is decidedly more thought-provoking than most big-studio summer fare.

Director Neill Blomkamp's dystopian sci-fi thriller is absorbing, stylish and well-acted. But it doesn't fully realize its fascinating premise, or live up to the promise established by Blomkamp's riveting last film, 2009's District 9.

Set in 2154 after an apocalyptic event, humanity is divided along the lines of haves and have-nots. The 1 percenters live on Elysium, a sparkling, perfectly manicured orbiting space station modeled after the world's most luxurious havens. The masses eke out an existence on a ruined, teeming, polluted Earth. Horrible poverty, rampant crime and widespread sickness prevail. In contrast, Elysium denizens all have sumptuous homes equipped with state-of-the-art healing pods in which people are re-atomized and cured of all injuries and infirmities.

Emigration is impossible, as enforced by Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster), a power-mad head in a helmet of lacquered blond hair.

The only person who can level the disparities between the two worlds is the not-so-mad Max (Matt Damon), an Earth dweller who lives in a vast, bombed-out slum formerly known as Los Angeles. On the job at a prison-like factory, Max suffers a life-threatening injury that impels him to risk all and get to Elysium. He takes on a perilous mission in which he goes up against the ruthless Delacourt and Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a sadistic mercenary.

Miraculously, Max retains a sense of humor and human decency even though his existence could not be grimmer. Damon is perfectly cast as Max. Ever likable, he's terrific as a reluctant hero driven by despair and inherent goodness. Many of the people he lives among are Spanish speakers, and Damon is convincingly bilingual. In contrast, those living on Elysium speak French. Such subtleties are wonderfully intelligent touches.

Max re-connects with his childhood best friend Frey (Alice Braga), a nurse at an impoverished hospital and the mother of a critically ill young girl.

Bound for Elysium, Max is fused with a metal casing that turns him into a kind of walking computer. He's joined on the mission by good pal Julio, soulfully played by Diego Luna. Their passage has been arranged by Spider (Wagner Moura), the leader of an underground rebel group. Max has struck a perilous bargain with Spider. Before boarding the flight he must download crucial information from the brain of a multimillionaire CEO (William Fichtner).

District 9 was captivating from start to finish. Elysium is a sporadically engaging tale, as well as a potent commentary on immigration and health care policies. The striking production design by Philip Ivey, who has re-imagined Earth as one massive shantytown, is vividly immersive.

There is, however, a missing component: Delacourt and President Patel (Faran Tahir) are the only Elysium residents given names. But they, like everyone else there, are essentially cardboard cutouts. Foster plays Delacourt in one megalomaniacal note. Even some sympathetic Earth residents are not multi-dimensional. A sense of fully drawn contrasting lives (not just lifestyles) would have improved a compelling concept.

Blomkamp knows how to create scenarios that seem frighteningly plausible. With all its promise and smarts, it's a shame that the film ultimately degenerates into a good-guy-vs.-crazed-villain scenario.

Elysium is a good movie that could have been great had it focused more on character development and class warfare subtleties and less on standard-issue firefights.

'Elysium' delivers action, destruction and a deeper message on life

Director Neill Blomkamp and leading man Matt Damon mostly want summer filmgoers to be completely entertained by the action-packed, sci-fi thriller "Elysium." But if the audience could also ponder the question of what to do about world poverty and inequality, well, that would be a bonus.

"Elysium," which opens this weekend, is not the typical light summer fare served up in big-budget Hollywood productions. And Blomkamp, the South African who made waves with his first feature, "District 9," is no typical director.

After all, he employed the alien invasion genre as a vehicle to explain xenophobia and segregation in South Africa, a novel concept that garnered four Oscar nominations in 2010, including best picture.

"Elysium" portrays two distinct worlds in the year 2154 - a diseased and overpopulated Earth, and Elysium, a space station where the elite live far from the seething masses in perfectly manicured mansions. Cancer can be cured in seconds on Elysium.

"Everyone who doesn't have that wealth wants it and will try to get it and the First World will probably try to hang on to it and it will get more dire," Blomkamp, 33, said in an interview. "What do you, as the audience member, think should be done?"

Damon plays Max, a blue-collar worker with a criminal past struggling with robot bureaucrats and policemen in his shantytown. He has given up on his childhood hopes of reaching Elysium when he suffers an industrial accident and needs to reach the First World's medicine to survive.

If the premise sounds far-fetched, Damon says not so much.

"If you look at the difference between the bottom billion people on planet Earth and the top 10 million, the contrast is as stark as living on a space station and living in a third world urban center," the actor said.

Max reluctantly makes a deal with an underworld lord to take him to Elysium, but in exchange he must undertake a mission that will can benefit not just him, but millions back on Earth.

Jodie Foster plays Delacourt, the Elysium defense secretary bent on keeping Max and all other illegal immigrants out. She employs her own covert force headed by rogue operative Kruger when the military can't keep up with invasions from Earth.

Delacourt's ways may remind viewers of certain Washington neo-conservatives, but Blomkamp says he took inspiration from French politician Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund. Foster emulates her blunt haircut, power suits and steely determination.

Blomkamp went outside Hollywood to round out the cast with well-known actors from Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, including Sharlto Copley, who starred in "District 9."

'POWDER KEG EXPLOSION'

As Max fights his way to Elysium, bloody battles and software warfare ensue, first on the dusty fringes of the dysfunctional city of Los Angeles and then in the sleek corridors of Elysium. Blomkamp employs the visual effects that made "District 9" stand out, with robot security forces disintegrating into the ether under withering hi-tech gunfire.

The director had a budget of around $115 million, nearly four times what he had for "District 9," but he said he only really needed to spend more money because he had to construct Elysium.

"Bringing the space station to life required mass resources," Blomkamp said.

The film comes at a crucial time for Sony Pictures Entertainment, a unit of Sony Corp, which is looking for summer box office success after high-profile flops like "After Earth" and "White House Down."

Sony's up-front costs for "Elysium" were pared by tying up with Media Rights Capital, which financed, packaged and produced the film.

The special effects, the ear-shattering action and the fantastical scenery fit the bill for a summer hit. But then it's back to the meaty question of where society is headed.

And there, director and star diverge.

As Blomkamp sees it, man is hard-wired since his days in the cave to protect what he has.

"We are smart enough to build the technology to make a globalized planet and we are not smart enough to get rid of ancient software that governs us," Blomkamp said. "Those two combined will yield a serious powder keg explosion that, in my opinion, is coming."

Damon, whose Max spends much of the movie in distress, is more sanguine than his director.

"He's pessimistic about the future and I am optimistic about the future," Damon said. "You take what message you will from the movie."

Stephen Colbert Throws Dance Party with Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston & More

Look out, Ellen DeGeneres – there's a new comedian-turned-dancer in Hollywood, and he's got all of the right moves.

On Tuesday's episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert hosted a dance party to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" that features surprise appearances by, among others, Matt Damon, Hugh Laurie, Jeff Bridges, the Rockettes, Charlie Rose, Bryan Cranston, Jimmy Fallon, Nick Cannon and the entire studio audience and crew of America's Got Talent.

Apparently, Colbert came up with the idea after Daft Punk canceled an appearance on The Colbert Report due to a scheduling conflict with MTV, reports EW.com.

Matt Damon and Jimmy Kimmel 'feud' continues: Guillermo crashes 'Elysium' interview

(Video) Jimmy Kimmel is taking his "feud" with Matt Damon to the actor's home turf. Damon is currently making the rounds promoting his new movie "Elysium," but during one interview he found himself interrupted by Kimmel's colleague Guillermo Diaz.

Diaz claimed he was there to promote his new movie "Estupido," a story of a man who is stupid. "I'm very proud of this movie," he deadpans to the camera in Spanish. "This is the best movie I have ever made. It's about a stupid man who has a friend named Ben. Who is also stupid. And he's from Boston. He is very stupid."

When Damon tries to send him away, Diaz reveals he was also there promoting another movie: "A** Face." That prompts Damon to give Kimmel a "once and for all" message ... but you'll have to watch the above video to see how that attempt ends.

Do you still find Damon and Kimmel's fake feud funny?

Sightings

MATT Damon and Jay Pharoah posting Instagram selfies at a Ciroc after-party for “Elysium” at The General

Matt Damon on Getting Buff for Elysium

(Photo) Shaving his head was easy. But getting into super human shape for his role in Elysium was another story for Matt Damon.

"It was really hard because I love to eat and drink!" Damon, 42, told PEOPLE on Tuesday at a special New York screening of the sci fi film hosted by 2(X)IST Watches. "It's very hard to motivate me to get in shape."

But when the film's director Neill Blomkamp showed him pictures of Elysium's leading character, Max, a tattoo-covered tough guy who wears an exoskeleton strength suit, "I went okay, this is definitely worth it," Damon says.

The recent Emmy nominee went on a strict diet and spent four hours a day at the gym for months, pumping iron and doing cardio. As a result, PEOPLE's 2007 Sexiest Man Alive bulked up with a chiseled set of rock-hard abs and bulging biceps.

So what did Damon's wife Luciana think of his ripped physique?

"I think she likes the variety," he says with a laugh. "When I did The Informant, I put on 40 lbs. and I was like, 'You kind of like this guy too?' I'm trying to talk her into [liking] that guy because that's the guy I'm most comfortable being."

Fortunately for the Oscar winner, who renewed his wedding vows to Luciana in St. Lucia last April, she made a promise to spend the rest of her life with him no matter what.

"I'm at the point in my life where somebody was silly enough to marry me," Damon says, "and won't leave me if I put on a few pounds!"

Matt Damon Accepts Benedict Cumberbatch's Man Crush: "We'll Have to Go Get a Beer"

Benedict Cumberbatch, you are worthy.

Learning for the first time about the Sherlock star's bromantic feelings for him as an actor and all-around great guy, Matt Damon appeared flattered in a recent interview.

But more importantly, he sounded willing to set up a meeting!

"Oh, really?" a surprised Damon replied when NextMovie.com informed him that Cumberbatch has "a huge man-crush" on him, which the Brit more or less revealed a couple weeks ago to Vulture.

"He's very talented, but I have not met him," Damon admitted.

Told that Cumberbatch totally wanted to hang out, he promised, "Definitely, definitely. We'll have to go get a beer. He's really good. We can hang out at the Emmys."

The plot thickens! Damon and Cumberbatch are actually squaring off for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Damon for the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra and Cumberbatch for the HBO miniseries Parade's End.

Let's just say, we cannot wait for the meeting of those Emmy-nominated minds.

Cumberbatch really couldn't say enough flattering things about Damon during his Vulture interview, calling the Elysium star "a huge hero" of his.

"He's just so grounded. He's so intelligent," Cumberbatch raved about his fellow thesp. "He makes these smart choices, as an actor, as a producer, as a writer. He's so composed. You never hear a bad word said about him. Everybody loves him. And he just sounds like he's got his priorities right as a human being, and as an actor, he's phenomenal. What a screen presence."

As for the idea of meeting his cinematic heroes, which also include Michael Douglas and Al Pacino, the Fifth State star admitted that he would probably be "a bit star struck [around Pacino and Douglas], but at least with Matt, I can kind of quiz him.

"And then cut to a hot night where we're all getting drunk and dancing and having a good time! Maybe it'll have to be on another occasion, but wouldn't that be cool, though? I would like to go out with that group full stop, wouldn't you? That would be a fun dinner party. I think that would be great fun."

Gentlemen, take photos, please!

2013 Emmy Awards Nominations

The 65th annual Primetime Emmys will air on Sunday, September 22 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.

OUTSTANDING TV MINISERIES OR MOVIE
American Horror Story: Asylum
Behind the Candelabra
The Bible
Phil Spector
Political Animals
Top of the Lake

LEAD ACTOR IN A TV MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Toby Jones, The Girl
Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade's End
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Matt Damon's 'Laid Back' Family Outing in N.Y.C.

(Photo) After renewing their vows in April, Matt Damon and his wife Luciana appear to be as in love as ever.

On Wednesday, the couple, their daughters and a few friends enjoyed steak – and beer for the adults – at STK Downtown in New York City, a source tells PEOPLE.

The "laid back" gang was "the epitome of a happy family," the onlooker says, adding that the married couple "was very affectionate and joked around with the kids."

The table finished off their meal with a number of desserts, including bread pudding, peanut butter cups and doughnuts.

"Matt was also talking about the Red Sox's recent win with a fellow fan," the source adds. "He was super animated about it and talked about how he's their biggest fan."

'Elysium' extended trailer reveals more Matt Damon in the latest from 'District 9' director Neill Blomkamp

(Video) "Elysium" already has sci-fi fans buzzing simply because it's the second film from "District 9" director Neill Blomkamp, but this new extended trailer should kick the excitement up even higher.

The epic-looking futuristic drama stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, Diego Luna and "District 9's" breakout actor Sharlto Copley in the story of a society divided into haves (who live on a Utopian space station) and have-nots (who remain down on Earth).

While "District 9" impressed audiences on a relatively limited $30 million budget, it'll be interesting to see what Blomkamp does with a budget reportedly three times that size. From the looks of this trailer, he may have outdone expectations.

He also has a high standard of quality to live up to. "District 9" is one of the rare sci-fi films to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

George Clooney and Matt Damon Make Surprise Visit to Cambridge Gym

What a lovely (and handsome) surprise!

George Clooney and Matt Damon stopped by a Cambridge gym unexpectedly to play a little b-ball this past Sunday.

Damon, who is in town to film The Monuments Men alongside his actor pal, booked the basketball court at Kelsey Kerridge for an hour around lunchtime.

According to the BBC, the gym's manager, Liane Shadrack, felt bad about kicking the actors out afterwards.

"They shot a few hoops but I did feel bad throwing them out after their hour was up," she said.

The men clearly didn't have any hard feelings towards her, however, and posed for a photo to mark the special encounter.

"They were very nice, such lovely people…they posed for some pictures and chatted with people, but they didn't say anything about the film they were making," she added.

Now if those two could only waltz into our gym, our workout would surely improve.

Matt Damon leads stars in Public Theater forum

An all-star line-up including Matt Damon, Alan Alda and Vanessa Redgrave will be featured in a night of readings and a town hall discussion hosted by The Public Theater.

The June 17 event at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park will also feature Christine Baranski, Gloria Reuben, Raul Esparza, Hamish Linklater, Jesse L. Martin, Lily Rabe and Marsha Stephanie Blake.

The celebrities will read from Shakespeare on money and justice while Harvard professor Michael Sandel leads a conversation about the rise of the language of money, the subject of his new book, "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets."

Tickets to the free forum will be distributed, two per person, at noon on June 17 at the Delacorte Theater and there will be a drawing at the www.shakespeareinthepark.org site.

HBO's 'Behind The Candelabra' Hits Near-Decade Viewership Record

Steven Soderbergh’s look at the tempestuous secret love affair between Liberace and his onstage driver hit some high notes for HBO on Sunday. Helmed by the Oscar-winning director, Behind The Candelabra was watched by 2.4 million viewers on Sunday at 9 PM. That’s the most viewers an HBO original movie premiere has garnered since 2.6 million watched Something The Lord Made on May 30, 2004. Candelabra also did considerably better than HBO’s last biopic, on record producer Phil Spector. Starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, the film about Spector’s first trial for the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson pulled in 754,000 viewers in its 9 PM airing on March 24. Overall, Phil Spector had 1.039 million viewers over two plays on March 24. Across two plays Sunday, Candelabra had a total of 3.5 million viewers watching the 9 PM and 11 PM broadcasts.

Based on Scott Thorson’s 1988 memoir, the heavily promoted Candelabra stars Michael Douglas as the gilded piano player and Matt Damon as the much younger Thorson. Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula and Rob Lowe co-starred in the two-hour biopic. Also in competition at Cannes this year, Candelabra was written by Fisher King scribe Richard LaGravenese and executive produced by Jerry Weintraub. The film will be released theatrically in the UK next month.

'Behind the Candelabra': Why Matt Damon wanted to play Liberace's 17-year-old lover on HBO

Zap2it: Why did you want to play Liberace's 17-year-old lover?

Matt Damon: I knew I would do the part before I read the script because Steven [Soderbergh] gave me the book. It is such an interesting dynamic between the two guys. Richard LaGravenese handed in an unbelievable screenplay, all of the complexities of it and it was so well written.

Zap2it: Why did it take so long to get made?

Matt Damon: It was a question of finding when Michael and I both were there. It had to shoot in L.A., and I am moving to L.A. at the end of the school year.

Zap2it: You sport a bunch of different looks in this -- sort of waifish to chunky and all different hairstyles and even a new face at one point. Did you start buff then gain weight, or how was this done?

Matt Damon: There's the '77 long hair with jeans; someone just called it the Jimmy McNichol look. We shot in 35 days. I wish I gained the weight. I had a fat suit, and then I was in a Speedo. There was a Flock of Seagulls wig, and prosthetics in the cheeks, a nose and a chin. I put plumpers in my cheeks to fill out my face.

Zap2it: Did you talk with anyone who knew Liberace?

Matt Damon: Debbie Reynolds (who plays Liberace's mom) was very close to his mother and to him. She adored him, and you could never find anyone to say anything bad about him.

'Behind the Candelabra' review: Matt Damon and Michael Douglas get intimate bringing Liberace's private life to HBO

"Behind the Candelabra" debuts on HBO tonight with so many pre-packaged talking points, it's a wonder a single film can support them all.

Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh has been laboring to bring a film about the late entertainer Liberace to the screen since working on 2000's "Traffic" -- when Michael Douglas slipped into an impromptu Liberace impression between takes and sparked Soderbergh's artistic fire. Even though Douglas immediately agreed to play the role and Matt Damon quickly committed to playing Scott Thorson, Liberace's lover and the author of a tell-all book about the relationship, Soderbergh couldn't find a studio willing to finance and release a film on the right terms.

Eventually Soderbergh gave up on a theatrical release, "Candelabra" landed at artist-friendly HBO and the result -- which Soderbergh has called his final feature film -- was invited into the prestigious competition section of the Cannes Film Festival, where it received the sort of international attention (and upbeat reviews) most movies made for television would never dare to dream of.

Of course one of the central themes in "Candelabra" is dreaming -- and doing -- big things. Liberace's legendary status as an entertainer is synonymous with words like "flamboyant" and "flair." He was a precursor to Madonna and Lady Gaga, but also a classically trained, undeniably talented pianist. He knew how to deliver an unforgettable show, and he had the talent to back it up.

The same can be said of Soderbergh at his best, but his recent work has grown cold and overly controlled. Lately, in films like "Magic Mike," "Haywire," "Side Effects" and "Contagion," Soderbergh's technical proficiency has far outstripped his ability to sculpt engaging narratives and complex, multidimensional characters.

That makes "Candelabra" something of a throwback. It's not surprising that the idea originated in the director's "Traffic" heyday, and it's his strongest and most entertaining film since 2009's "The Informant!" -- which also starred Damon.

While "Candelabra" is stocked with familiar faces and terrific actors doing their part to bring Liberace's idiosyncratic world to life (especially Debbie Reynolds as Liberace's dear old mother and Rob Lowe as his plastic surgeon, both unrecognizable examples of the film's consistently impressive makeup work), the movie belongs entirely to Douglas and Damon. The story is Thorson's -- who was only 17 when he moved in with Liberace, almost 40 years Thorson's senior -- and Damon nails a starry-eyed young man's journey from naive eagerness to please to a drug-addicted empty vessel desperately clinging to his lover's coattails.

But the star turn comes from Douglas, who gives his first great performance of the decade and continues the run of sterling screen work he's delivered since the 1970s. Miraculously avoiding caricature and only going as camp as necessary, Douglas makes Liberace something of a sympathetic monster. A calculating predator who -- perhaps out of guilt, shame or societal pressures -- creates a larger-than-life persona to conceal his most intimate truths.

"Candelabra" is more horror show than love story -- even if Damon's casting undercuts the more uncomfortable reality of Thorson's age at the beginning of this five-year relationship -- but Soderbergh and his stars leave the judgments up to the audience. Even when Liberace decides he wanted to legally adopt Thorson and demands his young lover get plastic surgery to look more like Liberace (!), the script by Richard LaGravenese (an Oscar nominee for "The Fisher King") doesn't overplay the exploitation angle and the direction and performances never descend into "Can you believe we're doing this?" immaturity. Whether they're in bed, in the bath or bantering in lovers quarrels, Damon and Douglas play the relationship -- no pun intended -- completely straight.

And yet as inspired as the performances are and as fully realized as the world is, traces of Soderbergh's recent weaknesses remain. For all the insight into Liberace's private life, there's very little insight into the man himself. The overall arc is typical of doomed love stories and tales of innocence corrupted (it's eerily similar at times to the recent FDR bio-pic dud "Hyde Park on Hudson," albeit far better crafted and acted), and there's a sense that there's not quite enough on screen to support two hour running time.

But compared to recent dismal HBO efforts like "Phil Spector" and "Game Change," "Candelabra" is flat-out exceptional. Douglas and Damon deserve whatever laurels they have coming their way. And HBO likely made a wise choice in cozying up to Soderbergh as he transitions out of feature films. If he takes a shot at a limited or ongoing series (as he has hinted), this undeniably talented filmmaker could find a reawakened passion for giving his audience an unforgettable show.

'Behind the Candelabra': Michael Douglas and Matt Damon kiss and tell

Television movies rarely generate the sort of buzz that HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" has, but how often do TV movies, even on premium cable, feature Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as lovers?

Premiering Sunday, May 26, the film revolves around the relationship between Liberace and Scott Thorson, who was his partner for years.

This takes Liberace and Scott from their 1977 meeting, when Liberace was a Vegas headliner and Scott a naive kid, through their five-year relationship, public breakup and eventually Liberace's death from AIDS in 1987.

In the beginning, Scott is 17, which Damon acknowledges is a stretch.

"Seventeen's way out of my range," Damon tells Zap2it, shaking his head and laughing. "And I said that to Steven [Soderbergh, the director]. 'This is ridiculous!' I am 42. I look younger than I am, but I don't look that much younger. I probably look 30 more than 20. It is more about an older guy who loves a younger guy."

Liberace had a penchant for younger men. Much has been made about the sex scenes, and Douglas and Damon, in separate interviews, laugh about it.

Still, what were those steamy scenes like?

"There's anxiety because you don't want to screw it up," Damon says. "And it is a place where everyone is going to be looking carefully. To me it's much less about the kissing and more about how you are with someone in your most intimate relationship. There's a physical comfort level when you are in the room with your husband or wife. There are no secrets."

Ideally, what he hoped to achieve "are those intimate moments when there are no cameras around.

"Was it weird kissing Michael Douglas?" Damon says. "Yeah, but to be honest, it's weird kissing anyone on camera. You are five feet away from 40 of your closest friends."

Speaking in the same hotel suite, but half an hour earlier, Douglas, who just gives off the movie star glow, says, "Call me easy, but we didn't think about it much. I was teasing Matt about his Brazilian tan line on his butt. We just felt comfortable."

Once Liberace and Scott settle into a relationship, there are sweet domestic scenes, such as watching TV, eating popcorn -- the mundane living of any relationship.

"Together we realized what a true love story it was," Douglas says. "I am happiest if you forget that is Matt and I. Forget it is two guys. It is two people very much in love and the fights, the squabbles and things that go on."

Soderbergh does a terrific job of showing the day-to-day lives of the couple, but it was an unusual setup because Liberace had been such a huge star and lived so large. He wore a $300,000 white virgin fox coat, lined with $100,000 in crystals and sequins.

Liberace was famous for his ornate outfits, and his home looked as if it would have put the French aristocracy to shame. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, like production designer Howard Cummings, clearly did massive research to nail down every detail.

"Who was the real Liberace?" Mirojnick says she pondered. "That is what I really started thinking about. I could not help but really want to investigate who was the real guy, not what did he wear, but who was he? What was his life about?"

In addition to copious research, she and her team spent three weeks just picking the base fabric for one of his most famous costumes, the Neptune, which makes Douglas look like Liberace on the half shell.

Despite the bead-encrusted costumes, antiques, a Rolls-Royce and a larger-than-life way about him, Douglas was determined to play Liberace as a man and not as some camp act.

Both actors note that people who knew him -- including Debbie Reynolds -- had only kind words for the showman. Douglas, who as a child met Liberace, recalls he drove a Rolls-Royce convertible.

"As theatrical as the piece was, there was simplicity," Douglas says. "I didn't want winking at the camera."

At one point, after a tremendous amount of plastic surgery, Liberace could not wink. He could not even shut his eyes to sleep.

Rob Lowe, looking like Teri Hatcher after a botched face-lift, shows up as a plastic surgeon. Reynolds is unrecognizable as Liberace's beloved mom.

As terrific as all are, the movie belongs to Douglas and Damon. The film's absolutely bravest scene -- at least from an actor's perspective -- has Liberace, just out of a bath, a towel wrapped around him. Douglas is in a fat suit, a bald cap and wig. It's not dreamy.

Both men wore prosthetic devices for their roles, and both actors trusted Soderbergh, with whom they had worked repeatedly.

Douglas was working with the director on "Traffic" when Soderbergh broached the topic of this movie. It took years to make, as both actors were busy, Douglas became ill and then recovered, and it finally all worked.

"This is a character piece," Douglas says. "I didn't worry about it. Three years after cancer, I am just really happy to be acting again."

Critics' Choice TV Award Nominees

BEST MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES
• American Horror Story: Asylum – FX
• Behind the Candelabra – HBO
• The Crimson Petal and the White – Encore
• The Hour – BBC America
• Political Animals – USA
• Top of the Lake – Sundance

BEST ACTOR IN A MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES
• Benedict Cumberbatch (Parade’s End) – HBO
• Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra) – HBO
• Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra) – HBO
• Toby Jones (The Girl) – HBO
• Al Pacino (Phil Spector) – HBO
• Dominic West (The Hour) – BBC America

Douglas, Damon dramatize a steamy show-biz affair

The idea of Michael Douglas playing Liberace might seem nearly as outrageous as Liberace himself.

Liberace, forever hailed as "Mr. Showmanship," was the excess-to-the-max pianist-personality whose onstage and offstage extravagance were legendary, and who wowed audiences in Las Vegas and worldwide to become the best-paid entertainer on the planet during his heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s.

He was the forerunner of flashy, gender-bender entertainers like Elton John, David Bowie, Madonna and Lady Gaga even as he kept a tight lid on his gay private life, which he feared could have ended his career had it come out. (His fans never seemed to get wise.)

By contrast, Michael Douglas is a 68-year-old movie star known for he-man performances and morally ambiguous roles. And he was no piano player.

But Douglas now dazzles as Liberace in the new HBO film, "Behind the Candelabra," including lavish musical numbers where he tinkles the ivories and flourishes his jewel-and-ermine finery. The film (executive produced by show-biz veteran Jerry Weintraub, a Liberace friend) premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT.

Douglas' co-star is Matt Damon, who, in a casting choice almost as counterintuitive, plays Scott Thorson, a dreamy, strapping teen who in 1977 met Liberace in his Vegas dressing room and almost instantly became his personal assistant, live-in companion and top-secret lover.

"Candelabra" (whose title cites the trademark prop ornamenting his onstage piano) also features Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Paul Reiser, Debbie Reynolds and a hilarious turn by Rob Lowe as Liberace's on-call plastic surgeon.

It was the film's director, Steven Soderbergh, who brought together the two lead actors, helped shape their splendid performances and masterminded this portrait of a loving but bizarre and tempestuous affair.

This show-biz saga may be over-the-top, but there's plenty of depth and it dives deep.

"We played the script and tried not to wink at the audience," said Douglas. "It's a great love story. I watch it and I forget about Matt and myself. Then, pretty soon, I practically forget it's two guys: The conversations and arguments sound like any ol' couple."

Adds Damon in a separate interview: "The question for us was, How do we make this look like a marriage that we recognize? Most of our scenes we could relate to because we're both in long-term marriages. It was a male-female story with two guys."

Well, maybe. But that doesn't override the risk factor for Douglas and Damon as they tackled roles dramatically at odds with their images and past work.

"I looked at Matt and thought, 'Man, this guy's brave,'" said Douglas. "It's one thing for me at my age to stretch a little bit and try different characters. But 'Bourne'! A man in the prime of his career going this route?! I was in awe of Matt's courage."

"He's being nice," laughed Damon, 42, when told what Douglas had said. "He would've done it in a second! He'd never turn down a great role."

Why did Damon say yes to man-to-man pillow talk and sequined thongs?

"I've never said no to Steven," he replied, noting he had worked with Soderbergh before in "The Informant!" and the "Ocean" trilogy. "It doesn't get any more fun than working with Steven."

Douglas, too, had been in Soderbergh films — including the 2000 thriller "Traffic," during whose production the director first proposed Douglas playing Liberace.

Why did he agree?

"First of all, Lee was a nice guy," Douglas began, calling Liberace by the given name he never used professionally. "He was a lovely, lovely guy. I don't play many nice guys."

Douglas nails Liberace's velvety, nasal voice and almost-ever-present pearly smile.

"One of the things I enjoyed about this part was, I got to smile," he said. "I don't smile a lot in my pictures. I'm always so ... grim."

Still, in "Candelabra," there isn't always lots to smile about.

Thorson, a child of foster care, falls sway to Liberace's charm and support, but it comes with a price. He is subjected to plastic surgery to mold him into a young Liberace (one of the remarkable makeup transformations Damon undergoes). He also becomes hooked on drugs in his mission to stay slim for Liberace, and, after a few years, his addiction and Liberace's philandering bring a cruel end to the relationship, after which Thorson unsuccessfully sues for palimony.

Douglas, too, sports a variety of looks. Liberace is seen before and after his own plastic-surgery refresher, and, in a final scene, gravely sick from an AIDS-related illness from which he died in 1987 at age 67.

This death scene is particularly haunting for anyone who followed Douglas' recent near-death experience. "Candelabra" is his comeback performance after a brutal six-month regimen of radiation and chemotherapy for stage 4 throat cancer in 2010.

When he stepped in front of the cameras after his own brush with mortality, he seems to have embraced Liberace as a positive life force and a fitting way to get back in the game.

"Yeah, I did," he nodded. "I was enraptured by the joy that Lee had. He was a bit of sunshine to me."

But Liberace also had a dark side. This, Douglas also captures despite a refusal to acknowledge it.

"It sort of happened," he said. "It was there in the story."

And while he allowed that "Candelabra" viewers might see Liberace as tormented and self-destructive, among sunnier traits, "I didn't see him that way. I didn't see a dark side to him.

"My career has been more in the gray area, if not the dark area," Douglas went on (needing to point no further than rapacious money man Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film "Wall Street," a character for which he won a best-actor Oscar, then revived it in the 2010 sequel, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps").

Playing Liberace "was so much fun!" he said. "You put on this mask and it allows you to do anything you want. I don't get to do that very often. My movies are usually about stripping off the makeup, getting down to the skeleton."

In "Candelabra," Douglas certainly got to wear a lot of makeup, and subsequent projects should allow him to embody other colorful characters — such as President Ronald Reagan in the film he was about to start, "Reykjavik."

"I've always been somebody who, when I started a picture, never knew what the next picture would be," Douglas said. "But during this two-year-plus hiatus, a bunch of good material came my way."

As he spoke, he had already wrapped a comedy called "Last Vegas." Ahead is a Rob Reiner film with Diane Keaton, and a couple after that.

"I'm at an age where I can try different things, do much different stuff than I thought I could do," he summed up, looking pleased at a career (and himself) unexpectedly reborn. "I'm starting over. What I went through with Liberace has given me the confidence for this."

Liberace film throws spotlight on gay rights at Cannes festival

The relationship between the flamboyant pianist Liberace and his young lover dazzled at the Cannes film festival on Tuesday and threw the spotlight on gay rights at the movie industry's largest annual gathering.

Director Steven Soderbergh said he struggled five years ago to secure funding for "Behind the Candelabra" because some financiers thought the film would only appeal to a gay audience and, at a cost of $25 million, would be a financial risk.

Eventually he received financing from Time Warner's HBO cable channel and made the film with Michael Douglas playing Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson with whom the pianist had a secret five-year affair.

Soderbergh said it was a coincidence that the film was being released during a global debate on gay rights and same sex marriage but acknowledged that it was very timely.

France last month became the 14th country to legalize gay marriage, a move also taken in the United States by Washington D.C. and 12 states. Liberace, a huge celebrity during his lifetime, publicly denied his homosexuality at a time when being gay was widely considered taboo.

"In making the film, the socio-political aspect of it was not really in my mind but I was focused on ... trying to make this relationship as believable and realistic as we could," Soderbergh told a news conference, flanked by Douglas and Damon.

"When this issue comes up, of equal rights for gays, I am hoping 50 years from now we will look back on this and wonder why this was even a debate and why it took so long."

Douglas and Damon said they were both keen to work with Soderbergh who has announced his plan to retire from filmmaking after this movie.

They were both also impressed by the script based on Thorson's autobiography, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace", that was released in 1988, a year after the entertainer's death at age 67 from an AIDS-related disease.

SPECTACULAR

In the film, Thorson, a naive 18-year-old farm boy from Wisconsin, meets 58-year-old Liberace in Las Vegas in 1977 and moves in with him, joining his glamorous lifestyle of champagne, jewel-encrusted cars and spectacular wardrobe.

An unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds plays Liberace's beloved mother Frances, with her trademark button nose hidden under a prosthetic one, while a wrinkle-free, taut-faced Rob Lowe, is a plastic surgeon who operates on both Liberace and Thorson.

The relationship starts to unravel as Thorson becomes addicted to drugs, hawking jewelry given to him by his lover to fund his habit, and the sexually voracious Liberace's interest moves on to other, younger men.

The two actors made light of their love scenes, with Douglas joking about asking Damon what flavor lip balm he preferred and Damon saying he could swap stories with Sharon Stone, Glenn Close and Demi Moore after sharing a bed with Douglas.

Douglas, whose performance as the primped, toupeed pianist was lauded by critics, said he met Liberace once, in a Rolls Royce convertible while in Palm Springs with his father, the movie star Kirk Douglas.

He became emotional, voice breaking and tears in his eyes, when asked how he became involved in the film that Soderbergh first raised with him 13 years ago.

"It was right after my cancer and this beautiful gift was handed to me and I am eternally grateful ... to everybody for waiting for me," said Douglas who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010 and needed chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

"Behind the Candelabra" will premiere on HBO in the United States on May 26 and open in foreign theatres from June 7.

The film is one of 20 movies in the main competition at Cannes vying for the Palme d'Or award for best picture that is presented on Sunday.

Soderbergh, 50, who won the Palme d'Or in 1989 with "Sex, Lies and Videotapes", said this was his last movie for a while.

"I am absolutely taking a break. I don't know how extended it is going to be but I can't say if this were the last movie I make that I would be unhappy," he said. "It's been a nice run."

Matt Damon warns Cannes about his butt

Matt Damon has given fair warning: His butt and Brazilian spray tan will be on super-sized display at the premiere of Behind the Candelabra on Tuesday night at the film festival here.

"We'll see it on the biggest screen ever. It will be jarring," Damon cautioned Tuesday during a news conference for the film, to be shown on HBO starting Sunday (9 p.m. ET/PT). "This is not something you can un-see. So you're all welcome to look. But you cannot un-ring that bell. It will be seared into your memory."

Damon plays Scott Thorson, who gets caught up in the wild life of flamboyant performer Liberace (Michael Douglas) in the biopic. Damon had to get the nearly-all-over tan to keep the lines from showing in his many revealing outfits.

In a West Hollywood parking lot during filming, Damon convinced director Steven Soderbergh to somehow get the look into a scene where the two lovers are having an argument before going to bed.

"I said, 'What if at the end of the scene, I drop the robe and get into bed?' " Damon recalled. "And Steven just looked at me for a long time and said, 'Oh I know where to put the camera.' I said, 'It's the wrongest thing you have ever seen.' "

While the posterior is very visible, it is out of focus as the camera zeroes in on Douglas.

"(But) my behind is very large in the frame," Damon said. "I'm really proud of that scene."

As Soderbergh, who has worked with Damon on six films, explained: "When Matt told me the story about his Brazilian spray tan, I felt the world really needed to see this. So I was looking for opportunities. And we found them."

Added the director: "Give the people what they want and they will show up."

Matt Damon and George Clooney Are Hot Men in Uniform on Monuments Men Set

(Photo) Who can resist a man in uniform—especially if the men in suits are George Clooney and Matt Damon!

The hunky actors stepped out in Berlin wearing military gear while filming their new movie The Monuments Men.

It's nice to see Clooney, who's also the film's director suited up and ready for action in front of the camera!

The film, which also stars Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman tells the real-life story of art historians and museum curators during World War II trying to recover works of art stolen by Nazis before Adolf Hitler destroys them.

The Monuments Men is set to hit theatres December 18, 2013.

Matt Damon: Why I Renewed My Vows

Matt Damon's wife now has his entire family and all of his friends on her side if there's ever an argument over who gets the side of the bed closest to the bathroom.

"It's nice to say your vows in front of family," Damon told the crowd gathered Thursday at Harvard University, where he was honored for his work in the arts with 2013 Harvard Arts Medal presented by actor John Lithgow.

"That's the point of taking the vows. These are people who will hold you to them. One of my vows was I gave her the side of the bed closer to the bathroom. And if I don't stick to that, I'm gonna hear about that from my mom, brother and father."

On April 13, Damon and wife Luciana renewed their wedding vows in front of 50 family and friends on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, though during Thursday night's question-and-answer session, he explained why the couple had originally married at city hall.

"We were gonna get married over Christmas [in 2005], and then somebody got wind of it, and my publicist told me these people are are all going to go down to Miami where we lived at the time," he said. "We thought our whole holiday break was going get ruined with people hanging around, with helicopters and all that stuff. So we literally ran to the city on [on Dec. 9, 2005,] and just tied the knot really quickly, just to kind of nip that whole thing in the bud."

A hectic family life raising their four daughters delayed the renewal of vows that Damon said the couple always really wanted to do.

The Boston native also said that being back in his hometown after the bombings that shook the city's iconic Boston Marathon was emotional, and added that fellow Bostonian Mark Wahlberg's quote about the bombings articulated just how many people feel.

"Particularly right now, it's good to be back in Boston," Damon said. "I went to school where the youngest bomber went to school, and was just talking about all the happy memories I had there. And my nephew goes to school there now. I think we're all still in shock. I certainly am still in shock, and I'm trying to figure out what this all means and how it could happen."

Matt Damon Receives 2013 Harvard Arts Medal

Congrats, Matt Damon!

Although the 42-year-old dropped out of Harvard University (he attended from 1988 to 1992), he was honored Thursday for his work in the arts with the 2013 Harvard Arts Medal, according to local news.

The ceremony was led by fellow Harvard alma mater John Lithgow, who began the discussion with talks of Damon's school days and, of course, the major success of Good Will Hunting.

Damon's writing partner for the film has also been honored this week in his own right.

E! News confirms that Ben Affleck is slated to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Brown University during their 245th Commencement on May 26.

The boys of Boston are making big strides in the collegiate circle!

Matt Damon Returns to Work After Romantic Vow Renewal

It's back to business for Matt Damon, who returned to work in Cancun just a week after renewing his vows with wife Luciana.

Stepping out at Saturday's Summer of Sony promotional event, Damon, 42, joined director Neill Blomkamp and costar Sharlto Copley to amp up their upcoming sci-fi flick, Elysium.

Unlike White House Down costars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, the actor didn't put his dance moves on display. We'll let it slide: Perhaps he was still tired from his St. Lucia celebration, which marked the 10 years he's known his wife in a Jimmy Kimmel-officiated sunset ceremony.

"It was a very family-oriented and happy celebration," a source told PEOPLE at the time. As for the loved-up couple, "They were smiling and looked very happy together."

And their guest list was just as star-studded as the Sony gathering. Among those supporting the happy couple: Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Garner, Casey Affleck and Don Cheadle.

Matt Damon Shares Memories of Boston Marathon in Pre-Attack Essay for Boston Globe

Matt Damon 's devotion to the Boston area is well known.

The actor wrote a piece for the Boston Globe last month, reflecting on the city's famed marathon that both his father and brother ran multiple times. And since Monday's events, the piece is even more poignant.

"I'll never forget standing there in the crowd with my brother, Kyle, as we looked first for Bill Rodgers, and then, in the very same race as some of the most talented runners on earth, our smiling (and grimacing) 40-year-old dad," Damon wrote.

After going further into his father's race, the actor said, "The word 'Boston' is itself a hallmark in the international running community, forging a bond by the very sound of it between all who count themselves among its ranks and those who aspire to them.

"The strict qualifying standards, originally implemented to thin the growing field, ironically, today only enhance the race's appeal to people whose primary motivation in running is not medals. Now many run for a slimmer waistline, a healthier lifestyle, or simply the challenge of completing 26.2 miles."

The star noted that his brother "fell victim to the Boston Marathon's seduction," and would serve as a waterboy while he cheered his family on during their run.

"The drama was enough to propel my brother to literally follow our dad's footsteps and also run the race four times," Damon recalled. "To this day both my father and brother have their bib numbers archived with their most prized possessions and describe their experiences as some of the most emotional moments of their lives."

Damon ends the piece on a poignant note, with a sentiment that is even more powerful in light of the attacks of Monday. Writing about the altrustic spirit that many bring to the race, he wrote "These people are doing something good for themselves—and for others. How great is that?"

Considering the acts of heroism and selfless action in response to those in need on Monday, his words are even more true now.

Jimmy Kimmel Officiated Matt Damon's Vow Renewal

By the power vested in late night television, Jimmy Kimmel pronounced Matt Damon and wife, Luciana, husband and wife for a second time over the weekend.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host, 45, officiated the sunset ceremony on Saturday in St. Lucia as Matt and Luciana renewed their vows 10 years after their first meeting, PEOPLE has learned.

The couple confirmed their commitment to each other in front of 50 guests, including their four daughters, Kimmel's fiancé Molly McNearney, actors Robert DeNiro, Ben Affleck, his wife Jennifer Garner, Casey Affleck and Don Cheadle.

"It was a very family-oriented and happy celebration," a source told PEOPLE at the time. "Many guests brought their children (although Ben and Jen did not). After the ceremony, guests enjoyed an evening cocktail reception on the beach. Children were running around and playing with white parasols."

The source adds that with 85 degree weather and blue skies, "It was a beautiful and relaxing weekend for guests. Matt and Luci went all out. Guests were flown in to the tropical island via private jets and were treated like royalty. Everyone enjoyed the sun and water activities, including snorkeling and paddle boarding. Guests were also treated to local, gourmet food and drinks."

And just a day after the ceremony, the couple was spotted strolling on the beach.

"Matt and Luci seemed to enjoy a quiet moment together. They strolled on the beach hand-in-hand and looked like newlyweds. They were smiling and looked very happy together," says the source.

Matt Damon and Wife Renew Wedding Vows

Matt Damon and his wife Luciana renewed their wedding vows on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia Saturday, PEOPLE confirms.

The couple exchanged vows as their guests, including their four daughters and actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, as well as Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, looked on.

Local reports indicate Damon, 42, spent nearly $1 million to rent out the entire Sugar Beach resort to accommodate his family and guests for the lavish festivities.

Damon met his wife in a Miami bar in 2003 when he was shooting the film Stuck on You and she was tending bar. The couple married two years later in a civil ceremony in New York City but never had a larger wedding celebration.

Earlier Saturday, the actor appeared relaxed and happy as he paddle boarded in the crystalline blue waters near the resort.

Matt Damon to Renew Wedding Vows at Caribbean Resort: Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner on Guest List

Matt Damon is going all out this weekend.

The actor and his wife of eight years, Luciana, plan to renew their wedding vows this weekend in the Caribbean and they have rented out the entire Sugar Beach resort on the isle of Saint Lucia to the tune of $600,000, E! News exclusively confirms.

A caravan of SUVs was seen ferrying people from a private airfield to the hotel, where, according to local authorities, there is an increased security presence.

The guest list includes best Damon bud Ben Affleck and his wife, Jennifer Garner, and there are whisperings that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie possible received invites as well (though Brad's due at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday, so he may have had to regretfully decline).

A private plane linked to Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose hubby Michael Douglas stars with Damon in the upcoming HBO film Behind the Candelabra, has arrived on the island. Stanley Tucci, whose sister-in-law is close Damon pal Emily Blunt, is also in the area.

Reports that the local beach has been closed due to the festivities are not true, Officer Defreitas of the St. Lucia Police Station in Soufriere tells E! News. But he says, "the hotel is what is closed down" for an event that will continue through midday Sunday.

We're told the entire party is booked under the name "Mr. Naff."

"In a case like with Matt Damon, you will see that even our Marine Police gets involved to ensure that no unauthorized boats can approach the resort beach," Karolin Troubetzkoy, president of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association and owner with her husband of Jade Mountain, another luxury resort near Sugar Beach.

"Naturally in this day and age you never know who has a cell phone and who make take unauthorized photographs but I would imagine the resorts would have very strict rules in place. It will be a matter of great pride to the St. Lucian staff here to look after the Matt Damon renewal-of-vows party. Considering that pretty much everyone has a friend or relative working in the various resorts, it is amazing how very little gets out."

Damon's rep has remained mum regarding the imminent retying of the knot.

Ben Affleck "Jealous" of Matt Damon Kissing Michael Douglas: "I Can't Stand It"

Ben Affleck admits it's not easy watching Michael Douglas kiss his Matt Damon in their upcoming Liberace film, Behind the Candelabra.

"Pretty jealous, pretty jealous," the Argo Oscar winner cracked last night at the premiere of his new movie, To the Wonder, when we asked if he was envious of Mr. Douglas.

He added, "It burns me up. You know, I feel the envy in my heart. I can't stand it."

Remember, Damon does refer to Affleck as his "hetero life mate."

"I saw Behind the Candelabra," Affleck said last night. "I don't know about the hetero part anymore."

Candelabra, directed by steven soderbergh, is the real-life story of Liberace and his very tumultuous relationship his much younger lover Scott Thorson.

"I've seen it," Affleck said. "It's spectacular to see. Matt is amazing. Michael Douglas is amazing. [Steven] Soderbergh's brilliant."

While the film is "light" and "fun," Affleck said, "It's also quite resonate."

We cannot wait.

Matt Damon is part machine in first 'Elysium' poster

The next movie from the director of "District 9," Neill Blomkamp, is scheduled for theaters August 9. "Elysium" stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, and is set in the year 2159, where the world has been divided into the very rich and the poor.

The rich live in a palatial space station called Elysium, while everyone else is forced to stay on a ruined planet Earth. Enter Damon's character, a resident of Earth who needs to get on board Elysium, for medical care.

The first poster for the film was released Monday, care of Yahoo, with a trailer expected Tuesday. The poster shows Damon, in a shot from behind, with robotics attached to his body.

Footage from "Elysium" was first shown at Comic-Con in 2012. The movie was first scheduled for release in March, before being pushed back to August.

Check out the full poster here.

Fans get early look at 'Elysium' footage

The year is 2154, and Earth belongs to the poor. The wealthiest citizens live on "Elysium," an idyllic, disease-free utopia they built in space.

On Monday, a few hundred film fans in Los Angeles, Berlin and Sao Paolo got an early look at the future home of the 1 percent as imagined by "District 9" writer-director Neill Blomkamp.

Blomkamp showed about 10 minutes of footage from the anticipated film during a special screening. Matt Damon, who stars alongside Jodie Foster, introduced the footage in Berlin and appeared at Hollywood's Arclight Theater via satellite.

In the film, Earth is a trash-filled landscape policed unforgivingly by robotic droids. Flying military tanks patrol the sky.

Damon plays a diseased Earthling trying to infiltrate Elysium to save himself, and perhaps all of humanity. A group of Earth-bound rebels outfit him for the journey with a tentacled "strength suit." They use a drill to affix a digital box to his head that allows him to transfer brain contents as effortlessly as computer files.

Foster plays an Elysium administrator determined to keep Damon out. The star of "District 9," Sharlto Copley, plays a bearded villain who works on Earth to protect the wealthy space enclave.

"Elysium" opens Aug. 9.

Belated blowout

Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, are renewing their wedding vows in 10 days at the Sugar Beach resort in St. Lucia, sources tell us. Damon rented out the entire five-star Caribbean resort for a reported $1 million and, we hear, will have a star-studded guest list that includes George Clooney and Stacy Keibler, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Damon and his wife wed in a small ceremony at city hall in 2005 and, we’re told, are looking forward to a larger celebration.

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon Share a Bath in New Behind the Candelabra Trailer

(Video) We've seen the pics of Michael Douglas as Liberace. Now we finally get a glimpse of the man in action.

Well, for about 30 seconds.

In this new teaser for the upcoming HBO biopic, Behind the Candelabra, the Oscar winner can be seen tickling the ivories as the flamboyant entertainer, sporting an array of extravagant costumes and, oh yeah, sharing a bath with Matt Damon, who plays Liberace's younger lover, Scott Thorson.

Directed by steven soderbergh and based on Thorson's autobiography, the film focuses on the closeted relationship between Liberace and Thorson, who filed a $113 million palimony suit against the showman in 1982.

Behind the Candelabra is scheduled to premiere May 26 on HBO.

Matt Damon Suits Up While Filming With George Clooney in Berlin

(Photo) Matt Damon: man in uniform!

The 42-year-old actor stepped out in Berlin recently wearing a military suit while filming his new flick The Monuments Men in Germany.

Walking down the front steps of the Palais am Festungsgraben event center, Damon looked official in a dark Nazi-era suit and matching military cap.

Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett Take Kids on Fun Adventures in Berlin

No, it was not a sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley. But the two actors from that 1999 movie – Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett – both separately spent some quality family time in Berlin this weekend.

The two are in the capital city shooting The Monuments Men, with George Clooney, though on Sunday's day off, Damon and wife Luciana did what the parents of 500 other kids did in Berlin: took them to Jack's Fun World for some indoor fun and games.

The owner of the park, Oleg Nepomnjascij, tells PEOPLE that the Damons were impressively easygoing. "I take my hat off to him," he said.

To the delight of the other parents, the star and his family just hung out like everybody else, while their kids – Alexia, Isabella, Gia and Stella – ran and jumped and bounced and shrieked for joy.

Meanwhile, Blanchett and her family braved the cold outside. With temperatures down to 12 degrees, she and her mother June took the actress's three boys – Ignatius, Dashiell and Roman – out for some serious sledding.

So icy were conditions in Volkspark Friedrichshain that Blanchett crashed the sled into a snow bank, according to the German publication Bild, though no one was the worse for wear – and they all laughed a lot.

George Clooney Starts Snowball Fight with Matt Damon

All work and no play? Not for George Clooney.

The star proved getting a movie done can be plenty of fun if you've got your friends with you – and you've got a late-season dumping of snow. Which is just what the conditions were Friday when he lobbed a snowball at the star of his wartime drama, The Monuments Men, Matt Damon.

Damon responded the only way he could: by whipping a snowball back at the director! Costar Cate Blanchett stayed out of the fray, and according to local tabloid B.Z., the production team cheered them on.

Clooney and Damon then got back to work filming a scene outside of Berlin. The film is based on the true story of an allied division of men and women trying to rescue the great works of art that Nazi troops were pillaging from the countries they conquered.

While Clooney and Damon continue their on-set antics, Clooney's girlfriend Stacy Keibler spends her time shopping and touring. She was especially fascinated by the sausage vendor who carries his grill on his belly.

Jessica Biel and Jason Bateman Join Matt Damon's Toilet Strike-See the New PSA

(Video) Jessica Biel and Jason Bateman are giving new meaning to the term potty mouth.

In a new PSA, the two stars, along with fellow actor Josh Gad, announce that they have joined Matt Damon's "toilet strike" in an effort to help the Oscar winner and the organization he cofounded, Water.org, raise awareness of the 2.5 billion people around the globe who do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

"It's easy for me because I've never gone to the bathroom in my entire life," Biel notes in the clip, while Bateman expresses confusion on how to proceed.

"Are we not supposed to excrete waste at all or just not in the toilet?" he asks. "I've just been using the kitchen sink."

Meanwhile, Gad simply can't contain his excitement about taking part in the strike.

"Let's get this party started!" he exclaims before chugging a beer and then regrettably adding, "That was probably a mistake."

To support Damon's "strike," go to StrikeWithMe.org.

George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray Grab Dinner in Berlin-See the Pic!

(Photo) Hallo, gentlemen!

George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray grabbed dinner Friday in Berlin. While all four guys looked handsomely casual as they made their way down the steps, we'd have to award Clooney best-dressed for his jeans and leather jacket.

Damon, Goodman and Murray have all been cast in The Monuments Men, an upcoming film written and directed by Clooney. The story centers on a crew of art experts united to recover Nazi-stolen works before Hitler destroys them.

Sounds like a powerful story with one very strong cast!

TV Teaser: 'Behind The Candelabra'

Steven Soderbergh‘s Liberace pic debuts May 26 on HBO, taking a look at the famed pianist (played by Michael Douglas) and his life with lover Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon). But while Soderbergh & Co. gave journalists a preview at the TCAs in January, the network’s newly unveiled Behind The Candelabra: The Secret Life Of Liberace teaser is a tease, alright — the 38-second video offers no footage, just a jazzy credits roll as piano keys fall to the sounds of “Begin The Beguine”. Watch it here: Video.

Matt Damon & Wife Luciana Planning Secret Second Wedding

Better late than never!

More than seven years after saying, "I do" in a private, low-key ceremony at City Hall in Manhattan in 2005, Matt Damon, 42, and wife Luciana are going all out with a top-secret destination wedding celebration in April, a source confirms to PEOPLE.

The pair has sent out "save the date" cards to close family and friends, but even the guests do not know the mysterious location of the event.

"They now want to do something bigger," a source tells Page Six of their planned second wedding.

But "bigger" doesn't necessarily mean the couple's four girls will participate in the ceremony. They are reportedly requesting "no kids" at the destination event.

Matt, bride finally celebrate

Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, are planning to celebrate their marriage in April with the destination wedding they never had, Page Six can exclusively reveal.

A-listers were buzzing in LA over Oscar weekend that the “Saving Private Ryan” star and his wife have sent out “save the date” cards to close family and friends for an April bash that’s so top-secret, even the guests haven’t been told the location yet.

“They had a really low-key wedding in Manhattan,” a Hollywood source explained, adding, “so now they want to do something bigger.”

Sources said that while details of the bash are being kept hush-hush, one rule for guests lucky enough to be invited will be “no kids” on the trip.

Damon and Barroso wed back in 2005 at city hall — where the only non-family guest was Mayor Bloomberg, Damon has said.

The wedding was so private, it even reportedly caught some of Damon’s closest friends, including Ben Affleck, by surprise. So now, sources say, the couple will have the chance to celebrate with their nearest and dearest.

At the time, busy Damon didn’t have time for a honeymoon: He went straight back to the set of the movie he was working on — Robert De Niro’s “The Good Shepherd” — and brought Barroso with him to film in London. “I guess we’ll have our honeymoon there,” he was reported as saying.

Devoted family man Damon and his wife have four daughters, including one from Barroso’s previous marriage, who was also at his city hall ceremony.

Reps for the actor did not respond to a request for comment.

Busy Damon’s starring in Steven Soderbergh’s highly anticipated Liberace film, “Behind the Candelabra,” with Michael Douglas. And Damon’s next headed into production on the George Clooney-directed “Monuments Men,” with a blockbuster cast that includes Clooney, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett, “Downton Abbey” star Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman.

Stars' Valentine surprises

Celebrities wined and dined their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day just like everyone else. Matt Damon brought wife Luciana to a romantic date at the Gansevoort Park Hotel’s Asellina, where he had a bouquet of roses delivered during dinner. Bruce Willis took his wife, Emma Heming, to an intimate lunch at the Atlantic Grill near Lincoln Center, where they shared oysters and other dishes. Chelsea Clinton dined at SD26 with a gal pal, since we hear her hubby, Marc Mezvinsky, was traveling. Others chose to party it up. Giancarlo Giammetti hosted a Valentine’s Day dinner at his One Beacon Court glass penthouse for Valentino and guests including Stavros Niarchos and Jessica Hart, Chloe Malle, Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani, Carlos Souza and Peggy Siegal. The bash also celebrated Giammetti’s upcoming coffee-table book for Assouline, which a guest described as a “companion piece” to Valentino doc “The Last Emperor.” Guests later decamped to hear Marjorie Gubelmann (a k a DJ Mad Marj) at a Tribeca Grand Valentine’s Day party.

Matt Damon Going on Toilet Strike-to Raise Awareness About Clean Water Access

(Video) Matt Damon's holding out on us. Literally.

The actor and activist has announced he's going on a "toilet strike:" That is, he's refraining from going No. 1—or No. 2 for that matter—with the aim of raising awareness of the 2.5 billion people around the world who do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

Of course, easier said than done, but Damon declared his supposed intentions at a humorous faux press conference, a three-minute video of which was released Tuesday by the nonprofit he cofounded, Water.org.

"In protest of this global tragedy, until this issue is resolved, until everybody has access to clean water and sanitation, I will not go to the bathroom," he declared.

Why target the toilet? We'll let The Rainmaker star explain.

"Does anybody have any idea what invention has saved more lives than any other in the history of humankind? The toilet," Damon said in the clip, answering his own question. "More people have cell phones than toilets."

The goal of the comedic video is to help launch a viral campaign to draw attention to what is an extremely serious issue, and the 42-year-old thesp is planning to make appearances on a number of YouTube vloggers' channels to spread the word about his strike and get an online conversation going about the global water shortage.

To support Matt and his bathroom break as well as donate to the cause, visit StrikeWithMe.org.

Humble Damon cheers Oscar hopeful, friend Ben Affleck

It seems that wherever Matt Damon goes to promote his movies he is asked about something else altogether - his old friend and collaborator Ben Affleck, whose Iranian hostage drama "Argo" is in the running for a Best Picture Oscar.

Damon shared a screenplay Academy Award with Affleck for the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting" and has gone on to become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, with blockbusters including the "Ocean's Eleven" and "Bourne Identity" series.

He was in Berlin on Friday for the festival premiere of "Promised Land", a tale set in rural America that tackles the controversial gas extraction technique known as "fracking".

At a news conference following the press screening, the 42-year-old did not have to wait long for a question about Affleck, and, once again, he lavished praise on an actor who he said had endured his share of tough times.

"His life is so interesting that I kind of never get tired of talking (about it)," Damon joked.

Of the critical acclaim and string of awards for "Argo," he said: "I'm really happy for him. He certainly deserves it."

"He's worked so hard and he's taken it on the chin for years from the press and just from everywhere. He was really in a rough spot 10 years ago," Damon told reporters, referring to the ridicule Affleck suffered during his romance with Jennifer Lopez and their 2003 movie flop "Gigli."

The actor recalled Affleck once telling him he was "in the worst place you could be career-wise: I sell magazines and I don't sell movie tickets'."

Damon singled out some "fantastic" performances by Affleck in recent years: "Hollywoodland," "The Town" and "Argo" itself, the last two of which he also directed.

He would not, however, be drawn on the chances of "Argo" landing the big prize at the Oscars on February 24.

PROMISED LAND "BOMBS"

Less successful has been "Promised Land," which Damon readily admitted had "bombed" in the United States. It opens across Europe in February, March and April.

According to Boxofficemojo.com, the movie earned just $7.6 million at the North American box office.

"I'm leery of becoming one of those people who lives so much in a bubble that I just think everything I do is great," he said. "I try to be mindful of that and listen.

"I've had a lot of movies that ... haven't been well received by an audience and I'm realistic about that, but with this one I just really love it and a big part of my heart is in it and I don't understand what I'm hearing back."

He said it was possible that "Promised Land," also starring Frances McDormand and directed by "Good Will Hunting" filmmaker Gus Van Sant, would be appreciated more in the future.

"I've had movies bomb worse than this one and then actually make their money back."

"Promised Land" is one of 19 movies in the main competition at the Berlin film festival running from Thursday to February 17.

Also screening on Friday were Polish entry "In the Name of" and Austrian director Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise: Hope," the final part in a trilogy looking at the lives of a single family, in this case an overweight teenager sent to a diet camp.

Damon's fracking drama gets run at Berlin prize

Matt Damon hopes "Promised Land," his drama on the divisive practice of fracking, will win over international critics, despite a U.S. reception that disappointed the actor.

The movie on shale gas drilling, directed by Gus Van Sant and with a script written by Damon and co-star John Krasinski, has its international premiere Friday at the Berlin film festival. It is one of 19 films running for the Golden Bear award.

In the United States, where the movie opened last month, "it didn't get the reception that I would have hoped for, but that happens sometimes," Damon told reporters. "Sometimes people find movies later on."

Damon stars as a salesman persuading inhabitants of a small town to sell a big energy firm the right to extract gas from beneath their farmland.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, frees natural gas from shale deep underground by injecting a well with chemically treated water and sand. Supporters say it can be an economic boon to rural areas, but critics say it can pollute groundwater.

The film was shot in western Pennsylvania. Damon said the movie crew heard strong opinions there from both backers and detractors of fracking.

"We didn't want the film to be a judgment on what to do," Damon insisted.

"What we really wanted to do was make a movie about American identity," he said. "The actual issue itself was secondary to wanting to explore where we are right now, how we make big decisions."

George Clooney and Matt Damon Dine Together in Berlin

(Photo) How's this for a star sighting?

George Clooney and Matt Damon made it a two-for-one deal on Wednesday when the handsome stars were spotted dining together at Grill Royal in Berlin.

Clearly, there are no hard feelings stemming from Damon's playful diss of his pal on Showtime's House of Cards, where he says, "That guy puts on a Hawaiian shirt and they hand him a f--king Oscar."

So why are these Hollywood titans in town?

Well, the Berlin Film Festival is starting on Thursday, and Damon's movie Promised Land is competing for several of the fest's accolades.

And if you're going to have someone there supporting you, why not Clooney, right?

House of Lies First Look: Why Is Matt Damon Dressed in Fatigues?

(Photo) Matt Damon wants to one up George Clooney, but is he joining the Army to do that?

In this exclusive first look photo at this Sunday's episode of House of Lies, Damon is shown in what appears to be a pretty intense war zone (something is exploding behind him) and carrying a child to safety. We already know he enlists Marty (Don Cheadle) and the Pod's help to find a charity that will rival one championed by George Clooney, but the end result is something we can't spoil for you. We only offer this photo, and we urge you to tune in to see the hilarious outcome.

Matt Damon plays a maniacal megastar version of himself on House of Lies Sunday, Feb. 10 on Showtime.

Damon guest stars on TV comedy 'House of Lies'

Matt Damon is becoming a TV comedy regular.

Showtime said Monday that Damon will guest star next week on "House of Lies." He'll play what the channel called a "maniacal megastar" version of himself.

Last month, Damon staged a mock takeover of Jimmy Kimmel's ABC talk show, tying Kimmel to a chair and acting as host for a night. On NBC's just-ended "30 Rock," Damon appeared in several episodes as boyfriend to Tina Fey's character, Liz Lemon.

On the Sunday, Feb. 10, "House of Lies" episode, Damon seeks help in finding a charity to carry his name. The actor plays opposite "House of Lies" star Don Cheadle, his friend and a cast mate in the "Ocean's Eleven" movie franchise.

Revenge time for Matt Damon

Matt Damon had his revenge.

The butt of a long-running joke on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the actor opened Thursday night's show as a kidnapper who tied Kimmel to a chair with duct tape and gagged him with his own tie.

"There's a new host in town and his initials are M.D.," Damon said. "That's right, the doctor is in."

For years, Kimmel has joked at the end of his show that he ran out of time and was unable to bring Damon on as a guest. Kimmel was the silent one Thursday, watching from the back of the stage as Damon did his job.

Damon tormented Kimmel by bringing on a succession of big-name guests. Robin Williams stopped by to finish the monologue. Ben Affleck had a walk-on role. Sheryl Crow was the bandleader and performed her new single. Nicole Kidman, Gary Oldman, Amy Adams, Reese Witherspoon and Demi Moore all crowded the talk show's couch.

"I've been waiting for this moment for a long, long time," Damon said. "This is like when I lost my virginity, except this is going to last way longer than one second."

Damon's guest hosting turn came at a key time for Kimmel. ABC earlier this month moved the show to 11:35 p.m. ET and PT after a decade of airing it a half hour later, putting him in direct competition with Jay Leno and David Letterman.

Thursday's special program aimed for the same water-cooler status as a memorably lewd short film Damon made for the show a few years ago with Kimmel's then-girlfriend, Sarah Silverman. It went viral and remains probably the best-known skit in the show's history.

To twist the knife even further, Damon brought Silverman on as his final guest Thursday night, with Kimmel looking on forlornly as she likened their five-year relationship to an unfortunate trip to a hot dog vendor.

"Is there anything you'd like to say to Jimmy?" Damon asked.

"No, I'm good," Silverman replied.

Then came the sweetest revenge of all, with Damon promising to ungag Kimmel in the show's final minutes.

"Wait," he said. "I'm sorry. We're out of time."

Matt Damon Kidnaps Jimmy Kimmel, Exacts His Revenge on the Late-Night Host

(Video) Matt Damon is determined, this time, to actually be a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

For years, the Oscar winner has been continuously "bumped" from the show while the host looks into the camera and says, "Apologies to Matt Damon, but we've run out of time."

Well, if this video is any indication, that's all about to change on Thursday evening.

In the clip, we see Kimmel tied up in the background as Damon maniacally looks into the camera and says, "But tonight you didn't run out of time for me, did you, Jimmy? No, I ran out of time for you."

Yikes!

Matt Damon -- Ravens Would NOT Have Beat a HEALTHY Pats Team

(Video) Matt Damon is in NFL denial ... 'cause the guy honestly believes the New England Patriots would NEVER have been defeated by the Baltimore Ravens if they weren't riddled with injuries.

Problem is ... the Pats weren't as injured as Damon made them out to be.

Matt -- a Boston-native -- had just arrived at LAX last night when someone asked why his team folded in the AFC Championship this past Sunday.

"Lotta injuries," Damon said ... "They couldn't beat us full strength."

Obviously, the Pats were missing Rob Gronkowski going into Sunday's game ... but that's really their only big-time guy who was sidelined with an injury (forearm).

A couple of important Pats players were hurt DURING the matchup -- including CB Aqib Talib and RB Stevan Ridley ... but hey, that's part of the game, right?

But when Damon was asked who he's rooting for in the Super Bowl -- the Ravens or the 49ers -- he still refused to acknowledge defeat ... saying, "I'm going for a healthy New England team, that's the best team in the country."

FYI -- Damon couldn't have been NICER at the airport, signing autographs for EVERYONE who asked ... and doing it all with a smile.

Matt Damon "thrilled" for Ben Affleck's movie awards triumphs

Ben Affleck is storming through the Hollywood awards season with his movie "Argo," and no-one could be happier than his old friend Matt Damon.

"Argo," which Affleck directed, produced and stars in, won best drama movie and best director awards at both the Golden Globes on Sunday and the Critics Choice last week. It is also nominated for seven Oscars.

The story of the rescue of U.S. diplomats from Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has put Affleck back in the spotlight after a grueling period 10 years ago when he became tabloid fodder while dating Jennifer Lopez, and the couple starred in 2003 romantic comedy flop "Gigli."

Damon, with whom Affleck shared a screenplay Oscar for the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting," talked with Reuters about his friend's success.

Q: You must be so proud of Affleck.

A: "I'm just thrilled for him. I'm really happy. I'm not at all surprised, because I've known him for so long and I know how talented he is."

Q: Ben went through a rough patch in the early 2000s when the media was merciless with him, his career and his personal life. Was it rough to watch from the sidelines?

A: "It was tough to watch him get kicked in the teeth for all those years because the perception of him was so not who he actually was. I always felt a knee-jerk need to defend him. It was just upsetting. It was upsetting for a lot of his friends because he's the smartest, funnest, nicest, kindest, incredibly talented guy. And the perception of him was the opposite. So that was tough."

Q: When did that perception change for better?

A: "It's taken him a long time. It wasn't one thing that got him out of the penalty box. He had to dig. He did a lot of really good work over a long amount of time. The last movie he did ("The Town") was a great movie. And the movie before was a great too ("Gone Baby Gone"). Finally people now are ready to go, 'Wow, he's at the very top of the food chain.'"

Q: The two of you came up together in your careers, and won a screenplay Oscar together. How is it that you escaped the media scrutiny and he didn't?

A: "Ten years ago he was in a relationship (with actress Jennifer Lopez) and he was on the cover of Us Weekly magazine every week. Nobody was more aware of it than him. I talked to him about it back then. He said, 'I am in the absolute worse place you can be; I sell magazines not movie tickets.' I remember our agent called up the editor of Us Weekly, begging her not to put him on the cover any more: Please stop. Just stop! And she said, 'My hands are tied. He's still moving magazines all through the mid-West. Sorry.' So he was aware of what was happening as it was happening."

Q: Do you think "Gigli" deserved to be vilified in that way that it was?

A: "There are a lot of movies that cost more and made less than 'Gigli.' But for some reason, people think 'Gigli' is the biggest bomb of the last decade and it wasn't. There's a narrative that gets attached to all this stuff and Ben knew it. He had a millstone around his neck and that's it."

Q: As Ben goes through this awards season, what are you feeling?

A: "Now I'm just thrilled. I'm watching him go through it and it's great. He deserves everything that he's going to get. Just for going through what he went through, he deserves it. But he deserves it because he made a great movie."

'House of Lies': Matt Damon guest-starring in Season 2

The sharks of Galweather & Stern will be taking on a celebrity client on "House of Lies" this season: Matt Damon.

Damon will play himself in an episode of the Showtime series this winter, Showtime Entertainment president David Nevins announced Saturday (Jan. 12) at the TCA winter press tour. The guest spot will reunite Damon with his "Ocean's 11" co-star Don Cheadle.

In the episode, Damon will seek the help of Marty (Cheadle) and his team in setting up a charitable foundation. It's for a good cause and all, but what he really wants to do is one-up George Clooney.

"House of Lies" will also welcome Larenz Tate, playing Marty's brother, and Nia Long, as a new Galweather & Stern employee, to the cast in Season 2. It premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday.

JIMMY KIMMEL AND MATT DAMON TO FINALLY COME FACE TO FACE ON "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE"

After ten years of being 'bumped,' Academy Award winner Matt Damon will at long-last appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Damon and Kimmel will face off THURSDAY, JANUARY 24 at 11:35 p.m., ET/PT, when Damon makes his first official guest appearance on the show.

"May God help Damon if he dares show his stupid face," said Kimmel.

Every night at the end of his broadcast, Kimmel signs off with an apology to Matt Damon for "running out of time." This tradition began in the first season of "JKL," and has been repeated at the close of every show since then.

Damon famously recorded a music video with Kimmel's then-girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, the wildly successful "I'm F*cking Matt Damon." Kimmel retaliated with a star-studded video of his own co-starring Damon's best friend, titled "I'm F*cking Ben Affleck." Damon has made several appearances on "JKL" in comedy pieces like "Movie: The Movie," alongside Kimmel's sidekick/security guard Guillermo in a promotional trailer for "The Bourne Ultimatum," and as part of Kimmel's nightmare in "The Handsome Men's Club,"but has never submitted to an interview.

Matt Damon stars as Scott Thorson, Liberace's young lover in 'Behind the Candelabra'

HBO's upcoming film "Behind the Candelabra" chronicles the tumultuous -- to put it mildly -- five-year love affair of "Lee" Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). On Friday, Douglas and Damon joined director Steven Soderbergh and executive producer Jerry Weintraub to discuss the film, which tracks the toxic relationship from their first meeting to their split five years later.

The movie is based on Thorson's memoir, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace," which he wrote shortly after Liberace's death. Though Thorson was only 16 when the relationship began, Damon obviously plays him a bit older -- though from the clips we saw, not by much. Perhaps the most jarring part of the film is Liberace's request that Thorson get plastic surgery to look more like Liberace himself. The real Thorson agreed to a nose job, a chin implant, and a complete restructuring of his cheekbones.

Though the film is obviously an extremely intimate, fraught retelling of a pivotal period in Thorson's life, Damon did not meet Thorson before playing him.

"Matt didn't talk to Scott Thorson," says Weintraub, who was a close acquaintance of Liberace's during his life. "I did all the conversations with Scott. He had no involvement in the making of the film whatsoever [except for the book]."

Thorson has yet to give the movie his stamp of approval. "He has not seen it," Weintraub confirms. "I've talked to him. I have not been able to reach him in the past 9 or 10 weeks. I've tried to reach him a number of times [to fact check]. He hasn't been well. I have no idea where he is at the present moment."

Still, Damon made sure Thorson's influence is felt. "He really was taken with the glamour of this lifestyle," Damon says. "Even when writing the book he talked about how impressed he was and how exciting it was to be involved in the glamour."

That impacted his decisions as an actor -- and as a clotheshorse. "I've always been somebody who goes into the wardrobe fitting and I try to get out as fast as I can... I just kind of can't be bothered with it, but... I probably spent more time in the wardrobe fittings on this thing than I have in the previous 15 projects. Days and days and days, and I really enjoyed it."

Though their lifestyle was wild, for Damon, Thorson and Liberace's story isn't about spectacle, but about a powerful, genuine love. "There are aspects of their relationships that were absurd, but for me it just pointed out that there are aspects of all of our lives that are absurd," he says. "They're just not absurd to us because it's our lives."

Liberace was publicly living as a straight man during his relationship with Thorson -- he even successfully sued a tabloid for suggesting he was gay. For the filmmakers, that was a particular selling point for the film. "I wanted to make a film to show how we've grown," says Weintraub. "To show the progression of our human race, of our country, of all the people in the world about this subject. Same-sex unions are recognized now and permitted in certain places. Being gay has lost its social stigma."

Richard LaGravenese's script moved Damon enough that he didn't feel it necessary to meet Thorson in order to play a genuine version of him. "Whether this was the actual dynamic or not, I completely believe what [LaGravenese] had written. What it felt like was, if this was a relationship between a man and a woman, you'd feel at moments like [the movie] is too intimate. 'I shouldn't be here.' But it was between a man and a man, and I've never seen that movie before."

Despite Thorson's attraction the glamour, Damon believes he was truly in love with Liberace. "I think his love was genuine but I think it was complicated," Damon says. "He was looking for a family and Lee gave that to him. They had a profound love for each other. It ended badly but there were a lot of wonderful moments and a lot of ups and downs... I don't think Scott had an angle the whole time. He genuinely fell for him which was why he was hurt ultimately at the end."

Is Promised Land a Fracking Good Movie?

It's award season, which naturally means there are plenty of great movies lingering in theaters.

It's also January, which means, well, let me put it this way: You know that gross mix of old slush, dirt and motor oil that submerges your boots as you step off a street corner around this time of year? That's what debuts in theaters around now.

So what do we do make of Promised Land, a Matt Damon/John Krasinski movie (yay!) that opens in January (oh dear)?

The Good:

Promised Land is more engaging – not to mention funnier – than a movie about fracking has a right to be. Damon plays a hotshot oil company exec (is there any other kind?), who's ready to move on to his big promotion, once he gets the locals in a small town to sign over drilling rights to their pristine land. (Seriously, the cinematography is glorious.)

Krasinski is the environmental activist who pops up to tell the townsfolk that Damon's fracking operation is nothing but trouble, and that starts with "t," which rhymes with "b" and that stands for "big oil."

The Bad:

Now that you know what's going on, try not to doze off. After Promised Land sets up all the players, it snoozes along, not saying or doing much for long stretches, until a twist ending that'll make you sprain your eyes from rolling them so hard.

Also, Rosemarie DeWitt and Frances McDormand, both incredible actresses, simply don't get much to do, playing a local teacher and Damon's colleague, respectively. The movie basically boils down to what it might be like to watch Damon and Krasinski talk politics over a couple of beers – which makes sense since they co-wrote the script.

The Verdict:

If you're a fan of either Damon or Krasinski, want to see a quiet movie about how beautiful America still is, or really, really want to know more about the effects of pressurized water below the Earth's crust, then Promised Land (in theaters now) could make for a pleasant evening. But anyone still coming off the cinematic highs of Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables, or, yes, even Django might want to sit this one out.

In Matt Damon's 'Promised Land,' roots run deep

What will it take for poor farmers to willingly scorch the earth beneath their feet?

That's the central question underlying Promised Land ( * * * out of four; rated PG-13; opening Friday nationwide), which pits the decreasing value of acreage against the valuable gases housed beneath.

No anti-corporate screed, this gentle tale is modest in its ambitions, with a cast of sympathetic characters and an unpredictable arc. That blend of elements is the key to its appeal, undermined by a rather pat final resolution.

Director Gus Van Sant explores greed in this story of a rural Pennsylvania community in which Steve (Matt Damon), a salesman for Global, an aptly named $9-billion-a-year company, arrives to persuade locals — most of them struggling farmers — to sell drilling rights on their property to extract natural gas. The process is called fracking, and what Steve is selling is not simple, despite his earnest claims.

Nothing is clear-cut, except for the inherent decency of ordinary people as envisioned by screenwriter Damon and co-star John Krasinski from a story by Dave Eggers.

Damon's performance as corporate salesman Steve Butler is one of his best. Initially a true believer in the cause, Steve, informed by his own rural roots, sees his conviction falter over time. Damon is low-key and well-meaning as his character becomes increasingly conflicted.

Early on Steve establishes his familiarity with small-town America, as well as his compassion: "I grew up in a large farming community: football Fridays, tractor pulls, cow tipping, all of it. We had a Caterpillar plant down in Davenport that closed down in my junior year. ... By the time my senior prom came around, I saw how little we had left to stand on. The whole farming town fantasy just shattered. Without the plant, we had nothing. I'm not selling them natural gas. I'm selling them the only way they have to get back."

Steve pulls into this financially strapped town with co-worker Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand). Their expectation is that the local residents will embrace an infusion of cash in exchange for drilling rights. Never mind the controversy over water contamination and potential toxins. Blessed with winning smiles and easy charm, Damon and McDormand probably were selected for their "just folks" affability.

No slick greedmeister, Steve is clearly well-intentioned. He befriends townsfolk and believes he's helping with modest cash windfalls that accompany signing on the dotted line.

But the citizenry is understandably wary. They decide to put the question to a vote.

McDormand brings an earthy humanity to her part. She sees things in black-and-white, influenced by her need as a single mom to support her child. "This is a job, and then I go home, " she reminds Steve.

McDormand delivers the straightforward Sue's snappy lines with aplomb, but her character lacks dimension. Why cast someone as multifaceted and talented as McDormand and saddle her with an underdeveloped role?

John Krasinski plays Dustin Noble, an environmentalist who ostensibly comes to start up a grass-roots campaign against the project. Krasinski is engaging as a bleeding heart who's more complex than he appears. Kudos to him and Damon for leading the story into unexpected turns.

Meanwhile, Steve strikes sparks with Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt), a friendly schoolteacher to whom both he and Dustin are drawn.

Fracking resistance is furthered by wise Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), a respected elderly high school science teacher.

"Sure, it's a clean and efficient resource," Holbrook says in a heartfelt performance. "But the way they go about getting it is some dirty business."

Promised Land is an involving and timely tale that explores the changing nature and complex challenges of rural life.

Matt Damon Talks Eastwooding, His Renewed Support for Obama and Reuniting With Ben Affleck

Matt Damon's already talked about kissing Michael Douglas while playing Liberace's gay lover and his own low-key life as a married father of three in excerpts from his recent Playboy interview released a few weeks ago.

Now the full interview is online, including Damon's thoughts about pal Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention, voting for President Obama again despite some very public reservations and whether he'd ever reteam with Ben Affleck, among other tidbits.

It's pretty revealing stuff for a guy who's usually reluctant to discuss his personal life.

When asked about Clint's infamous RNC speech that launched a thousand memes, landed "Eastwooding" in the pop culture lexicon and caused the legendary actor-director a whole lot of flack, Damon demurred out of respect for his elder cinematic collaborator.

"Look, his knowledge of filmmaking is so vast and deep that he can wing it beautifully on the set. What he did at the RNC was an unrehearsed bit he decided to do at the last minute. You can't go onstage and do 12 minutes of stand-up completely unrehearsed," the 42-year-old thesp told the magazine. "But I agree with what Bill Maher said—Clint killed at the convention for 12 minutes, and the audience loved him. I wouldn't do that unless I spent a month rehearsing."

A year ago, Damon famously dissed Obama in a sit-down with Elle when he said he would have liked "a one term president with some balls who actually got stuff done." While he has since acknowledged throwing his support behind the prez's successful reelection bid, he doesn't regret the criticism he threw Obama's way.

"I don't think I said anything a lot of people weren't thinking," he said. "It's easier now more than ever in my life to feel the fix is in, the game is rigged and no matter how hard you work to change things, it just doesn't matter."

That outlook is one of the reasons he's teamed up with John Krasinksi to co-write and star in Promised Land, a story about corporate sales reps who convince economically strapped rural homeowners to sell their natural gas drilling rights to allow the controversial and environmentally damaging practice of fracking on their land.

Initially, Damon was going to make his helming debut on the project, but fearing burnout after acting in back-to-back films, he opted out and brought in longtime friend and collaborator Gus Van Sant.

"We're at a point where politicians don't really get any benefit from engaging with long-term issues. Instead, it's all about the next election cycle," he notes.

When questioned whether he'd ever consider running for office himself, Matt offered an emphatic dismissal.

"No, no, no," he said.

Instead Damon is content with the life he's made for himself. Whether or not that will include working again with fellow Bostonian, BFF, and fellow Oscar winner Affleck, only time will tell, though the two are rumored to be teaming up for a biopic on Bean Town gangster Whitey Bulger.

"We're working on stuff yeah," Damon replied.

Oscar-Buzz Cheat Sheet: Promised Land and The Impossible in the Game, but for How Long?

This is it: We're at the awards season wire.

And so Matt Damon and John Krasinski's Promised Land hits theaters a week after Naomi Watts' and Ewan McGregor's The Impossible began its own, just-in-time Oscar-qualifying run. Both movies, currently at a couple dozen or so theaters, respectively, go wider Jan. 4.

Here's what you could be seeing of Promised Land and The Impossible at the Academy Awards:

A Best Actress Nomination for Watts: She's got the Golden Globe nomination to keep her campaign front-and-center; she's got the Screen Actors Guild Award nomination to prove its legitimacy. Ladsbrokes and a couple of other oddsmakers, in turn, give Watts a solid shot to nab an Oscar nod, or at least to battle it out for the fifth and final spot with Rust and Bone's Marion Cotillard and Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhané Wallis.

A Rerun of Matt and Ben, Except This Time With Matt and John: Damon, who won his thus far lone Oscar for writing the Good Will Hunting screenplay with Ben Affleck, is back in the Original Screenplay hunt for his Promised Land collaboration with Krasinski.

And, Well, That's About It…: The fracking serious Promised Land is in the conversation but barely for Best Picture and Best Actor (though more for Krasinski than Damon, per GoldDerby.com's pundits). The tear-jerking The Impossible is considered an even longer shot than Promised Land for the top prize, while McGregor is drawing slightly more interest than either Damon or Krasinski from the oddsmakers for Best Actor (but he's still not drawing all that much).

Robbed Already?! The Impossible's tsunami is earning raves (and its own write-up in the New York Times, no less), but the movie's a no-go for the Visual Effects Oscar—it didn't make the Academy's short list for the category.

The Reese Witherspoon Factor: In a valentine Witherspoon wrote to Watts, and allowed Entertainment Weekly to publish, the Walk the Line star said Watts deserved "every beautiful statue that exists by the end of February." This is signficant because unlike pundits and oddsmakers, Witherspoon, a onetime Best Actress winner, is a real, live Oscar voter.

Matt Damon says political 'game is rigged' but fracking still needs to be tackled

Matt Damon famously ripped President Barack Obama last year, saying he'd prefer "a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done," but he admits that he still voted for the guy in 2012.

"I assume there will be some Supreme Court appointments in this next term; that alone was reason to vote for him," he says in an interview with Playboy for its January 2013 issue. "I don't think I said anything a lot of people weren't thinking. It's easier now more than ever in my life to feel the fix is in, the game is rigged and no matter how hard you work to change things, it just doesn't matter."

Sounds pretty jaded for someone who wrote and stars in the new film, "Promised Land," in which corporate salespeople attempt to persuade homeowners to sell their natural gas drilling rights -- meaning their land will be "fracked" (a process that releases gas through drilling and injecting water, sand and chemicals).

"We went to the studio saying, 'Who f---ing wants to go see an anti-fracking movie?' and were all in agreement," he says of the film. "When we were working on the script, it was about wind farms, but we changed it to fracking -- a good issue because the stakes are so high. That s--- is real. They're debating about letting it happen in New York now. To us, the movie was really about American identity."

But just because he's made a movie about such a politically charged issue doesn't mean he thinks any elected officials are going to step up to tackle it.

"We're at a point where politicians don't really get any benefit from engaging with long-term issues. Instead, it's all about the next election cycle. Those guys in the House don't do anything now but run for office. So unless they can find some little thing that zips them up a couple of points in the polls, they're not interested," he says. "There's a consensus among scientists, though, that we face serious long-term issues. They're saying that unless we engage with those issues, we're genuinely f---ed."

So does that mean we can expect Damon himself to step up and run for office?

"No, no, no," he says.

Stallone, Schwarzenegger and more anti-gun celebs

The Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy has ignited a ferocious debate about gun control. You may be surprised by the positions the following celebs have:

-When Arnold Schwarzenegger began his ran for governor of California in 2003, he voiced support for the ban on assault weapons in the U.S. as well as the Brady Bill, the handgun violence prevention act. In fact, The Governator told Time, “I’m for gun control. I’m a peace-loving guy.

-Also surprising? Rambo himself is anti-gun. In response to the shooting of Phil Hartman in 1999, Sylvester Stallone told Access Hollywood, “Until America, door to door, takes every handgun, this is what you’re gonna have. It’s pathetic. It really is pathetic. It’s sad. We’re living in the Dark Ages over there.”

-Canadian country singer Shania Twain signed the “Open Letter to the National Rifle Association,” a full-page ad that ran in USA Today in 1999 that called for tighter gun control.

-Kevin Bacon also signed the “Open Letter” and has contributed to organizations and individuals to contribute to anti-gun organizations.

-Matt Damon told The Sunday Herald in 2003, “I actually hate guns. They freak me out.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the following celebs have been affiliated with the NRA

-Country singer Miranda Lambert told The Daily Beast last year she’s a lifetime member of the NRA

-Chuck Norris has long supported the Second Amendment as a NRA spokesperson. He also starred in the 2010 commercial “Trigger the Vote”

-Tom Selleck is an NRA board member and gun collector

-Sarah Palin is a lifetime member of the NRA

-Karl Malone is a board member of the NRA

Damon: 'Door open for more Bourne'

Matt Damon has given fans of the Bourne films hope he will return to the franchise after revealing he plans to sit down with director pal Paul Greengrass and plot his most famous character's future.

The movie star turned down the chance to star in a fourth film and Jeremy Renner took over the lead in what became blockbuster hit The Bourne Legacy earlier this year, but Damon insists he might not be done with Jason Bourne just yet.

And even though he feels producers may have "taken the Bourne series out back and shot it in the head" with the plotline of the latest film, the actor is still interested in exploring another installment.

He tells Playboy magazine, "I love the character, and the three movies we did, so I'd love to figure out a way to do another one. I'm going to talk to Paul Greengrass about it."

But he doubts a new film would bring him and Renner together: "I don't see those characters teaming up with anybody."

Damon also admits he still hasn't seen The Bourne Legacy - but he plans to.

He adds, "Jeremy Renner is a terrific actor. I love everything he does. I have not seen the movie yet, but it isn't in protest or anything. When it came out last summer, I was filming a movie about Liberace right up to the end of August. We then had to rush back to New York, where we live, so we could get the kids settled and into school."

Matt Damon fracking film in Berlin festival lineup

The Berlin film festival on Thursday announced the first movies of its 2013 lineup, and among the main competition entries will be U.S. director Gus Van Sant's drama starring Matt Damon and centering around the controversial shale gas industry.

"Promised Land" will have its international premiere at the annual cinema showcase, although it is scheduled to be launched first in the United States.

According to online reports, "The Bourne Identity" star Damon was originally down to direct the movie tackling the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" for shale gas, which has raised concerns over its environmental impact.

The film reunites the actor and film maker after Van Sant directed Damon in the acclaimed 1997 drama "Good Will Hunting".

Damon was nominated for a best actor Academy Award for his performance and won a screenplay Oscar along with co-writer Ben Affleck for a movie that helped launch their Hollywood careers.

Also in the main competition in Berlin is "Gloria", directed by Chilean film maker Sebastian Lelio, Korean entry "Nobody's Daughter Haewon" directed by Hong Sangsoo and Romanian picture "Child's Pose" by Calin Peter Netzer.

There will be a world premiere for "Paradise: Hope", the final installment of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy, while out of competition in Berlin is 3D animation film "The Croods", featuring the voice of Nicolas Cage.

And under the Berlinale Special heading comes documentary "Redemption Impossible".

The 63rd Berlin film festival runs from February 7-17.

Matt Damon: I'm Nude 'A Lot' in Liberace Film

We're soon going to be seeing more of Matt Damon – much more – in the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra.

"Normally I'd say no to nudity, but I just did a lot of it playing the long-term partner of Liberace," Damon, 42, tells Playboy in its January/February issue, on newsstands Dec. 18. "I mean, it's tastefully done. … But this movie's not going to be for everyone."

How far does Damon push things? Consider this scene he shot with Michael Douglas, who plays the flamboyant entertainer in the HBO movie that airs next year.

"I had to come out of the pool, go over to Michael Douglas, straddle him on a chaise lounge and start kissing him," says Damon. "It's not like I kiss him just once. We drew it up like a football plan."

Damon jokes there's a reason why Douglas has been a longtime leading man: "Michael was a wonderful kisser."

As for himself, Damon, who next appears in Promised Land in theaters Jan. 4, says he's not much of a romantic with his wife of seven years, Luciana.

"I wish I were better because my wife deserves somebody who surprises her with a gift or flowers or some wonderful idea," he says. "I've never been good at that, and she's really good at it, which makes me feel even more like sh--."

Movie blessings from Ben

Matt Damon and John Krasinski got some help from “Argo” director Ben Affleck on their new movie “Promised Land,” which they co-wrote and star in. “Ben gave us advice,” Krasinski told us at a Focus Features screening at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 Tuesday. “He read the script, pretty much every other draft along the entire way. We were really lucky to have his advice and his blessing because he really loved the movie.” Krasinski admitted it was Damon’s idea to involve Affleck, and knows he won’t be a third wheel in the “Good Will Hunting” pair’s long-term bromance. “I know that I will never be Ben,” Krasinski continued, joking, “but I will give ‘Argo 2’ a shot.” Damon has compared “The Office” star Krasinski to George Clooney. But guest Stanley Tucci had other ideas: “I believe he will be the next Rosemary Clooney,” Tucci said, “but shorter. And Polish.” He added, “John is my brother-in-law, so I can say anything I want.” (Tucci’s wed to literary agent Felicity Blunt, and Krasinski’s married to her actor sister, Emily.)

See Michael Douglas and Matt Damon's Photos for HBO Liberace Biopic Behind the Candelabra

(Photos: Douglas, Damon) Michael Douglas, is that you under all that glam?

In new photos from HBO's biopic Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace, the Oscar winner appears to have gone all out to play the role of the flamboyant entertainer Liberace. And bonus: Matt Damon drives us wild in full chauffeur attire as the piano legend's driver and lover, Scott Thorson.

The late showman, who was a huge star of TV and music in his day, passed away in 1987 at age 67 from AIDS-related complications.

Director Steven Soderbergh's film is said to look at Liberace's personal life and excesses, as well as delve into the closeted relationship between the two men based on Thorson's autobiography. After he was fired by Liberace, Thorson filed a $113 million palimony suit against the gaudy entertainer in 1982 when he was 22 which was settled four years later.

Behind the Candelabra, which was shot in Las Vegas and Palm Springs over the summer, is set to premiere on the pay cable network sometime next year.

John Krasinski: I'm 'Totally in Love' with Matt Damon

Move over, Ben Affleck! John Krasinski wants to be Matt Damon's new best friend.

"Matt is one of the coolest guys I know, and I'm totally in love with the guy, but he doesn't even know my name," Krasinski joked to PEOPLE at the New York premiere of his new movie Promised Land on Tuesday.

"I would love to have a bromance with him," he continues, "but I don't even know if I could even use the word 'bromance' because he and Ben are so tight and like a married couple that I'll never get in there."

The Office star, 33, first met Damon through his wife Emily Blunt when she starred in 2011's The Adjustment Bureau with him.

Soon, he got the opportunity to work with Damon himself in Promised Land (out in theaters Dec. 28), a new film the pair wrote and star in together. Although Krasinski spent multiple weekends at Damon's house to write the script, he is not satisfied with their strictly working relationship.

"I must be the bromance mistress," he said. "I'm on the outside of the relationship, only working with him on the side while really he's suppose to be with Ben. I'm clearly the mistress and this has got to change!"

Matt Damon Voted for Obama, Despite Those First-Term Criticisms

Matt Damon has been one of Barack Obama's harshest critics in Hollywood, but he told TheWrap that despite his rough words for the president, he is pleased he was re-elected.

"I voted for him," Damon said. "Absolutely, I voted for him."

Damon, who was in New York City this week to promote his environmental drama "Promised Land," made headlines last year when he criticized the president in interviews with Elle magazine and Piers Morgan. At the time, he faulted Obama for not pushing for more Wall Street reforms in the wake of the financial crisis.

"You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better," Damon told an Elle interviewer in December 2011.

The actor acknowledged to TheWrap that after his frank talk, he had played a less active role in Obama's re-election campaign. "They didn't ask me to do any fundraisers this time," he said, laughing.

And, he said, he has higher hopes for the coming four years, now that the president is not worried about securing re-election.

"I'm a perennial optimist," Damon told TheWrap. "So I'm very hopeful that this second term is going be a great one and that we're going to see who he is and he's going to make a lot of people's lives a lot better. That's my true hope."

Damon's latest film casts a critical eye over "fracking," a controversial drilling process used to extract natural gas that some environmentalists fear could contaminate ground water and impact air quality. The actor not only appears in the film; he co-wrote the Oscar hopeful with co-star John Krasinski. "Promised Land" opens in limited release on December 28.

Krasinski told TheWrap that he and Damon made "Promised Land" to examine the failures of the democratic process. When it came to politics, he was more critical of Washington gridlock than any one politician.

"We have a group of people in the House and the Senate who are actually willing to throw away any progress for one side or the other just to win a point for an imaginary team that none of us really belongs to," Krasinski said. "So that's the upsetting thing."

One politician who both men support is Elizabeth Warren. The newly elected Democratic senator from Massachusetts has been a fierce critic of the elaborate financial concoctions that helped lead to the recession. Krasinski, Damon and Ben Affleck hosted a fundraiser for Warren at J.J. Abrams Bad Robot production studios earlier this year.

Damon said he has no regrets about voicing his political views and doubts that it prevents audiences from judging his work on its own merits.

"I don't worry about it," Damon told TheWrap. "I mean people know I'm a liberal guy, and I'm fine with that. I think people go to the movies that they want to go to. A Jason Bourne movie is always going to have a bigger audience than a smaller movie and there are people of every stripe who go to those."

Matt Damon Signs on for James Cameron's Climate-Change Doc

James Cameron's climate-change documentary "Years of Living Dangerously" has lined up some high-level talent to get its message across. Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and Don Cheadle have signed on to narrate the documentary, Showtime - which will air the project over multiple episodes next year - said Monday.

Actor Edward Norton is also expected to come aboard, Showtime said, with additional talent to be announced.

As previously reported exclusively by TheWrap, Cameron is teaming with producer and noted philanthropist Jerry Weintraub on the project, which will report on first-person accounts of people who've been affected by global warming. Cameron and Weintraub will executive "Years of Living Dangerously," along with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"60 Minutes" producers Joel Bach and David Gelber are also executive-producing, along with climate expert Daniel Abbasi.

"The recent devastation on the East Coast is a tragic reminder of the direct link between our daily lives and climate change," Showtime Networks' president of entertainment David Nevins said. "This series presents a unique opportunity to combine the large-scale filmmaking styles of James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger - arguably some of Hollywood's biggest movie makers - with the hard-hitting, intimate journalism of '60 Minutes veterans Joel Bach and David Gelber. I believe this combination will make for a thought-provoking television event."

"We'll make it exciting," added Cameron. "We'll make it investigative. We'll bring people the truth. And people are always hungry for the truth."

In addition to the narrators, "Years of Living Dangerously" will use reporting from the field, with New York Times journalists Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof, columnist Mark Bittman and MSNBC host Chris Hayes.

"Years of Living Dangerously" will air over six to eight one-hour episodes, Showtime said.

Event suits Matt

Matt Damon reflected on fame at the Independent Film Project’s Gotham Awards on Monday while being honored for his career. The “Promised Land” star first attended the event 15 years ago with Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow right before “Good Will Hunting” was released and Calvin Klein sent him a free suit to wear to it. “That was the first time that ever happened,” Damon told the crowd at Cipriani Wall Street. “As I was putting it on 15 years ago I realized . . . If I added up what all the clothes in my life were worth they wouldn’t be as much as the suit I was putting on.” He added, “That was kind of the first moment my life got really surreal,” before going on to thank his wife and family. Also at the CK Euphoria-sponsored awards event were Emily Blunt, Jared Leto, and “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell, whom Damon told he wanted to work with so much he’d hunt him down — “You’re like a wolf, and I’m like Sarah Palin in a helicopter. It’s only a matter of time, mother [bleep].”

Matt Damon Tries to Hunt Down Brad Pitt; John Krasinski Eyes Ocean 27

Don't get jealous, Ben Affleck.

E! News caught up with Promise Land costars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, and we couldn't help but bring up the fact that Damon was making a hard effort to catch Oceans costar Brad Pitt during his Killing Them Softly junket nearby.

It was really a sweet, bromantic moment.

"He's got six kids, I've got four. It's very rare that we have any time to actually bump into each other and say hello," Damon told us, "so when you're that close, it's kind of a rule that you gotta run in and plant a hug on somebody."

Right?! We said it was sweet. Krasinski, on the other hand, only had business in mind.

"I was just tryin' to get into Oceans 27, so I got my foot in the door," he joked.

Matt Damon & Marion Cotillard Honored in New York

The stars come out at night!

Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Amy Adams, Ethan Hawke, Frances McDormand, Jack Black, Willem Defoe and more stepped out to celebrate the 2012 Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani downtown on Monday.

While Moonrise Kingdom took home the award for best feature film, Damon and Cotillard both received special career tributes during the ceremony – which honors the best in independent film.

Cotillard – who was "very smiley all evening and polite to diners around her," an onlooker tells PEOPLE – sat with Too Big to Fail actor Billy Crudup. While Damon was joined by his wife, Luciana, and shared a front and center table with Blunt and Krasinski.

Guests enjoyed filet mignon with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes during the event. Then, it was down the block for the after party at Andaz Wall Street where Stella Artois, Mionetto sparkling wine, Russian Standard Vodka and Fiji water flowed while guests indulged in the sweets bar, which was stocked with everything from fruit to cake pops.

During the after party, Girls actor Alex Karpovksy was seen chatting with actress Emayatzy Corinealdi, who won best breakthrough performance for her role in Middle of Nowhere earlier in the evening.

"She was overheard talking to him about how much she loves Girls," the source adds. "Her phone was ringing incessantly with people congratulating her and Alex even said, 'You're a woman in demand. Get used to it.' "

Mila Kunis & Matt Damon Get Political in New Projects

Talking politics can be risky, but Mila Kunis, Matt Damon and John Cusack are taking a chance on screen.

Kunis's role on That 70's Show is nothing like her new project taking place in the same decade. Kunis will executive produce the CW drama Meridian Hills, The Hollywood Reporter confirms. In the series, a young woman joins forces with other politically motivated women in the Junior League during the women's liberation movement in 1972.

Damon, meanwhile, has signed on for an eight-part documentary series about climate change for Showtime, THR reports. The doc from James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub will focus on the human connection to the environmental conundrum.

And Cusack is stepping the role of Rush Limbaugh in an upcoming biopic about the controversial radio personality, according to the AP. Shooting for the working-titled Rush is set to begin in 2013.

Riding the high of his vice presidential victory on Tuesday, Joe Biden will make a cameo on the Nov. 15 episode of Parks and Recreation, says Entertainment Weekly. The appearance should prove to be a treat for Amy Poehler's character Leslie Knope, who's got a crush on the VP.

Ben Affleck Reveals Secret to Bromance With Matt Damon: "We Don't Lie to Each Other"

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reunited and it feels so good.

The Boston-raised BFFs, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay back in 1999 for their film Good Will Hunting, are teaming up once again for an upcoming flick about mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

"The nice thing about working with Matt, somebody that you've known a long time, is you don't have to worry about how you're going to get along or what the process is going to be like," Affleck gushed to us at last night's Artios Awards in Beverly Hills.

Affleck will direct the flick with Damon playing Bulger, the notorious Massachusetts fugitive who disappeared for 16 years before being caught in Santa Monica in 2011.

"We've developed a pretty good story over the years and we don't lie to each other," Affleck dished. "If it's not good, we say it's not good. And it makes the whole process a lot easier."

Casey Affleck is also set to star as Bulger's politician brother Billy Bulger.

While we'll have to wait and see if Affleck and Damon's next joint project earns them Oscar gold, Affleck says he isn't holding his breath for any awards for his latest flick Argo.

"Honestly, that's something I really try not to think about at all," the 40-year-old actor smiled. "I've had situations where I've allowed it to creep into my mind. It was always just frustrating and disappointing…so I try to just keep my focus."

Tom Hanks Promotes Himself, Angers Matt Damon on The Colbert Report

This Halloween, Tom Hanks is going as a shameless self-promoter!

In a pretty fantastic bit on The Colbert Report tonight, the two-time Oscar winner "surprised" Stephen Colbert by showing up to present inexpensive costume ideas for, er, all the little kids watching Comedy Central at 11:30 p.m. to make for a "spooktacular Halloween."

First up, a strangely familiar-looking cowboy. Then came an astronaut. Then a bedraggled, bearded FedEx employee carrying candy in a bucket made out of a volleyball. Hey, wait a second...

"If you want to talk about your movie career..." Colbert began.

"Stephen, my movie career speaks for itself—and is available on DVD and Blu-ray! It makes a great sugar-free alternative to Halloween candy, which is so important," Hanks said, turning to the camera," what with America's childhood obesity epidemic."

"So you do care about the children," Colbert agreed.

"Sure, why not?" the actor shrugged as four children dressed as four of the six characters Hanks plays in Cloud Atlas walked through the door.

"Together we are a manifestation of the same spirit through time sharing a common universal human yearning!" announced a pint-sized Zachry.

More argument ensued as Hanks insisted that he needed to promote himself, what with "that punk Joseph Gordon-Levitt nipping at [his] heels." Colbert relented a little when Hanks convinced him that the little soldier who knocked next had nothing to do with Saving Private Ryan.

But, then, Matt Damon in full World War II-era Army costume stormed in. And boy was he mad!

"What is the deal, Hanks? You asked me to come down here! You said it was for charity!" Damon yelled. "I got better things to do, you know! I could be drunk right now in a movie theater, heckling Argo!"

Oh, if only it were Halloween all the time.

Bromance Alert: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon Head to Joint Business Meeting

(Photo) If you ever have any doubts about true love in Hollywood, look no further than Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

The Boston boys' bromance has spanned more than three decades now and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Ben and Matt were spotted Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., heading to a business meeting together.

Ben, 40, and Matt, 42, won a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award in 1999 for Good Will Hunting. They also costarred in the 1999 flick Dogma and, as we all know, have remained BFF as both of their careers continued to take off.

Both men are happily married—Ben to Jennifer Garner, Matt to Luciana Barroso. And although Ben primarily lives in L.A. and Matt in NYC, they always keep in touch.

"He's my hetero-lifemate," Matt joked to Anderson Cooper last year. "We finally realized, in this last year, that working together will be our best chance of seeing each other. We have a company together and have a couple projects we're trying to get going so we can just end up on a movie set and hang out."

We can't wait to see it!

Matt Damon Shows Off Newly Shaved Head

(Photo) Check out Matt Damon's dome!

The actor was spotted with a shaved noggin as he strolled the streets of New York City with a cup of coffee on Thursday.

Of course, this isn't the first time we've seen the star with a little less hair on his head.

In July of last year, Damon served up a similar amount of skin while he was shooting the movie Elysium in Vancouver.

No word, though, if the buzz cut here is for reshoots on the sci-fi flick, another project or whether he simply likes the look.

Personally, we dig it. In fact, you might say the man behind Jason Bourne was born to be bald!

Sightings

STEVEN Soderbergh and his “Behind the Candelabra” stars Matt Damon and Scott Bakula at Il Bastardo in Chelsea.

Matt Damon: I Blame My Gray Hair on My Daughters

When Matt Damon looks in the mirror these days, he knows exactly who’s responsible for his changing appearance.

“I point out all of the gray and I say to my daughters, ‘You did this and you did this and you did this,’” the father of four joked to PEOPLE Tuesday during a dinner for Argo hosted by the Peggy Siegal Company at Porter House steakhouse in New York. “They really think it’s funny.”

Damon doesn’t mind it, though — even if the studios do. “They dyed the gray out for We Bought a Zoo, but I was like, ‘I like my gray hair,’” he said. “I’m proud of it.”

Now sporting a buzz cut for an upcoming role, Damon will have to weather the N.Y.C. winter clean-shaven. But “it’s okay,” he said. “I’ve got a beanie.”

A-list 'Argo' bash

George Clooney and Stacy Keibler met up at Chelsea club No. 8 Tuesday night, continuing to crush rumors they’re headed for splitsville. Clooney was earlier seen arriving solo at a star-studded party for Ben Affleck’s Oscar-buzzed Iranian hostage drama “Argo.” But the “Ocean's Eleven” star later dashed downtown to rendezvous with Keibler and pals Beth Ostrosky Stern, producer Grant Heslov, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” comic Richard Kind and nightlife doyenne Amy Sacco. Sources say Clooney wasn’t originally scheduled to attend the premiere, but decided last-minute to support director and star Affleck, as did A-listers Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Sting, Oliver Stone, Mike Nichols and Kate Upton. Clooney, who produced “Argo,” told us he was originally set to star in it as well , but, “I was doing ‘Ides of March’ and gave this to Ben because we were ready to shoot . . . we felt really lucky he wanted to do it, and he did better than anyone could imagine.” The Peggy Siegal Co. bash at Porter House served as an unofficial kick-off to Oscar season as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted a separate party next door for new members which drew Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Steven Soderbergh, Michael Moore and Richard Gere. Craig and Weisz “didn’t leave each other’s side all night,” a spy said. “They held hands, chatting with everyone who approached them. Daniel even grabbed her a few times.” Gere, meanwhile, “only hung with the boys,” a spy said, after the “Arbitrage” star had enraged an East Hampton husband Saturday night for whispering in his babelicious blond wife’s ear. Also at the “Argo” bash were network news heavies Brian Williams, Barbara Walters, Cynthia McFadden, Hoda Kotb and Christiane Amanpour, as well as Neil Simon, Barry Levinson and Cyrus Vance Jr. The movie screens in DC, tonight, hosted by Canadian ambassador Gary Doer.

Ben Affleck Talks Wife Jennifer Garner, Bromance with Matt Damon, and Staying in Touch With Ex Jennifer Lopez

From his Good Will Hunting days to his infamous time as one-half of Bennifer to his quiet family life with wife Jennifer Garner, we've always had a soft spot for Ben Affleck.

The Academy Award-winning actor is currently working hard to cement his transition to esteemed Hollywood director with his latest film, Argo, a political thriller based loosely on the true story of the rescue of six U.S. soldiers during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

Gracing the cover of The Hollywood Reporter this week, Ben sat down with the mag to discuss the good and the bad in Hollywood biz, and it turns out this world-famous face is just your average 40-year-old dad to his three children.

"There are so many decisions to be made, and it's more than you can get to each day," he says of trying to balance work and family life. "There is this underlying anxiety not just about getting the movie done but getting it done really well. It keeps my head spinning—even when I am giving the kids a bath. I can be giving them a bath or feeding them, and sometimes they say, ‘Dad, pay attention!'"

He openly admits that his life is consumed by work and family, and he now chooses to spend his free time with Jen and their children—daughters Violet, 6, and Seraphina, 3, and 7-month-old son Samuel.

"Kids eat up that kind of hobby time," he admits. "I used to ride motorcycles. I used to play basketball. And now basically I'm at home with them, or I work."

Luckily, Ben has a lifelong partner in wife Jennifer Garner to lend a helping hand, and he can't help but gush over his beautiful wife of seven years:

"She truly is kind," he says. "She means no one any harm. She doesn't have ill will for any person. She's not competitive with other people. She's not spiteful," he shares with pride before adding, "It's one of those things where it becomes almost aggravating at times. Every time I go, 'F-- him!' I see in her face that she just thinks that's petty and small."

The filmmaker credits his wife with being a major support system, and it may come as a surprise that he still keeps in touch with ex-Jennifer Lopez, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow and his high school girlfriend, Cheyenne Rothman:

"We don't have the kind of relationship where she relies on me for advice," he says of J.Lo, "but we do have the kind of relationship where there'll be an e-mail saying, ‘Oh, your movie looks great.' I remember when she got American Idol. I said: 'This was really smart. Good luck.' I touch base. I respect her. I like her. She's put up with some stuff that was unfair in her life, and I'm really pleased to see her successful."

Although Ben appears to have aged with a unique Hollywood grace, he does admit that turning 40 was tough (remember, Blake Lively made him feel old!) for the A-list star:

"It was not fun for me," says Affleck of the milestone age. "It's this moment of bifurcation between youth and middle age. One wants to think of oneself as young. One does not want to think, "Wait a minute! How can I be halfway to death?'"

Even though Ben might feel like he's getting old (his looks certainly aren't fading!), we bet his bromance with Matt Damon gives the dude a youthful glow:

"[Matt and I] see each other almost too often," Affleck admits of his friendship with Damon. "I wonder if his wife is thinking, 'Is he really going to come over every night?'"

Aww, talk about one of the coolest Hollywood hunks in the biz! We're officially Ben Affleck lovers for life.

Stars spanked!

Tom Cruise and Matt Damon got spankings Saturday night at a naughty birthday bash for Damon. Cruise was spotted at Simon Hammerstein’s London club The Box to toast Damon’s 42nd birthday, along with “The Avengers” hunk Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and party organizer John Krasinski. “Tom arrived solo,” said a spy, who added that the Hollywood heavyweights all “got paddled on their rears” by the club’s cross-dressing hostess. “Matt got some extra spanking” for being the birthday boy, and, “they all had a fantastic night enjoying the shows and partying till the end.” Hammerstein, meanwhile, is prepping his latest performance-based club, The Act, which opens in Las Vegas on Oct. 25.

Matt Damon: How I Get My Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

When it comes to cooking, Matt Damon admits he’s no master chef. But he has discovered the secret to getting his kids to eat their vegetables.

“I’m a terrible cook, but I do a little bit of it at home,” Damon, 41, tells PEOPLE at New York’s Cooking Live fundraiser, held Tuesday and benefiting the Family Reach Foundation. “I’m relegated to kids’ fare and I can make more of the functional stuff.”

Case in point? A favorite dish the Elysium actor frequently makes for daughters Isabella, 6, Gia, 4, and Stella, 23 months, as well as Alexia, 14, only contains three ingredients.

“I cook pasta with butter and steam broccoli,” says Damon. “It’s all about getting enough healthy food in front of them every three hours.”

The trick to vegetables, the Oscar winner says, is that “it’s all about starting early.”

“My wife [Luciana] and I introduced it to them at a very young age and they just don’t know any different,” he admits. “Luckily, I found out all three of my youngest girls love broccoli. There are times where I can’t get them to eat protein or a little piece of fish because they are going crazy over the broccoli. Sometimes they’re the ones bribing me to eat more of my vegetables.”

Especially when it’s Brussels sprouts being served — Damon doesn’t like the taste.

“That was always a tough one for me — and I was never crazy about cauliflower either,” he shares. “But I grew up eating a lot of salad. My mother made a salad with every single meal we had, so I was raised thinking that’s how you eat. It’s a good balance that I’m trying to teach to my own kids.”

Matt Damon Talks Living Next Door to Best Bud Ben Affleck

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have one of the best bromances in the Hollywood biz (sorry, George Clooney and Brad Pitt), and now they've taken their friendship to a whole ‘nother neighborhood level.

In an E! News exclusive interview with The Bourne Identity star, E!'s own Alicia Quarles couldn't help but ask Matt if he enjoyed living next door to his buddy Ben and what it's like hanging out with their little girls. Matt was in NYC for a cooking competition event (where he cooked on live TV with celebrity chef Ming Tsai) in support of the Family Reach Foundation, which helps provide financial relief to families fighting cancer.

"Yeah, it's definitely not the life we had planned for ourselves in that way," Matt says with a smile as he speaks of his life and friendship with Ben. "It's great in a whole different way, like that Garth Brooks song, 'Thank God for Unanswered Prayers.' I never looked up at the sky and asked for this life and I'm very lucky that I got it."

The Good Will Hunting star seems to never have a shortage of humility and appreciation for his lucky life and appeared thrilled to be involved with the Family Reach Foundation. He talks about how eager he was to work with the organization, as the topic hits close to home.

"Our dad's going through it [cancer treatment ] right now, so I think we can just relate to it on a personal level too." Luckily, Matt insists that his father is "really terrific" and "getting phenomenal care up in Boston."

So, the only issue with the celebrity cooking charity celebration?

Matt admits he can't cook!

"Well, I don't think anyone will actually have to eat what I cook," Damon confesses. "I think they will do a little switcheroo."

Note to all: Make Ben do the cooking at the next neighborhood gathering!

Damon taking part in cook-off

Matt Damon is set to show off his culinary skills on Tuesday when he takes part in a live TV cook-off for charity.

The Bourne Identity star will swap the film set for the kitchen for the Food Network's Cooking Live!, on which he will serve as Chef Ming Tsai's sous chef to help prepare a six course meal.

The event will take place at The Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown New York to raise funds for the Family Reach Foundation, which aids poverty-stricken families with their medical expenses.

We Hear...

THAT Matt Damon will cook with celebrity chef Ming Tsai during an event hosted by Family Reach Foundation Sept. 18 at the Ritz Battery Park to help raise awareness for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Damon cozies up to Affleck again

Matt Damon and his family are moving west after purchasing a huge Pacific Palisades pad in California for $15 million.

The actor and his wife Luciana Barroso’s new spread is one of the Los Angeles area’s most architecturally desired homes, and it’s in the same gated community as pal Ben Affleck’s home.

The seven bedroom mansion features a media room, five-car garage and a gym, according to website RealEstalker.com.

Damon has lived in New York for the past few years.

Stand Up to Cancer 2012

Hollywood is ready to Stand Up to Cancer for the organization's third prime-time television fundraising special.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Joel Callen of Tenth Planet Productions will produce the broadcast as they try to rally support in the fight against cancer.

The star-studded event will include appearances by Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Jessica Biel, Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Rogen, Emma Stone, Simon Baker, Chelsea Handler, Joe Manganiello and others.

Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Alicia Keys and Tim McGraw will perform.

The first two Stand Up to Cancer telecasts aired Sept. 5, 2008, and Sept. 10, 2010. The organization has already earned $180 million in donations toward their innovative cancer research.

The commercial-free fundraiser will air live Friday, Sept. 7 at 8/7c simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, E!, HBO, Showtime, TBS and VH1.

Cute Alert! Matt Damon's Daughters Sport Matching Outfits on Trip Back to Boston

(Photo) Matt Damon's daughters are pretty in pink.

After making their way from Los Angeles to Boston Thursday, the We Bought a Zoo star's three little ones—Isabella, Gia and Stella—looked adorable as they walked through Logan Airport with their parents Thursday evening, sporting matching pink tracksuits.

Damon's wife, Luciana, left the matching outfits to her daughters, opting instead for jeans and a white sleeveless top.

The über-private actor, who has been filming Behind the Candelabra (a biopic about Liberace), opened up to the Daily Mail about his family recently, telling the site, "I couldn't live without my wife and kids. My wife, Luciana Barroso, is my soul mate. We have a rule that we never spend more than two weeks apart. We haven't got beyond a week."

How sweet!

First Look: Michael Douglas and Matt Damon Go Retro for Liberace Biopic

(Photo) Wait, what year is it?

Both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon looked as if they just stepped out of the '70s as the two shot scenes for the upcoming biopic, Behind the Candelabra, in Beverly Hills on Monday.

The HBO flick, directed by Steven Soderbergh, finds Douglas tackling the role of Liberace opposite Damon's Scott Thorson, the flamboyant pianist's much younger lover who successfully sued for palimony shortly before Liberace died of AIDS in 1987.

While there was no sign of smooching between the costars yesterday, Damon did reveal to us last year, while the project was still in development, that they will indeed be locking lips.

"It's scripted that there's more than one," the 41-year-old actor said at the time. "I never thought I would get to kiss Michael Douglas."

Behind the Candelabra is scheduled to air sometime in 2013.

Damon: Public fury burns leading into election

Matt Damon says there's a sense of fury in the U.S. over banking scandals and financial inequality that neither Democrats nor Republicans are addressing in their presidential campaigns.

The 41-year-old actor made his comments at Comic-Con in San Diego, where he was promoting the sci-fi thriller "Elysium," about a future in which the ultra-rich escape a dying Earth to live in a poverty-free, illness-free orbiting habitat. The film is set for release next March.

Damon said he expects President Obama to be elected to a second term in November but isn't as staunch a supporter as he once was.

"I'd be shocked if (Mitt) Romney won. You know, I think Obama is the clear choice. But I've said before I'm really disappointed in him, and I am, particularly because of the banking stuff. He so misread that," Damon said. "That sense of unfair — the sense that we don't have a country anymore when people don't feel like they have a chance, like it's going to be fair. ... If people feel like the deck is stacked against them, then they stop playing by the rules. Because why play by the rules? The game is fixed, right?"

Damon said both parties and the mainstream media haven't paid enough attention to groups like the Tea Party and the Occupy movement.

"I don't think the Republicans or the Democrats really understand the level of anger at the sense of unfairness that the majority of people in the country feel," he said.

The star of the "Bourne" trilogy, known for speaking out about politics in the past, pointed to a Bruce Springsteen concert he attended several months ago at Madison Square Garden. Springsteen sang a song from his new album titled "Jack of All Trades," which criticizes the gap between haves and have-nots and the greed of Wall Street bankers.

"He says: 'If I had me a gun, I'd find the bastards and shoot them on sight.' Now when he says that, when he's saying that, the place roared. I mean, roared. Like 30,000 people involuntarily screamed their approval. And it was so alarming," Damon said. "I went backstage after and saw him and it was the first thing he said to me. He's singing to firemen and cops and real people. And the fury that's there is very, very real."

Matt Damon, Jodie Foster go futuristic with 'Elysium'

Matt Damon and Jodie Foster made their first-ever appearances at Comic-Con on Friday, and it was all because of District 9.

The two Oscar-winning actors had enjoyed director Neill Blomkamp's 2009 sci-fi debut so much, they had to be a part of his next film, Elysium (in theaters March 2013).

"I saw District 9 and I thought it was a perfect film," Foster said. "I wish I had directed the damn movie! Luckily, the (Elysium) script came in and there was a girl in it.

"It's interesting to see somebody who is able to marry big ideas with big primitive gut-wrenching explosions, death and all that other good stuff."

District 9 married issues of South African apartheid with aliens, and Elysium tackles wealth discrepancy and class warfare: Set in 2159, the wealthy of the world live on the space station Elysium and away from a ravaged Earth, which is where everyone else is.

"The films I want to make take place in interesting environments," Blomkamp said. "The subtext in the film are those important themes and ideas, but layered on top of that is a lot of explosions and popcorn."

Foster is a government official on Elysium working to enforce anti-immigration laws, and Damon is a warrior type back on Earth who may be the key to leveling the playing field. (He can also rip a robot's arm off like nobody's business, as evidenced by the footage Blomkamp premiered at Comic-Con.)

Signing up was an easy decision for Damon, especially when the director showed him the script, a graphic novel he had made explaining Elysium's fractured society, and books of weaponry and vehicles.

"It's so arresting. I'd never seen anything like it but it was familiar to me," Damon said. "I usually tell my friends we don't get to see it before we make it. There was no way I going to let this get away."

Being an action star is sometimes a dirty business, as Damon found out. He recalled filming with co-star Sharlto Copley (who had a breakthrough role in District 9) in Mexico City near the second-largest dump in the world, where he was told that the surrounding dust was made mostly of feces.

"Helicopters would come through, and we were black with dust," Damon recalled. "I'd look at Sharlto and be like, 'This is fecal matter.' And then Neil would come in and say, 'The photography looked great!' "

'Elysium' takes Comic-Con to space for 7 minutes

Little more than a century from now, the Earth is diseased, polluted and overpopulated, so the wealthiest citizens have built a utopic environment in space where there's no poverty, no illness, no war.

This is the world of "Elysium," and about 6,000 fans were the first on Earth to see the follow-up from "District 9" writer-director Neill Blomkamp Friday at Comic-Con.

The film stars Matt Damon as an Earth resident determined to infiltrate the secure space paradise, and Jodie Foster plays an Elysium leader determined to stop him. "District 9" star Sharlto Copley returns, this time as a villain.

The seven-minute clip shows Damon working to escape the filthy planet, enduring a mysterious mechanical brain-implant procedure that leaves him with machinery protruding from the back of his head.

Matt Damon & Michael Douglas -- We're Taking Over Casa von Ahole

Prince von Ahole is about to get some incredibly famous house guests -- TMZ has learned he's renting out his Bel Air mansion for a movie starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas.

Sources close to the Prince tell us ... Ahole and his wife Zsa Zsa Gabor struck a deal with the people behind Steven Soderbergh's upcoming project, "Behind the Candelabra" ... an HBO film about Liberace.

The film stars Douglas and Damon -- and we're told producers plan on shooting inside von Ahole's pad for at least 23 days.

Sources tell us Prince will rake in somewhere in the ballpark of $70k from the deal ... which is HUUUUGE because Ahole needs the money.

We broke the story ... Prince took a $1.5 million personal loan to pay off his mortgage in the face of foreclosure ... but he only has 11 months to repay the loan.

$70k ain't a bad start ... only $1.43 million to go!

2012 Teen Choice Award Nominations

The 2012 Teen Choice Awards will air live July 22 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Movie Actor: Drama
• Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo
• Zac Efron, The Lucky One
• Ryan Gosling, Drive
• Channing Tatum, The Vow
• Justin Timberlake, In Time

Matt Damon Sips Cocktails in (a Former) Jail!

Look who's in lockup!

Massachusetts native Matt Damon recently sipped cocktails with friends at Alibi in Boston's Liberty Hotel. Over a few drinks in the hotel bar – which is set in the old "drunk tank" of what used to be Boston's Charles Street jail – the actor and father of four, 41, looked "relaxed," a source tells PEOPLE.

"He was just hanging out," adds the source. "He seemed very chill, and was in a great mood." No word on whether he made bail, however!

Jimmy Kimmel Packs Oscar Winners into Hilarious Movie: The Movie Trailer

(Video) Oscar night celebrated some of the best movies of the past year. But are you ready for the greatest film ever made?

Jimmy Kimmel put together this amusing teaser for Movie: The Movie – his tongue-in-cheek attempt at making the most star-studded, spectacular film America has ever seen. Or at least, the trailer for it.

The stars are almost too numerous to count – Best Actress winner Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, Cameron Diaz, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Colin Farrell and the list goes on and on, while the plot is too hilariously clichéd to be believed.

Don't hold your breath for a release date. As the trailer notes, this film has not yet been filmed.

Kimmel premiered the trailer Sunday night on his special post-Oscars edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live! And it wasn't the only elaborate skit of the night.

He also showed another hilarious clip of himself pitching outlandish ideas for shows to Oprah Winfrey for her OWN Network. Let's just say he shouldn't give up his night job. (Video)

Matt Damon, Wife Luciana Have a Valentine's Date at Fashion Week

(Photo) Is anything more romantic than Fashion Week? Probably, but Matt Damon and wife Luciana spent their Valentine’s Day at Naeem Khan’s impressive runway show in New York on Tuesday.

“It was great,” Luciana told PEOPLE following the show, which she spent hand-in-hand with her husband. And though it was Matt’s first-ever fashion show, he had good reason being there: “He’s my pal,” Khan told reporters. “We were all just on holiday together in St. Barts and Barbuda. And I love them.”

However, he knows Matt’s talents lie in acting, not dressing. When asked if his friend was a fashionisto, he joked, “He’s not.”

The show, “about the dust and the decadence of India,” according to Khan, impressed the entire crowd, which included Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi, who was seated next to the Damons. “They’re very sweet,” she said. “We all have kids, so that’s all we talked about.”

Before the show, the Damons kicked back in the Mercedes Benz Star Lounge, where they sipped champagne and stuck close to one another. And though Matt’s presence in the Lincoln Center tents definitely drew lots of attention — “I think [Luciana] probably would have preferred to not have him there, she was saying, because of all the photographers,” Lakshmi relayed — his presence made the fashion crowd swoon.

Said Lakshmi, “It was very sweet of him.”

Focus Features comes aboard Damon, Krasinski film

Focus Features is in final negotiations with Gus Van Sant, Matt Damon and John Krasinski to make "Promised Land," TheWrap has confirmed.

If the deal goes through, Focus and Participant Media will produce the movie, which Van Sant will direct and Damon and Krasinski rewrote from Dave Eggers' first draft.

Krasinski came up with the idea for the movie, which is about a salesman whose life changes after he arrives in a small town.

Damon and Krasinski also will star in the film.

The movie had been in turnaround at Warner Bros.

"Promised Land" was to be Damon's directorial debut, but scheduling conflicts got in the way. His "Good Will Hunting" director, Gus Van Sant, stepped in to take the job.

Deadline first reported the news.

Matt Damon new voice of TD Ameritrade

So long, Jack McCoy, hello Jason Bourne.

Discount brokerage TD Ameritrade has replaced its longtime frontman and "Law & Order" star Sam Waterston with Matt Damon.

The star of the 'Bourne' movie franchise signed a multi-year deal to become the new voice of TD Ameritrade as the company seeks to refresh its brand.

"Our old advertising worked well, but it was getting a little bit tired," Fred Tomczyk, chief executive of TD Ameritrade, told Reuters.

The two stars couldn't be more different.

Waterston, 71, a Shakespearean actor who also spent 18 years as a small screen star playing district attorney Jack McCoy in the "Law & Order" TV series, exudes an old-school charm.

Damon, 41, made his mark on the big screen in movies such as "Good Will Hunting" -- the screenplay for which he won an Academy Award -- and more recently, the action-packed, assassin-turned-good-guy "Bourne" movie franchise. He was named People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2007.

Tomczyk said Waterston had been a "fantastic" spokesman, particularly through the financial crisis, with his steady, no-nonsense delivery, but the company decided to go in a different creative direction.

Waterston had been the face and voice of TD Ameritrade and predecessor firm TD Waterhouse USA since 2003.

Phillip Bowman, chief marketing officer at TD Ameritrade, said Damon was "probably one of the most talented and recognizable voices in the world right now, and we want every edge we can get for the campaign."

Damon plans to donate the money he makes from the ads to charity, as Waterston did before him, Bowman said.

The first of the new commercials, called "Common Sense," airs on Monday. The spot combines live action and animation with Damon's voice in the background promoting TD Ameritrade's investment consultants with a calm, straight-forward delivery.

Sighting

Matt Damon dropping into the new Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf store on Amsterdam and 86th. We’re told the cashier — who apparently didn’t recognize him — asked for his full name for his order of a vanilla latte, which he politely supplied, prompting giggles from others on line.

Matt Damon Backs Out of Directing Debut, Gus Van Sant to Take Over

It looks like Matt Damon won't be following in the footsteps of his pal Ben Affleck, after all.

At least not anytime soon.

The We Bought a Zoo actor had been slated to make his directorial debut on a movie starring both himself and John Krasinski, but has now decided to pull out of helming the project.

So what made him change his mind?

According to Vulture, it came down to "script issues."

Of course, such a reason seems a bit odd considering the as-yet-untitled film about a salesman who arrives in a small town only to have his whole life called into question, was cowritten by Krasinski and...Damon!

Meanwhile, Deadline is reporting today that director Gus Van Sant has agreed to step in for Damon and, as a result, the film is on track to start production in April. The site adds that the reason Damon backed out of directing himself actually came down to not having enough time to do so. He is, however, still planning on performing in front of the camera.

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time Van Sant and Damon have worked together, havng collaborated on 1997's Good Will Hunting.

'We Bought a Zoo' full of cuteness

(Trailer) Here's something you don't see every day: A-list movie stars in a family-friendly movie. We Bought a Zoo is that rare hybrid, and it's a sweet-natured tale about animals and new beginnings that you'll want to see with your kids.

Whether anyone without attendant smallfry would want to see this movie remains a mystery. It's a bit soft around the edges.

We Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon as Benjamin Mee, a widower with two children. His adolescent son (Colin Ford) is struggling to adjust to his mother's absence and rebelling at school; his younger daughter (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) has other ways of dealing with her grief.

Dad decides to leave his job and change his life. His search for a house and a bit of land outside the city is finally over when he finds the perfect place -- but it comes with strings attached. It comes with animals attached, actually. It's a run-down private zoo, and if Benjamin wants the house, he'll have to take the animals and their keepers also.

There are lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Benjamin thinks it's the perfect place for a fresh start and a bit of healing. His teenage son feels otherwise. His daughter is thrilled. The objective is to save the animals, save the zoo and save themselves as a family. And find love. And do well at the box office. We'll stop there.

Anyway, We Bought a Zoo has a lot of things to juggle at once: Benjamin's heartbreak over his wife's death, his precarious financial position, his insane new job running a private zoo and his attraction to one of the animal handlers (Scarlett Johansson). Then there's his rebellious son and the son's attraction to one of the animal handlers (Elle Fanning). And then there's his little daughter and a whole herd of wild animals with their own personalities.

There's even a villain in the finicky zoo inspector.

There's a lot of cute, a bit of pathos and plenty of humour in We Bought a Zoo -- some of it courtesy of Benjamin's doubting brother (Thomas Haden Church). There's also a soundtrack from Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi on offer, and even a bit of danger and adventure in the way of wandering snakes and bears. It's a good yarn. It's also too long and too pat, but reasonable writing and a strong cast will likely win you over.

Benjamin Mee, by the way, is a real person, and We Bought a Zoo is based on his book (of the same name) about buying and running the Dartmoor Zoo.

Matt Damon Disses Obama, Says "A One-Term President With Some Balls Would Have Been Better"

Oh, these two.

We're not sure if someone is taking his Adjustment Bureau character to heart or what, but Matt Damon has been very vocal about his political views lately.

The We Bought a Zoo star began discussing his views on President Barack Obama's administration during an interview with Elle Magazine (which, by the way, was conducted in New York during the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests), saying, "I've talked to a lot of people who worked for Obama at the grassroots level. One of them said to me, ‘Never again. I will never be fooled again by a politician...'?

"You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better."

And bam, there it is. But of course, there's more.

"If the Democrats think that they didn't have a mandate—people are literally without any focus or leadership, just wandering out into the streets to yell right now because they are so pissed off," he says. "Imagine if they had a leader."

In May, Obama used some of Damon's previous comments as material for his speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington, D.C. "I've even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Just the other day, Matt Damon—I love Matt Damon, love the guy—Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance," and here comes the kicker, "Well, Matt, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau, so...right back atcha, buddy."

It seems like the actor's latest film is getting decent reviews, so we can't wait to see what the president's comeback to this is this time.

Review: Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo" tries too hard

We all go into sentimental movies with certain pre-set buttons that directors try to hit -- some people lose it when a beloved doggie dies, others shed tears when long-estranged lovers are reunited, and then there are those who reach for their hankies when a gruff dad finally articulates his love for his child.

Me, I'm an easy touch for the dead-mom movie, so when one of those fails to move me, it's clear that whoever's jerking the tears isn't doing his or her job. Which brings us to Cameron Crowe's latest, "We Bought a Zoo."

In telling the true story of writer Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon, saddled with a wretched haircut), who raised his kids amongst a menagerie of wild animals following the death of his wife, director and co-writer Cameron Crowe doesn't take things as disastrously off the rails as his previous feature, "Elizabethtown." Still, the results feel artificial and sappy, with only a few too-little-too-late moments where the tragedy of losing a mother or a wife is handled with anything resembling grace.

Part of the problem could stem from Fox's desire to turn this movie into another "Marley and Me," and the resemblances don't end with the posters featuring animals bearing festive gift ribbons. Like that earlier hit, this is a film about a writer and his family moving into an enormous house, dealing with personal loss, and fighting for camera time against a gaggle of photogenic and insanely cute animals.

Or maybe we can pin it on Crowe's collaborator, Aline Brosh McKenna, the first writing partner that the auteur has ever employed -- or had forced upon him, as the case may be. (The first credited one, anyway.) In just over a decade as a working screenwriter, McKenna has been credited with some of the most noxious comedies of the era, including "27 Dresses," "Laws of Attraction," "Three to Tango," and "I Don't Know How She Does It," so perhaps the forced emotional content and paper-thin characterizations are her fault.

In any event, the film follows Benjamin as he moves his cheery daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and sullen son Dylan (Colin Ford) into a somewhat ramshackle animal park that's in need of both cash and a little TLC if it's ever going to open its doors again. The place comes with a staff that includes overworked animal expert Kelly (Scarlett Johansson, frumping herself up as much as possible), boisterous animal-enclosure designer Peter (Angus MacFayden), and a handful of others.

The only ones in this crew who get anything resembling character development are Rosie and her niece Lily (Elle Fanning), and only because they're there as potential romantic interests for Benjamin and Dylan, respectively. As for Peter, and Patrick Fugit's Robin, they're basically one-quirk characters who just exist in the background.

The big plot dilemma revolves around an obnoxious USDA inspector played by John Michael Higgins, whose say-so dictates whether or not the animal park can be open to the public, and not even as gifted a comic actor as Hitchcock can make this character anything more than a two-dimensional bureaucrat.

"We Bought a Zoo" only rarely addresses the bizarre notion that an average family could, in fact, buy a zoo, and the few moments where the topic comes up allows Thomas Haden Church to mostly steal the movie in his handful of appearances as Benjamin's brother. But the ongoing mope-fest about Benjamin missing his wife and his kids longing for their dead mother are the stuff of basic-cable cheese-fests.

There's a lovely score by Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi, but we're allowed to hear it all too infrequently, because Crowe would rather indulge his penchant for aging-boomer rock favorites at the most thuddingly obvious opportunities. Playing Cat Stevens' "Don't Be Shy" over a scene where characters are meeting for the first time is one thing, but Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" to score a school expulsion? "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" during a rainstorm? Come on!

If anything about "We Bought a Zoo" lingers after the lights come up, it's the performance from Church, and the one from Katie -- she plays the zoo's aging alpha tiger, who just wants to be put out of his misery. After 124 minutes of these shenanigans, you may empathize.

Review: 'We Bought a Zoo' not as hair as it looks

Sometimes, reacting to a movie is all about the expectations you bring with you walking into it. "We Bought a Zoo" is about a family that . buys a zoo. It's as high-concept as you can get, outside of maybe "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" or "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," and it's equally straightforward in wearing its heart on its sleeve.

We know to expect this ahead of time because "We Bought a Zoo" comes from Cameron Crowe, the writer-director of "Say Anything ...," ''Jerry Maguire," ''Almost Famous" and, more recently, the 2005 flop "Elizabethtown." We know there will be some poignantly phrased life lessons in store for this family as they struggle to reconnect after the mother's death.

The whole exercise could have been agonizingly mawkish, and/or filled with cheap, lazy animal-poop jokes. And yet, it's not. It's actually surprisingly charming and more emotionally understated than the material would suggest, and a lot of that has to do with Matt Damon's performance. He is an actor incapable of faking it, one who cannot mail it in, and so he brings great authenticity and gravitas to the role of Benjamin Mee, a widower and father of two. ("We Bought a Zoo," which Crowe co-wrote with Aline Brosh McKenna, is based on a true story with some tweaks.)

Six months after his wife died of cancer, Benjamin is struggling to move on. He's having trouble dedicating himself to his career as a Los Angeles newspaper columnist and finds himself squabbling with his troublemaking teenage son, Dylan (Colin Ford); meanwhile, his younger daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), is an impossibly adorable angel.

Benjamin thinks a change of scenery might help, so he quits his job and moves the family to a rustic, rambling house on 18 acres outside the city. Seems perfect — except for the fact that the land includes an animal park that has fallen into disrepair. Since Benjamin is a writer and not a zoologist, he has no idea what he's doing. He gets some help from the park's ragtag, hippie crew, led by Scarlett Johansson as the hottest zookeeper on the planet.

Moving to a zoo — spoiler alert! — eventually helps everyone reconcile. No big shocker there. And no, this does not occur through the mystical power of the animals radiating positive vibes to the universe. The lions and tigers and bears are mercifully free of cloying anthropomorphism. Basically, father and son are just stuck in the middle of nowhere and the necessity for teamwork thrusts them back together. Dylan also makes friends with the only other kid his age on the grounds, the ebullient Lily, played by Elle Fanning.

Yes, "We Bought a Zoo" is sentimental and overlong, and full of obligatory fish-out-of-water physical humor. But everyone is so good in it — especially Damon, who brings real emotional truth to his character's grieving process — that it's hard not to be won over. Johansson has a no-nonsense likability about her performance, and the suggested romance between her character and Damon's, while easy to predict, isn't milked for easy heart-tugging.

It's a beautiful film, too: Everything is bathed in this sort of magical sunlight, the work of cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto ("Brokeback Mountain," ''Lust, Caution"), which enhances the sensation that anything is possible. This is the first feature from Crowe since the heavy-handed, overly quirky "Elizabethtown," and while it's not a complete return to form, it's close enough.

"We Bought a Zoo," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG for language and some thematic elements. Running time: 123 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Matt Damon: Fatherhood Keeps My Heart 'Full'

Matt Damon wasn’t afraid to dive into daddy duty.

When the actor married wife Luciana in 2005, Damon also became stepfather to her then 4-year-old daughter Alexia and has never looked back.

“I jumped into the deep end with Lucy. I mean, Alexia was already 4. I was an extra dad,” Damon, 41, tells PARADE.

The couple have since welcomed daughters Isabella, 5½, Gia, 3, and Stella, 13 months.

“The only way I can describe it — it sounds stupid, but — at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, you know how his heart grows like five times?” he explains. “Everything is full; It’s just full all the time.”

Despite his celebrity status, Damon has managed to keep his family out of the spotlight. His secret, he admits, is simple: there’s just not much to see.

“I’ve been left alone, even by the paparazzi, because what sells is sex and scandal,” he says. “Absent that, they really don’t have that much interest in you. I’m still married, still working, still happy.”

His lack of being in the limelight has caught the attention of fellow celebrities — including his former Ocean’s Thirteen costar!

“Brad [Pitt] and Angie, there’s much more pressure on them than there is on me. He asked me what my everyday is like,” Damon recalls.

“I said, ‘Well, I grab the kids from school and then we go over to the park.’ And he was just looking at me like, ‘How can you do that?’ Because he can’t.”

Damon regrets slamming scribe

Actor Matt Damon has offered his apologies to screenwriter Tony Gilroy after taking aim at him in a new magazine interview and accusing him of submitting an "embarrassing" and "unreadable" first draft of The Bourne Ultimatum.

The Hollywood star aired his grievances about the third spy installment during a recent chat with GQ magazine, during which he chastised Gilroy for allegedly failing to pen a script worthy of the Bourne franchise.

According to Damon, the Michael Clayton writer struck a deal with movie bosses at Universal that allowed him to land a hefty pay cheque for submitting one draft of the film script - but the actor didn't think much of the work he produced, insisting it's so bad, it could end Gilroy's career.

Damon told the upcoming issue of GQ, "It's really the studio's fault for putting themselves in that position. I don't blame Tony for taking a boatload of money and handing in what he handed in. It's just that it was unreadable. This is a career-ender.

"I could put this thing up on eBay and it would be game over for that dude. It's terrible. It's really embarrassing. He was having a go, basically, and he took his money and left."

But the Oscar winner soon regretted his rant and got in touch with the GQ reporter to clarify his fiery comments.

Clearing up the incident, he says, "My feelings were hurt. That's all. And that's exactly why I shouldn't have said anything. This is between me and him. So saying anything publicly is f**king stupid and unprofessional and just kind of douchey of me."

And Damon insists he is a fan of Gilroy's work, despite his outburst: "If I didn't respect him and appreciate his talent, then I really wouldn't have cared (to apologise)."

Damon quit the franchise after the release of The Bourne Ultimatum and Jeremy Renner has since taken over as the star of the upcoming installment.

Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson Bought a Zoo-and Liked It!

(Video) Who knew working with animals could be so much fun? Not to mention peaceful?

Well, Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson certainly didn't expect it, but in an exclusive with E! News, the duo called collaborating with Cameron Crowe on the acclaimed director's new comedy-drama, We Bought a Zoo, a "magical" experience that will stay with them for a long time.

And did we mention the part about the peeing lion?

The movie is adapted from the memoir by Benjamin Mee, who used his family's life savings to buy a struggling zoo in Southern California and then sets about trying to renovate it as he rebuilds his own life following the untimely death of his wife.

Aside from getting the chance to work with Crowe—the helmer behind such films as Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous—Damon and Johannson expressed deep affection for the intimate story they were telling.

"I've seen only a rough cut of it, so I'm really anxious to see how it plays," said Matt from the red carpet at Monday's premiere. "There are people of all ages here and, you know, it felt like—when we were making it—a really good, very uplifting, life-affirming family movie, so I have my whole family here tonight."

Earlier that day, Scarlett had this to say: "Cameron kind of led us in this amazing way that just allowed…all these kinds of magical moments to be captured and all of us to spread out and have all this room to explore these relationships with one another as characters. You know, we lived the story of this film on set."

Damon remarked that shooting went surprisingly well considering they were on set every day with lions, tigers and every other kind of critter you can imagine.

"It's rare to work in the same place every day, and we spent 10 of the 12 weeks shooting at the zoo set. So we're really using mostly natural light so we'd get there when the sun was coming up and when the sun set we're driving home. It's kinda like having an office job but much cooler," he said.

"And the story itself was really just affecting to me," continued Damon. "Thinking about trying to raise your kids without your partner and also to try to help your kids through that transition of losing their mother. That whole idea kind of gets to me now that I have a wife and kids."

As for their animal costars, they were on their best behavior.

"They were so well-trained, and Cameron was communicating so well with the trainers about what he needed, and they were so good about letting us know what the ground rules were about interacting with the animals that there weren't any mishaps. I expected us to go way over schedule, but it was really actually smooth," said the Bourne Identity star.

Perhaps they should have called it Zen and the Art of Animal-Keeping?

Damon did note the production had its moments, like the time a lion decided to let Crowe know who the real King of the Jungle was on set when it peed on him.

Recalled Damon, "It's kind of funny that the lion knew who the director was."

The filmmaker took it in stride, however.

"They said the lion's marking you, it means he's friendly. Yeah, right," quipped Crowe.

Matt Damon 'Cried Like a Baby' Around Snakes on Set

Scarlett Johansson wasn't fazed by her animal costars in the new movie We Bought a Zoo – except maybe her human ones.

For the actress, the scariest moment on the film "was watching Matt Damon cry like a baby and rock back and forth when the snakes were spread all over the set."

Johansson grew up with reptiles, cats and horses, and had a degree of comfort around the working animals, but Damon wore his fear on his sleeve – and his face.

"He was pretty terrified," Johansson told PEOPLE at the movie's New York premiere Monday night.

"He was definitely sweating a bit, and maybe the sweat formed in the corner of his eye. I said, 'Matt, these kids are practically juggling the snakes. Hold it together.'"

"I'm afraid of snakes," Damon admitted. "And I got bullied into interacting with them by Scarlett and the kids."

There were other frightening moments for Damon, most memorably a scene where he had to sit inside a small car as a large bear pawed at the window.

"The size of the thing was so awesome and humbling," Damon said. "Something like that could just kill you by accident. They're just so huge and strong."

The Bourne Animosity: Matt Damon Slams Writer for "Career-Ender" Movie

And here we thought the onscreen drama was tense.

Matt Damon, who ordinarily remains above the trash-talking fray, sunk himself right down into it this week while speaking out as the coverboy of the new issue of GQ.

Among other far less intriguing revelations, the A-list Oscar winner didn't hold back while criticizing the Bourne Ultimatum screenwriter Tony Gilroy for turning in a script that he dubbed not only "embarrassing" and "unreadable," but a veritable "career-ender" for the scribe.

And that's only the tip of this bitterly cold iceberg.

"It's really the studio's fault for putting themselves in that position," Damon said, after explaining that for the third film, The Bourne Ultimatum, Universal gave Gilroy something of a sweetheart deal, which allowed him to write up only one (apparently quite rough) draft of the script in exchange for a hefty writer's fee.

"I don't blame Tony for taking a boatload of money and handing in what he handed in. It's just that it was unreadable. This is a career-ender. I mean, I could put this thing up on eBay and it would be game over for that dude. It's terrible. It's really embarrassing. He was having a go, basically, and he took his money and left."

Well if that's Damon not blaming Tony, we'd hate to hear what it sounds like when he does.

Of course, it wasn't long before Damon—who, lest we forget did score an Oscar for screenwriting and knows of what he speaks—thought better of his slams and returned to being Mr. Nice Guy, contacting the writer of the GQ article to clarify his feud-sparking comments.

"If I didn't respect him and appreciate his talent, then I really wouldn't have cared," he said after calling the writer back up to apologize. "My feelings were hurt. That's all. And that's exactly why I shouldn't have said anything.

"This is between me and him. So saying anything publicly is f--king stupid and unprofessional and just kind of douchey of me."

Well, at least that saves Gilroy the trouble of having to draft a retort.

Which Oscar-Winning A-Lister Is Dressed Like a Homeless Guy?

(Photo 1, Photo 2) Well, how do you like them apples?

By the looks of this suddenly scraggly A-lister, it seems like the economic downturn didn't discriminate—fortunately, this Hollywood golden man was only getting into character as a no doubt hilarity-inducing homeless man on the streets of New York City this week.

Can't wait to see the fruits of this funny labor. Luckily, we won't have to wait long. So, who's the incognito star?

It's Matt Damon!

While ordinarily groomed to perfection, the Oscar winner was spotted grunged-out on the streets of NYC this week, when he was filming a digital short set to air on Saturday Night Live this weekend.

Joining him, and appearing somewhat unrecognizable in their own way, was upcoming host Katy Perry and Andy Samberg.

Bring on the laughs, Matt! And then, please, take a shower.

Three's Company

Matt Damon and John Krasinski seemed to be taking a party break from developing their untitled film together on Saturday night at 1920 Bunker Club in the Meatpacking District. Damon was seen dancing to hip-hop and sipping Champagne with Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt, and “The Office” star. Damon and Krasinski’s reps announced last week that Damon will make his directorial debut on a Warner Bros. film he’s co-written with Krasinski. The movie follows a salesman who moves to a small town. But don’t worry that Damon’s bro-mance with Ben Affleck might be replaced: Affleck just announced that he’ll direct Damon in an upcoming Whitey Bulger biopic.

Finally! Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Reteaming for Whitey Bulger Gangster Flick

Boston's hometown heroes are back in business.

Nearly 14 years after Ben Affleck and Matt Damon teamed up for Good Will Hunting and some Oscar glory, the two are finally teaming up again to tackle some of the biggest news to hit their hometown in years...

Famed crime boss and fugitive Whitey Bulger is getting the big-screen treatment once again. (He already served as the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning pic The Departed.)

Damon's rep confirms to E! News that the star with play Bulger. Affleck will costar as well as direct the pic, pulling double duty as he did for that other critically acclaimed Boston crime drama, The Town. And it sounds like the two are excited to finally be teaming up once again:

"Matt and I have been looking for something to do together for some time," Affleck told Deadline. "We've heard about Whitey Bulger since we were kids, and we are excited by the prospect of putting it on screen."

Bulger was a notorious figure in the South Boston crime scene who fled in 1994 and was one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives for 16 years until he was finally apprehended in June in Santa Monica, Calif—after a former Miss Iceland recognized the pair as her cat-loving neighbors. Per the Deadline report, Damon and Affleck will focus on Bulger's youth, his incarceration at Alcatraz and his rise through the crime world while simultaneously serving as an informant for the Feds.

Who knows, maybe these two will make off with some Oscar gold one more time.

Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson's Zoo Targeted by PETA

Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson shouldn't be surprised if they get a call from Leonardo DiCaprio.

Just this morning, DiCaprio took to his Twitter to express his dismay over the horrific slaughter of escaped wild animals in Ohio.

But what does this have to do with Damon and Johansson?

Well, their new movie, We Bought a Zoo, is now being targeted PETA for the very same reason.

Based on Benjamin Mee's memoir, the film stars Damon as a father who moves his family to the countryside to help save a struggling zoo. Johansson plays a keeper at the animal park, which is home to an assortment of lions, tigers, zebras and bears, among other creatures.

PETA says it has sent a letter to Zoo director Cameron Crowe urging him to include a warning at the end of the movie about the dangers of owning wild animals.

"We Bought a Zoo conveys the misleading and downright dangerous message that no special knowledge—just a lot of heart—is needed to run a zoo," PETA's Lisa Lange said in a statement.

"As the tragedy in Ohio gruesomely illustrates, wild animals aren't Disney characters. They have very special needs that all too often aren't met by people who buy them on a whim because they think it would be cool to own a tiger."

PETA has asked Crowe to also insist that 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the film, include warnings on all marketing materials, including movie posters.

There are up to 15,000 captive big cats in the U.S., mostly privately owned, according to the animal rights group.

A rep for Fox did not immediately comment.

What do you think? Should We Bought a Zoo include warnings about the dangers of owning wild animals?

Matt Damon teaming with John Krasinski for directorial debut

From Martin Scorsese to Steven Spielberg, Matt Damon has worked with some of Hollywood's greatest directors.

Now it's his turn to slide behind the camera.

Damon is planning to direct an untitled legal drama that he co-wrote with "The Office" star John Krasinski, TheWrap has confirmed.

Damon and Krasinski would both star in the Warner Bros. film, but no deals have been signed yet and the project is still described as being in the early stages.

Krasinski came up with the idea for the script and developed the project with novelist Dave Eggers. He then pitched the idea to Damon, and got the actor, who has made no secret of his desire to direct, excited about the premise.

The plot is being kept tightly guarded, but a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said it concerns a salesman (Damon) who "arrives in a small town only to have his whole life called into question."

Damon has a packed schedule. He stars in the upcoming Cameron Crowe bittersweet comedy "We Bought a Zoo" in December. After that he's lined up the big-budget science fiction drama "Elysium" for Neill Blomkamp ("District 9") and the HBO movie "Liberace" opposite Michael Douglas.

Krasinski is still headlining "The Office" over at NBC and also has a role in "The Muppets," which hits theaters next month.

The project will be produced under Krasinski's Sunday Night banner. Damon and Chris Moore will also produce.

Variety first reported the news.

Matt Damon, Michael Douglas doing a Liberace biopic for HBO

A long-in-the-works movie about Liberace from director Steven Soderbergh has found a home: HBO.

The cable channel announced Tuesday (Oct. 11) that it will air "Behind the Candelabra," which will star Michael Douglas as the famed pianist and showman and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson, his assistant/lover whose 1982 palimony suit publicly outed Liberace.

Soderbergh and Damon -- who recently worked together on "Contagion" -- have been talking about the film on and off for the past couple of years, but it hadn't completely come together until now. Filming of Richard LaGravenese's ("Water for Elephants," "The Horse Whisperer") script is scheduled to begin next summer. A premiere date hasn't been set.

"I've wanted to make a film about Liberace for a very long time, and after the amazing experience I had with HBO on 'His Way,' I knew that they were absolutely the right place for this movie," says producer Jerry Weintraub, the subject of HBO's documentary "His Way." "I am thrilled that we have the incomparable Michael Douglas to inhabit the role of Liberace, as well as the exceptional Matt Damon to play the pivotal part of Scott Thorson. Putting these two fine actors in the creative hands of Steven Soderbergh - it doesn't get better than that."

If you're not familiar with Liberace, here's a taste of his long-running Las Vegas show.

Review: Lonergan's long-awaited 'Margaret'

Both Kenneth Lonergan's film debut "You Can Count On Me" and his long-awaited, much-delayed follow-up, "Margaret," begin with an accident.

In "You Can Count on Me," it was a couple on a casual late-night drive home suddenly forced into the oncoming lane with a tractor trailer barreling down. The film shifts a few decades later to tell a story of the grown children of those victims: a sister (Laura Linney) and a brother (Mark Ruffalo), bonded together but malformed from a parentless life.

In "Margaret," 17-year-old New York high-schooler Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) is out shopping for a cowboy hat in her Upper West Side neighborhood when she spots a good one on a bus driver (Ruffalo). She runs alongside the bus to get his attention, distracting him enough so that he doesn't see the red light, or the middle-aged woman (Allison Janney) crossing the street.

In "You Can Count on Me," the tragedy is felt intimately in a family, its wreckage spread out over time. In "Margaret," it's public and immediate, clouded by the confusion of the moment.

The ironic thing is that while "Margaret" is fiercely contemporary, its moment was years ago. Writer-director Lonergan, an acclaimed playwright, filmed it more than five years ago. It's been held up because Lonergan could only cut a 3-hour version, and the studio, Fox Searchlight, insisted on a 2 ½-hour edit. Law suits followed. The director struggled to shorten the film, even turning to advice from the likes of Martin Scorsese and the late Sidney Lumet.

That tortured history certainly explains some of the flaws of "Margaret," which devolves notably in the last hour. But "Margaret" is at turns exhilarating, bold and insightful — enough so that final judgment of the film's merits will probably have to wait until Lonergan's 3-hour version sees the light of day.

In "Margaret," Lisa's culpability in the accident is intertwined with America's responsibility in 9/11. Lonergan has scaled down the tragedy to a simple traffic accident, but his concern is in considering justice and blame in the wake of a horrific incident. The camera frequently (and sometimes awkwardly) gazes up at the New York skyline.

Even while Lisa, amid bickering New Yorkers, holds the dying, bleeding, confused woman (Janney, in a remarkable, brief performance), you can see the guilt welling up in her eyes. It's an unforgettable scene.

In class (Matt Damon and Matthew Broderick play teachers), Lisa furiously debates a student of Syrian heritage who believes actions by the United States led to 9/11. Lisa refuses to see any guilt in America, and, likewise, she becomes obsessed with the idea that the bus driver deserves punishment.

The film's title comes from Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "Spring and Fall," read in a class of Lisa's. The poem, addressed to a young girl, Margaret, suggests she grieves not for a loss, but for recognition of her own mortality: "It is the blight man was born for / It is Margaret you mourn for."

Lisa, too, descends into meaninglessness, lashing out at everyone around her. She gives up her virginity with a haphazard invite by phone and a boy (Kieran Culkin) she jokes about caring for.

She can be petulant and obnoxious, but Lisa is still admirable. She's on a frantic moral quest, desperate for justice and for clarity.

Most adults are of little help. Her mother (J. Smith-Cameron, in a fine performance), an actress, is more concerned with the opening of her new play. Her divorced father (Lonergan) is absentee, only available for impersonal long-distance calls from Los Angeles.

Paquin is exceptional. Even if she hadn't become a star from "True Blood" since "Margaret" was filmed, this performance — searching, ferocious — would have done the trick.

There are numerous subplots and characters I'm not even mentioning (the film even finds room for a suave Jean Reno as a suitor of Lisa's mother). It's expansive and epic, and one has the sense of Lonergan wading into a moral morass and losing his way, too.

I count 2000's "You Can Count on Me," humanistic and warm, as among the best films of the '00s. Lonergan's sympathy for his characters is here, too. From scene to scene, he so acutely portrays people forever in their own heads, always disconnected from one another.

It's possible Lonergan has lost his way, (his similarly long-awaited 2009 play, "Starry Messenger," was a mess on Broadway). This 2½ hour "Margaret" is unfocused and overcooked, but it's good enough to believe the filmmaker's 3-hour "Margaret" should be released — if for no other reason than to placate curiosity.

Throughout the film, art — plays, literature, movies and the opera — is lurking on the outskirts of Lisa's life. She denies its usefulness to real anguish until the final scene, set at the opera, where "Margaret" ends in the same way "You Can Count on Me" does: with a hug.

The crescendo, though, doesn't bare the emotion it should, and "Margaret" remains tantalizingly unfulfilled.

"Margaret," a Fox Searchlight Pictures release, is rated R for strong language, sexuality, some drug use and disturbing images. Running time: 150 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

"Contagion" takes hold of weekend box office

(Trailer) Sometimes tragedy pushes people toward huge life changes. One begins to question their existential nature and looks for ways to redefine their purpose amid the new perspective. That's exactly what Matt Damon is going through in his upcoming flick with director Cameron Crowe, We Bought a Zoo.

And as a recently widowed father who's trying to start over, he manages to pretty much achieve the most sweeping change possible. So how'd he pull it off?

Well, he literally buys a zoo. Specifically, one with 47 various animal species. At first, he thinks he's just buying a new house that could use a little remodeling. But the roar of a nearby lion gives away the fact that this is more than just an old home.

Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate his life and family, he teams up with the zoo's ragtag employees, including Scarlett Johansson, and dedicates himself to turning the struggling business around. After all, as his character says, "They say you don't even need any special knowledge to run a zoo. What you need is a lot of heart."

We actually think you do need quite a bit of special knowledge to run a zoo, but we're confident Matt can pull it off, so we'll give him a chance.

Ready to see Matt and Scarlett get one-on-one with these animals? We Bought a Zoo hits theaters Dec. 23.

"Contagion" takes hold of weekend box office

Deadly virus thriller "Contagion" caught on with filmgoers and easily took the top spot at the weekend box office in the United States and Canada, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday.

"Contagion" brought in $23.1 million in ticket sales over its first three days of release, distributor Warner Bros. said. The film tells the story of the race to contain a lethal virus that is quickly circling the globe.

"The Help," a surprise summer hit about black maids in civil rights-era Mississippi, slipped to second place after three straight weeks at No. 1. The film rung up $8.7 million over the weekend.

"Warrior," a new drama about two brothers who battle in a mixed martial arts tournament, pulled in $5.6 million to finish in third place.

Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, released "Contagion." Lions Gate Entertainment distributed "Warrior." "The Help" was produced by DreamWorks and distributed by Walt Disney Co.

Zombie love

Does Matt Damon have a zombie obsession? The bald and proud “Contagion” star begged director Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns to include a zombie scene in the film. “Every day, Matt would come to Steven and I and say, ‘Why don’t we put zombies in the movie?’ So one day we did,” Burns told us at the premiere of the well-reviewed movie about a fast-spreading lethal disease. He said they surprised Damon with an actor dressed as a zombie who attacked him on the set. Burns said he’s holding the video of the prank “under lock and key” but added, “It’ll make its way on the Internet, I’m sure ... Someday, that little piece of film will come out.”

Matt Damon Envies Jake Gyllenhaal's Bald Head

Freshly bald Matt Damon loves his new look. What he doesn't love is having his shaved head compared to Jake Gyllenhaal's.

"Wow, I try not to envy, but I have to say Jake's got a damn good-looking head," Damon, 40, told PEOPLE at Wednesday's New York premiere of his new movie about a killer virus, Contagion. "He sure does have a beautiful round head."

"Normally you say, 'That's a beautiful head of hair, but that's a beautiful head he's got,' " Damon says laughing. "Gyllenhaal definitely gets the blue ribbon for the best bald head over me."

Sporting a completely sheared dome for his next movie, the sci-fi thriller Elysium, Damon is enjoying the perks of a hair-free existence.

"It's really liberating," says PEOPLE's 2007 Sexiest Man Alive. "I get out of the shower and just run the towel over my head and I'm done. But the only problem for me was during the summer time. I had to remember to put on sunscreen. I'm not used to that. A friend of mine who is bald told me you only make that mistake once. He was right about that."

Fortunately, Damon's wife of nearly 6-years, Luciana, 35, likes the bald look and still finds him sexy and handsome.

"Thank God she does," Damon says, "but you know she had to take a whole vow, for better or for worse, so she's kind of stuck with me!"

'Contagion' superbly executed

Seeing Contagion in a crowded theatre is like watching Jaws on a life raft. Bring hand sanitizer. Or bleach. And maybe soap and a bucket of warm water. By the time the credits roll, you'll wish you were home in a hermetically sealed bubble with its own oxygen supply.

This, of course, is the desired effect. Why else would you make a devastatingly plausible thriller about a pandemic if not to make everyone feel like their germ-ridden office phone or equally filthy neighbourhood ATM is crawling with death?

As a doctor investigating a mysterious, lethal virus that's transmitted from surface to surface, Kate Winslet points out how many times the average person touches their face in a day. Immediately, you will never want to scratch your nose again.

Never mind all the other things -- railings, seats, doors -- you touched on the way in. And that guy somewhere in the audience who won't stop coughing? Just put him out of your mind.

Given all of this, I can't say Contagion is a pleasant experience, but it is a superbly executed one -- tense, hyper-intelligent, tragic, bracing and, in the end, as emotional as it is chilling.

Trailer

Most impressive of all is the decision by director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns to not resort to the genre's sentimental or sensational tendencies. They make realism feel far more harrowing than Hollywood fantasies in which, say, the population transforms into zombies and vampires or a scowling general proves a greater threat than the microbes themselves. Here fact trumps fiction for sheer heart-thumping horror.

Contagion begins, as all epidemics do, simply: Gwyneth Paltrow is a married corporate executive, returning home to the U.S. after a groundbreaking ceremony for a factory in China. But she's harbouring both a secret -- she just had sex with an old flame during her trip -- and flu-like symptoms.

Back home with her family -- husband Matt Damon and her 6-year-old son -- her symptoms rapidly intensify. So does the film, moving forward at a dizzying clip, crossing continents and multiple plot threads: from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (run by Laurence Fishburne) to the World Health Organization in Geneva (where scientist Marion Cotillard investigates the virus's origins) to San Francisco (where blogger Jude Law is fear-mongering) to middle America (where Winslet's doctor is desperately trying to contain the outbreak).

As Fishburne notes, the 1918 Spanish flu killed one per cent of the world's population; that's roughly 68 million people today.

Within a few weeks, public panic is as virulent as the disease itself, with Damon, who proves immune, protecting his teenage daughter as the civilized world decays into near-chaos. Yet at no point does the movie feel as improbable -- or distanced -- as the post-apocalyptic norm. When Damon comes across a rifle with which to guard his family, you suddenly think: maybe a gun in the house isn't such a bad idea, after all.

Also rare? The attention paid to characterization. If usually the viruses in thrillers are more dimensional than the humans they're infecting, here an excellent cast -- and Burns' ambitious screenplay -- make even the lesser roles register as rich and real.

So yes, Contagion is terrific and terrifying. Just pray to whatever God you believe in that nobody sneezes in the seat behind you.

As 'Contagion' spreads, it's a little ill-executed

Hypochondria may be the most likely reaction to Contagion's globe-trotting, skin-crawling tale.

The speed with which a lethal virus spreads across the world is alarming, as are the glimpses of how germs jump from host to host. Director Steven Soderbergh effectively conveys the capriciousness of disease as it seeps into all corners of the global village.

Contagion is more unsettling than 1995's Outbreak or the disaster movies of the '70s. Symptoms of this lethal illness are deceptively mundane. No bleeding eyeballs here, just hacking coughs, clammy faces and mild fevers. But all too quickly come the seizures and brain hemorrhages.

The first half of the film builds a haunting sense of dread. But once the medical community steps in to find a cure and players start to multiply as fast as infectious germs, the tension in this peripatetic docudrama dials down. The film offers a parade of scientists and bureaucrats, each offering a few lines of predictable dialogue while the pathogen mutates on and on.

Soderbergh is usually masterful with ensemble casts, but the character arcs here fall flat, and only a few performances manage to inspire.

Matt Damon plays Mitch, the film's resolute Everyman, who is dealt a shattering blow. His wife, Beth, is portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, who sheds any hint of glamour as Patient Zero. Having contracted the killer virus on a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth unknowingly brings it home to Minneapolis.

Jennifer Ehle is credible as a scientist researching vaccines, and Laurence Fishburne, as the top CDC official, offers some of the film's better one-liners.

The lawless panic that could overtake a society amid such a nightmarish scenario seems highly plausible. Looting, robbery and rioting spread, which raises the question of which is worse: rampant fear or the disease itself?

While potent and well-paced, Contagion doesn't come together as the fearsome bio-thriller it starts out to be. But it may make audiences twitchy about the guy coughing in the next row.

Contagion * * 1/2 out of four

Stars: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG-13 for disturbing content and some language
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Opens Friday nationwide

Box Office Preview: 'Contagion' gets shot at No. 1

The fall movie season breaks out this weekend with Steven Soderbergh's all-star "Contagion" from Warner Bros. inoculating the domestic movie marketplace with around $25 million and firing "The Help" from its three-week stint at No. 1.

Starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and more, "Contagion's" A-list cast, scientific realism and IMAX screens offer an infectious mix for sophisticated audiences looking for a taut, brainy thriller about pandemic pandemonium.

Disney's "The Help" enters its fifth weekend with nearly $130 million in hard-earned cash, and with another small weekend drop expected, the film should tidy things up in the low teens.

The likely third-place contender with an expected gross of close to $10 million is Lionsgate's "Warrior," starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as brothers competing in a high-stakes mixed martial arts tournament. In an Oscar-worthy performance, Nick Nolte plays their estranged, recovered-alcoholic father who is suddenly thrust into the role of trainer for one of them.

A stronger-than-expected Labor Day weekend debut and solid mid-week grosses by "The Debt" from Focus Features should land the espionage thriller starring Helen Miren in fourth place with around $7 million.

The Weinstein Co.'s space-age thriller "Apollo 18" could splash down this weekend in fifth place with around $6 million after a third-place debut over the Labor Day holiday.

But Fox's relentless "Rise of The Planet of the Apes" could also lunge at the top 5 on its sixth weekend out as it approaches the $170 million mark in North America.

Review: Calm, realism are weapons in 'Contagion'

The calm is what's so startling in "Contagion" — the cool precision with which Steven Soderbergh depicts a deadly virus that spreads throughout the world, quickly claiming millions of victims.

There's no great panic in his tone, no hysteria. Soderbergh has amassed a dazzling cast of Oscar winners but this is not like those '70s disaster movies that had melodrama to match their star power.

Characters become increasingly confused and frustrated, they struggle to survive and then die in a matter-of-fact way. Even the eventual instances of looting and rioting that crop up — as they are wont to do in these kinds of movies when societal rules have long since been abandoned — feel like blips of intensity, understandable reactions to an incomprehensible situation.

Working from a script by Scott Z. Burns, who also wrote his 2009 comedy "The Informant!," Soderbergh takes us from suburban living rooms to labs at the Centers for Disease Control to remote Asian villages with equally clear-eyed realism. The attention to detail — and to the infinite ways germs can spread that we probably don't want to think about — provide the sensation that this sort of outbreak really could happen right now.

"Contagion" begins with Gwyneth Paltrow's character, Beth, coughing as she reaches into a bowl of peanuts at an airport bar on her way home to Minneapolis from a business trip in Hong Kong. This is Day 2, we are told, and she will end up being Patient Zero. With the help of a low-key but propulsive electronic score, Soderbergh steadily focuses on the hands as he jumps from Chicago to Tokyo to London in these early scenes, fluidly revealing how we pass our credit card to a waitress or grasp a bus railing or press an elevator button.

Kate Winslet's character, the steely Dr. Erin Mears, who thrusts herself into the vortex as the virus starts developing, offers a chilling statistic to some skeptical medical administrators: We touch our hands to our face 2,000 to 3,000 times ... a day. I don't even want to finish writing this review for fear of what's lurking on my own laptop. But I must.

As Soderbergh did in the superior "Traffic," he intertwines various story lines to give us a complete picture of the devastation. Matt Damon, as Paltrow's stoic husband, Mitch, tries to stay strong and protect his teenage daughter as it becomes clear that they're both immune. Jude Law, believably skeevy as an online journalist with questionable ethics, digs for the truth of the story — but government scientists are just as keen on stopping the spread of information as they are the disease itself.

Marion Cotillard gets a bit lost in the shuffle, though, as Dr. Leonora Orantes of the World Health Organization, who's working backward to find the disease's origin. She's gone for large chunks of time and her plot line feels unfinished; it's an example of how, given the enormity of the cast and the subject matter, not all of the characters are fleshed out as well as you'd like them to be.

But then excellent character actors show up and lend weight to some of the smallest parts: Hey, there's John Hawkes as a janitor. There's Bryan Cranston as Laurence Fishburne's boss at the CDC. And you'd like to see more of them, too.

Despite all the big names crammed together, Jennifer Ehle might just steal this thing as Fishburne's right-hand woman, Dr. Ally Hextall, who's racing to find a vaccine even as the number of dead skyrockets. Like the film itself, she's got an irresistible cool about her. But she's also so confident and radiates such no-nonsense intelligence, she commands the screen every time she shows up. (And how great is it that three of the top scientists here are strong, decisive women?)

Her performance represents one of many elements of "Contagion" that will make you stop and think. And then wash your hands.

"Contagion," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language. Running time: 103 minutes. Three stars out of four.

'Contagion' created a crew of germaphobes

In the middle of making a point about germ transmission, Contagion director Steven Soderbergh reaches for a bowl of mixed nuts and places the snack on a hotel coffee table. The gesture causes surprised laughs from star Matt Damon and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns.

"Now bear in mind," Soderbergh says, suddenly aware of his transgression, "I've had my hands in this all morning."

"And we don't know where you've been," Damon adds.

Nobody touches the nuts.

Contagion, opening Friday, features a killer, fast-spreading virus that gets an early transmission boost, ironically, when a carrier sticks her hands in a bowl of nuts at an airport bar. The virus then continues to spread from host to host in a worldwide pandemic.

The movie probably will affect the way audiences feel about the invisible world of germs in everyday lives. Soderbergh says it "could do to elevator buttons what Jaws did to the beach." It also made a huge impact on the cast and crew during filming last year.

"Well, there was more Purell (hand sanitizer) than I've ever seen on a movie set before," Soderbergh says, laughing.

Says Damon, "I've done 50-odd movies, and I've never seen anything like this."

The real-life education began with Burns' intensive research for the script, which involved working with world health experts. He recalls flying to meet film consultant Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague, who was cautious about his potential travel germs.

"I got up when she walked into the room to hug her, and she went, 'No. We have to observe social distancing,'" Burns says. "I had just gotten off a plane. There was no hugging."

The caution spread. On the set, handshakes often were replaced with first-bumps or germ-safe greetings — especially if the other person wasn't looking well.

"You looked at the whites of their eyes and made a quick judgment call," Soderbergh says.

"Let your fear be your guide," Damon adds.

Soderbergh recalls coming down with a bug and being "hyper-aware" of how many people were sharing contact with the camera. "I was afraid I was going to get everyone sick," he says. "There's no social distancing on a film set. It's a great germ breeding ground."

Even when healthy, Soderbergh stayed away from the communal food table.

"I didn't go anywhere near that," he says. "Just in principle."

Actress Marion Cotillard was the most affected with her germ education. She concedes that she has always been careful pathogen-wise, bringing her own germ-killing spray to hotel rooms.

But after long conversations with Soderbergh, she stepped up her game. Now Cotillard cleans every doorknob in the hotel room and the TV remote control.

"And if I take the remote, I take it with a tissue. Which my friends think is a little weird," she says. "But as soon as I explain, they think about it. And they do the same."

Her germ mind-set only got worse when she watched Contagion with studio executives. Cotillard exited quietly to avoid handshakes only to return sheepishly. "I came back and said, 'I'm so sorry I went away and didn't even shake hands. I'm just totally freaked out right now.'"

Damon believes he came away "relatively unscathed" from the experience, but his family germ habits could still be affected. "My wife hasn't seen it yet," he says with a smile. "Maybe things will change."

Damon battles bug in 'Contagion'

Now that he's no longer Jason Bourne, father of four Matt Damon has a new codename.

His wife, Luciana Barroso, calls him "Red Alert."

"I sometimes check to see if the kids are breathing," he admits, referring to his and Barroso's three daughters -- Stella, 10 months, Gia, 3, Isabella, 5 -- and his stepdaughter, Alexia, 12. "I'm probably more protective then I've ever been now that I have children. I tend be a little overprotective without trying to be a helicopter parent."

The topic is apropos because Damon stars as a husband and father in Contagion, the unnerving new thriller that chronicles the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic.

In the movie, which opens Friday, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Damon's wife, a corporate executive who is among the first infected with an unknown virus. His character, however, is immune to the disease and has to protect his teenage daughter as their city is quarantined.

The rest of the top-shelf cast includes Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne.

While unquestionably frightening, what distinguishes Contagion from similarly themed films is that it feels utterly believable -- without zombies (28 Days Later, The Crazies) or even a sinister army general (Outbreak). For once, the virus is the sole villain (although Law's self-aggrandizing blogger comes a close second).

"The one rule we had was we can't go anywhere where our characters haven't been," explains Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, who directed Damon in Ocean's Eleven and its two sequels as well as in the comedy The Informant! "We can't cut to a city or to a group of extras that we don't know ... We were trying for it to be epic, but also intimate at the same time."

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (The Informant!) was initially inspired by the SARS epidemic of almost a decade ago. When he pitched it, Soderbergh reacted immediately.

"My reaction to Scott proposing this, the reaction from participants, the reaction from Warner Bros. -- everyone felt there was a place for an ultra-realistic film about this subject. Nobody hesitated at all. It happened very quickly -- uncharacteristically quickly considering what the business is like now for adult dramas. That made me feel like we're onto something."

In fact, Damon was already preparing to reunite with Soderbergh on a Liberace biopic, in which he'll play the lover of the legendary showman (Michael Douglas).

"Steven said 'I've got this other thing and we've really got to make it now because it's really timely.' So he sent (the screenplay) over to me with a note that said, 'Read this, then wash your hands.' "

Then three months into their research, the H1N1 outbreak occurred. The downside? Nothing unleashes your inner germaphobe quite like researching a harrowing drama about a global epidemic.

"I'm aware of it now," Soderbergh says. "Somebody set up this microphone. I was handed some lip balm by one of the make-up people, which I took a Kleenex and wiped off, but who knows if that worked. Having gone through it, I'm always going to be conscious of it."

For Damon, Contagion continues a versatile career that routinely shifts from action to comedy to drama -- although, as mentioned, he won't be part of the fourth Bourne outing, The Bourne Legacy, which will follow a new protagonist played by Jeremy Renner (The Town).

"If the director is good and the script is good, it all comes pretty naturally," Damon says. "If those things aren't in place, then it's impossible no matter what the role is."

Damon loves his new 'do'.

Matt Damon came to Canada with everything but his hair.

"I love it," says a bald Damon, who shaved his head for Elysium, a science-fiction thriller that's currently shooting in Vancouver under the direction of Neill Blomkamp (District 9). "This is what the guy looks like, my character."

Not that Damon can resist poking some fun at Contagion director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, both of whom are sitting beside him and similarly coifed.

"Inspiration can strike at any time!" Damon says, laughing. "But I can see why these guys rock this look. It's great in the summertime, really easy getting out of the shower."

Moviegoers may not be used to seeing Damon this way, but he says it's not the first time he's gone sans hair.

When he was shooting 2005's The Brothers Grimm, he cut it off to more comfortably don a wig.

"It was easier to get the wig on. Without lacquering my hair down, I just shaved my head."

Elysium is expected in theatres in early 2013.

Matt Damon remembers 9/11

"I lived in lower Manhattan at the time. So I just remember walking out of my apartment and seeing it and then going back in and watching CNN 'cause I was so hungry for information, trying to figure out what's going on.

I just remember being glued to my television despite the fact that it was happening kind of right outside my door."

A-listers not spared in pandemic film "Contagion"

Not even the A-listers are spared in "Contagion," a star-studded movie directed by Steven Soderbergh that recreates the outbreak of a global pandemic.

Audiences used to seeing the most famous faces last longest will be in for a surprise when they watch the slick, globe-trotting picture which is in competition at the Venice film festival.

The ensemble cast includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Ehle, most of whom were in Venice for the world premiere on Saturday.

Soderbergh, an Oscar winner for "Traffic" and best known for his "Ocean's" crime capers, said the complex nature of the film made Hollywood heavyweights particularly important.

"It's very helpful to have movie stars playing as many of these roles as you can, because you're throwing so many characters and so much information at the audience it's very helpful for them to get a sort of reference point," he told reporters in Venice.

"There's a reason that movie stars have existed since the beginning of cinema," he added after Contagion was warmly applauded at a press screening ahead of the red carpet premiere.

"It's good for audiences -- they like to have people they can identify with."

Contagion opens with a couple played by Paltrow and Damon who find themselves at the center of a global emergency that goes on to claim millions of lives.

Cotillard and Fishburne play health officials trying to get to the bottom of the disease in a race against time, while Law portrays a journalist and blogger who challenges the official line.

SARS AN INSPIRATION

At one point, one scientist irked by his questioning turns to him and says: "Blogging is not writing. It's graffiti with punctuation."

Soderbergh weaves the bigger themes of fear, panic and globalisation together with individual tales of sacrifice and selfishness, hopping from Hong Kong to London to the United States as he does.

Paltrow was asked when she would allow her pre-teen children to watch Contagion, which features death, violence and a scene where a dead character's scalp is peeled back during an autopsy.

"My kids can't even watch (children's comedy) 'Babe', so I don't know, probably not for a while."

She added that she did not see the death of central characters as any kind of judgment on the lives they led in the movie.

"I think that if death by virus was a punishment for extra-marital affairs there may be only about three dudes left in this room right now," she joked at a packed press conference. "Maybe less because we're in Italy."

Script writer Scott Burns said the story was partly based on the real-life outbreak of SARS in China in 2003.

Soderbergh, who said he would shortly be taking a break from film making, added: "All of the science in the film had to be accurate, all of the scenes in which the virus was discussed or shown visually had to be absolutely realistic or plausible.

"Otherwise we felt we weren't advancing our ideas very well or contributing to this genre very well."

Matt Damon's Six-Year-Old Movie Margaret Finally Coming to Theaters

(Trailer) Matt Damon, Anna Paquin and Matthew Broderick all seem a lot younger in Margaret.

Because they are. Believe it or not, this movie was shot six years ago. Which may explain why Damon still looks like Will Hunting and Paquin can play a young inexperienced teen when we all know her as sexed-up Sookie Stackhouse.

So what's it all about?

In the flick, Paquin plays a teenager who's on her way across town to lose her virginity when some flirting with a passing bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) leads to horrifying consequences.

And that's just the start of it.

Things begin to spin wildly out of control for everyone involved. Next thing you know, she's lying to the police, screwing up at school and kissing her teacher.

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who previously did You Can Count on Me, the film has a great cast, impeccable pedigree and one of the strangest time lapses between filming and release in recent memory.

Interested?

Check out the trailer and tell us what you think. Margaret hits theaters Sept. 30.

Sighting

On a break from filming his new sci-fi movie Elysium, Matt Damon visited one of Vancouver's most popular attractions with his family: the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. The actor, wife Luciana and their kids were spotted checking out treetop views from all over the park and enjoying the nice weather.

What's Worse for Matt Damon: Marrying Gwyneth Paltrow or Getting Dissed by Obama?

(Video) We love us some Matt Damon, don't you?

Not only is the hunky star involved with the community and a friend to Mother Nature, he's also a family man and a very talented actor.

E! News caught up with him to talk about his latest movie Contagion with Gwyneth Paltrow and to discuss that diss he got by President Barack Obama.

Oh, you don't remember?

During the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the president made a comeback at Damon who had given Obama a poor review in an interview by saying, "Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau so...right back at ya, buddy!"

Boom!

But there are no hard feelings. Damon tells us that he thought the joke was really funny (whether Obama wrote it himself or not) and had a good delivery.

And although the actor has a beautiful wife and four kids at home, he had to admit that being married to Gwyneth onscreen was fantastic.

"Chris Martin let me share her for a week," he tells us, right before calling Paltrow an "amazing" actress. So sweet!

What else? OMG there's so much more! Watch the clip to hear more about Obama, Paltrow, shaving his head and how he manages to have five (!) films coming out this year alone. Plus, which does he consider to be a bigger honor, making People's Most Beautiful list or Time's 100 Most Influential?

Damon talks about going bald

Matt Damon is taking summer haircuts to the extreme. He is bald and proud.

The Contagion star showed up for the film's press conference in Los Angeles Saturday rubbing his closely shaved head, which he first showed to the public at a rally for teachers in Washington, D.C., about a month ago. Click here to see his new look.

"I love it," said Damon. "It's good in the summertime and easy out of the shower."

He admitted that the bald head is for an upcoming movie, however. The film is Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, "and this is what the guy looks like."

Damon made light of the new 'do sitting between his bald co-film makers -- director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns.

"Inspiration can strike at any time," laughed Damon. "I can see why these guys rock this look."

"Well we just lost our hair," said Soderbergh.

Damon admitted he previously cut his hair to the core shooting 2005's The Brothers Grimm.

"I had a wig and it was easier to get the wig on this way," he said of the bald look.

Why Matt Damon Is Nicknamed 'Red Alert'

Being a father has turned Matt Damon into a cautious man.

“I’m probably more protective than I’ve ever been now that I have children,” the actor, 40, told reporters Saturday at the press junket for his new film, Contagion.

And Damon’s not the only one who’s noticed the change in his demeanor.

“My wife [Luciana]‘s nickname for me is ‘Red Alert,’” he says with a laugh. “I sometimes check to see if the kids are breathing.”

When it comes to parenting Stella, 10 months, Gia, 3, Isabella, 5, and Alexia, 12, “I tend be a little overprotective without trying to be a helicopter parent,” Damon explains.

One thing that Damon isn’t too guarded about is his hair — he recently shaved his head for an upcoming role.

“I love it. I see why these guys rock it,” Damon said, referencing his Contagion costar Laurence Fishburne, director Steven Soderbergh and writer Adam Z. Burns, who all prefer the bald look.

“It’s great in the summertime. It’s really easy getting out of the shower.”

Matt Damon: I'm NOT Running for President

Don't expect to see Matt Damon's name on the ballot in 2012 -- because despite Michael Moore's blessing ... Damon says he's got no plans to run for President of the United States. How bout them apples?

Sighting

Matt Damon and wife Luciana are renting a house in Vancouver for the summer – and they've been entertaining visitors. The couple recently hosted John Krasinski and wife Emily Blunt. Among the many spots on their itinerary: Grouse Mountain, where the foursome went hiking.

Michael Moore MATT DAMON FOR PRESIDENT!

(Audio) Michael Moore wants Matt Damon to run for PRESIDENT -- not just because he believes in Matt's outspoken politics ... but because he believes Matt might actually WIN in 2012.

Michael spoke in an online seminar yesterday for FireDogLake.com -- and when asked who he thought would be a viable candidate in next year's election, Michael instantly replied, "Matt Damon."

Check out the audio to hear why.

As we previously reported, Matt's definitely got passion -- going on a badass tirade recently at an education rally in defense of teachers.

Cameron Crowe won't be caged in for 'Zoo'

Peacocks strut by, flashing their tails like fan dancers. Across the way, swans serenely glide across a pond as flamingos strike one-legged pinup poses. Perched nearby are several stately owls, some of which are Hogwarts alumni.

Stars of the human variety, including Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, also are roaming about at Greenfield Ranch, a bucolic 450-acre spread about an hour away from the heart of Hollywood. One of the oldest stables in Hidden Valley serves as the primary locale for We Bought a Zoo, a true-story-inspired family drama due this holiday season from director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous).

Damon and Johansson are used to the red-carpet spotlight. But on this cool spring day, as shooting is taking place at a makeshift animal sanctuary where the closest thing to a rug is damp grass, it is the fur- and feather-bearing cast members who command most of the attention.

"I didn't know the power of the animal on-screen," says Crowe, 54, a canine lover who is "in between dogs" at the moment. "I don't have a million critters around the house. But I may now, though."

Especially if Zoo removes the curse of his last film, Elizabethtown, an overambitious 2005 flop that was followed by a six-year hiatus. That it is opening Dec. 23, during the Christmas rush and at the height of Oscar season, is a sign of 20th Century Fox's confidence.

His lucky charm could be Crystal, the capuchin monkey of The Hangover Part II fame. Seated on her trainer's shoulder, she doles out kisses to visitors in between gobbling nuts and greedily eyeing a yogurt container. Even learning that she must don diapers under her dainty costumes can't diminish her divalike aura.

"We feel this is Crystal's breakthrough performance," says a half-kidding Crowe of the simian sweetheart who not only plays a female this time but even gets to keep her own name. "It is her Carnal Knowledge. The role brings out colors we have yet to see. It is more mature than her Todd Phillips work. She is not just the hottest actress around, but also the most compelling."

Deep in the woods, a resounding growl of a voice is heard issuing commands: "Good boy! Good boy! You are such a good boy! Come on! Good boy! Look. Look. Look. Good boy!"

That would be trainer Doug Seus as he puts hulking 11-year-old grizzly Bart, who broke into movies in 2001's Dr. Dolittle 2, through his acting paces. Assisting with his efforts is a cooler filled with the favorite treat of the 12-foot, 1,200-pound brown beast: precooked Jack in the Box meat patties that are tossed regularly in the bear's direction.

"Stay! Good boy. That's so good."

Today, Damon is worlds away from his turbocharged action hero Jason Bourne. He plays Benjamin Mee, a journalist who decides that he and his school-age children should take over the rundown Rosemoor Wildlife Park after their mother dies from cancer.

"It's kind of an act of desperation for Benjamin," he says of his character's motivation for such a rash, perhaps financially foolish act, one the real-life Mee relates in the 2008 memoir that shares the film's title. "He does it impulsively, but at the same time, his late wife would have celebrated this kind of adventure. It's really a love story about a guy who is still in love with his wife."

What reeled Damon in?

The actor, who has ridden horseback in films such as last year's True Grit and even spoke for an animated stallion in 2002's Spirit, hasn't had many other animal encounters on-screen. The rat in the final shot of TheDeparted? "Small potatoes compared to this," he declares. But Damon, a father of four — including a 12-year-old stepdaughter — is quickly making up for lost time.

"I've done a scene with a lion and an up-close scene with a tiger. And two days ago, I did one with a grizzly bear." That means, he says with a chuckle, "I've done lions and tigers and bears. Cameron and I have joked about how you are never supposed to work with children and animals, and how we decided to just get it all done with just this one film."

But Damon makes it clear that the creatures inside the cages didn't persuade him to do We Bought a Zoo. It was the man behind the camera.

"That was everything," he says of his desire to work with Crowe, who gave John Cusack his breakthrough role in 1989's Say Anything… and provided an Oscar-nominated career boost for Tom Cruise in 1996's Jerry Maguire.

Damon quickly fell under the same disarming spell as countless rock idols who gladly opened up to Crowe during his years as a precocious teen writer at Rolling Stone, an era lovingly chronicled in 2000's Almost Famous.

"He gave me a script and said, 'Don't read it to make a decision, because I haven't had a chance to do my stuff to it,'" Damon recalls. Instead, Crowe — who would embellish a screenplay by TheDevil Wears Prada writer Aline Brosh McKenna — assigned homework to put him in the right mood.

"He gave me the film Local Hero," the 1983 cult charmer about a wheeler-dealer American oil company rep who is transformed by his time spent in a small Scottish town. "And he gave me about 15 songs, a lot of Neil Young and Eddie Vedder. I actually took the music, put it on my iPod and went for a run in Central Park. Then I read the script. I thought to myself, 'This is absolutely something I want to be in.'"

He's not the only Crowe fan in the cast. "I don't know if I ever met anyone kinder in how he approaches every day and every scene and is constantly cheerful, enthusiastic and encouraging," says Thomas Haden Church, the sidekick from Sideways who plays Damon's accountant brother, Duncan. "I am the playfully sarcastic voice of reason and skepticism."

But as often happens in Crowe films, the doubter turns believer. In the scene being shot today, Duncan is pitching in with park cleanup as a nit-picking inspector (professional scene-stealer John Michael Higgins of A Mighty Wind) pays a visit to ensure that Rosemoor is shipshape enough to open.

And Church is duly rewarded by the prop handlers, who have jury-rigged an all-important zoo tool for him to tote. "It's a turd fork," he explains of his handy implement. "A fecal trident."

Another 'inspiring pause'

Judging by the near-constant smile on his face while shooting on the set, Crowe has fully recovered from Elizabethtown's critical slapdown.

The filmmaker sounds philosophical about the failure of such a close-to-his-heart project, much of it based on his reaction to his father's death in 1989.

"It helps as a journalist, because you are able to talk to the people whose work you've followed, and you realize that everything doesn't always hit on all cylinders," he says. "I know it came from the right place. And when people like the movie and connect to it, they are connecting to something you honestly wanted to put out there."

As for the six-year gap between features, "I was writing for a while. Just stockpiling stuff to do later," he says. "It was kind of what happened after Almost Famous, when I took time to write a book, the Billy Wilder book (Coversations With Wilder). That was a great little pause. An inspiring pause."

In between, he managed to make two music documentaries that arrived this year: Union, about Elton John and Leon Russell's recent collaboration, and Pearl Jam Twenty, a tribute to the Seattle alt-rock band's 20th anniversary.

Less happily, there also was an aborted attempt to direct the Hawaiian-themed Deep Tiki, with Reese Witherspoon and Ben Stiller, as well as the dissolution of his 24-year marriage to Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson, mother of his 11-year-old twin sons.

But We Bought a Zoo felt like the right movie at the right time. "The size of this was great," he says. "I love those rich movies where every character feels like you could veer off and do a movie just with them."

And after Elizabethtown, it proved to be the right thematic detour as well. "I wanted to do things that were less achingly personal, more 'Let's just enjoy the craft of doing it and creating it and get actors who just, like, rip it and love going there with you.' Let joy flood into the experience rather than, 'Let's go look at more funeral parlors.'"

Zoo also reunites the director with one of his more notable discoveries: Patrick Fugit, now 28, his junior scribe alter-ego in Almost Famous.

This time, he's Robin Jones, a handyman who looks after some of the animals, "including the lovely Lady Crystal," Fugit says with a smile. "She works more than any of us. She's working more than Matt Damon right now."

The actor quickly figured out how to get on the monkey's good side: "If you respect her, she will respect you." A dab of Nutella spread as a reward doesn't hurt, either. Still, Fugit says, "I don't think she misses me as much as I miss her on her days off."

Matt Damon Shows, Tells to Support Teachers at Washington D.C. Rally

Matt Damon is totally the teacher's pet.

Known for his philanthropy and political opinions as well as his work in movies, the actor hit the streets on Saturday to support teachers. The Save Our Schools March took place in Washington D.C. near the White House to protest education policies that are centered around standardized testing.

"I honestly don't know where I'd be today if that was the type of education I had," Damon told the crowd. "I sure as hell wouldn't be here. I do know that."

Raised by an educator, the 40-year-old attended public schools as a child and credits his accomplishments to his teachers. "I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself—my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity—all come from how I was parented and taught.

"And none of these qualities that I've just mentioned—none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success—none of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested."

The star is currently filming a new sci-fi movie Elysium in Vancouver (hence his newly shaven head), and made this special trip to D.C. to not only show teachers his support, but to give them a special message.

"Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back."

Damon protests with teachers in Washington

Matt Damon took to the streets of Washington D.C. on Saturday to protest with teachers in a rally against standardized testing.

The Good Will Hunting star joined forces with a number of educators for the Save Our Schools March to push for change and put an end to the current practice of measuring students' intelligence with exams.

Addressing the crowd, he said, "As I look at my life today, the things that I value about myself, my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity, came from the way that I was parented and taught.

"And none of these qualities that I just mentioned, none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, none of these qualities that have brought me so much joy, that have made me so successful professionally, none of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested."

The issue is particularly personal to Damon - his mother is a teacher and he has three young children set to enrol in America's schooling systems in the coming years.

Matt Damon: Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie 'Are Like Prisoners'

For an Oscar-winning, top box-office star who has also been PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive, Matt Damon happily lives life low-key.

He can't say that for some of his high-profile pals.

"I have friends who are like prisoners. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for instance," Damon, 40, told German television TELE 5 over the weekend. "They can't just go someplace. If they go for a walk, it turns into an international incident."

In contrast, says Damon, "I'm really lucky, because I have the best of both worlds. I do the work that I love and need, but don't need paramilitary troops to protect me when I walk out my front door."

Besides, fame just isn't Damon's game.

"Ever since I found my wife [Luciana] and we had children, my whole life revolves around that. It gave my life a dramatic change in direction," he says.

Married in March 2003, the couple have four daughters.

"I'm not as crazy as most of the other stars. I don't really know why, probably because I married a woman who isn't an actress. And we live in New York," he said. "As long as we don't show up in typical tourist spots, we can walk the streets without being noticed. New Yorkers are very cool, they don't flip out if they see me."

Damon glad he 86'd 'Fighter' role

Matt Damon is glad he turned down Christian Bale's Oscar-winning role in The Fighter because his exit meant "the right actor got the part".

The Bourne action man signed up to star opposite Mark Wahlberg as 'Irish' Micky Ward's half-brother Dicky Eklund, but subsequently dropped out along with director Darren Aronofsky.

The part was eventually handed to Bale, who went on to win an Academy Award for his performance, but Damon insists he is not bitter about missing the chance to star in the acclaimed film.

He tells Scotland's Daily Record, "I was supposed to play Christian's role and I dropped out. Darren Aronofsky was going to direct it and we both dropped out. But I look at Christian's performance and go, 'My God, the right actor got the part'."

Celebrity Poker Circle -- Pay Up or GET OUT!

Tobey Maguire's super-exclusive high-stakes celebrity poker circle was SERIOUS when it came to cash -- in fact, TMZ has learned, if you didn't pay up ... you were blackballed for life.

A regular player in the exclusive poker circle -- which included Leo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Nick Cassavetes and Todd Phillips -- tells TMZ, the poker games took place every Tuesday night for nearly 2 years ... from 2005-2007.

The circle was small -- only 8 or 9 players at a time -- and we're told, the mood was always "super serious" ... no joking, no drinking. The games would start around 10PM and go all night.

It wasn't uncommon for tempers to flare either -- we're told screaming matches happened on the regular ... and on the rare occasion, the table even got tossed over.

There was no official buy-in -- but we're told, hands often got as big as $150,000 a pot. We're told players would regularly lose $500,000 in one sitting ... no big deal.

But these guys weren't carrying briefcases of cash with them -- we're told most of the time, they played on credit ... and if someone didn't pay, that was it ... they were out of the circle forever.

Inside the room, there were dealers, massage girls, lots of security, food, and a full bar ... presumably for the spectators -- which included a list of billionaires ... and one time, the Olsen Twins.

As for who was the ultimate card shark -- we're told that was Tobey, no question.

Tobey Maguire Targeted Over Illicit Poker Ring: Are DiCaprio, Damon and Affleck Next?

Funny, we always thought a good poker face is what kept you out of trouble.

Not so for Tobey Maguire, who's been sued after getting outed as one of the A-listers who allegedly took part in a years-long illegal gambling ring that saw millions of dollars change hands in a series of no-limit high-stakes poker games.

In addition to Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Notebook director Nick Cassavetes are among those who allegedly took part in the invitation-only marathon Texas Hold 'Em sessions.

Oh, what a tangled web. So, did the onetime Spidey simply overplay his hand? Here's what got Maguire singled out…

Well, turns out, he's pretty good with a hand of cards. So good, in fact, that between 2007 and 2008, he managed to take $311,200 off of Beverly Hills hedge fund manager Brad Ruderman—with $110,000 of that coming in just one night.

Though these figures aren't noted in the lawsuit, a source told Star that over one three-month period, Maguire averaged $1 million in winnings.

Unfortunately for him, Ruderman anted up more than he had to spare, and as a result orchestrated a Ponzi scheme among his investors to pay off his debts, which included the money he owed to Maguire.

In other words: the actor inadvertently found himself on the receiving end of some hot cash and is now being sued by a trustee for the investors Ruderman embezzled from in an attempt to get back some of their stolen funds.

The suit—filed back in March but only recently uncovered—makes it clear that Maguire was not involved in Ruderman's scheme in any way and was completely unaware of how the businessman, currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to five criminal counts, came up with the currency. However, the suit alleges that Maguire nevertheless wrongfully accepted the money and should hand it all back over, with interest.

View the lawsuit

According to the lawsuit, the games, which were held twice weekly at "luxury locations" like The Four Seasons, The Peninsula, the Beverly Hills Hotel and the players' own homes, were highly organized affairs. One woman, Molly Bloom, allegedly acted as the chief coordinator of the games, and scheduled the accommodations, amenities (massages and alcohol were heavy features), food, hired the dealers, kept track of the players' wins and losses and arranged for the financial settlements between players.

All of which, in addition to helping keep things civil and organized, made the card sessions "controlled games," which should then have been licensed or otherwise regulated by federal, state or local authorities. Which they weren't. And which is where that whole illegal ring thing comes into play.

So far, Maguire hasn't publicly commented on the suit, but is believed to have heavily lawyered up.

However, lady luck hasn't left the actor completely: as of now, he's not being pursued on any criminal charges—likewise Damon, DiCaprio or Affleck. Though should that change, the legal system may have just hit the jackpot.

Matt Damon & 'Office' Star -- SURROUNDED by Guns

Matt Damon and "Office" star John Krasinski got in touch with their American roots on Wednesday -- hitting up a guitar/gun/grocery-selling gas station in Upstate New York. Seriously, the place exists.

It's called Dick's Country Store & Music Oasis in Churubusco, NY -- and we're told, the Hollywood duo stopped in to scope the place out for an upcoming film project.

As far as we know, no guns were purchased. America! F**k yeah!

Bet on a sequel

Matt Damon was spotted meeting with Harvey Weinstein and "Ocean's 13" screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien at Cipriani Downtown, to start a script on their poker movie, "Rounders 2." Edward Norton will join the sequel, sources say. In "Rounders," Damon played a law student dragged back into gambling by an ex-con pal. The 1998 movie was a box-office dud but became a DVD hit. Meanwhile, Damon's rep said after repeated calls about his postponed Anthony Weiner fund-raiser, "He's traveling, and I can't reach him."

Matt Damon's Father Battling Cancer

Cambridge native Matt Damon flew home to Boston Wednesday night to extend a personal thank you to doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital for treating his father, Kent, who is battling the rare blood disease multiple myeloma.

"My family is so grateful for the care you've given us,” Damon told the doctors, nurses and researchers honored at the hospital's One Hundred Celebration at the Westin Hotel. "It's deeply humbling to see how many people here are committing their lives to helping others."

"We've lost some close personal friends to cancer in recent years, but I never thought it would happen to my dad, the marathon runner," said Damon, 40, who attended the fundraiser with his father (who is currently in remission), his wife, Luciana, his stepmother, Celine, and Bourne Identity co-star Chris Cooper. "It sucked.”

Earlier in the evening, Damon’s dad playfully ribbed his Oscar-winning son for his overnight success in Hollywood.

"We try not to take this celebrity deal too seriously," said Kent Damon, who recalled his shock at looking at the newspaper in 1997 and seeing his son's Academy Award nomination for Good Will Hunting alongside Hollywood veterans.

"There was a picture of Robert Duvall, Peter Fonda, and Dustin Hoffman – then there was a picture of my 27-year-old son. He didn’t belong there with all these seasoned actors!"

The actor's father also drew laughs from the crowd of 850 when he recalled the time Matt was invited to participate in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1999 at Boston's Fenway Park.

"Ted Williams was there, Pedro Martinez, some of the best players who ever played the game," he says. "And then there was Matt, as the celebrity batter."

Joking aside, Kent praised Matt son for being a good husband and father to his four daughters, and for being a great son.

"He's all you could ever for ask for in a son," Kent told the crowd. "It's been a wonderful ride being his dad."

Stars Unmasked

Entering the world of Macbeth in "Sleep No More," visitors to the interactive Chelsea show remain incognito wearing an "Eyes Wide Shut"-style mask. But Justin Timberlake and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen drew attention to themselves when they arrived Friday in three huge Cadillac Escalades. Timberlake was later spotted enjoying drinks after the show, created by British theater company Punchdrunk, at the McKittrick Hotel bar without his mask. On Saturday, Emily Blunt, husband John Krasinski and Matt Damon went to see the show separately, but met in the bar for a drink afterward.

TIME Top 100: Justin Bieber, Chris Colfer, Matt Damon and more

TIME magazine has released their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The site describes the list as "artists and activists, reformers and researchers, heads of state and captains of industry. Their ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution. Welcome to this year's TIME 100."

Some of the inclusions might surprise you - such as teen pop star Justin Bieber, "Glee" star and Golden Globe winner Chris Colfer, comedian Amy Poehler and "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner.

Here is the complete list: * Wael Ghonim * Joseph Stiglitz * Reed Hastings * Amy Poehler * Geoffrey Canada * Mark Zuckerberg * Peter Vesterbacka * Angela Merkel * Julian Assange * Ron Bruder * Lamido Sanusi * Colin Firth * Amy Chua * Joe Biden * Jennifer Egan * Kim Clijsters * Ahmed Shuja Pasha * Aung San Suu Kyi * Cory Booker * Gabrielle Giffords * Katsunobu Sakurai * Michelle Obama * Paul Ryan * Ai Weiwei * Rob Bell * Fathi Terbil * Dilma Rousseff * Tom Ford * Liang Guanglie * Sue Savage-Rumbaugh * Takeshi Kanno * Nicolas Sarkozy * Michele Bachmann * Saad Mohseni * Chris Christie * Matthew Weiner * Lisa Jackson * Jean-Claude Trichet * Justin Bieber * Prince William and Kate Middleton * Joe Scarborough * Blake Lively * Hillary Clinton * Muqtada al-Sadr * Anwar al-Awlaki * Kim Jong Un * Saif al-Islam Gaddafi * Hassan Nasrallah * Nathan Wolfe * Oprah Winfrey * Sergio Marchionne * Mahendra Singh Dhoni * Felisa Wolfe-Simon * Esther Duflo * Rain * Larry Page * Mia Wasikowska * David Cameron * John Lasseter * Maria Bashir * Mukesh Ambani * Chris Colfer * Major General Margaret Woodward * Bruno Mars * David and Charles Koch * Hung Huang * General David Petraeus * Matt Damon and Gary White * Cecile Richards * George R.R. Martin * Marine Le Pen * Grant Achatz * Feisal Abdul Rauf * El Général * Jamie Dimon * Heidi Murkoff * Sting * Jonathan Franzen * V.S. Ramachandran * Michelle Rhee * Mark Wahlberg * Rebecca Eaton * Xi Jinping * Kathy Giusti * Arianna Huffington * Barack Obama * Lionel Messi * Azim Premji * Aruna Roy * Ray Chambers * Scott Rudin * John Boehner * Derrick Rossi * Hu Shuli * Benjamin Netanyahu * Ayman Mohyeldin * Charles Chao * Bineta Diop * Dharma Master Cheng Yen * Patti Smith

Matt Damon: Kissing Michael Douglas Is Like Kissing Catherine Zeta-Jones

He's done the math, and Matt Damon sees hidden benefits to kissing Michael Douglas in their upcoming biopic about the late, flamboyant pianist, Liberace.

"I never thought I would get to kiss Michael Douglas," Damon, who will play the boyfriend of Douglas's Liberace, told PEOPLE Tuesday at the premiere of a different film, the documentary His Way, in Los Angeles.

"I kind of think of it in algebra terms, back to my high-school days," added Damon. "It's like the transitive property – by kissing Michael Douglas, I am making out with Catherine."

He's referring, of course, to Douglas's wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Damon has worked with the actress in the past, on Ocean's Twelve, but Brad Pitt was the romantic lead in that one, which left Damon – PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive 2007 – a bit frustrated.

"I was actually kind of upset that I never got to kiss Catherine," the father of four daughters deadpans, "but now I get to kiss Michael. I thought it would have been better if I could have at least kissed them both."

Damon, 40, says he and Douglas, 66 – who is returning to work after battling cancer – are both excited about the film. "They're two really great roles, and we're really looking forward to it," Damon says.

As for the kiss, they'll have lots of practice. "There's scripted that there's actually more than one," he previews.

Matt Damon Talks 30 Rock and Kissing Michael Douglas

30 Rock viewers rooting for Liz Lemon and her former pilot boyfriend Carol, played by hunky Matt Damon, should know that the fate of their relationship lies in the hands of one woman alone: Tina Fey. "I love that show and I had a great time doing it so if Tina wanted to bring back Carol Burnett, that would be fine with me," Damon told TV Guide Magazine at the premiere for the HBO documentary His Way: A Portrait of Hollywood Legend Jerry Weintraub on March 22.

"At 30 Rock they made it really easy for me. The writing is so good on that show," he says. But for now, expect short TV stints, if any, for the father of four. "I never say never [to doing a TV show], but I'm having a great time making movies. And it gives me a lot of freedom when I'm not working to spend time with the kids."

It looks like Carol and Liz's on-off relationship will remain irreparable while Damon prepares to lock lips with another award-winning actor. "I never though that I would get to kiss Michael Douglas," quips Damon, who is currently getting ready for his part in the movie Liberace, where he'll portray the longtime lover of the flamboyant musical performer played by Douglas. Much to his dismay, Damon is getting no pointers from Douglas' wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, when it comes to kissing his new costar. "I'm upset that I didn't get to kiss Catherine [in Oceans 12], but now I get to kiss Michael," he says. "I thought it would have been better if I could at least have kissed them both." That, of course, depends on how you look at it. "I kind of think of it in algebra terms, from my high school days: Transitive property," jokes Damon. "I am making out with Catherine."

Matt Damon & Michael Douglas Make-Out Scenes: "There's More Than One"

Just when you thought that the only man-on-man movie kissing we're talking about these days is between Leonard DiCaprio and Armie Hammer in the upcoming J. Edgar flick, along comes Matt Damon.

The Adjustment Bureau star is going to be smooching Michael Douglas in an upcoming movie about late showman Liberace...

"It's scripted that there's more than one," Damon revealed to us last night at the Hollywood premiere of My Way, the new HBO documentary about überproducer Jerry Weintraub.

Damon, who is set to play Liberace's much younger lover, added with a smile, "I never thought I would get to kiss Michael Douglas."

Shortly after the movie was announced, Douglas told me, "I just saw Matt...and I was teasing him," he said. "I was saying, 'Bring a lot of ChapStick, babe.' "

And Damon believes Liberace director Steven Soderbergh when he says he's retiring after the flick is wrapped.

"I've had a lot of conversations with him about it and he is serious about it," he said.

Damon said Soderbergh next shoots Man from U.N.C.L.E. with George Clooney followed by Liberace. "He says that the last one he's going to do," Damon said.

Also at the red carpet premiere were Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Ellen Barkin, Don Cheadle, Billy Crystal, Chelsea Handler, Sharon Stone, Joan Collins, Cindy Crawford, Emile Hirsch and Anne Heche.

Damon's credit card rejected

Matt Damon was left embarrassed and annoyed when a wine store clerk recently rejected the actor's credit card because he wasn't convinced his customer was the Hollywood star.

Damon recently relocated to New York with his wife Luciana and their four girls, and they have become frequent customers at the wine shop across the street from their apartment.

But one recent visit ended in disaster when a store employee failed to recognise the actor or his famous pal John Krasinski, who had been invited over for dinner with his wife, Damon's The Adjustment Bureau co-star Emily Blunt.

The clerk refused to accept payment for the duo's $1,200 card purchase and demanded cash instead.

Damon explains, "They have this wine that I love... They had it in stock so I said, 'Let's just get a case of this wine... a little pricey though.' So I put my credit card down and... the guy rings it up, and he leaves for a minute and I see him get on the phone at the back. He comes back and he goes, 'Can't have it. Not with this credit card.'

"I go, 'What do you mean I can't have it? This is my credit card! Here's my ID, what else do you need?' He's like, 'Cash'. 'I don't have that kind of cash; it's like $100 a bottle! There's 12 bottles!' I'm fuming. The guy told me to my face that I'm not me..."

The actors were forced to go home empty-handed, but Damon later returned to the store with a magazine feature about himself to prove his identity - with a few choice words for the fussy store assistant.

But his outburst has ended up causing more problems than the star had imagined - because red-faced Damon can no longer bring himself to shop at the wine store.

Review: Stylish 'Adjustment Bureau' ends in fizzle

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt fall in love and flee shadowy figures in the immensely stylish romantic thriller "The Adjustment Bureau." If only the ending lived up to the build-up.

Damon and Blunt have crazy, sexy chemistry from the very first moment they meet, in the gleaming men's room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, of all places. They're a real treat to watch together - he's reserved and sort of smart-alecky, she's quick-witted and flirty - and the contrast in their appearances and personalities just works.

You want them to end up with each other, despite the many elaborate and creative obstacles that thrust themselves in the couple's path over several years and across New York City's five boroughs. With all that heat and hype, you long for a climax worthy of the dedication their characters (and the actors) have given.

Instead, writer-director George Nolfi's film takes all that dazzle and wraps things up with a fizzle: Following intelligent debates about the nature of free will, "The Adjustment Bureau" ends in an overly simplistic, heavy-handed religious allegory that leaves you wondering, really? Is that it? That it's based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose writing has been the inspiration for such groundbreaking sci-fi films as "Blade Runner" and "Minority Report," represents even more of a letdown. Dick's dark, paranoid vision sadly goes soft.

But it's got a lot going for it, for a while. "The Adjustment Bureau" is shot beautifully, the stark cinematography from Oscar-winner John Toll reflecting the isolation and frustration Damon's character feels.

Damon stars as David Norris, a young and up-and-coming congressman who's on the verge of losing his bid for the U.S. Senate at the film's start. While practicing his concession speech in the men's bathroom, where he thinks he's alone, he runs into Blunt's character, Elise. He's a kid who grew up without much family in a rough part of Brooklyn; she's a sophisticated, British ballet dancer. But their attraction is palpable; they kiss impetuously, and then she runs off.

David's instantly, and understandably, smitten. But as it turns out, that was the only time he was ever supposed to see Elise. His life - and all our lives, according to the film - are managed by The Adjustment Bureau, men in tailored suits and fedoras who make sure everyone and everything follows a predetermined plan. If anyone steps out of line by accident, a little nudge here or there steers things back to their proper course.

When David learns from Richardson, (played with perfect, "Mad Men"-style cool by John Slattery), one of the man adjusters assigned to his case, that he and Elise can never be together, he's naturally more inspired than ever to track her down. Anthony Mackie is his usual charismatic self as another bureau member, who's a little more sympathetic to David's cause, while Terence Stamp makes a huge impression in just a few scenes, as always, as a far more rigid enforcer. (In case you hadn't noticed, it's an excellent cast.)

And so David and Elise hook up and go on the run, using the Adjustment Bureau's own tricks for being everywhere and seeing everything all at once. Yes, this involves wearing silly, magical hats and running through myriad, secret doors, but it also makes exciting leaps in time and space - and asks us to do the same - as the couple dashes from one portal to the next through hidden passageways all over New York City. One second they may be at the foot of the Statue of Liberty; next, they're in the outfield at Yankee Stadium. It's reminiscent of "Inception" in its striking visuals and the assumptions it requires us to make, but it moves so fluidly, and it's in the name of a love that seems so perfect, you may as well give in.

But that's right about when you'll get your heart broken. We won't give too much away. But after raising intriguing philosophical questions about determinism, "The Adjustment Bureau" gives into the saddest, softest fate of all. David and Elise - and we as viewers - deserve more. And we should be able to choose it for ourselves.

"The Adjustment Bureau," a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image. Running time: 99 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Ex-Yanks fight wife-swap film

Former Yankee Mike Kekich is desperate to block Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's movie "The Trade," based on the huge scandal when he and fellow pitcher Fritz Peterson swapped wives in the 1970s.

Die-hard Red Sox fan Affleck and his brother, Casey, are rewriting a second version of the script and have hired veteran sportswriters to help reach out to Yankees from that era. But Kekich, who's believed to have created a completely new life and family in New Mexico, is refusing to participate.

A source tells us, "Kekich is panic-stricken. He has moved away and has a new identity. He is freaked out that those working on the movie found out where he is. He isn't too keen on having the scandal dredged up again after all this time.

"Other Yankees from that time have also been really unhelpful with facts and details of what happened. They are stonewalling."

The amazing drama started in 1972 after the two hurlers, old friends, joked about swapping wives. They followed through on it, although word didn't get out until the spring of '73. Marilyn Peterson moved in with Kekich, but it didn't last. Susanne Kekich and Fritz are still married and live in New Jersey and Colorado. Kekich reportedly remarried and had another daughter.

Actresses being considered include Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz and Rebecca Hall. Ben Affleck recently confirmed he and Casey were rewriting the script, and hinted that Damon may direct. It wasn't certain that he and Damon would play the pitchers.

Affleck recently told MTV, "I've come to have a little more respect for the Yankees. There are some of those guys . . . that look like good guys . . . But as an institution? Disdain. Contempt." About the movie's subject matter, he said: "Guys [bleep]ing each others' wives -- that's those Yankees."

The script hasn't yet been shown to Major League Baseball or the Yankees, another source confirmed. Reps for Affleck, Damon and the team declined to comment. A source close to Affleck said he was working on many projects and is currently focused on directing a political thriller, "Argo," which he's about to start shooting.

Bogus 'Damon' crashes show

A party crasher pretending to be Matt Damon's publicist caused havoc at Gwen Stefani's show for her fashion line, L.A.M.B., at Lincoln Center -- forcing organizers to hold front-row seats for Damon, who was in LA, and sending paparazzi into a frenzy.

A man who called himself Jay Berman contacted reps at several fashion houses and agencies during Fashion Week posing as a rep for the "Bourne" star and Victoria's Secret models Chanel Iman, Alessandra Ambrosio, Coco Rocha and Lily Aldridge.

On Thursday, Berman called the Schiff Company, which reps Stefani, and claimed to be Damon's point person in New York while he promoted his new movie, "The Adjustment Bureau." He requested three tickets for Damon, his wife, Luciana Barroso, and a friend named Peter Gianquinto. The tickets were arranged with organizers at Paul Wilmot Communications. Photographers and reporters swarmed the front row expecting the A-list star and his wife, anxiously waiting for them to take up two reserved seats. But they never showed up, and instead two burly security men took the seats.

Confusion continued through last evening, when Wilmot organizers still believed Barroso attended the show with Gianquinto, but sat in the fourth row because they didn't want to be photographed.

However, Damon's rep, Jennifer Allen, confirmed to us that Damon and Barroso had been in LA since Tuesday morning, since Damon is shooting a movie there. "He's never been to a fashion show, to my knowledge," said Allen, who has repped Damon for 16 years. "No one called me to check."

Allen also said Berman's name has come up in the past. "I did get a call six months ago from ESPN about the same thing. Same guy, same name saying he was trying to set Matt up for some ESPN event."

Other Fashion Week publicists said they had also been contacted by Berman -- who used an e-mail address from PMKHBHPR, clearly nothing to do with p.r. powerhouse PMK -- trying to get into shows and parties for G-Star and Catherine Malandrino, but he was rejected. Berman hung up on us when we called to ask about his con act.

Matt Damon: Two Week Rule Keeps Marriage Strong

Matt Damon is one busy guy. With two films released back-to-back and another two films in production, how does the actor stay close with his kids and keep the romance alive with his wife Luciana?

“We have a two-week rule,” Damon, 40, told PEOPLE Saturday at a press conference for his new movie The Adjustment Bureau in New York. “We don’t allow ourselves to be apart.”

“When I did True Grit, I asked Joel and Ethan [Coen] to board the movie so that I was never away from home for more than a week and they did that,” he says. “So I was working like two days a week and I would fly back [home].”

If works calls for uprooting the family away from home in New York City, Damon will pack his suitcases and take his entire brood of daughters — Alexia, 12, Isabella, 4½, Gia, 2½, and Stella, almost 4 months — with him. “I just took this big movie in L.A. and we’re all there together,” he says.

With a balanced work and family life, Damon says he’s lucky not to carry the burden of sucking up to Lucy for being an absent husband. “We really don’t need those big dramatic moments running home with flowers shirtless,” he jokes.

In his upcoming romantic thriller The Adjustment Bureau — in theaters March 4 — Damon stars as a politician who is forced to fight for his own fate. In reality, he believes his destiny led him to meeting Lucy in 2003.

“There was Werner Herzog film called Rescue Dawn that Christian Bale did and I was really strongly considering it. Instead I met with the Farrelly brothers. I remember talking with my mother and she said, ‘You know, you don’t always have to go into a jungle and lose a bunch of weight. You’re allowed to have a little fun.’ And I did the Farrelly brothers movie [Stuck on You] and that was where I met my wife,” he explained. “So four kids later, that was a pretty fateful decision!”

Matt Damon to Receive Critic's Choice Joel Siegel Award

Matt Damon has been named the recipient of the Broadcast Film Critics Association's fourth annual Joel Siegel award.

The 40-year-old actor, who can be seen in the Coen brothers' True Grit, comes on the heels of the announcement that he is among the first presenters announced for the 68th Golden Globes.

The award will be given to Damon because of his humanitarian and charitable efforts, specifically his work as co-founder of Water.org, which works to make safe drinking water available around the world.

Damon has received two Critics Choice Movie Awards and has been nominated five times.

The Critics Choice Movie Awards will take place on Friday, Jan. 14, at the Hollywood Palladium and will broadcast at 8:30/7:30c on VH1.

Matt Damon, J-Lo to present at Golden Globes

Jason Bourne, a vampire heartthrob and an "American Idol" judge are going to the Golden Globes.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Tuesday on Twitter that Matt Damon, Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Lopez would present trophies at the 68th annual ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 16.

For the second year in a row, Ricky Gervais will host the event, which is seen as a predictor of how films will do at the Academy Awards on Feb. 27.

Damon will present the Cecil B. DeMille Award to previously announced recipient Robert De Niro.

Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie top 2010's money-making movie stars

Despite critical panning, "The Tourist" not only snagged Golden Globe nominations, but it helped make Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie the biggest movie stars of the year.

According to Quigley Publishing Company's 79th Annual Poll of Motion Picture Exhibitors, the co-stars take the No. 1 and No. 2 positions. The poll asks movie exhibitors which stars they think generated the most box office moolah for the year. This is a pretty good indicator of a star's real box-office draw.

Depp is on top yet again, having finished first in 2007 and 2006 also. This year his resume boasts "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Tourist." With the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" due out in 2011, he's likely to appear on the Top 10 again next year.

Jolie's claim to box office fame this year is owed to her super-spy turn in "Salt" and setting Depp up in "The Tourist."

The poll also tapped two "Stars of Tomorrow": Zach Galifianakis and Michelle Williams. We'll see how they do in 2011.

The full Top 10 Money-Makers of 2010:

1. Johnny Depp
2. Angelina Jolie
3. Robert Downey, Jr.
4. Matt Damon
5. Steve Carell
6. Tom Hanks
7. Denzel Washington
8. Leonardo DiCaprio
9. George Clooney
10. Anne Hathaway

Damon tied tongue for 'True Grit' role

Matt Damon was literally left tongue-tied while preparing for his role in True Grit - he clamped a rubber band in his mouth to play a character who struggles to speak.

In the Coen brothers' Western movie, the actor stars as a Texas Ranger who suffers from a speech impediment after he is injured and loses part of his tongue.

And Damon managed to add a lisp to his Texan twang by learning to talk with elastic tied around his tongue.

He says, "To practise for the way you would talk with such an injury, I actually took one of my daughter's ponytail bands and just wrapped it around my tongue. I'm sure the neighbours heard me and just shook their heads, thinking, 'This whole Hollywood thing has really got to him.'

"I am a true nincompoop in this movie. It was so much fun."

Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys Top List of 2010's Most Charitable Stars

In a world of celebrities behaving badly, these 20 stars balanced things out.

Lady Gaga, a leader in gay-rights issues, takes the No. 1 spot on a new list of the "Top 20 Celebs Gone Good" in 2010, honoring stars for their charity work. Alicia Keys, who is devoted to fighting HIV and AIDS, was the runner-up.

Rounding out the top 10 are Taylor Swift, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Ellen DeGeneres, Nick Jonas, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber.

The list is compiled by DoSomething.org, a charity leader for teens and social change.

Matt Damon Only Spanks Kids in the Movies

Matt Damon isn't the spanking kind of man, even though he plays one in the movies.

In a key scene in the new Coen Brothers Western True Grit, Damon, playing a boastful Texas Ranger, takes his costar Hailee Steinfeld – who turned 14 last week – over his knee and wallops her with a wooden reed. But that's a long way from Damon's real life with his four young daughters.

"I definitely don't spank 'em," the star, 40, told PEOPLE at the movie's New York premiere on Tuesday.

Attending the gala screening with wife Luciana, Damon said he and the filmmakers took precautions to make sure Steinfeld wouldn't actually get hurt filming the spanking scene.

"It's a scene in the movie that needs to be there for a whole host of reasons," he said. "And so, they just put a big pad on Hailee. And we practiced. And I said, 'Hailee, does that hurt?' And she said, 'I can't even feel it.' "

The whole family got to visit Damon on location for the Western, which was shot in New Mexico and Texas and stars Jeff Bridges as U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, the role that won John Wayne a Best Actor Oscar in a 1969 screen version. This new take on the tale more closely follows the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. (The singer Glen Campbell played Ranger La Boeuf in the earlier version.)

"They were interested in seeing the horses," Damon said of the family visit to the set. "So, we got some pictures of them with the horses."

At home, is it tough to control four young women running roughshod? "Yeah, it's kind of nuts," Damon says. "The alarm goes off, and [expletive] starts flying."

Sighting

Hot guy, hot wings! Matt Damon, grabbing some wings at Jake Melnick's in Chicago, where the actor is shooting Contagion. Damon stopped in with some crewmembers and shared appetizers as they watched the New England Patriots play the New York Jets. Damon also sampled some craft brews and left his server a generous tip.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (and Steve) Team Up to Fight Hunger

(Matt Video) Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are hoping a couple of public service announcements will help take a bite out of hunger.

On behalf of Feeding America, the two pals have shot separate spots designed to raise awareness that 49 million Americans struggle to get food each day.

Matt successfully manages to infuse his PSA with a little lightheartedness while playing a man named Steve, who talks about having to go to a local food bank. Matt then turns from the camera to ask the real Steve, standing off to the side, to comment on his performance.

Ben, meanwhile, opts for a more straightforward, but certainly no less effective, approach to the subject… (Ben Video)

Matt Damon: Four Kids Is a 'Whole New Dynamic'

A near barroom brawl — and a quick escape! — eight years ago left Matt Damon with a sweet memory he will never forget: meeting his wife Luciana for the first time.

“I was hiding behind the bar because I was getting hassled … I went [back] and [Lucy] said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ because I didn’t work there and I was behind her bar,” laughs the Hereafter star, 40, to Hello! Canada.

“I genuinely feel like — people have that saying about seeing someone across a crowded room — I swear to God, that happened to me … something incredible happened the first time I saw her.”

Discovering Luciana was the mother of daughter Alexia from a previous relationship didn’t faze the actor in the least, he says.

“I moved and suddenly it wasn’t just my wife. It was her 4-year-old little girl — who’s now 12,” he explains. “There was never a choice. It was just the way it was, and I was happy for that.”

The couple have since welcomed three more daughters — Isabella, 4, Gia, 2, and 4-week-old Stella — and life in the Damon household is anything but peaceful!

“It’s been pretty crazy. The baby came a couple of weeks early. It’s our fourth, so we’ve done it before — but it’s a whole new dynamic,” Damon notes.

While organizing a family of six will “take a little getting used to,” the Damons believe they can do it all — until they realize they’re outnumbered!

“In terms of juggling responsibilities, you’re going, ‘I’ll do that. No problem, I’ll do that,’” he jokes. “After a week you go, ‘Wait a minute! We have to figure out a plan here.’ The girls … all require different things.”

That said, Damon wouldn’t change a thing. “It was very different, it’s true,” he says of his path to fatherhood, “but I can’t imagine my life having not gone down that road. I can’t imagine what my life would be now. I don’t want to imagine it.”

Damon unaware of 'Bourne' axe

Matt Damon was shocked when movie bosses announced plans to film The Bourne Legacy without him - because he only heard about the news after reading it on the internet.

The Hollywood star has played secret agent Jason Bourne in three films, but sparked rumours of a departure from the franchise when director Paul Greengrass quit and the actor insisted he would not return to the role unless his pal was in charge.

Michael Clayton moviemaker Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplay for the first three Bourne installments, has since been hired to take over from Greengrass and confirmed earlier this year that Damon will not be a part of the new movie.

But Damon was by stunned at the news - because no one "bothered" to inform him of the plans.

He tells Parade magazine, "I found out they're making another when somebody saw it on the internet. Nobody bothered to call me. I'm not in it, but even so, they'll work Bourne into the title, I guess. Universal just wants to call everything the Bourne something. So I guess they are trying to make another franchise and as they say, 'It isn't over until it's over'."

The Bourne Legacy is due for release in 2012.

Matt Damon Wants His Daughters to Be 'Strong Women'

Matt Damon has just welcomed his fourth daughter into the world, and already he has plans for her.

"If I had a bucket list, I'd say raising my four girls to be strong, good women would be No. 1," Damon, 40, tells Parade.

The actor plays a psychic who communicates with the dead in director Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, which opened wide this weekend, and says he found the material relevant to life as a parent.

"I think what's important for kids to know is that your decisions here on earth matter, your behavior matters, and how you treat other people matters," Damon said. "It matters here and I'm hoping that it matters in the afterlife, too. It just comes down to accountability for your own behavior that's important. So whenever I talk to my own kids or whenever they ask, I try and put the hereafter in kind of an ethical framework."

Damon also reinforces the "line in the sand" that he and his wife Luciana have drawn when it comes to having more kids.

"This is it," he says. "Our lives are full and wonderful and we're done having kids."

Though the actor is done expanding his family, a friend of Damon's tells PEOPLE he's over the moon about the latest addition to the clan.

"He just had a 40th birthday party in N.Y.C., and he and [Luciana] just looked so very much in love and [they are] just delighted about the baby ... I am really happy for him.”

Matt Damon and His Wife Welcome a Baby Girl

Matt Damon and his wife Luciana have their hands full.

The couple, already raising three children, welcomed a girl, Stella Zavala Damon, who was born on Wednesday in New York.

"Mom and baby are both healthy," Damon's rep tells PEOPLE. "The whole family is thrilled."

Damon, who turned 40 earlier this month, and Luciana, 35, wed in 2005 and have two children together – Isabella, 4, and Gia, 2. Luciana also has a daughter, Alexia, from a previous marriage.

Damon currently stars in Hereafter, which opened wide on Friday.

'Hereafter' star Matt Damon focuses on the here and now

Matt Damon can't sleep.

He describes what was a typical night at his Manhattan apartment.

"I probably changed three diapers," says Damon, who's raising three daughters and has a fourth on the way in November. "I went in, checked on one of them and made sure the blanket was up. It's life. ... It's the greatest, though. You never love anybody as much as you love your kid, in the deepest, most abiding way."

His last full night of shut-eye? "God, I don't even remember. It's a (expletive) blur. You're up, you're awake, you're changing diapers. You're never sleeping," he says with a shrug.

As daylight fades into darkness, Damon, like most parents, thinks about those big, heavy issues that occupy so many of us: life, death, and making the most of what comes in between. "Having kids — everything, everything changes. Everything gets deeper," says Damon, 40. "You want as much time as you can have with that little soul."

In his new film, Hereafter, which was directed by Clint Eastwood and opens nationwide Friday, Damon plays George, a man far more ambivalent about his purpose in life. He has what is either a gift or a curse: the ability to communicate with the dead. For George, that skill — a rarity in a profession populated largely by silky-tongued scammers preying on the grief-stricken — is a barrier to forming ordinary relationships.

"What got me was the loneliness of the guy," says the actor. "And not just that he was lonely, but that he didn't want to be lonely. There was a lot to play there. Clint and I didn't really talk a lot about it. I think we just saw it the same way."

For Eastwood, hiring Damon a second time after shooting 2009 drama Invictus made sense. The two have a similar crisp, no-nonsense work style. And Damon fit the role of George, an unassuming, modest man so beaten up by his superhuman abilities that he eschews them almost entirely.

"He's very much a non-actor," says Eastwood. "In person, you don't get the feeling that he's a movie star. You get the feeling that he's a regular guy, and he performs that way. You get the feeling (in the movie) that he's a common man with an uncommon affliction. The way he deals with it is very real and believable."

Going with his gut

Unlike George, who's searching for meaning, Damon has a singular focus in his life. Professionally, he's hungry to direct and is waiting for the right script. Personally, he's a dedicated, albeit perennially sleep-deprived dad to kids Alexia, 12 (from wife Lucy's first marriage), Isabella, 4, and Gia, 2, plus the upcoming Damon addition. And philanthropically, he's the co-founder of Water.org, a non-partisan organization that provides safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries.

"I have a lot of stuff that keeps me busy and connected to things that I feel matter," says Damon.

With Damon, says Eastwood, what you see is generally what you get.

"He's a good guy with a great sense of humor. He's just a regular guy. If you're going to have someone play a regular guy, he can't be someone who's walking around looking in the mirror," says the director.

About his work, says Damon, he's picky. And he selects projects based not on cold career calculus, but on what his gut says.

"I've read so many, thousands of scripts. I've written scripts. It's a lot of the way Clint directs — it looks like improvisation and intuition, but it's 60 years of filmmaking," he says. "If you feel a personal connection to something, you could have an analytical conversation about a piece of material, but at the end of the day, it either moves you or it doesn't. That's why your choices have to be personal, because you're never going to please everybody."

Case in point: his December release True Grit, directed by Ethan and Joel Coen. "I told them yes right away. I read the script as a formality," says Damon.

He plays, says producer Scott Rudin, "a very brash, very self-assured, slightly clownish guy who gets his tongue bitten off halfway through and can't talk coherently for the second part of the movie."

Damon is booked for the next few months. First, he spends three weeks shooting the thriller Contagion for his friend and frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh, followed by Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo in January. He also finds time for passion projects like the documentary Inside Job, now in theaters. Damon narrated the doc, which explores the 2008 financial crisis.

'He's Captain Delightful'

When you're around Damon, he goes out of his way to defuse any sense of starry-eyed adulation.

"He's Captain Delightful," says Emily Blunt, who plays his love interest in 2011's The Adjustment Bureau. "He's a mega movie star, but he'd rather throw up than hear that from people."

Damon will banter about football with a photographer there to shoot him. He'll rub the belly of the pregnant reporter during a later interview and suggest tongue-in-cheek baby names. And at a glitzy party celebrating Hereafter, he sits surrounded by his wife, mother-in-law and stepdaughter.

"He treats everyone exactly the same," says Hailee Steinfeld, Damon's co-star in True Grit.

His life, by design, "is as normal as I've had it since I've been famous," says Damon.

For Damon, fame is a byproduct of his day job. Twice a year or thereabouts, he emerges from his cocoon to promote a movie. He likens it to "an out-of-body experience. It happens for a condensed amount of time, and then there's nothing else in my life that's similar to it. So I go back to my life and never think about it. It's less that I resent it but more that it's surreal."

Has Damon ever felt about celebrity the way his character George feels about his psychic abilities: that it's an overpowering barrier to forging any kind of real bond with people?

"It's never been a problem for me with the real meaningful relationships in my life, thank God," says Damon. "For a lot of people, it's not that big a deal. It depends on the context in which you're meeting people."

He looks around the Italian restaurant where he's eating a salad and bowl of pasta. He's facing the window, yet no one gawks, points or otherwise bothers him.

"If Brad Pitt walked down the street, cars would crash into each other. I'm really lucky not to have to deal with that," he says.

Lesson from Clint

It helps to be wed to a non-famous woman he met in Miami in 2003 and married in 2005 in a private city hall ceremony. Blunt calls Damon's wife, Lucy, "his greatest achievement. We hung out with them all the time. They're the coolest family. There are kids climbing on his shoulders."

His better half remains bemused by his celebrity status, Damon says with a smile.

"She thinks it's a little silly. We don't relate to each other on that level at all. We have a great life in New York, a really normal life. The more normal we feel, the more normal people treat us," he says. "We feel like a part of the community. That's what we want. That's how we've always been. We both grew up with working moms."

For Damon, Eastwood is something of a role model in the way he doesn't prostrate himself to sell a movie. Damon recalls, with obvious relish, calling Eastwood a few years ago at his production office to tell the director he'd love to play rugby pro Francois Pienaar in Invictus, which ultimately earned Damon an Oscar nomination. Naturally, says Damon, he'd assumed that Eastwood would take the call and they'd discuss the role. No such luck.

Eastwood, an assistant told Damon, was on vacation. He wasn't reachable. He'd call in sometime, at his own leisure, and when he did, she'd give Eastwood Damon's message.

"And I went, 'Great,' " recalls Damon. "And I hung up the phone and told Lucy that I'd just found the life I want to have."

MATT DAMON: DO BELIEVE THE HYPE

Is Damon really that nice? "Not really," jokes Clint Eastwood. Actually, he is, according to his co-stars.

"I know he's often called The Mayor by Brad (Pitt) and the boys, because he's so even across the board. He's that guy: professional, pleasant. He's also just one of the most disciplined, hardworking actors I've ever worked with." -- Angelina Jolie, 2006's The Good Shepherd

"He's gentle and soft-spoken but with a huge sense of humor. He's always joking around and talking to the crew people. Matt would play a game with me called Pass the Pigs. Matt had the lucky hand the first few times. He had beginner's luck." -- Hailee Steinfeld, 2010's True Grit

"I was really struck by how he really insists by the way he behaves on there not being a hierarchy and no distinction between the crew and him. It's not that he has to try to be nice. It comes very naturally to him. He's one of the gang." -- Emily Blunt, 2011's The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck: Their Secret Beef With Bones?

Do Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have a Bones to pick?

The BFFs seem to have an inside joke/love affair with the Fox series, with both slipping odd references into their acting wherever they see fit.

Is it just a coincidence or are these two superfans?

On last night's live episode of 30 Rock Damon appears as Tina Fey's pilot boyfriend, Carol, who is moments away from a possible plane crash. He calls Fey's Liz Lemon, not to wish her a happy 40th birthday, but to give her instructions in case he dies, as his plane bobbles and shakes.

This is where Bones comes in.

"Lizzie, if something were to happen, I want you to know that I...that I...I need you to go to Raleigh to my apartment and just clean out all the porn before my mom gets there," he shouts. "I also need you to TiVo Bones for me in case I survive."

Hmm...

Exhibit B: Affleck slipped a Bones reference into his crime thriller, The Town, in which he plays a big-time bank robber in Boston. At one point, as he's schooling costar Rebecca Hall on his knowledge of police and bank heists, he mentions where he's gleaned his info:

"I watch a lot of CSI. Miami, New York. And Bones."

Are these guys in cahoots with David Boreanaz? Do they harbor a secret crush on Emily Deschanel? Are they getting a cut of profits from producers?

No one's talking yet, but Damon's new flick, Hereafter, is out next week. Your move, Matty.

Eastwood's 'Hereafter' slow to build

(Trailer) Hereafter is a mild-mannered movie that prompts strong reactions.

The film concerns three characters who struggle with ideas about life and death, and about what, if anything, follows death.

Cecile de France plays a woman who survives a catastrophic event. Actually, she dies briefly but is revived, and her memory of that near-death experience turns her whole life upside down. She can no longer find any sort of satisfaction in her work, and her personal relationships are shaky. In the hope of finding answers, she writes a book about what has happened to her.

Far away in America, a regular, blue-collar guy (Matt Damon) attempts to hide his psychic gift, or 'curse', as he calls it. Despite his brother's big ideas about how to make money from psychic readings, Damon's character has no stomach for communing with the dead. He's done it before, and discovered that the questions from the living never end and there aren't many clear answers from the departed. Damon's gift is real, but he doesn't know what to do with it. And it gets in the way of everyday life. He meets a pretty woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) at cooking school, but his prescience makes their relationship impossible.

The third character is an adolescent boy in England who struggles with the death of someone he loves. His determination to find out what happens after death, and maybe communicate with the dead person, leads him to investigate psychics. Eventually, he crosses paths, via the Internet, with Damon, and then circumstances bring all three main characters together.

Eastwood's characteristic slow storytelling pace is one of the good things about Hereafter, up to a point. It's a luxury to see characters gradually become three dimensional on the big screen, but this is a story that eventually needs more of an edge, or at least a sense of urgent quest.

The filmmakers wisely stay away from attempting to provide any answers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is the value of Hereafter. (The movie seems to be about love and human connection, in the end, far more than it is about any issues of an afterlife.)

For its celebration of the universal yearning for answers to the big questions, Hereafter is an interesting film to look at. It gets more interesting when you factor in a couple of impressive special effects -- yes, in a Clint Eastwood movie.

Old dogs, new tricks.

Eastwood's pensive 'Hereafter' is a matter of death and life

A tsunami looms both realistically and as a metaphor for the overwhelming surge of emotion rising from below the surface in the haunting Hereafter.

A meditation on mortality, the movie deftly interweaves the stories of three people in different countries, who have in common their exploration of death and the mysteries surrounding it. This is no tale of paranormal activity. It offers no clear-cut answers on life after death. Rather, it calmly examines death, grief and melancholy, packing an unexpectedly profound emotional gut-punch.

Blending the mystical with the multinational, Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) has crafted an intimate, thought-provoking, dialogue-driven story, directed masterfully by Clint Eastwood.

There are a few glitches in this ambitious globe-spanning narrative, mostly having to do with too much time and detail spent on less-than-integral relationships. But the main performances are subtly compelling.

Matt Damon plays George, a lonely San Francisco man who tries mightily to deny his rare ability to hear dead people. He's somehow a conduit for the thoughts and feelings of the deceased, an ability he regards as a curse. A good-natured man seeking to forge a normal life, he makes a tentative romantic connection with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), but he can't escape his otherworldly "gift." Damon is superbly understated in the role.

Marie (Cecile de France) narrowly survives a tsunami while on vacation in Indonesia with her married boyfriend, Didier (Thierry Neuvic). After losing consciousness and sputtering back to life, Marie is consumed with her near-death experience. Upon returning to her native Paris, she abandons her work as a journalist so she can find answers to what she endured. De France's nuanced portrayal conveys both strength and vulnerability.

London schoolboy Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is stricken with grief after the unexpected death of his twin brother, Jason (George McLaren). Desperate to connect and learn whether there's an afterlife, Marcus delves into a world of psychics and charlatans. Both young actors give deeply moving and surprisingly mature performances.

An early scene of the roiling tsunami is awe-inspiring for its computer-generated special-effects muscle. The rest of the film is much more contemplative. Eastwood never rushes a story, even amid exhilarating action scenes. For some, the unfolding of the intertwined tales may be too languid. But the narrative's complexity has a quiet force that requires an unhurried pace. Our compassion for each of the key characters is enhanced by the measured storytelling.

The idea has been repeatedly put forth that Hereafter represents the 80-year-old Eastwood's contemplation of his own mortality. Perhaps. But you don't have to be an octogenarian to be fascinated with what comes after life as we know it.

Hereafter is a pensive saga that transcends death and lyrically examines our darkest fears and our most deeply held beliefs.

Hereafter * * * 1/2 out of four
Stars: Matt Damon, Cecile de France, George McLaren, Frankie McLaren, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr
Director: Clint Eastwood
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language
Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Opens Friday in select cities

Matt Damon to Do 30 Rock Live?

Matt Damon may be joining Thursday's live episode of 30 Rock.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Damon, 40, will return as Liz Lemon's pilot boyfriend. NBC declined to comment.

30 Rock's live episode will shoot from creator and star Tina Fey's old stomping grounds at Saturday Night Live. "It's super-exciting," Fey recently told TV Guide Network. "We're going to do two live shows, so they'll be a little different. Hopefully, people will tweet the differences."

Review: 'Hereafter' elegantly probes great beyond

A tsunami pummels an Indonesian beach town at the beginning of "Hereafter," drowning untold thousands, snapping palm trees and tossing cars down narrow roads like toys.

The enormous, special effects-laden sequence opens the film on a jaw-dropping note, and it's totally unlike anything you've ever seen Clint Eastwood direct before. Yet the clarity with which he depicts the chaos, and the visceral reactions he evokes from the street-level perspective he takes, are very much hallmarks of his filmmaking style. We're being sucked under and swirled about, too, but there's nothing gratuitous or needlessly dizzying: It just feels real.

"Hereafter" itself is a departure for Eastwood thematically as it tackles questions of what happens after we die and whether we can communicate with those who've gone before us. But again, there's an elegance and an efficiency in the storytelling that are so very characteristic of his 40 some-odd years behind the camera.

It's also an unusual offering from writer Peter Morgan, whose previous screenplays include the crisp, incisive political profiles "Frost/Nixon," "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland." Morgan says the sudden, violent death of a close friend inspired him, and his writing here is more somber, contemplative. All three of the film's main characters are toiling within their individual states of loneliness in three different countries, even though they're seeking or making connections to another realm.

When their paths ultimately cross — as you know they surely must — it doesn't have quite the emotional payoff you might have been looking for, but the journey each of them takes is never short of vivid.

Strongest among the story lines in "Hereafter" is the one involving Matt Damon as a reluctant San Francisco psychic; his performance recalls Eastwood's own screen presence, as Damon shares the ability to convey deep emotion in a spare, natural way. He stars as George Lonegan, who made a living for a while communicating with the dead, until the psychological toll of learning so much personal information about strangers became too great.

Now he lives in a small, tidy apartment and works at a factory, even though his older brother (Jay Mohr) keeps trying to convince him that it's his duty — and of great potential financial benefit — to share his gift. But trying to establish even regular relationships remains difficult, as he finds when he takes a cooking class and enjoys a brief flirtation with a fellow student (Bryce Dallas Howard).

In Paris, TV news anchor Marie Lelay (Cecile de France) is still recovering from having survived the tsunami at the film's start. She had been vacationing with her boyfriend (Thierry Neuvic), who's also her show's producer, when the massive waves hit the coast. She'd also been at the top of her game professionally. Now, she questions everything she's made of, having experienced unexplained visions that shook her up. The Belgian actress is as subtle here as she was powerful as a reckless criminal in "Mesrine: Killer Instinct" opposite Vincent Cassel.

Meanwhile, in London, young Marcus loses his identical twin brother, Jason, in an accident. (Both boys are played by George and Frankie McLaren at different times, an intriguing choice.) The twins had grown up poor with an absent, alcoholic mother, leaving only each other to rely on; add to that the fact that Jason, the older brother by 12 minutes, was the smarter and stronger one. Marcus now struggles to navigate the world on his own but finds himself drawn to psychics in hopes of receiving guidance from his brother one last time.

Eastwood weaves between these disparate yet intrinsically connected story lines smoothly and without hurry. The pacing may feel a bit too languid, but it allows us to get to know these characters by observing who they are as opposed to what they do. Even if you have no spiritual inclinations about any sort of afterlife, "Hereafter" refrains from being too preachy or heavy-handed; it's never alienating.

Meanwhile, Eastwood's score for the film, which he injects sparingly, is probably the prettiest he's ever written, with its mixture of jazz and melancholy. It's another example of how he's taken his signature style and changed it up just enough to keep us guessing.

"Hereafter," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language. Running time: 129 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Damon not returning to 'Bourne'

Director Tony Gilroy has confirmed Matt Damon will not be involved in the next Bourne movie.

Damon has played secret agent Jason Bourne in three films, but sparked rumours of a departure from the franchise when director Paul Greengrass quit and the actor insisted he would not return to the role unless his pal was in charge.

Michael Clayton moviemaker Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplay for the three Bourne movies, has been hired to take over from Greengrass and he has now confirmed Damon will not be a part of new movie The Bourne Legacy.

And he's revealed the film will not feature the title character at all.

He tells Hollywood Elsewhere, "This is not a reboot or a recast or a prequel. No one's replacing Matt Damon. There will be a whole new hero, a whole new chapter... this is a stand-alone project."

But Gilroy insists Damon has the option to return to the franchise in the future.

He adds, "The easiest way to think of it is an expansion or a reveal. Jason Bourne will not be in this film, but he's very much alive. What happened in the first three films is the trigger for what happens. I'm building a legend and an environment and a wider conspiracy... the world we're making enhances and advances and invites Jason Bourne's return (in the future)."

Matt Damon's 40th Party - 'Nothing Outrageous'

Matt Damon turned the big 4-0. So how did one of Hollywood's sexiest men celebrate his big day?

"I had a party with my friends and family," Damon tells PEOPLE of the gather Friday. "You know, nothing outrageous."

The actor also clears up speculation that he has signed on to direct a new film written by pals Ben and Casey Affleck.

"He and Casey were going to write this movie and I guess Ben was quoted recently saying that he'd love to have me direct it," Damon said. "There is no script yet."

Damon's next film is 'Hereafter', which opens Oct. 22.

Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges Saddle Up for True Grit

(Trailer) Some folk don't need much encouragement to see True Grit, a Coen Brothers movie starring Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, as well as Jeff Bridges as a drunken, vengeful, eyepatch-wearing U.S. Marshall named Rooster J. Cogburn.

We are those people. True Grit promises gunfights, snake bites and boundlessly funny banter, and judging from this glorious-looking trailer, we will be counting the days for the film's release.

But if you do need a nudge, let us say this: True Grit is based on the sad and hilarious novel by the way-underrated Charles Portis (and yes, it was a Oscar-winning John Wayne movie, too). The story features one of the best female characters you'll ever read in Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld), a 14-year-old girl who just wants to see justice done for her dead father. She is single-minded, relentless and kind of a bad-ass. Hope they do her story justice.

Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin & Paris Hilton Sound Off on Paps in New Doc

Entourage star Adrian Grenier's new HBO documentary, Teenage Paparazzo, features many of his famous friends giving their take on the paparazzi.

No surprise that Paris Hilton, with whom he fakes a relationship to see if the media will pick up on it (they do), admits that although they're "annoying," but says "being in Hollywood, you need them."

But which celeb compares the photog frenzy to "having the Empire State Building shoved up your ass one brick at a time?"

That would be Alec Baldwin, recounting his media experience once his explosive voicemails to his daughter were leaked online.

Affable Matt Damon says paps mostly leave him alone because he's "still married, still happy and still boring," but recounts when his a photog tried to bait BFF Ben Affleck by insulting his mother.

"They'll go so far as to try and create a picture," Matt explains, "I remember Ben telling me one time right after we got famous, and he was coming out of a restaurant and the guy screamed 'I saw you with your mother at the Academy Awards and she looked like a f--king whore.' He was with somebody who was also a celebrity at the time who was like, 'Get in the car right now,' because she saw he was gonna do something. He got in the car and shaking."

But Adrian's doc is about more then just celebs' experience with the shutterbugs. It also follows his relationship with 14-year-old pap Austin Visschedyk, the youngest snapper on the streets, who becomes semi-famous himself during filming.

So what did director Adrian take away from this whole experience? He tells me he's now "sympathetic" towards them.

"I tried to show the human side of both paparazzi and celebrities, so they don't look like like these lurking, dangerous, ominious monsters and I don't look like just a paycheck," he explained during the premiere at the Pacific Design Center Tuesday night.

It's an insightful look at celebs, the people who love them and the media. Oh, and Lindsay Lohan makes a cameo.

See for yourself next Monday at 9 p.m., when Teenage Paparazzo premieres on HBO.

Matt Damon to reprise his role on TV's "30 Rock"

Matt Damon, Queen Latifah, Paul Giamatti and Rob Reiner will be making guest star appearances on the upcoming new season of Emmy-winning comedy "30 Rock", broadcaster NBC said on Wednesday.

One of the new season episodes will also be broadcast live for the first time, in a throwback to many of the cast's previous days of working on TV sketch show "Saturday Night Live."

"30 Rock" creator and star Tina Fey and actor Tracy Morgan are both veterans of the satirical Saturday show while Alec Baldwin has hosted it more than a dozen times.

"Bourne Ultimatum" star Damon, who made a guest-appearance last season's final episode playing Carol the pilot, will reprise his role in the premiere episode of the fifth season on September 23.

Giamatti, best known for the 2004 movie "Sideways", will play a persnickety editor in the second episode. Actor-director Reiner will star as himself, while singer Queen Latifah will play a Congresswoman demanding more diversity in NBC's lineup in episode three.

Guest-stars including Elizabeth Banks, Sherri Shepherd and Chris Parnell will also be back to continue their guest-starring roles of Avery Jessup, Angie Jordan and Dr. Spaceman, respectively.

The live episode on October 14 will be broadcast twice in the United States, one for each of the east and west coast time zones.

Matt Damon: Wife Luciana Is 'Over Being Pregnant'

Bring out the protective body suit.

Adding a fourth child to the family this fall, Matt Damon says he’s happy to be used as a punching bag for wife Luciana to release her discomfort as they head into the home stretch.

“We’re in the third trimester and basically I’m just dodging punches right now from my wife,” Damon told PEOPLE at the premiere of Hereafter at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.

“That means I have to work on my defense and I never know when a left hook or a right cross is going to come. She’s completely over me and over being pregnant.”

Lucy may not find him so appealing due to fatigue and back pains, but the Invictus star, 39, is sympathetic to what she’s going through.

“She’s been a great sport,” says Damon. “She looks amazing and she’s taking great care of herself.”

Already a full house with three daughters — Alexia, 11, from Luciana’s prior marriage, Isabella, 4, and Gia, 2 — Damon says he’s indebted to the missus for having their children together in such a short period of time.

“She’s been pregnant basically for more than half of the last five years and she’s been nursing the other half so I’ve definitely asked about as much as I can from my wife,” he laughs. “Now I’m all hers!”

Damon suffers pain of pregnancy

Matt Damon is nursing some painful bruises - his pregnant wife Luciana lashes out at him in hormonal rages.

The Good Will Hunting star and his Argentine-born wife are expecting their third child together later this year, and the actor has revealed the strain of carrying her baby weight is finally taking its toll on Luciana.

He tells People.com, "We're in the third trimester and basically I'm just dodging punches right now from my wife. That means I have to work on my defence and I never know when a left hook or a right cross is going to come. She's completely over me and over being pregnant.

"She's been a great sport. She looks amazing and she's taking great care of herself."

The couple already has two daughters - Isabella, four, and two year old Gia - and are parents to Alexia, 11, from Luciana's first marriage.

Matt Damon's back on '30 Rock'

Matt Damon will reprise his role as a pilot named Carol on "30 Rock" this season. So says Sherri Shepherd (aka Tracy Jordan's wife), who tweeted that he was on set with her Thursday.

Couple Watch

Matt Damon and pregnant wife Luciana, ordering takeout from Bubba's Burger in Hanalei, Hawaii. As they waited for their meal, Damon signed several autographs. People noticed the actor and his wife, who looked tan and relaxed, though many didn't bother him.

Matt Damon and Julia Roberts Joining Brad Pitt in Mr. Clooney's Neighborhood?

Wow. Just how much money did they actually make off with in those Ocean's movies?!

Property consultant Alessandro Proto, who just coordinated Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's recent multimillion-dollar villa purchase in Valpolicella, tells E! News exclusively that he is now helping Matt Damon and Julia Roberts find their dream homes in Italy as well.

"Matt Damon is interested in buying a villa near Villa Oleandra, George Clooney's villa in Lake Como," says Proto. "We are finding one for him."

Proto says Damon approached him about a month ago, followed two weeks later by Roberts, who will be viewing some villa options in September.

Your move, Don Cheadle.

Matt Damon Says His Wife Keeps the Family Running Smoothly

If Matt Damon wants to find out anything about his wife's pregnancy he just needs to ask their kids.

"They track its progress in mommy's belly," he said Saturday while attending the Ante Up for Africa charity poker event in Las Vegas.

His wife, Luciana, is set to deliver the couple's fourth child this fall. They currently have three daughters: Alexia, 11, who is Luciana's child from a previous marriage, Isabella, 4, and Gia, 22 months.

The kids "are very excited" about another addition to the family, Damon, 39, said.

But being a family man and major motion picture star isn't easy for the former Sexiest Man Alive. Damon credits "a great wife" for helping him juggle his responsibilities.

"She really keeps it together," he said at the poker event at the Rio All Suites Hotel, hosted by Oceans 11 pal Don Cheadle. "We just talk it out and work it all out. You say, this is the job and this is the time commitment and this is where it will be. I’m a lot easier to hire if you’re doing movies in New York."

'Green Zone' DVD a thriller

Green Zone is a not necessarily welcome return to the Iraq War. But it is a superior thriller directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Matt Damon in a real-world version of their Jason Bourne collaboration.

Yet, like others of its ilk, Green Zone had a mediocre theatrical run. The $100 million production took only $35 million in North America, according to Box Office Mojo, with $93.3 million worldwide.

There is still no American appetite for watching contemporary American war movies in cinemas. This is because there are no heroes, just villains (George W. Bush's cabal of liars), dupes (the media) and victims (American soldiers, plus Iraqi civilians). That also means, like the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Green Zone now looks for a home entertainment audience.

It debuted this week on DVD (a single-disc edition with decent extras) and on Blu-ray (a two-disc Limited Edition with digital copy and enhanced extras, including the dynamic picture-in-picture).

Why bother? Because it delivers the adrenaline rush all thrillers promise, because Greengrass' "queasy-cam" camerawork puts us into the action in Baghdad, and because Damon is slam-dunk brilliant as an American soldier leading a unit looking for weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

As the world knows, they did not find any. It was a web of deceit, bad intelligence and abysmal planning. Green Zone, as reality-based fiction, shows how and why that could happen. While some of Brian Helgeland's dialogue is clunky, it does the job. A convoluted espionage plot is made clear. And Damon holds us spellbound at the core.

Extras introduce us to Richard (Monty) Gonzales, the real-life Iraq War veteran who inspired Damon's character and served as Greengrass' consultant. We also see Damon training with his unit of real U.S. soldiers. It is a fascinating to see him absorbed into their reality, helping the film's gritty authenticity. Green Zone has cajones.

Matt Damon may buy "Zoo" with Cameron Crowe

Matt Damon is in early talks to team up with Cameron Crowe for "We Bought a Zoo," the true story of a man who used his life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo, replete with 200 exotic animals facing destruction, in the English countryside.

Damon would play Benjamin Mee who, along with his children, balanced caring for his terminally ill wife, with dealing with escaped tigers, raising endangered animals, working with an eclectic skeleton crew and readying the zoo for a reopening.

The project is based on Mee's memoir of the same name.

"Zoo" would mark a departure for Damon, who tends to make more dramatic or action-oriented thrillers. He next stars in the supernatural thriller "The Adjustment Bureau."

"Zoo" with its blend of animals and heartstrings, may occupy similar terrain as Fox's 2008 "Marley & Me." And with the input of Crowe, making his first film since 2005's "Elizabethtown," the movie could end up juggling light moments with drama like "Jerry Maguire."

Sightings

Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana, making out while waiting on line for the bathroom at Polar Lounge in the Marcel Hotel, where they danced up a storm with John Krasinski and fiancee Emily Blunt.

Sightings

MATT Damon and wife Luciana being joined at Locanda Verde by Jason Bateman, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt

2010 Teen Choice Awards nominees

The two-hour event airs Monday, Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. on FOX. Starting Monday, June 14, fans ages 13-19 can vote once each day at www.teenchoiceawards.com.

Choice Movie Actor: Action Adventure
Nicolas Cage, "Kick-Ass"
Russell Crowe, "Robin Hood"
Matt Damon, "Green Zone"
Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"
Channing Tatum, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra"

"Bourne" goes back to basics

Universal is going back to the drawing board with its "Bourne" franchise, hiring the Oscar-nominated writer/director of "Michael Clayton" to write a treatment for a fourth installment of the action series.

The project, with the working title of "Bourne Legacy," will be written by Tony Gilroy, who will disregard a pair of scripts already in the can. Gilroy also worked on the first three films. ("Bourne Legacy" is a book written by Eric Lustbader in novelist Robert Ludlum's "Bourne" series, but the film will not be based on this book.)

Universal wants to release the film in 2012. But it is unclear whether "Bourne" star Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who directed the sequels "Bourne Supremacy" and "Bourne Ultimatum," will return.

Damon has said he does not want to make a new installment without Greengrass, while the director has said he is moving on to other projects. The duo's stance may soften given the multimillion dollar paydays involved.

With or without them, Universal is intent on making the movie, as the franchise is too important for the studio not to go forward. (The movies have grossed over $944 million worldwide.)

In addition to the "Bourne" movies and the George Clooney legal drama "Michael Clayton," Gilroy wrote the recent thrillers "State of Play" and "Duplicity."

'Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon' on ABC

In March, Matt Damon was honored with an American Cinematheque Award for his contribution to the "art of the moving picture."

ABC is airing the star-studded gala in a one-hour special called "Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon: An American Cinematheque Tribute" on Thursday, May 27 at 9 p.m.

In an article for The Huffington Post, David Wild, one of the event's writers, describes it as "that perfect combination of a loving tribute and a hilarious roast."

"[The special] begins with sometimes Damon nemesis Jimmy Kimmel discovering the upsetting fact that he is in fact not hosting a tribute to Matt Dillon," writes Wild. "Kimmel then asks this timeless and hilarious question: 'What can you say about Matt Damon that hasn't already been said about Brendan Fraser?'"

That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. "Good Will Hunting" costar Robin Williams, Ben Stiller and Sarah Silverman are likely to deliver more hilarity.

Long-time friend and collaborater Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck and Jennifer Garner are also there to support their pal. Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and Charlize Theron bring even more star power to the tribute. Even former President Clinton appears. We're not sure why, but we'll tune it to find out.

Matt Damon Preps for 'Little Tornado' of Next Baby

With three kids and another on the way, Matt Damon's household is about to get even busier.

"We're bracing ourselves for our next little tornado," Damon told PEOPLE at Thursday night's Save the Children's Celebration of Hope fundraiser in Greenwich, Conn., where he was honored for his work with the organization.

"We're excited," said the actor, 39. "But it is a lot of work."

The Invictus star and his wife, Luciana, 34, wed in 2005 and have two children together – Isabella, 3, and Gia, 21 months. Luciana also has a daughter, Alexia, 11, from a previous marriage.

Damon's award for his efforts helping kids all over the world took place on the same night as the 30 Rock finale, on which he guest-starred as Tina Fey's knight in shining armor, with wings – as a pilot named Carol.

Responding to reports this week that he'll return to the NBC comedy next season, Damon told PEOPLE: "If they'll have me, I would love to pop in and see the gang again. I had a great time doing it. I've worked with Alec Baldwin before, and I am a big Tina Fey fan."

"Inside Job" would make Gordon Gekko cringe

The global financial meltdown of 2008 resulted in millions of people losing jobs and homes.

It had something to do with brokerage firms, banks, lending companies. That's about all most of us know and comprehends, but this Sony Pictures Classics release documents the criminal fraud and greed of the financial services industry. Most impressively, it makes it understandable to those of us who don't know much at all about economics.

"Inside Job" presents a stunning array of interviews with a broad range of participants and commentators: hedge fund managers, business-school faculty, Justice Department officials, Federal Reserve chairmen, Congressmen and even a Wall Street "Madam." However, "Inside Job" is no talking-heads drone. It's a lively, droll and acidic shakedown of the insiders who perpetrated this crisis.

Filmmaker Charles Ferguson exposes a level of greed that would make even Gordon Gekko cringe as such entities as Goldman Sachs actually made money by selling their clients worthless financial products and then betting against them.

Most pointedly, "Inside Job" clearly illuminates the collusion between governmental agencies, the giant financial service companies and the hordes of insiders who slopped at both sides of the trough. In short, "Inside Job" exposes the conflicts of interest between brokerage, regulation and government.

Further, "Inside Job" also maps the conflict-of-interest rampant throughout top business schools, such as Harvard and Columbia, whose professors garner huge consulting fees by the very firms perpetrating the de-regulation mantra.

Rooting the crisis in the move toward de-regulation begun during the Reagan administration and now continuing under Obama, "Inside Job" illuminates how the Wall Street culprits who caused this crisis have moved through to the other side of the fence. Such financial services honchos/culprits as Bush appointee Hank Paulson and Obama-men Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers have held or now hold high presidential advisory posts.

As a farmer might say, "It was the foxes getting in the hen house," referring to the financial services execs/crooks who have crossed over into high regulatory capacities.

Narrated by Matt Damon and illuminated by the film's revealing interview questions, "Inside Job" deserves, in stock terms, a triple-A rating.

Matt Damon and Wife Expecting Another Baby

Matt Damon and his wife Luciana are set to welcome a fourth child to the family.

Luciana, 34, is due in the fall. "Everybody's really happy," a rep for Damon, 39, tells PEOPLE.

The couple already have three daughters: Alexia, 11, who is Luciana's child from a previous marriage, Isabella, who will be 4 in June, and Gia, 20 months.

Damon is a "phenomenal" father, his close friend George Clooneytold PEOPLE in 2007. "He absolutely adores those kids. He's doing it really well."

Damon and his wife were married in 2005. After Isabella was born, PEOPLE's 2007 Sexiest Man Alive told a British newspaper that having a family hadtransformed his life.

"I really used to have no life outside movies. I'd work all day, go to the gym and go to sleep," he said. But once Isabella arrived, "that was it for me and working out because I wanted to get home to see my daughter before she went to sleep."

We Hear...

That Matt Damon, who's been renting an apartment on West 86th Street, is looking to buy in the neighborhood and recently checked out 535 West End Ave

Sightings

Matt Damon rising early to stand on line and buy four drinks for his family at the Starbucks at West 87th and Broadway

HBO Acquires Adrian Grenier's Teenage Paparazzo Documentary

HBO has acquired the U.S. TV rights to the Adrian Grenier-directed documentary Teenage Paparazzo.

The film chronicles the relationship between Grenier and 14-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk. Grenier turns the cameras on the teenager to document Visschedyk's life. But the project becomes a personal challenge for Grenier, star of HBO's Entourage, as he is forced to take responsibility for his influence on his subject's life.

The film, which will debut in the fall, features interviews with psychologists and historians familiar with paparazzi and the celebrity culture they serve as well as critics, fans, bloggers, publishers and tabloid writers.

Celebrities including Matt Damon, Eva Longoria, Paris Hilton, Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg also are interviewed in the film.

Details on Matt Damon's 30 Rock Gig! He's Playing...

As if you needed another reason to bow down and worship (seethe with envy over?) the awesomeness that is Tina Fey, sources are spilling a ridiculously good one.

NBC has confirmed that Matt Damon is joining 30 Rock this season, and here's what show insiders tell me exclusively about what Matt will be doing, and for how long...

Spoiler Alert:

According to sources close to the show, the current plan is for Matt to be a love interest for Tina Fey!

That's right, first Liz Lemon hooks up with Jon Hamm, then James Franco, then James Franco's pillow and now this.

Though 30 Rock's producers are still hammering out all the details, sources tell me NBC is hoping to get Matt on for multiple episodes. However, Matt is shooting another project this spring, so it all depends on Matt's schedule and whether 30 Rock can be squeezed in. So at this point only one Damon-Lemon episode is guaranteed, but there may be more.

One thing is certain: Sarah Silverman is gonna be pissed.

Oh, and Floyd can eat his heart out.

Matt Damon Guest-Starring on 30 Rock

30 Rock's latest big-name get: Matt Damon.

The 39-year-old actor, fresh off an Oscar nomination for Invictus and a Lifetime Achievement Award from American Cinematheque, will guest-star on the show later this season, TVGuide.com has confirmed. Details of his role are being kept under wraps, so let the guessing games begin.

Will Damon spoof himself (which he clearly enjoys doing on Jimmy Kimmel Live)? Or will he play another lover for Liz, or a Bostonian buddy of Jack's (which would be a Departed reunion for him and Alec Baldwin). Or maybe he'll become a new writer for TGS and bring his screenwriting Oscar (and Ben Affleck) with him?

Damon's casting was first reported by Entertainment Weekly.

Silent treatment for Damon

Matt Damon was the gullible victim of a wicked practical joke eight years ago. At the American Cinematheque gala in LA, Casey Affleck -- brother of Damon's best friend and fellow Oscar winner Ben Affleck -- related how he and Damon were co-starring in London in "This Is Our Youth," when Damon had to return to the US for two weeks, leaving his understudy to play his role. Upon his return, Damon took the stage at the Garrick Theatre. It was strangely quiet as the curtain opened. "There was absolutely nobody in the audience," Casey told the Beverly Hilton crowd including Clint Eastwood, Greg Kinnear and Charlize Theron. As reported by Montecito Journal columnist Richard Mineards, Affleck explained, "We thought we'd play a big joke on Matt." But Affleck said Damon gamely carried on with his role for the whole play: "When I asked him why he continued, despite the seats all being clearly empty, he said he thought we were doing a private viewing for the Queen!"

Stars Tease Matt Damon For Bad Breath, Hair Plugs

Matt Damon took some serious ribbing Saturday night when he was honored in Beverly Hills with the 24th American Cinematheque Award.

"He doesn't deserve this award," Damon's pal Jimmy Kimmel teasingly told PEOPLE. "I don't know who they weren't able to get, but I'd go with Tom Selleck before I'd go with Matt Damon."

Sarah Silverman, who joked that she gave Damon, 39, "his first really big break" with their crudely funny 2008 viral video hit, said she was going to have a hard time roasting him.

"The worst thing I could say is, you know, Matt Damon is like, maybe he's a perfectionist," she told the audience, which included Don Cheadle, former President Bill Clinton and Damon's Invictus director Clint Eastwood. "And his breath is like, Jesus! And his hair plugs are really obvious. Besides that, there's like nothing. So sorry, roast not possible!"

Damon also took some barbs from his best friend Ben Affleck – and Affleck's wife, Jennifer Garner.

"Ben is half of one of the greatest love stories ever told. Not with me," Garner said. "The actual prototype for the great Hollywood Bromance . . . Here's proof that love is alive and well in Hollywood. At least for my darling husband and my husband's darling husband."

Cracked Affleck: "Matt always said to me, 'Ben, there are two things that are more important to me than anything else in this world.' Folks: fame, money. You did it, Matty! You got there!"

A good-natured Damon took it all in stride.

"I can honestly say that there's a good chance that next year Ben will be here, presenting this award to someone else," he told the audience as he accepted his award. "There's a lot of buzz about Vanessa Hudgens."

Matt Damon Gets Honored Roasted

Matt Damon may have been honored last night with the American Cinematheque Award, but the tribute was more of a roast than anything else.

Charlize Theron got into the blame game, faulting Damon for one of Will Smith's few failures…

"In 2000 Matt and I starred in The Legend of Bagger Vance along with Will Smith, the only Will Smith movie that didn't make like a gagillion, million dollars," Theron said. "I reunited with Will in Hancock, which did great. So I guess it's you, Matt."

And she didn't stop there.

"That's not the only thing Matt and I have in common," Theron continued. "We're both Academy Awards winners. Of course, I won mine in a real category and Matt's was just for typing up [Ben] Affleck's thoughts."

Affleck cracked that Damon recently called his father to tell him he finally snagged the role he's been waiting to do since he was a kid...

Damon will play Liberace's boyfriend opposite Michael Douglas. Papa Damon's response, Affleck said, "Terrific Matt. I can't wait to see you up there blowing Michael Douglas under a piano while he's playing 'Stardust.'"

Jennifer Garner thanked Damon for his wife Lucy, "for keeping us sane," while their husbands talk endlessly about their beloved Red Sox. Garner also described Damon and Affleck's relationship as "one of the greatest love stories ever told." Damon would later call his best friend, "my hetero-lifemate." (P.S., Garner was looking better than ever in a teeny black dress and killer heels!)

Casey Affleck showed a photo from a vacation he and Damon took together. What did the pic show? Damon and Affleck sitting naked on a couch with a small black bar covering Damon's manhood but a much larger one over Affleck's.

Of course, Damon was praised for his wide-range of work and the effort he puts into each of his characters. "Matt has the ability to transform himself into any character," Jimmy Kimmel said. "He lost 40 pounds in a hundred days to play an opium addict in Courage Under Fire. He gained 30 pounds for his role in the Informant and the metamorphosis he underwent to play Precious...I didn't even know she was him."

The oddest moment of the night had to be a video message from George Clooney, which he delivered while undergoing a mock proctology exam. A perplexed Damon said, "That was particularly enjoyable—and strange!"

President Bill Clinton also sent in a video to praise Damon for his humanitarian and philanthropic endeavors. Others at the gala, which took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, included Clint Eastwood, Robin Williams, Olivia Wilde, Don Cheadle, Greg Kinnear, director Paul Greengrass and Ocean's franchise producer Jerry Weintraub.

No word if Kimmel and his statesque date ran into his ex, Sarah Silverman, who was seated a couple of tables away from them with her date. "I was surprised Jimmy came, to tell you the truth, given everything that's gone down," Damon told me.

And then he smiled, "But I'm sure he just wanted to support Ben."

The tribute will air next month on ABC.

Acting for top directors a joy, education for Matt Damon

This month, at the ripe old age of 39, Matt Damon will receive the 24th American Cinematheque Award for his work in film -- and the timing couldn't be better: His action-thriller "Green Zone" opened March 12 and he has four other movies slated for this year: The Coen brothers' remake of "True Grit," the Philip K. Dick adaptation "The Adjustment Bureau," Clint Eastwood's unearthly "Hereafter" and Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion." And, as he told The Hollywood Reporter, he almost made "Avatar," too.

THR: How do you expect working with the Coens on "True Grit" to compare with Clint Eastwood?

Damon: Well, I know from talking to people that their styles are very different. The Coen brothers actually give you their storyboards. If you go on a movie set, normally you get the day's sides: The lines will be broken down onto miniature sheets of paper, so you can see what work is being shot that day. The Coen brothers give you those, but they give you storyboards as well, so you can look and go, "OK, I'm in the second shot, I'm in the fourth and fifth shots." And they stay, from what I'm told, pretty closely to the storyboards. They've basically planned it all out long before they ever get there.

THR: Is it a coincidence that you're doing two Eastwood films back to back, "Invictus" and "Hereafter," which you've just wrapped?

Damon: I was really lucky that there were two roles I could do in a Clint movie. The thing about Clint is, he keeps the same people together. The department where there's turnover is the acting department, because different movies require different casts. Every actor is always desperate to work with him again, and I just got really lucky. But I'm dying to work with him (again). I told him I'm totally, unabashedly just lobbying for work from him every time I see him, cause it's just really a great experience.

THR: Did he go about the two movies differently?

Damon: No, the process was the same. He's extremely fluent in the language of filmmaking, so he knows exactly how he wants to tell the story. It's a very streamlined process.

THR: Do you have a favorite director?

Damon: I have a bunch of guys I've worked with again and again. Paul Greengrass, Clint, (Steven) Soderbergh, Gus (Van Sant) and Francis (Ford Coppola) would be the people that leap to mind.

THR: What other directors do you still want to work with?

Damon: Jim Cameron. I almost did "Avatar" -- I just couldn't do it schedule-wise. And I really wanted to see him direct, because I thought I'd learn so much.

THR: There was talk that you'd work with filmmaker Gary Ross on a Bobby Kennedy project. Is that happening?

Damon: Evan Thomas did a biography of RFK that Gary had, and he sent it to me six months ago. We've been talking about it, and they're writing a script that's going to be done in about a month, so hopefully it's great and then I'll know where I'm working this fall.

THR: You and Ben Affleck seem to be ramping up your production efforts with a new deal at Warners. How long is the deal?

Damon: I actually don't even know. These things, they take so long to get hammered out. I was high-fiving the Warners brass months ago, because we'd agreed -- and I think the deal just got finalized. Hopefully we've found a home for a while.

THR: What kind of projects do you want to do there?

Damon: Both our careers have been pretty eclectic, so it'll be more of the same. As directors, what interests us are the "Good Will Hunting"-type stories, movies about people. But that's not to say we're not going to want to go make a big sci-fi movie or something like that. Over the long haul, we'll hopefully build a pretty eclectic successful library for them.

THR: You've said for a long time that you want to direct. When are you going to?

Damon: I'm just dying to do it, but I keep getting these jobs with these great directors. I'll learn more as a director watching the Coen brothers than I would making my own movie. Maybe at some point I'll just say, "Don't send me any scripts, I'm gonna go direct," but for now I'm really enjoying these roles. It's one of the unfair (things) about Hollywood, that for men, right now is where the roles start getting great, right when I'm about to turn 40 and all the way to 50.

THR: Do you want to write, still?

Damon: Yes, I do. When you're making a movie, there's so much collaboration; you're constantly making suggestions. And so I don't feel like I haven't written in a long time. I feel that part of me gets satisfied having my input, even though I'm not sitting down at a computer and actually writing dialogue.

THR: Has marriage changed you?

Damon: Yeah, I think so. Somebody said to me recently, "Wow, you really love marriage," and I said, "No, I think marriage is ridiculous; I think it's a totally ridiculous idea." I love being married to my wife -- she's the best thing that ever happened to me, but if she ever left me, I wouldn't do it again. Because it's crazy -- to spend your life with one person and not be totally driven crazy.

Damon: 'Marriage is ridiculous'

Actor Matt Damon has branded the concept of marriage "a ridiculous idea" - because his wife drives him "crazy".

The Bourne Identity star wed Luciana Barroso in 2005 and the couple went on to have two daughters, Gia and Isabella. Damon also became a stepdad to Barroso's daughter Alexia, from a previous relationship, when the pair married.

Damon has branded the former bartender "the best thing that ever happened to me" and admits he can't imagine marrying another woman if they ever split.

But the actor confesses his wife can infuriate him at times.

He tells The Hollywood Reporter, "Somebody said to me recently, 'Wow, you really love marriage,' and I said, 'No, I think marriage is ridiculous; I think it's a totally ridiculous idea.'

"I love being married to my wife - she's the best thing that ever happened to me, but if she ever left me, I wouldn't do it again. Because it's crazy - to spend your life with one person and not be totally driven crazy."

Sighting

Matt Damon and wife Luciana enjoyed dinner with seven friends at Stanton Social in New York. The group ordered specialties like the French onion soup dumplings and chilled Maine lobster, an off-menu item, which they requested with extra butter. "They must have been super hungry," a source tells PEOPLE, "because Luciana ordered five rounds of the warm doughnuts for the table."

ABC SALUTES MATT DAMON: AN AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE TRIBUTE

HOLLYWOOD SALUTES MATT DAMON: AN AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE TRIBUTE

Ben Affleck to Present Matt Damon with the 24th American Cinematheque Award

Don Cheadle, President William Jefferson Clinton, George Clooney, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Kimmel, Greg Kinnear, Ben Stiller, Charlize Theron and Robin Williams to Pay Tribute to Matt Damon at Gala Event on March 27 at the Beverly Hilton.

Tribute to Air at a Later Date Exclusively on ABC Ben Affleck will present his longtime friend and co-star, Matt Damon, with the 24th American Cinematheque Award at the Cinematheque's annual benefit gala on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel's International Ballroom in Beverly Hills. The award presentation concludes an evening of in-person tributes from Damon's colleagues, Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Kimmel, Greg Kinnear, Charlize Theron and Robin Williams. In addition, George Clooney and Ben Stiller will pay tribute by partaking in individual pre-taped comedy sketches, while President William Jefferson Clinton appears in and narrates a piece surrounding Damon's humanitarian efforts that will be played during the show. Added guests will be announced as they are confirmed.

ABC will premiere the Award Show broadcast of "Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon: An American Cinematheque Tribute" at a later date. This is the 1st year that ABC will broadcast the show. Damon was the unanimous choice of the Cinematheque Board of Directors selection committee which, since 1986, has annually honored an extraordinary artist (actor, director or writer) in the entertainment industry who is fully engaged in his or her work and is committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion picture.

The American Cinematheque Award is presented annually to an extraordinary artist currently making a significant contribution to the art of the Moving Picture and is a mid-career achievement honor. Proceeds from the event go towards the year round operation of the American Cinematheque's public programming at the Egyptian and Aero Theatres in Los Angeles.

Eddie Murphy received the first American Cinematheque Award in 1986. Previous honorees are Bette Midler (1987), Robin Williams (1988), Steven Spielberg (1989), Ron Howard (1990), Martin Scorsese (1991), Sean Connery (1992), Michael Douglas (1993), Rob Reiner (1994), Mel Gibson (1995), Tom Cruise (1996), John Travolta (1997), Arnold Schwarzenegger (1998), Jodie Foster (1999), Bruce Willis (2000), Nicolas Cage (2001), Denzel Washington (2002), Nicole Kidman (2003), Steve Martin (2004), Al Pacino (2005), George Clooney (2006), Julia Roberts (2007) and Samuel L. Jackson (2008).

'Alice in Wonderland' number one

Alice is still ruling the movie palace.

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” easily remained the No. 1 weekend draw with $62 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Disney fantasy has climbed to a $208.6 million total domestically, becoming the first $200 million hit released this year.

In its second weekend in theatres, “Alice in Wonderland” pulled ahead of the $206.5 million domestic haul of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to become the top-grossing of Depp and Burton’s seven films together, which include “Edward Scissorhands,” “Sweeney Todd“ and “Corpse Bride.“

“I believe it’s literally the magical, if you would, pairing of Tim and Johnny,” said Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Disney. “When you take those two, they always seem to make something really out of the ordinary.”

“Alice in Wonderland” added $76 million overseas to bring its international total to $221 million and its worldwide gross to $430 million.

A rush of new movies had so-so openings, led by Matt Damon’s Iraq War thriller “Green Zone,” which debuted at No. 2 with $14.5 million domestically. Released by Universal, “Green Zone” stars Damon as the leader of a U.S. Army team who stumbles onto a conspiracy over the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Paramount’s romantic comedy “She’s Out of My League” debuted at No. 3 with $9.6 million. The movie stars Jay Baruchel as a geek in an unlikely romance with a babe.

“Twilight” star Robert Pattinson’s romantic drama “Remember Me” opened at No. 4 with $8.3 million. The Summit Entertainment release stars Pattinson and “Lost” co-star Emilie de Ravin in a dark story of young lovers with tragedy in their past.

In its fourth weekend, Paramount’s “Shutter Island,” the latest collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, was No. 5 with $8.1 million, raising its domestic total to $108 million.

Debuting at No. 6 with $7.6 million was Fox Searchlight’s comedy “Our Family Wedding,” starring America Ferrera as a Hispanic bride marrying a black man.

“Alice in Wonderland” took in nearly as much as the rest of the top-10 movies combined.

“It’s like this great divide between the No. 1 and 2 films, which says that without ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in the marketplace, we’d be hurting right now,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “By itself, it’s really propelling huge box office.”

Hollywood’s business soared, with overall revenues at $144 million, up 43 per cent from the same weekend last year, when “Race to Witch Mountain” led with a $24.4 million debut.

For the year, revenues are at $2.24 billion, up 9 per cent compared to receipts last year, when Hollywood took in a record $10.6 billion.

Factoring in higher admission prices, movie attendance this year is running 6.7 per cent ahead of 2009’s, according to Hollywood.com. Before “Alice in Wonderland” opened, attendance was lagging slightly behind last year’s.

“In just a couple of weeks, ‘Alice’ has turned the entire marketplace around almost single-handedly,” Dergarabedian said.

James Cameron’s science-fiction sensation remained a strong draw after nearly three months in theatres, taking in $6.6 million to raise its domestic total to $730.3 million. The 20th Century Fox release has topped $2.6 billion worldwide.

Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker,” which beat “Avatar“ for best picture at the Academy Awards, got a slight box-office bump from its Oscar triumph. The Iraq War drama, which is out on DVD but came back to theatres for Oscar season, pulled in $828,000, raising its box-office total to $15.7 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. “Alice in Wonderland,” $62 million.
2. “Green Zone,” $14.5 million.
3. “She’s Out of My League,” $9.6 million.
4. “Remember Me,” $8.3 million.
5. “Shutter Island,” $8.1 million.
6. “Our Family Wedding,” $7.6 million.
7. “Avatar,” $6.6 million.
8. “Brooklyn’s Finest,” $4.3 million.
9. “Cop Out,” $4.2 million.
10. “The Crazies,” $3.7 million.

'Green Zone' totally unbelievable

History gets rewritten in Green Zone, an action picture set in Iraq with a plot that hinges on weapons of mass destruction.

What we have here is inane poppycock dressed up as incomprehensible codswallop. The story suggests that one good soldier discovered there were no such weapons in Iraq, and then he single-handedly went up against the corrupt influences in the American armed forces. You could choke on your popcorn, watching this nonsense.

Matt Damon stars in Green Zone as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. He and his unit in Baghdad are charged with locating and dismantling those weapons of mass destruction that President George W. Bush kept talking about, but every time they move into an alleged storage site, they find nothing. No weapons. No chemicals. Nada. And not just nothing, but evidence that nothing was ever there in the first place.

Miller’s first question is, where is this faulty information coming from?

He asks a few hard questions and gets shut down. As for his weapon-hunting assignment, a colleague points out, “All they want is something they can hold up on CNN.” Now our man Miller is even more suspicious. A CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson) tells him not to be naive. Greg Kinnear turns up to represent all that’s wrong with the American presence in Iraq in the role of Clark Poundstone, a glib government liar. That might be redundant. Amy Ryan plays a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who can’t imagine why the government might feed her incorrect information.

Against this background of falsehoods and confusion, Miller meets up, by chance, with an Iraqi citizen (Khalid Abdalla) who wants him to know that he has seen various big guns from the old regime meeting in a a secret location. Before you know it, Miller has stumbled into a big, fat conspiracy involving corruption in high places and a certain General Al Rawi (Igal Naor), who holds the key to the whole mess.

So what’s required, as you might expect when Matt Damon and Bourne director Paul Greengrass get together, is plenty of running and shooting and cliff-hanging moments, and many of them in the dark, to boot.

As an old fashioned shoot-’em-up, a sort of Western set in the Middle East, Green Zone has enough tense, explosive action to please fans of the Bourne franchise. As always, Matt Damon is believable — even when surrounded by guys in black hats and white hats — but there’s almost no tension around his decision to defy his superiors and go rogue, or whatever the appropriate term is when a soldier takes the entire future of an entire country into his own hands. It’s tiring just thinking about how stupid this movie is.

What’s scary is that kids will see this movie and believe it’s an account of what really happened with those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (OMG! Jason Bourne fought in Iraq???)

Green Zone is very loosely based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Washington Post editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran. You might want to pick up the book and skip the film. Just a thought.

Iraq war thriller 'Green Zone' strays outside lines of history

Fact and fiction are woven with a sense of urgency in the unrelenting, but flawed, Iraq war thriller The Green Zone.

If only there had been such a hero as Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, played by Matt Damon, at the center of uncovering the fallacy of weapons of mass destruction. The premise of one honest patriot stumbling on the truth and informing the press is both wishful thinking and revisionist history. So is the idea that the WMD rationale was promulgated by a few midlevel government types.

Granted, this is not meant to be a documentary, but it is based on Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction book by Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran that details the early days of the occupation of Iraq and the subsequent insurgency. Oddly, the movie is being advertised as if it were a fourth Bourne film.

The studio's promotion makes some sense, given the reuniting of Damon, who played Jason Bourne, and two-time Bourne director Paul Greengrass. The pair collaborated on 2004's The Bourne Supremacy and 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum. Their association worked superbly in those high-octane action films.

But The Green Zone is not up to those standards. It takes a complex and important story and renders it facile. Characters are etched too clearly in black and white. Greg Kinnear, as an icy Pentagon official in charge of the mission, might as well be twirling a villain's mustache.

As a war thriller, Zone works on a visceral level, though Greengrass' trademark jittery camera work hits new dizzying — and occasionally off-putting — notes.

The story takes place in 2003. Miller is assigned to fruitless searches for weapons of mass destruction. At first he thinks he's gotten bad intelligence. Then he begins to see the truth.

Screenwriter Brian Helgeland's dialogue is predictable, relying on such lines as "The whole world's watching," and "I just want to help my country." But the film has an authentic, gritty look. Some of the best scenes involve military vehicles clogging the ravaged streets set upon by desperate crowds of Iraqis begging for water.

Damon is first-rate, but Amy Ryan's talents are wasted as a thinly drawn Wall Street Journal reporter, the first to write bogus reports about non-existent weaponry (think The New York Times' Judith Miller). One of the better performances is by Khalid Abdalla, who plays an Iraqi shaken by what the U.S. invasion means to his country. "It's not for you to decide what happens here," he tells Damon's Miller.

Another key line, uttered by Miller, is "Let's get the story right this time." It's a worthy plea, as is his righteous anger when he says: "It always matters why we go to war. What's going to happen the next time we ask people to trust us?"

The film conveys the message that the U.S. government lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. While it might have felt provocative a few years ago, Zone feels anticlimactic now. It also pales in comparison to Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, the most powerful film yet made about the Iraq war.

The Green Zone - * * 1/2 stars out of four
Stars: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs
Director: Paul Greengrass
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rating: R for violence and language
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Opens Friday nationwide

Busy actor, father Matt Damon is in the 'Green Zone'

NEW YORK — What's that sandy-colored mustache doing on Matt Damon's normally hairless upper lip?

"I'm going into porn. Finally," he retorts.

Actually, he's going hirsute for Ethan and Joel Coen, whose drama True Grit starts shooting this spring in Austin and New Mexico.

"I didn't know I could grow one," he says. "Unfortunately, that means having to do a press junket with a mustache. (My wife) Lucy went online and saw. 'What the (expletive) is that thing on his lip?' "

It's just another day at work for Damon, a seeming dynamo who hopscotches from one prestige movie set to another. After wrapping the sci-fi drama The Adjustment Bureau in Manhattan last year, he flew to London to shoot Clint Eastwood's Here After. Does he ever get a break? "These supporting roles — you've got to prep them, but they go by quickly. I did the Clint movie in three weeks," he says. "This is a busy time."

Indeed it is. In Damon's latest flick, Green Zone, opening Friday, he plays a warrant officer searching for weapons of mass destruction in 2003 Iraq. The film reunites Damon with Paul Greengrass, the hyper-real auteur who helmed Damon's two biggest box-office hits, TheBourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

"Paul, really, was a big draw for me," says Damon, 39. "I was interested to know if we could take a big chunk of the Bourne audience and go one step further and set an action thriller in the real world. The Bourne world is heightened, it's its own thing. It seemed really good, fertile ground for an action thriller."

The film, he says, doesn't take sides in the war. "It's a really pro-soldier movie," Damon says. "We're not dropping the bombshell that there weren't weapons of mass destruction. I think people are pretty clear about that."

Greengrass, meanwhile, is also clear on what Damon brings to his films: a quiet, stabilizing decency.

"He's a brilliant character actor. He's a brilliant physical actor, which is pretty rare. He brings a core of integrity to the heart of the film, which is important when you're exploring events like this," Greengrass says.

He says Damon is equally decent in real life.

Damon will banter about the future of the news business, his reasons for marrying his wife in an impromptu city hall ceremony after word leaked about their original planned nuptials, and his favorite Manhattan sushi haunts just as easily as he'll debate Middle East politics.

With Damon, Greengrass says, "what you see is what you get. He genuinely is nice and incredibly hardworking. In all the years we've made films, I've never once seen him be crabby and anything less than 100% enthusiastic. He's immensely popular amongst crew and cast."

And with critics. Damon earned his second acting Oscar nomination for portraying a rugby player in Clint Eastwood's Invictus. He and his childhood friend (and Good Will Hunting collaborator) Ben Affleck just signed a first-look deal with Warner Brothers to develop films. And he's being honored with the American Cinematheque award March 27.

But he's also quick to point out that his last two films, the comedy The Informant! and Invictus, underperformed. "I feel like if you make the movie you want to make, then that's great," Damon says. "I want to stand for being worth the price of one ticket."

He and his family — Lucy, stepdaughter Alexia, 11, and daughters Isabella, 3, and Gia, 1 — are now settled in Manhattan.

"They're all thriving. That's why we're so excited about it here," he says. "We're not leaving. Nobody bothers me. The younger ones are not aware of any of the celebrity (stuff). We walk to school every morning. We play in the park. It feels like a normal life."

Matt Damon Not a Mustache Fan

They conjured box office magic with their "Bourne" spy movies, but Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass risk their reputation as sure-fire hitmakers when the Iraq war thriller "Green Zone" debuts on Friday.

The action movie, which reunites A-list actor Damon and Greengrass, an accomplished director, aims to be the first big movie about the ongoing Iraq war to break through to mainstream U.S. audiences.

Buoyed by the success of "The Hurt Locker," a low-budget movie that won the Oscar for best film on Sunday, "Green Zone" is banking on audiences' hunger to watch an account of some of the U.S. intelligence failures tied to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

"We have made a genuine attempt to make a mainstream action thriller set in the real (Iraq) world. And that's what makes it really different ... it's a big movie," Damon told Reuters.

But how well can it do at box offices? "The truth is, I don't know, because it is the first one," he said.

Backed by a reported $100 million budget, Damon plays a character based on real-life Army officer, Richard Gonzales, whose Mobile Exploitation Team was charged with finding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) during the invasion.

The film stems from reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 2006 nonfiction book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone," a behind-the-scenes account of the Bush administration appointees who ran Iraq after the invasion.

Greengrass used the same crew as on the hit "Bourne" movies and the same shaky, hand-held camera style to follow Damon weaving and ducking through Baghdad's streets trying to learn why U.S. intelligence failed to find WMDs.

NOW OR NEVER?

While independent filmmakers failed to post big box office returns with "In the Valley of Elah," "Stop-Loss," and "Brothers" -- "Hurt Locker" earned only $21 million -- former journalist Greengrass said he believes moviegoers are at a turning point, as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq.

He said U.S. attitudes toward the Iraq war were similar to those of the Vietnam War in 1978, some three years after the fall of Saigon, when movies such as "Coming Home" and "The Deer Hunter" were embraced by audiences.

"There comes a point where the experience starts to bleed through, into popular culture ... where people are ready to go and feel it, distilled and played back to them," Greengrass said.

He added that Americans were ready to watch "a blockbuster, action thriller" such as "Green Zone" that happens to be set in Iraq versus a film marketed as an Iraq war movie.

Greengrass and Damon noted it was hard to compare the Vietnam War-era and current Iraq war movies, given differences in public perceptions and styles of filmmaking.

The director added that the critical acclaim and attention devoted to "Hurt Locker" bodes well for "Green Zone" because the two are both thrillers.

"'Hurt Locker' showed, obviously, that people were prepared to admit the possibility that a film set in that part of the world can be good. And maybe the time has also come now when audiences will go and see one," he said.

Using industry standards, "Green Zone" likely needs $250 million to $300 million in ticket sales to turn a profit. "The Bourne Supremacy" took in $288 million worldwide and later "The Bourne Ultimatum" raked in $443 million.

Greengrass predicted "Green Zone" might even pave the way for more, action-packed Iraq films to come. "It is not so much that it will open the door," he said, "but I think will keep open a door that has to be kept open."

Matt Damon Not a Mustache Fan

That mustache Matt Damon was sporting last week for a movie role was gone just in time for Oscar Sunday.

The clean-shaven nominee and presenter hit the Governors Ball after the show hand in hand with wife Luciana and happy to be stubble-free.

"Oh, hell yeah!" he told me, when I asked if he was glad to be rid of the facial hair.

Also in a good mood that night was...

Meryl Streep, who beamed despite her loss to Sandra Bullock.

"I'm thrilled!" she replied, when asked about Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win Best Director. "I think all the girls did really well tonight!"

Another nominee not being a sore loser was Avatar's James Cameron, who attended the ball with wife Suzy Amis. The director seemed to be in good spirits despite his movie getting schooled by his ex-wife's.

Zoe Saldana also looked happy, arriving with her boyfriend Keith Britton, although she was struggling a bit with her poufy Givenchy gown.

"That's quite a dress!" one partygoer remarked as she tried to gather the huge train. "Yes, this is a lot of dress!" she agreed.

Celebrating their big wins at the ball were Mo'Nique, Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz and Sandra Bullock, who was joined by hubby Jesse James.

One person who never doubted that Sandy would take home a statue? Her former costar Ryan Reynolds.

"Nope!" he answered, when I asked if he was surprised by her win.

More boldfaced names at the A-list bash include Oprah, Rachel McAdams, Quentin Tarantino, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Neil Patrick Harris.

Damon wants to pass 'Bourne' torch

A whole lot of handsome was going on during Jimmy Kimmel's post-Oscar spoof.

The late-night host's "Handsome Men's Club" video featured cameos by Patrick Dempsey, Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke and a shirtless Gilles Marini, among others.

Kimmel: Leno's the sucker-puncher, not me.

Kimmel — get this, the club's president — conducts the meeting. But the members stage a coup, as Kimmel's "cute" and loyal sidekick, John Krasinski, remains by his side. Even Kimmel's go-to guy, Ben Affleck, votes to have him ousted.

Damon targeted by impostor

Matt Damon was targeted by an impostor over the Christmas holidays.

The Hollywood actor was rumoured to have spent New Year on a cruise in Australia with his family, after a man claiming to be Damon fooled fans in Sydney - signing autographs and enjoying VIP service.

But Damon is adamant he wasn't in Australia over the holidays - and puts the sightings of him down to a lookalike who has been impersonating Down Under.

However, Damon isn't worried by the reports - because he often hears of impostors using his name.

He says, "That was somebody pretending to be me. It happens. My wife used to work in a bar (in Miami, Florida) and the bartender called us once, saying, 'There's a guy in here who looks like you and says he is you.' There was some guy sitting in the VIP section getting free champagne."

What You Didn't See on the Oscars

Matt Damon took a champagne break with his wife, Luciana. The two shared glasses of bubbly and hung out with best supporting actor nominee Stanley Tucci, who happily toasted Christoph Waltz for winning the Best Supporting Actor award.

Best & Worst of the Oscars

Best Aside: Matt Damon watching the clip of his own nominated performance and mumbling to his wife, "So bad." (Well, that's what it looked like anyway.)

Oscars: Red Carpet Quotes

"Those guys hit you in a way that curdles your cream."—Invictus star Matt Damon, on shooting the movie's intense rugby scenes

Inside the Oscar show on Hollywood's biggest night

"Excuse me, you're in my seat." A pair of seat fillers got so caught up watching Zoe Saldana and Carey Mulligan present the Oscars in the short-film categories that Matt Damon and his wife had to tap them to get their attention.

And the most famous seat-filler award goes to Tina Fey, who kept Matt Damon's spot warm during the cinematography category. "It's not my seat," Fey mouthed to Meryl Streep when the actress saw her sitting there and did a double-take.

Damon wants to pass 'Bourne' torch

Matt Damon is contemplating stepping down from the 'Bourne' action franchise and passing the role on to Russell Crowe or Denzel Washington -- because he's convinced that's the only way the brand can continue.

The actor is in talks to reprise his Jason Bourne character for the fourth time, but he is hesitant to pledge his commitment to the 'Bourne' series after director Paul Greengrass announced his departure from the spy series last year.

Discussing the rumours of another installment, Damon tells the New York Daily News, "If Paul Greengrass does it and we have something to say, definitely."

But Damon admits his time as 'Bourne' may be coming to an end -- because he thinks the franchise would work better if it evolved to introduce new actors into the lead role.

And the Hollywood star already has a few of his peers in mind.

He says, "I think the way to extend the franchise is to create a Bourne identity that different actors can take on. I could pass the identity to Russell Crowe or Denzel Washington or Ryan Gosling."

Ask Why Not: Matt Damon to Play RFK?

Hollywood star Matt Damon has thrown his support behind a campaign to close down SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida after the tragic death of a killer whale trainer at the theme park on Wednesday.

Dawn Brancheau, 40, was killed by orca Tilikum during a show with the mammal at the city's SeaWorld aquarium.

Animal rights campaigners at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have teamed up with U.S. showbiz veteran Bob Barker to write to SeaWorld owners The Blackstone Group and appeal for the closure of the complex.

In his letter to Blackstone boss Hamilton James, Barker wrote, "The death of (the) trainer at SeaWorld did not have to happen, and I must appeal to you to take strong action now so that it never happens again. I urge you to make (a) humane move now and to start moving the captive orcas and other marine mammals to transitional coastal and wildlife sanctuaries.

"This is not the first time that a trainer has been seized, thrown against the walls of the tank, and held down to drown. I cannot imagine what the sight of such a hideous event would do to a child in the audience...The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park is how miserable life is for animals held there."

Damon has now voiced his shock at the trainer's "horrible" death, insisting all marine mammal parks like SeaWorld should be "shut down" altogether.

He tells Entertainment Tonight, "I think they should just shut them all down. I've never been a fan of places like that."

Ask Why Not: Matt Damon to Play RFK?

Matt Damon is coming for Camelot.

In a rather inspired piece of casting news, the Oscar-winning Hollywood royal is thisclose to starring as the nearest thing we've got to American royal: a Kennedy. Specifically, Robert F. Kennedy.

While it's not yet a done deal, Damon is attached to play the assassinated presidential candidate in the biopic, which will be adapted from Evan Thomas' decade-old tome, Robert Kennedy: His Life.

Damon's ultimate decision will hinge on the final script, which has yet to be written. (Once it is, it'll be the second Bobby-centric flick in the past few years.)

Well, he's already got the accent down. Not to mention the politics.

'The Informant!' DVD entertains

I am sitting with Steven Soderbergh, the American filmmaker whose idiosyncratic career embraces fare as wide-ranging as the Ocean’s franchise and the dramas Erin Brockovich and Traffic. The Informant!, starring Matt Damon as a corporate whistle-blower with a fevered brain, jauntily sits somewhere in between.

Soderbergh is a major Hollywood player who works closely with superstar George Clooney, his executive producer here. Soderbergh’s career dates back to a big-screen, 1989 triumph at Cannes with Sex, Lies & Videotape. He knows the intricacies of massaging the boxoffice. But I mention many people could not be bothered seeing films such as The Informant! in theatres because they have become used to waiting for them on DVD and Blu-ray.

“Me, too,” he says with a sheepish grin.

This is not a disaster, Soderbergh says. He has even experimented with releasing a DVD — the avant-garde Solaris — on the same day as his theatrical premiere. While that is not the case with The Informant!, which debuts Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray, home entertainment has deeply influenced how Soderbergh works. There is a forever feel now.

“It’s great for me because my attitude, when working on something, has become: ‘This has to hold up 20 years later.’ You need to be able to sit through 20 years later and not go, ‘I don’t understand why anybody liked this!’

“That doesn’t mean you’re precious. It just means that you also can’t be frivolous in your choices. You have to make choices. I really get frustrated when I watch a movie and go: ‘Nobody made any choices! Nobody was really bold about their ideas! They just kind of hosed it down. That drives me insane!”

For The Informant!, Soderbergh went bold. Working with screenwriter Scott Burns, who adapted Kurt Eichenwald’s non-fiction book, Soderbergh fine-tuned the true story of whistle-blower Mark Whitacre into a sophisticated and droll adult comedy.

It is an excellent entertainment — and it works as an acerbic satire of corporate corruption in America. Whitacre (played brilliantly by Damon) was a nerd, genius and mentally ill person who blew the whistle on a massive price-fixing scheme undertaken in the 1990s by his own company, agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland, based in Decatur, Illinois.

The Informant! was expected to generate Oscar nominations. It did not. Damon did get cited as best actor in the Golden Globes, but that is just a hypefest for the Oscar race. So there was disappointment, although Damon did get a nom in the Oscars for his role in Invictus. We suspect he is not shedding tears looking forward to March 7.

That said, The Informant! is still a thing of subtle beauty, in terms of cinematic construction and execution. So I wish there was more on the DVD and Blu-ray.

On DVD, extras are limited to deleted scenes. One is the “you don’t have to narrate the tapes” scene excerpted in the trailer but oddly missing in the film. On the two-disc Special Edition Blu-ray, there is also a digital copy and Soderbergh adds a commentary in tandem with Burns. Rather than breaking the film down scene-by-scene, they discuss it in general with an emphasis on origins, purpose and approach. It’s good stuff, if folksy and casual.

In my interview, Soderbergh says that his goal for DVD and Blu-ray was to share the overall theme of The Informant! He wanted to remind people that, while Whitacre is an extreme example of how greed corrupts, it is part of everyone’s life.

“The question is: How much of ‘me’ is in there? For people to say: ‘There’s no part of me in there!’, I don’t believe it!”

Soderbergh gives insight into 'The Informant!'

Steven Soderbergh and his collaborators wanted to push “the exclamation points” on their dramatic comedy The Informant! right from the beginning. That is the message in the Blu-ray commentary Soderbergh does with screenwriter Scott Burns.

While Soderbergh and Burns are prone to rambling and forgetting stuff — Soderbergh is more articulate in media interviews — they still pack the commentary with information and insight. This is exactly why commentaries are invaluable for those of us who want to plunge deeper behind-the-scenes.

The Informant! is worthy of the effort. Among those insights, Soderbergh shows how filmmakers are influenced by other films. With The Informant!, the story of real-life corporate whistle-blower Mark Whitacre, Soderbergh felt he had to make a sly comedy because The Insider already had aced the serious approach. It didn’t matter that The Informant! deals with price-fixing in corn-based food products and The Insider deals with hidden health risks with tobacco.

“I worried from the beginning that, if we made this a drama, we would be in direct competition with The Insider, which I didn’t want to be because I kind of felt that set the standard for dramatic whistle-blower movies,” Soderbergh says. “I wouldn’t have known how to top that, really.”

As a result, the internal monologue Whitacre has in his head provides the oddball humour, and occasionally the pathos. It is heard as unreliable narration, Burns says. The truth is elusive even when we are being informed by The Informant!

Affleck, Damon reuniting at Warner Bros

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are stirring up some good will over at Warner Bros.

The actors, longtime friends who won the original screenplay Oscar for "Good Will Hunting" in 1997, are within days of closing a first-look producing deal at the studio. Details are yet unknown on the new company's name or the length of the agreement.

Damon is currently in theaters with Warner Bros.' "Invictus," for which he received an Oscar nomination. Affleck co-wrote, directed and stars in the crime thriller, "The Town," which WB is releasing in September.

The two actors were previously partners in LivePlanet, which had a deal at Disney until 2007. LivePlanet was behind the duo's "Project Greenlight" features "Stolen Summer," "The Battle of Shaker Heights" and "Feast," as well as Affleck's writing-directing debut, "Gone Baby Gone."

Sighting

MATT Damon, Robert Downey Jr. and their wives at Elio's on Second Avenue

Directors and actors: A special bond

The right chemistry with an actor, directors say, can be more important than the script.

"If they don't get me," asks director Quentin Tarantino, "how are they going to get the movie I'm trying to make?"

Friday's release of Shutter Island marks the fourth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonard DiCaprio, a union both men describe as based on trust. Tarantino and other filmmakers have similar bonds with their actors.

Tarantino says he forged his partnership with Samuel Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown) by testing Jackson with his bawdy, often racially tinged humor.

"He got my jokes," Tarantino says. "It seems like a small thing, but if you know you're on the same page with your actor, you're going to trust each other more. You naturally want to go back to them."

And when a director connects with an actor, he'll keep working with him, as Steven Soderbergh can attest. Matt Damon has starred in four of his films and will work with him a fifth time in Soderbergh's forthcoming Liberace biopic.

"He really is one of those actors that once you've worked with him, you just want to go back," Soderbergh says. "He always delivers. He's always good."

Damon, Freeman, Eastwood

Damon also has a close working relationship with another director: Clint Eastwood.

"Morgan and I were saying yesterday, 'Maybe if we sit out for the next few years and let Clint get some more experience, he's really going to be a great director,' " jokes Damon, sitting beside co-star Morgan Freeman as they discuss the 79-year-old Invictus filmmaker. "We're going to let him get some more films under his belt, though."

"Three more," Freeman says.

"Three more would be solid," Damon agrees.

Joking aside, these two are devoted Eastwoodians. Both earned Oscar nominations for their work in Invictus, Freeman a lead actor for his role as Nelson Mandela and Damon a supporting contender for playing rugby captain Francois Pienaar.

Freeman won his first Oscar for playing the grizzled ex-boxer in Eastwood's 2004 Million Dollar Baby, which also won best picture, and before that starred alongside him in another best-picture winner, 1992's Unforgiven. After Invictus, Damon will star in Eastwood's Hereafter, now shooting in England.

"It's incredible, both of us having been on, between us, probably a hundred different film sets," Damon says. "It doesn't get any better than the way (Eastwood) runs it."

Eastwood jokes that Freeman is his good-luck charm: "If I was a superstitious guy, I'd be wanting him in every film, since the first two films we did got best-picture awards, but that's not the way I am. I just admire him very much as a performer, not only because of quality, but because he brings it effortlessly. He comes to it extremely well-prepared. And I could say the same thing for young Matt. When he steps up to the plate, he's ready to go."

The director says his favorite actors are "people who are very pleasant to work with because they come in with a great knowledge, a great deal of ammunition, and all you have to do is guide it along. It's a selfish thing. "

Damon says Eastwood's "favorite saying after you do a take is: 'Let's move on, and let's not (expletive) this up by thinking about it too much.' "

Freeman says Eastwood disdains needy actors. "You don't really want to go to Clint and say, 'I just would like to talk a little bit about the character?' " Breaking into a whispering, squinty-eyed Eastwood impression, Freeman sneers: " 'Why ... ?' He expects you to know what you're doing. And he's going to take two giant steps back and let you do it."

2010 Academy Award (Oscar) Nominations

Supporting Actor: Matt Damon, "Invictus"; Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"; Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"; Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"; Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds."

Sighting

NO. 1 FAN: Matt Damon, swarmed by giddy girls and an equally giddy Anthony Mackie, at the Grey Goose-sponsored official afterparty for the SAG Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown L.A.

Highlights of Hollywood's 2010 movie lineup

Highlights of Hollywood's 2010 film slate. Some films open in limited release, and release dates are subject to change:

Winter and spring:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's take on the Lewis Carroll adventures of a girl who goes through the looking glass.

THE BACK-UP PLAN: A woman (Jennifer Lopez) meets the right guy — just after she gets pregnant through artificial insemination.

THE BOOK OF ELI: Denzel Washington whups some butt as a prophet protecting a critical text in post-apocalyptic America.

THE BOUNTY HUNTER: Jennifer Aniston is a bail-jumping reporter pursued by her bounty-hunter ex-hubby (Gerard Butler).

CLASH OF THE TITANS: Ancient Greek hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) takes on Hades, lord of the underworld. With Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes.

COP OUT: A stolen baseball card sets two detectives (Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan) on the path of a memorabilia-obsessed mobster.

CREATION: Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) copes with grief over a lost daughter as he struggles with his theory of evolution. With Jennifer Connelly.

DATE NIGHT: A weekly night out turns into a wild ride for a suburban couple (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) whose romance has become routine.

DEAR JOHN: A soldier (Channing Tatum) and a woman (Amanda Seyfried) carry out a seven-year romance from a distance while he's on assignment.

DEATH AT A FUNERAL: Crazy things happen at a family patriarch's funeral. With Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover.

DISTRICT B13: ULTIMATUM: Martial-arts heroes return to try to quell unrest in a walled crime ghetto in this follow up to the French thriller.,P>EDGE OF DARKNESS: Mel Gibson is a homicide cop whose daughter's murder takes him into a dark world of corporate and government conspiracy.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES: A father (Brendan Fraser) teams with a maverick doctor (Harrison Ford) to find a cure for his kids' fatal illness. With Keri Russell.

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE: A trigger-happy spy (John Travolta) and his inexperienced partner (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) try to crack a crime gang.

FURRY VENGEANCE: Animals fight back against the housing developer (Brendan Fraser) whose project threatens their habitat.

GREENBERG: A man (Ben Stiller) searching for meaning finds potential romance while house-sitting for his brother.

GREEN ZONE: Matt Damon goes searching for weapons of mass destruction in a thriller set in Iraq as the war there heats up in 2003.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: The world of the Vikings gets a makeover in this animated story of a misfit teen and his dragon.

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS: A con man (Jim Carrey) finds his soul mate (Ewan McGregor) while doing prison time.

KICK-ASS: A youth with no superpowers dons a costume to fight crime as a superhero. With Nicolas Cage.

THE LAST SONG: Miley Cyrus is a teen whose estranged father (Greg Kinnear) tries to reconnect with her through music.

LEGION: The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) and a group of strangers are humanity's last hope for salvation.

THE LOSERS: A Special Forces team seeks revenge after its members are betrayed and presumed dead on a mission. With Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

MACGRUBER: The "Saturday Night Live" bit about a hapless special-ops man (Will Forte) gets big-screen treatment. With Val Kilmer, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) is back to terrorize people in their dreams in an update of the 1980s slasher franchise.

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF: A teen demigod is caught up in a potential war among the gods of Olympus, alive and well in modern times.

REMEMBER ME: "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson and "Lost" co-star Emilie de Ravin cope with romance amid adversity. With Pierce Brosnan.

REPO MEN: In a future where mechanical organs are repossessed for lack of payment, a former repo man (Jude Law) becomes the prey of his old partner (Forest Whitaker).

SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS: A compulsive gambler (Steve Buscemi) fights temptation while trying to change his life. With Sarah Silverman.

SEASON OF THE WITCH: A medieval knight (Nicolas Cage) is assigned to escort a peasant girl the church suspects of bringing on the Black Plague by witchcraft.

SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE: An average guy (Jay Baruchel) scores big when a super-babe inexplicably falls for him.

SHUTTER ISLAND: Leonardo DiCaprio reunites with director Martin Scorsese in a tale set at a hospital for the criminally insane.

THE SPY NEXT DOOR: Jackie Chan balances his day job as a spy with baby-sitting his girlfriend's three kids.

TOOTH FAIRY: A mean-spirited hockey star (Dwayne Johnson) is sentenced to do time as a tooth fairy, with magic wings and wand. With Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews.

TYLER PERRY'S WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO?: Filmmaker Perry co-stars with Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba and other cast mates for this relationship sequel.

VALENTINE'S DAY: A superstar cast copes with the trials of love. With Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher.

WALL STREET 2: Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas bring corporate raider Gordon Gekko out of mothballs in a tale of today's financial fiasco. With Shia LaBeouf.

WHEN IN ROME: Passions are magically aroused when a tourist retrieves coins tossed in a fountain of love. With Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Danny DeVito.

THE WOLFMAN: Benicio Del Toro is a man who finds the curse of the werewolf haunting his family when he returns to his ancestral home.___

Summer season:

THE A-TEAM: The TV action series goes big-screen as former Special Forces troops set out to clear their names. With Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper.

CATS & DOGS: REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE: Cats and dogs unite to take on a nutty feline bent on global domination. With Christina Applegate.

DESPICABLE ME: Steve Carell leads the voice cast in an animated tale of a villain whose plot to steal the moon is sidelined by three orphan girls.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS: A young exec (Paul Rudd) finds the perfect buffoon (Steve Carell) for his boss' monthly "dinner for idiots."

EAT PRAY LOVE: Julia Roberts plays a divorced woman on a worldwide journey to find meaning in her life. With James Franco, Javier Bardem.

THE EXPENDABLES: Sylvester Stallone directs and stars in a thriller about mercenaries betrayed on a mission. With Jet Li, Jason Statham.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK: A record company intern (Jonah Hill) has to escort an unruly rock legend to the first concert of his comeback tour.

GROWN UPS: Childhood pals (Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and David Spade) reunite as adults. With Salma Hayek, Maria Bello.

INCEPTION: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in a science-fiction thriller from director Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight").

IRON MAN 2: Robert Downey Jr. slips back into his metal suit to face new foes. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke.

JONAH HEX: A disfigured bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) battles a villain aiming to unleash hell on Earth. With Megan Fox, John Malkovich.

THE KARATE KID: Jackie Chan imparts kung fu wisdom to a Detroit youth (Jaden Smith) uprooted by his family's move to China in an update of the 1980s hit.

KILLERS: An ex-assassin (Ashton Kutcher) and his wife (Katherine Heigl) go on the run after he's targeted for a hit in this action comedy.

KNIGHT AND DAY: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are a fugitive couple on a jet-setting adventure around the globe.

THE LAST AIRBENDER: M. Night Shyamalan adapts the animated TV show about a young savior with the power to end warfare among four nations with mystical powers.

LETTERS TO JULIET: An old letter to the doomed heroine of "Romeo and Juliet" sparks romance for two women (Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave).

THE LOTTERY TICKET: A ghetto dweller (Bow Wow) fends off greedy neighbors after he wins $370 million in the lottery. With Ice Cube.

MARMADUKE: Owen Wilson provides the voice of the Great Dane in a family comedy based on the canine comic strip.

MEET THE PARENTS 3: Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro find new ways to test their in-law relationship in the "Meet the Fockers" follow up.

THE OTHER GUYS: A detective more interested in paperwork and a street-tough cop (Mark Wahlberg) are partnered up. With Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson.

PREDATORS: Hardcore human killers become prey for alien hunters in a new take on the sci-fi franchise. With Adrien Brody, Topher Grace.

PRIEST: A renegade priest (Paul Bettany) tracks a gang of vampires that have abducted his niece.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME: The video-game adaptation stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a fugitive prince who finds a dagger of enormous power.

RAMONA AND BEEZUS: The pesky young heroine of Beverly Cleary's best sellers comes to life in an adaptation of the children's books.

ROBIN HOOD: Russell Crowe reunites with director Ridley Scott for a fresh take on the 13th-century soldier turned folk hero. With Cate Blanchett.

SALT: Angelina Jolie is a CIA operative on the lam after she's accused of spying for Russia. With Liev Schreiber.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: To win his dream woman, a slacker musician (Michael Cera) must vanquish her seven evil ex-boyfriends.

SEX AND THE CITY 2: Sarah Jessica Parker and her Manhattan mates return for more fashionable urban romantic angst.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER: Mike Myers' ogre is hurled into an alternate reality where he and his true love never met. With Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas.

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE: An ancient wizard (Nicolas Cage) recruits a protege (Jay Baruchel) to battle an evil foe (Alfred Molina).

STEP UP 3-D: Street dancers and a college freshman square off in a competition against world-class hip-hop dancers.

TAKERS: A detective (Matt Dillon) pursues a gang of bank robbers (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Tip "T.I." Harris, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy).

TOY STORY 3: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and their plaything pals face abandonment after their kid grows up in this animated sequel.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE: Danger comes calling again for a teen (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire and werewolf suitors (Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner).

____

Fall and holiday season:

ALPHA AND OMEGA: Two wolves relocated halfway across the country try to return home. The animated tale features the voices of Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere.

THE AMERICAN: A hit man (George Clooney) finds romance and friendship in Italy while awaiting what he hopes will be his last assignment.

BURLESQUE: Christina Aguilera aims for stardom with a musical revue at an aging theater. With Cher, Stanley Tucci.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER: C.S. Lewis' young heroes land aboard an incredible ship as the fantasy series resumes.

DUE DATE: Robert Downey Jr. stars as a first-time dad who has to hitch a ride with an actor (Zach Galinianakis) to get home in time for his baby's birth.

FLIPPED: Rob Reiner directs a story of first love following a smitten girl and unwilling boy from grade school to junior high.

GOING THE DISTANCE: A couple (Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) struggle to make their bicoastal romance work.

THE GREEN HORNET: A rich party boy (Seth Rogen) turns to crime-fighting as the masked Hornet. With Cameron Diaz.

GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE: A young owl battles to save his kind from evil enemies in this animated family adventure.

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS: Jack Black does a modern take on the world-traveling hero who encounters a race of tiny people on his sojourn.

HEREAFTER: Paths cross for three people around the world who are touched by death. Clint Eastwood directs, Matt Damon stars.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS — PART 1: The young wizards (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint) aim to destroy the crux of evil Voldemort's power.

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT: Mismatched godparents (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) must team up as guardians for their orphaned goddaughter.

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS: Romance develops between a free spirit (Anne Hathaway) and a dauntless Viagra salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal).

MEGAMIND: A supervillain flirts with virtue after his superhero opponent turns to the dark side in an animated tale featuring the voices of Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell.

MORNING GLORY: A TV morning-show producer (Rachel McAdams) copes with a clash between her tough newsman (Harrison Ford) and his new co-host (Diane Keaton).

RAPUNZEL: Mandy Moore provides the voice of the long-haired fairy-tale princess locked away in a tower in this animated musical.

RED DAWN: A group of youths forms a guerrilla army to fight back against military forces that have invaded America.

SAW VII: The horror franchise returns for part seven in the diabolical games initiated by killer Jigsaw.

SECRETARIAT: A housewife (Diane Lane) and trainer (John Malkovich) team to raise the 1973 Triple Crown-winning racehorse.

THE TOWN: Ben Affleck directs and stars as a bank robber who falls into romance with his former hostage (Rebecca Hall).

TRON: LEGACY: Jeff Bridges reprises his 1982 character, whose son (Garrett Hedlund) is pulled into the digital world where his dad has disappeared.

UNSTOPPABLE: A railway engineer (Denzel Washington) and a conductor (Chris Pine) race to stop a runaway train carrying toxic cargo.

YOGI BEAR: The smarter-than-average bear of the TV cartoons comes to the big screen in a live-action and animation combo. With Dan Aykroyd.

YOU AGAIN: Rivalries are renewed after a woman (Kristen Bell) learns her brother's marrying her high school nemesis. With Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis.

YOUR HIGHNESS: A black sheep knight (Danny McBride), his perfect brother (James Franco) and a fierce warrior (Natalie Portman) embark on rescue mission.

ZOOKEEPER: A kindly zookeeper (Kevin James) gets romantic advice from the animals in his charge.

Screen Actors Guild nominations

Male supporting actor in a movie
Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards Nominations

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
MATT DAMON- THE INFORMANT!
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS - NINE
ROBERT DOWNEY JR - SHERLOCK HOLMES
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT - (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
MICHAEL STUHLBARG- A SERIOUS MAN

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
MATT DAMON - INVICTUS
WOODY HARRELSON - THE MESSENGER
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER - THE LAST STATION
STANLEY TUCCI - THE LOVELY BONES
CHRISTOPH WALTZ - INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Critics Choice Award Nominations

The 15th annual Critics Choice Awards ceremony will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Eastern Jan. 15 on VH1.

BEST PICTURE Nominees:
• Avatar
• An Education
• The Hurt Locker
• Inglourious Basterds
• Invictus
• Nine
• Precious
• A Serious Man
• Up
• Up In The Air

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Nominees:
• Matt Damon - Invictus
• Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
• Christian McKay - Me And Orson Welles
• Alfred Molina - An Education
• Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
• Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Sports hero role challenged Damon

Matt Damon still remembers risking a stiff neck upon meeting Francois Pienaar, the character he plays in Clint Eastwood's Invictus.

Pienaar was the captain of South Africa's World Cup-winning rugby team, and the determined point-man in Nelson Mandela's plan to rally the fractured post-apartheid country around a sport that was widely seen as the "white man's game."

"I got to South Africa, and the very first day Francois invited me and Morgan (Freeman, who plays Mandela) to his house for a gourmet dinner. And I remember I rang the doorbell and he opened the door and I looked up at him.

"And the first thing I ever said to Francois was, 'I look much bigger on film.' And he laughed and gave me a big hug and took me into his house and that was it."

Still, going from playing a flabby desk-jockey in The Informant! to a world-class rugby player in Invictus was a major concern going in.

"I called Clint and I said, 'Clint, this guy is huge. I'm five-ten.' And he said, 'Oh hell, let me worry about that. You worry about that other stuff.'

"And I said, 'All right. I'll worry about everything else, you worry about the fact that I'll need to grow six inches to play the guy.' "

Mandela and Pienaar became an odd couple when Mandela overruled a decision by his African National Congress to disband the national Springboks rugby team.

Instead, he envisioned the team becoming a symbol of change and non-recrimination. Some go as far as crediting that World Cup with helping avoid civil war.

"I watched the movie," Pienaar says. "And when Matt goes to meet Madiba (Mandela's nickname) for the first time, the nervous emotion came back of meeting the first black president of South Africa. 'What is he going to ask you? Why does he want to see you?' He puts you at ease right away, he really gets into your head. I thought I was in the presence of a very wise person who had a sense of responsibility to heal."

Damon says he felt portraying someone integral to a crucial moment in history inspired him to lose the weight, among other things (including learning an Afrikaner accent). "I had a good time putting the weight on (for The Informant!) and then a tough time reshaping the weight.

"I was in the gym every day and Francois came with me to the gym a few times. This is his life, I don't want to embarrass him. If Jason Bourne looks a little flabby, that's on me. This is the fictionalization of somebody's actual life.

"I didn't want to let him down -- or it wouldn't be for lack of effort. Which is what that (Springboks) team was famous for actually, for going the extra mile and knowing themselves. 'Yes, we may not be the most talented team, but we're gonna be the fittest.' "

Damon was 19 when he got to see Mandela in the flesh when he visited Boston as part of a world tour. And he recalls in high school being handed a "Free Nelson Mandela" ribbon when the ANC leader's 27 years in prison was reaching a flashpoint as an international cause celebre. "I had an old scrapbook my mother put together, a photo album of pictures from my childhood. And I saw it recently, and the Free Nelson Mandela ribbon was in there from 1988."

Pienaar's own best memory of Mandela came "when we had a function in honour of the Springboks after the World Cup, and my fiancee, my wife now, was there. And I said, 'Madiba, would you mind at some point saying hello to my fiancee, Nerine, and I only mentioned her name once. And he said, 'Of course.' And later on, he actually came to our table and walked over with bodyguards and everything, and he took Nerine's hand and he said, 'Nerine, would you feel offended if I come to your wedding?' That's the nature of this incredible leader we were blessed to have."

Invictus (the title means "unconquerable"), Damon says, "is telling a story that I think is a wonderful thing -- to remind everybody in South African and around the world, that if we listen to the better angels of our nature, we can create solutions to serious problems."

And would he ever play rugby again? "Hell, no," Damon says with a laugh.

Freeman powers Mandela tale

The overwhelmingly earnest Invictus is not your typical sports movie.

For starters, it's a feel-good Hollywood underdog tale set in a sport, rugby, that has almost no resonance with its intended North American audience -- except insofar as it sort of resembles American football.

For another, its theme plunges it a little deeper (though not too deeply) into what sports means to us beyond having a team to cheer for. The story of how South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, bet his political capital on a white icon sports franchise unifying the country, falls into that "too preposterous to not be real" category.

But it did happen.

In 1995, the newly non-apartheid South Africa hosted the World Cup of Rugby -- a sport revered by the white population and hated by blacks as a symbol of the old regime.

Going against the wishes of his own constituency, he quashed a movement to disband the iconic Springbok national team, and began a close relationship with the team captain, Francois Pienaar, exhorting him and the team to become active and visible in the black townships.

Oh, and winning the World Cup wouldn't be a bad idea either.

The real-life sympatico between Mandela and Pienaar, a non-political Afrikaner who'd never even voted, is nicely captured by Morgan Freeman (who's been prepping for the role of Mandela for 14 years, and it shows) and a pumped-up Matt Damon, whose Afrikaner accent sounds authentic enough to these unschooled ears.

But though all the usual uphill-underdog sports-movie buttons are pushed, and newbies may come away with some familiarity-by-osmosis with the sport of rugby, Invictus (the title means "unconquerable") is Mandela/Freeman's show. His Mandela is a cute-as-a-button Zen-like moderate, surrounded by angry axe-grinders to be wheedled and seduced (and by a coterie of female exec staffers who fret over his overwork and lack of sleep).

Aside from his behind-the-scenes work as de facto GM of the nation-uniting Springboks, Mandela's conciliatory masterstroke is to merge his all-black personal bodyguard with the existing white security forces. This mixing of mutually untrusting "good guys" who become friends, gives the movie occasional echoes of white-cop/black-cop Hollywood slop, a manipulative feel-good look-how-quickly-racism-dissolves-when-we-work-together motif.

Inspiring and true as this is, by the end, it's laid on pretty thick with the close-up clasping of black and white hands, and the grasping of trophies by same.

That director Clint Eastwood falls upon such well-trodden Hollywood templates indicates some uncertainty on his part as to how to handle the story. There is practically no violence in this movie (other than the collision of bodies on the rugby field), no escalation of peril (despite the subplot about the security forces), and given that the ending is a fact of sports history, no nail-biting drama. (Even if you weren't aware of how the '95 Rugby World Cup turned out, you could safely assume they don't make movies about underdogs who lose).

Still, even if this isn't his best, Eastwood plays his cinematic cards well enough.

And all things considered, seeing a well-respected actor such as Freeman play the role he was born to play is reason enough to pay your twelve bucks plus popcorn.

'Invictus' is another victory for Eastwood

The title may mean nothing to you, but the movie certainly will.

Actually, Invictus refers to a William Ernest Henley poem that provided Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) inspiration during his 27 years in prison. Mandela gives a copy to Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), captain of the national rugby team, hoping it will serve a similar purpose for him. The two join forces, leading the South African team to a World Cup victory and uniting a nation.

Director Clint Eastwood cleverly fuses a political tale and a sports story and serves fact-based inspiration, but nothing so overbearing that you feel battered by uplift. And while Mandela's early days as president of South Africa are by any definition worthy and enthralling, the sport he has chosen to spotlight — rugby — is not. Mandela is an easy sell, but the violent and hard-to-suss-out game is another matter. And yet Eastwood manages to make rugby exciting to watch, though the scenes of the World Cup final drag on.

But the key to Invictus is not players running around on a field. It's two stellar performances and a story that stirs hearts and intrigues minds. It's hard to imagine anyone besides Freeman playing Mandela. He could have coasted on his voice, his charm and expressive face. But he becomes Mandela, and we get a window into the psyche of one of the world's most stirring leaders.

Damon is a rare leading man who also is a viable character actor. This fall, he disappeared into the role of an eccentric whistle-blower in The Informant! He shines again as the Springboks' captain, a far less showy role.

Invictus provides the context leading up to Mandela's historic 1994 election. But it doesn't try to tell the definitive story of his political career. Eastwood focuses on one critical chapter.

Eastwood deftly conveys a country still struggling with apartheid. Mandela liked to get up before dawn. The morning after he is elected, in an illustrative scene, he walks briskly down quiet Johannesburg streets while his bodyguards scramble, watchful and primed for repercussions.

Invictus, which is Latin for "unconquered," gives the poem several meanings in the context of the film. It also applies to Eastwood, who, as one of America's greatest storytellers, finds enthralling tales and fashions them with finesse and an indomitable spirit.

Invictus * * * 1/2 (out of four)
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng
Director: Clint Eastwood
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Running time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Opens Thursday night at midnight in select cities and Friday nationwide

Concerned son

Matt Damon has been making regular trips home to Boston to visit his sick father. The star, who's filming here, is "concerned" about his dad, Kent, and has been rushing back from his Manhattan set to visit him, sources said. Damon was shooting "The Adjustment Bureau" with Emily Blunt at the Warwick New York Hotel. He's been putting a brave face on despite the health concerns, and following a bout of flu among his kids. Our source added, "His family is everything to him." A rep for Damon didn't return our repeated calls and e-mails.

Review: Eastwood continues streak with `Invictus'

"Invictus" is a sports film that is more about what's happening in the stands than on the playing field.

It's South Africa in 1990 and change — as seen in the first scene of the film — is literally coming down the street. After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) has been released.

Clint Eastwood's camera lowers on a motorcade. On one side of the road, an all-white rugby team practices on pristine, green grass. On the other, black youths play soccer across a dirt field. Between the two rolls Mandela — "Madiba" to his followers.

"Invictus," too, cuts an unlikely path, choosing to tell the story of South Africa's sea change under Mandela's leadership through the prism of sport. It's the story of a nation's shift, as evidenced by its bleachers.

The filmmakers, perhaps sensing Mandela's enormous accomplishment may be too outsized for a simple movie to convey, narrow their sights on Mandela's calculated embrace of the nation's rugby team. It comes off like a case study in leadership, perhaps a bit clinical and limited, but still deeply revealing.

After a series of newscasts, we're swiftly ushered to 1994, when Mandela is taking office after his momentous election.

Quickly, Mandela makes it clear that everything in his administration will reflect a unified South Africa, which he hopes to be "a shining light in the world." He tells his head of security (Tony Kgoroge) that he, too, will work alongside white Afrikaners. He even urges them to smile while pushing people away.

"The rainbow nation starts here," Mandela says. "Reconciliation starts here."

It also starts with rugby. Mandela attends a game between South African's national team (the Springboks) and England. The crowd, many waving apartheid-era flags, largely boos Mandela. The few black fans — who have always seen the Springboks as a symbol of apartheid — actually cheer for their opponent.

Many want to do away with the Springboks name and their green and gold colors. Mandela, though, urges against this "petty revenge" and successfully argues for the Springboks to remain. Afrikaners are now their partners, he tells an all-black gathering, not their enemy.

With rugby's World Cup to be held in South Africa a year later, Mandela puts much of himself into making the Springboks both a champion and a galvanizing force of hope for the nation. He reaches out in particular to the team's captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon).

It's a gamble, one unpopular among his followers. In many ways, Mandela is "exposed" — as the security team warns — in the rugby stadium. An exasperated adviser tells him to "at least risk it for something more important than rugby."

But the importance of sports and national symbols are at the heart of "Invictus." The movie, itself, exists as a lighthouse for inspiration. That saps it of some drama, cloaking its mission in importance — a weakness most felt when the film's key song, the atrociously sappy "Colorblind" by South African boy band Overtone, plays. But the film is nevertheless stirring.

Especially because of Freeman. There's great pleasure in watching the formidable actor play Mandela, a part he has chased for years, searching for the right project. It feels like destiny fulfilled, hearing Freeman speak Mandela's halting, humble speech and watching his slow, deliberate movements.

Always slightly removed, he has his demons, too. We see the hint of sadness in his eyes at the mention of his family — many of whom were estranged from him. Mandela was twice divorced.

Few besides Freeman could bring the necessary weight to such a role. None, in fact, readily come to mind.

Many films about great black men are unfortunately told from the perspective of a white man, but Pienaar is more of Mandela's pupil. Damon, bleach blond and bulked-up, looks and acts the part, complete with South African accent. Like all of us, he can't help but be astounded by Mandela.

"Invictus" is dripping with inspiration — how to summon it, how to communicate it. Late in his career, Eastwood seems to be finding it everywhere. His recent run, from "Mystic River" to "Grand Torino" and the underrated "Changeling," continues to be a place it resides.

"Invictus," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 132 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Matt Damon: Clint Eastwood Makes My Wife Happy

Matt Damon has plenty of reasons to thank Clint Eastwood for keeping his wife Luciana happy.

"I have come to judge good jobs and good directors by how my wife feels about them," Damon, 39, told guests at Tuesday's Museum of the Moving Image gala in New York City honoring Eastwood, 79. "And my wife loves Clint Eastwood."

In addition to Luciana's approval, Damon heaped praise on the Oscar-winning director for providing the leading man with a balanced family life and the sort of work experience that PEOPLE's 2007 Sexiest Man Alive had always hoped for.

"Not only because her husband was happy everyday when he came home but because I got to do what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to do it," said Damon, who stars in Eastwood's Invictus (which, in Latin, means "unconquered"), due in theaters Dec. 11.

In it, the actor plays a real life South African rugby player who helps President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) bring the citizens of the African country together through the 1995 Rugby World Cup, after the fall of Apartheid.

"I felt completely fulfilled creatively," said Damon.

More importantly, Eastwood's quick turnaround filming schedule allowed Damon to spend daily quality family time with his wife and daughters, Alexia, 11, Isabella, 3, and LINK "/people/article/0,,20218775,00.html" "Gia"], 1.

"I had breakfast with [Luciana] and the kids every morning and dinner with them every night," says the proud dad. "I never thought I was sacrificing either family life or my work. It was perfect and that's the life that I hope I can crave out for myself as I go forward."

"Bourne" trilogy gets two-sided DVD release

Universal Studios Home Entertainment will introduce so-called flipper discs, containing traditional video on one side and an HD version on the flip side, for planned special-edition releases of "The Bourne Identity" and its two sequels.

USHE and other studios occasionally have offered DVD and Blu-ray discs in one "combo pack" but never both versions on one disc.

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc sides of the titles will include the movie and bonus features. USHE will introduce the flipper-disc concept with its January 19 release of "Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum." Each title will carry a suggested retail price of $29.98.

"Universal's flipper discs are the perfect way for consumers to future-proof their collections while still enjoying their favorite movies on all their existing DVD players," USHE president Craig Kornblau said. "The flipper disc offers an easy way for viewers to convert to Blu-ray now or at any time in the future."

New 'Bourne' film hits snag

Matt Damon's upcoming Bourne sequel has been thrown into jeopardy - the action franchise's director has reportedly quit the project.

Paul Greengrass joined the film series by taking charge of 2004's The Bourne Supremacy and he returned to direct a second sequel, The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007.

Damon recently announced he is working on a fourth movie, teaming up with Greengrass to develop an original story for the next installment in the popular series, which is based on the books by Robert Ludlum.

But the film has been thrown into doubt amid reports Greengrass has walked away from the project, according to Theplaylist website.

The site reports Greengrass quit after bosses at Hollywood studio Universal hired their own writer to look after the script, without consulting the director.

Stars Make Voices Heard at The People Speak

The stars came out to support the Matt Damon and Josh Brolin-produced History Channel special The People Speak in New York City on November 19. The film, inspired by Howard Zinn’s powerful book A People’s History of the United States, presents moments in United States history to audiences “not from the mouths of Congress but from those of the people picketing Congress,” as Zinn says. Nearly two-dozen celebrities, including Kerry Washington, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, Q’orianka Kilcher and Lupe Fiasco, read from influential historical documents.

“It was very inspiring and exciting,” said Kilcher. “I know a lot of young people may not want to read through a four-inch book, but they’re going to be able to see it re-enacted through these amazing people.” Rapper Lupe Fiasco also noted the message the film would impart to young people, while also having something for an older crowd. “They wanted to represent different areas to really get people to come out and see the film, and I was the hip hop guy. It actually worked,” said Fiasco. “When we were on the college tour to promote it, kids would come out with “Lupe” signs. And there was a cross with the Danny Glover fans.”

Howard Zinn told TV Guide Magazine that the performers he chose were those “who are very good actors and who have powerful social consciences” before jetting off for a photo with co-executive producer and co-director Chris Moore (who worked with Damon on "Good Will Hunting" and is currently producing his new film "The Adjustment Bureau.") “Matt’s the best,” Moore said. “He’s very hard working.” Although it was a star-studded affair, the focus always remained on the event. “It’s about bringing a history book to life,” said Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C. “You read about Lincoln, you read about Fredrick Douglass, you read about what Muhammad Ali did. But then you get to hear it, to feel the emotions of why they were saying what they were saying.”

Damon still writing 4th 'Bourne'

Matt Damon has disappointed fans of the Bourne film franchise - the fourth installment is still years away from hitting the big screen.

The Hollywood actor announced in March that he and director Paul Greengrass are developing an original script for the next movie in the popular series, which is based on the books by Robert Ludlum.

But the pair is so determined to make the next film as successful as the others - which have grossed more than $940 million worldwide - that they are still at the writing stage.

Damon tells Britain's Total Film magazine, "Personally, selfishly, we'd all really like to do it, but we are really serious about trying to get the story and the script right because the only thing more disappointing than not having another one of these movies is - for us and for movie fans - to make one that isn't good.

"Everyone would say, 'They should have quit after three.' And we'd feel that way too. We don't have the script yet, but hopefully we'll all be shooting in 18 months or so."

Yeehaw! Matt Damon, Josh Brolin Get Gritty

Matt Damon's family emergency appears to have found a happy resolution—and not a moment too soon. After the briefest of Damon dry spells, he's back to fulfilling all of our paparazzi-catching, movie-acquiring needs.

Wasting no time getting back in the saddle, the Oscar winner is in talks with Josh Brolin—who knows from both Academy Award nominations and westerns himself—to star in a reimagining of the iconic 1969 cowboy flick True Grit (which, incidentally, earned John Wayne his only Oscar).

According to Variety, the duo would star alongside Jeff Bridges in the Joel and Ethan Coen flick. Should discussions turn to done deals, it would mark a reunion for everyone but Damon; the brothers Coen previously toiled with Bridges the Dude on The Big Lebowski and clocked hours with Brolin on the Academy lovefest No Country for Old Men.

The remake would follow Damon and Bridges joining forces with a teenage girl to track down her father's killer; Brolin would play the bad guy. The testosterone-heavy flick is due out in late 2010.

"Serious" Family Emergency Knocks Matt Damon Out of Charity Event

We hope everything turns out all right for Matt Damon.

The oft-involved actor was forced to pull out of a charity event tonight in San Francisco due to a "family emergency of a serious nature," his rep confirms to E! News.

"He wouldn't have missed this otherwise," she said.

Organizers for the Second Annual OneXOne Fundraiser, which Damon had been scheduled to host, had said earlier today that it's main man couldn't make it.

Charlize Theron and soccer star Mia Hamm are also expected at the gala, which benefits organizations committed to helping children and fighting health crises around the globe. Hamm and Damon are OneXOne ambassadors.

Eyewitnesses spotted Damon and his wife Luciana walking in Boston with their daughter Gia and an older couple. The duo are also parents to daughters Isabella and Alexia, Luciana's daughter from a previous relationship.

"He looked mellow," David Feltner, musical director for the Chamber Orchestra of Boston, told E! News.

Family dance for Matt Damon

Matt Damon -- in town filming "The Adjustment Bureau" with Emily Blunt -- unwound at the Hustler Club on 12th Avenue the other night. Damon was with a woman "all the dancers said was his wife, Luciana," a source said, plus two men and another woman. "They got there after 11 p.m. and stayed for 2½ hours. He bought dances for his friends. His wife was dancing for him. The club normally doesn't allow civilians to dance, but they made an exception for him."

Sightings

Matt Damon, grabbing orchestra seats at Broadway's Hamlet, starring Jude Law. The casually dressed actor, in a blue sweater, kept a low profile while enjoying the show with his wife, Luciana.

Matt Damon & Ben Affleck More Than Just Friends

We knew there was more going on between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck than meets the eye.

Jokes about their level of closeness and who's banging Jimmy Kimmel aside, it turns out the longtime pals and Oscar-winning screenwriters really are more than friends and writing partners. In fact, they're related!

According to the New England Genealogical Society, the actors are both descendants of bricklayer William Knowlton Jr., an Englishman who settled in Ipswich, Mass. around 1630.

That would make Affleck and Damon approximately 10th cousins, once removed. Affleck was born in Berkeley, Calif., but spent his formative years in Boston, where he and Damon became friends.

And this heartwarming connection is actually just the tip of the iceberg for Affleck, who also shares lineage with 16 U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, and Princess Diana. Damon is related to a mere 11 former commanders in chief.

"Ben is an 11th cousin to Obama,” genealogist Chris Child told the Boston Herald. "We just found that connection this week. They share a common ancestor in the Hinckley family of Cape Cod."

"It might be kind of one of those neat things to say at cocktail parties," he added.

Ellen Barkin's cougar moment

ELLEN Barkin seemed to have a flashback when she met Matt Damon as she was heading home the other day on West 12th Street, where Damon was filming a scene for "The Adjustment Bureau," based on a Philip K. Dick story. Barkin played a cougar who tried to seduce Damon in "Ocean's Thirteen." After a brief chat on the street, Barkin, in a Mae West moment, rubbed Damon's head, and said, "Come on over and see me after you finish," nodding to the building where she lives. Damon laughed and went back to work.

Matt Damon Has Clean Water on the Brain

He may play an enigma in his latest movie The Informant!, but Matt Damon knows how to keep his personal message clear – and put his money where his mouth is.

The star, 38, announced Tuesday at the launch of the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative that Damon's non-profit group, Water.org, would help provide clean water and sanitation facilities to 50,000 people in Haiti, reports Tonic.com.

To make that happen, "Water.org will deliver at least $2 million to fund this commitment," Damon is quoted as saying.

The project, nicknamed "Haiti Challenge," is officially titled "Safe Water and Sanitation For the People of Haiti" and is to be additionally funded by the EKTA Foundation, whose purpose is world solidarity, and the public, through Water.org's Haiti Challenge Web site.

Addressing the world leaders gathered by former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday, where President Barack Obama also appeared, Damon said, "We want to challenge everyone here in this room tonight to support this commitment to the people of Haiti by visiting Water.org."

Eastwood, Damon join forces in "Hereafter'"

Having just worked together on "Invictus," which will be released later this year, Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon are reteaming for "Hereafter."

Eastwood will direct the supernatural thriller by Peter Morgan, with Damon taking the lead role. Filming is set to begin this fall.

DreamWorks acquired the spec script from Morgan, an Oscar nominee for "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon," last year, and it quickly piqued Eastwood's interest.

Deciding to move forward with the project, Eastwood is moving it to his home base at Warner Bros. with the blessing of DreamWorks founder Steven Spielberg, who produced Eastwood's films "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima."

"Invictus," the South Africa-set drama in which Damon plays rugby player Francois Pienaar, will be released by Warners on December 11.

Pssst! 'The Informant!' is smart

The cast and crew of The Informant!, ranging from director Steven Soderbergh to title star Matt Damon, are getting all giggly and embarrassed about the Oscar buzz surrounding the launch of their new film.

But it's real, it's probably going to pay off with nominations and it's well earned.

The Informant!, which premiered last weekend at the Toronto film festival, is an almost true story about a real-life American corporate oddity named Mark Whitacre.

Intelligent but a tad crazy and certainly flawed, Whitacre was an Ivy League brain who rose to prominence at a giant food company called Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the 1990s. Corn in, profits out.

But, during Whitacre's watch, things start going haywire on a massive scale.

Whitacre gets conscripted as an insider informant for the FBI. Unlike the true story told in The Insider, however, Whitacre's whistle-blowing plays a different tune, a jaunty number with a lot of sour notes.

Soderbergh's film tells Whitacre's tall tale as a farce. Because it is Soderbergh telling it, The Informant! is smart and nimble on its feet.

Because Soderbergh collaborates so well with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, who adapted Kurt Eichenwald's non-fiction book, the story is layered and deep, but also richly funny in illuminating human nature in unusual circumstances.

And because Damon plays Whitacre -- totally transforming himself into a Midwestern uber-nerd for the role -- there is meat served with the mashed potatoes and canned corn.

Pull all that together and The Informant! is a great film for adult audiences.

At first glance, you will recognize Damon, yet be taken aback. He has gained 30 pounds of mid-life flab. There is no hint of Jason Bourne's superb fitness. Damon wears an ugly toupee and sports a hideous moustache. The clothes are 1970s style, as if the locale and people were caught in a time warp and refused to be hip to 1990s fashions, decor or even demeanour.

Damon is absolutely brilliant in the role because he never overplays the nuttiness, nor draws attention to his nerdiness. After all, he thinks he is cool and feels empowered. As a result, Damon's version of Whitacre is funny and yet capable of generating pathos. The weirdness builds. As Damon goes about his business, he fires off tangential random thoughts in his head. They are presented as an interior monologue with Damon narrating, a device that could damage a lesser film. Here it works extremely well.

What Whitacre thinks is usually out-of-sync with what he is doing, or saying aloud to others at the office or with the FBI investigators (led by Scott Bakula in a terrific turn as a plodding agent) or even to his own wife (Melanie Lynskey, a revelation as an American housewife).

But there is one scene in which the interior monologue and the conversations he has aloud abruptly come together.

It is a quiet, superbly orchestrated moment.

It breaks your heart and is the heart of the entire film.

This emotional climax is so subtle it belies the exclamation mark in the title of the film.

But the film is so good overall that the robust punctuation -- and all that Oscar buzz -- is deserved.

'The Informant!' uses satire to punctuate a serious topic

People magazine may just strip Matt Damon of his "sexiest man alive" title once they catch sight of the actor in the offbeat film The Informant!.

Portly — Damon packed on 30 pounds for the role — and sporting a ridiculous mustache, dorky wire-framed glasses and an unmoving helmet of hair, he's almost unrecognizable in the role of Mark Whitacre, a corporate whistle-blower who is not what he seems.

Damon is superb as a demonically smart guy who comes across as rather dim. The Informant! is an odd, satirical comedy that director Steven Soderbergh has infused with a jaunty tone, in contrast to the serious subject matter. Its story of corporate malfeasance and corruption as well as individual greed couldn't be more timely, given the antics of bailed-out Wall Street companies and powerhouse banks.

The dark comedy is based on the real-life much-publicized story of the highest-ranking corporate whistle-blower in American history.

It's the early 1990s and Whitacre is a top exec at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), an agri-industry conglomerate engaging in an industry-wide practice of price-fixing. Why would Whitacre sabotage his golden-boy status by revealing his company's wrongdoings? At first he seems like an inept but heroic guy, fessing up to the FBI and exposing his company's illegal acts because it's the right thing to do.

Soon, it becomes clear that his motives are more ulterior than pure of heart. The FBI agents assigned to the case (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) find that Whitacre's account of events shifts more easily than his toupee in a strong breeze. Is Whitacre a knight in shining armor, a compulsive liar, playing secret agent or plagued by mental illness? Or is he all of the above?

With his earnest demeanor and straightforward delivery, Damon convincingly obfuscates Whitacre's motives. We don't question his veracity as much as try to muddle through it. A big part of the fun is piecing together the puzzle that is Whitacre.

In a strange but fascinating touch, Damon voices his inner monologue. Often, his thoughts — an inane stream of consciousness — seem wholly unrelated to what's going on around him, which adds an intriguing absurdist quality to an already quirky tale. We come to realize Whitacre is the least reliable narrator in an already slippery setting.

Soderbergh takes a deadly serious news story and amplifies and colors it to the point of outrageousness. The results aren't always consistent, but they are undeniably compelling.

The Informant! - * * * (out of four)
Stars: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rating: R for language
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Opens Friday nationwide

Nice-guy Matt Damon dug in for hefty role in 'Informant!'

You'll be seeing a lot of Matt Damon this fall.

Thirty pounds more, to be exact. The clean-cut actor, known for his all-American good looks, gobbled junk food and acquired an impressive gut to play a shifty, shady whistle-blower in the comedy The Informant!, opening Friday. Damon, calling the weight gain "liberating," savored every ounce of it. Surprisingly, so did his wife, Lucy.

"I made my wife appreciate it. She was a good sport. I paraded around. I loved my body. I walked around, danced — dancing with a belly like that was fun," says Damon. "My stepdaughter loved it, too. She kept poking me in the stomach, laughing."

His girth aside, it's a super-sized year for Damon, 38, whose last film was the 2007 action blockbuster The Bourne Ultimatum. He has Clint Eastwood's Invictus, about Nelson Mandela's attempt to unite his country through rugby, out in December. And in March, Damon hunts for weapons of mass destruction in the Iraq war thriller Green Zone, from Paul Greengrass.

"I know it's a cliché, but I really do feel lucky, and the work I'm getting the chance to do, it's great," says Damon. "I've just made the best choices I could. And that's it. There hasn't been a long-term strategy, other than I want to direct and I've chosen films based on directors. I have great support in my life, from my wife and my kids. And I don't take myself too seriously."

In person, he's easygoing and genial. He's well-read, easily discussing the Bernie Madoff bust and whether President Obama's efforts to overhaul health care will work.

That he finds time to read is impressive. Damon just started filming the sci-fi romance The Adjustment Bureau, opposite Emily Blunt, has been cast as the lead in Eastwood's next movie, Hereafter, and will then play Liberace's lover opposite Michael Douglas as the sequin-loving performer.

"The guy's put together a pretty good filmography for not being 40 yet. His choices have been really smart," says The Informant!'s Steven Soderbergh, who's also directing Damon in the Liberace biopic. "And he always delivers. He's always good. He really is one of those actors that once you've worked with him, you just want to go back."

No work for nine months

Damon's career was in a different place in 2001, when Soderbergh first approached Damon about headlining a movie about Mark Whitacre, a morally muddled executive who worked with the FBI for two years to expose price-fixing at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).

At the time, says Damon, he wasn't drowning in blue-chip scripts, after both of his 2000 dramas, All the Pretty Horses and The Legend of Bagger Vance, tanked. Neither of his two comeback hits — 2001's Ocean's Eleven and 2002's The Bourne Identity— had come out yet. And when Soderbergh called him about The Informant!, Damon, who'd won a screenwriting Oscar for Good Will Hunting, thought he was being hired to draft the script.

"Nobody had offered me a job in nine months. I was very aware of my position in the business. It was in that climate that he called," recalls Damon. "He said that he found something for us to do. I was so confused by that because nobody had offered me a job in so long. I could be the lead in a Steven Soderbergh movie? I instantly said yes."

Soderbergh, a crisp, decisive director, only ever had Damon in mind for the role.

"I felt this was a great part for him. You need to like (Whitacre), even when you don't understand him," Soderbergh says. "Matt has that classically American energy, optimism and enthusiasm that we associate with a certain type of young man. This was a great opportunity to play with that persona without totally turning people off."

His instinct seems to have paid off. Variety's Todd McCarthy praises Damon for being in "very sharp form in his fifth film with Soderbergh. " And according to David Denby of TheNew Yorker, "Usually chary of words, Damon here is as voluble as a traveling salesman at a hotel bar, and he holds nothing back."

Damon calls Whitacre, a conundrum of a man who brought down a corporation while also stealing millions, "complicated and interesting. I didn't think too much about why I liked the role so much. I just did. He's such a fascinating guy."

And not a very sexy one, with no resemblance whatsoever to lean, mean killing machine Jason Bourne, Damon's character from the Bourne trilogy of movies. Damon's Whitacre wears a tacky toupee and ensembles that would horrify Tim Gunn.

Soderbergh had one word for Damon when giving him guidance about his physical transformation into a Midwestern office drone: doughy.

"There's no hard edges. He had these little plumpers in that had his jaws fill out a little bit. We put a little tip on his nose, just to round it off. It's very subtle. And 30 pounds will do it," Soderbergh says. "If you look at the still photographs from the set, there isn't a single image of him without some food in his hand. He was hitting the Doritos hard, man."

Just as quickly, Damon had to downsize to finish re-shoots on Green Zone. You see a very different Damon in the thriller, promises his co-star Amy Ryan.

"He's very buff in this movie. It was very impressive — really hot," says Ryan. "He's fiercely bright. He has such a passion for what he does. He's a great leader on set and just seems tireless. He's very thorough and a great storyteller and impersonator. He does everyone and anyone."

That talent came in handy when Damon spent six months perfecting a South African accent to play rugby champ Francois Pienaar in Eastwood's Invictus.

He brought his family, which includes daughters Gia, 13 months, Isabella, 3, and Alexia, 11, from Lucy's first marriage, along to the shoot in South Africa. There, they hung out by the pool while Dad worked.

"I was playing a real guy. He had me over to his house and cooked a big dinner. I looked up at him and said, 'I look much bigger on film!' " recalls Damon. "It was such a good experience. If we did a serviceable job of the script, which I think we did, then we'll be in good shape. I couldn't have worked any harder."

Size didn't matter to Eastwood and his longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz, who cast Damon despite the height difference between Damon and the much larger Pienaar.

Both men, says Lorenz, are "very athletic and charismatic, and they're both intellectuals. They can go on and on about a multitude of subjects. Matt is very focused. He sent us pictures during prep of his shoulders and back to show us how much he'd been working out. It was impressive. I can't find anything to complain about with him. Matt's charming personality comes through on screen."

Low-keyed approach to fame

Off-screen, as well. Damon has been known for years as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. He is, by all accounts, one of the very few actors about whom no one has anything negative to say. Damon doesn't agonize about the price of fame, or complain about the paparazzi attention his family sometimes gets.

"He seems to have worn his celebrity really well. I've been next to it, and I've seen what it's like to be that famous. It's a chore. You can't get out from under it once you've reached that kind of level," says Soderbergh. "I've never heard him complain or express any sort of anxiety about it."

Damon uses his fame to promote the charity umbrella organization OneXOne, and Water.org, which helps developing countries have access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Damon, who went to Harvard, reels off statistics and facts fluidly.

"Besides making movies and spending time with my family, it's basically all I do. It's interesting. Extreme poverty — I feel that so much of it is fixable," he says.

The Damon family recently moved from Miami to New York, where he lived during his bachelor years. Now, he's living uptown, near Central Park. He's even toying with switching coasts, partly to be closer to his friend Ben Affleck.

"We each have two girls within six months of each other. It's a strong argument to buy a house there and be near Ben," says Damon, of his Good Will Hunting collaborator. "We'll see how the little kids do (in New York). If the winter is too tough, we might move to L.A. All my friends with kids live there."

At home, he's overpowered by women. "Totally. It's just me. We have a male dog, but he got snipped before we picked him up from the pound. I'm just happy. It's fun with the girls," he says.

His daughters' faces are rarely in the tabloids. Damon's secret to protecting their privacy?

"I make them put veils on," he cracks. "What it really is is that we've been living in Miami. It will be interesting to see what happens now that we're in New York. Lucy is not a celebrity, and that really helps. Tabloids sell sex and scandal, and the narrative for me is that he's married to a normal woman and has got three kids and is kind of quiet. So as long as I don't do anything stupid …"

Damon, Douglas take on Liberace

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are set to tickle each other's ivories next spring.

Douglas confirms that the duo will team for a Liberace biopic helmed by Steven Soderbergh, who co-produced Douglas' latest, Solitary Man, and who directed Damon in the whistleblower comedy The Informant!, which opens Friday.

Douglas will portray the flamboyant piano-playing entertainer, while Damon will play Scott Thorson, who sued Liberace for palimony even though the superstar insisted he wasn't gay.

"Matt's going to be my young lover," Douglas tells Sun Media. "Why not? God bless Matt. Hey, it's easy for me -- he's in his prime. I said to him, 'Matt, I love you, man. Boy, that Bourne (series) must really be going strong.' But good for him. He's right taking chances. All those young guys -- (George) Clooney -- they're taking risks ... It's smart trying to mix it up a bit and maintain those franchises and still get to do a picture that turns you on."

Douglas intends to spend the early part of 2010 preparing for the role after he wraps Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

"I'm going to spend two or three months, just researching. I'll get the voice and figure out the piano style. I'm just going to get really comfortable so it's not a caricature," Douglas says, clearly intrigued by the challenge. "At this point and at my age, why not? It's not all autographs and sunglasses."

Matt Damon Loves George Clooney's Girlfriend

George Clooney's newest squeeze has passed an important test: gaining the approval of her beau's friends.

"She is a really, really wonderful woman," Clooney's close pal Matt Damon, 38, told PEOPLE at Tuesday's Manhattan premiere of his film The Informant!

Damon says he and wife Luciana vacationed this summer with the Oceans Eleven star and his new girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, 30. And apparently Canalis, an Italian TV presenter, is having a good effect on Clooney, 48.

"It's nice to see my friend so happy," Damon says.

Indeed, Clooney seems uncharacteristically demonstrative toward Canalis, whom he squired around openly at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month.

On the other hand, Damon says he wishes he could see more of another famous friend – best friend and fellow Good Will Hunting Oscar-winner Ben Affleck.

"He's been in L.A., and I've been in Miami, and now he's in Boston shooting, so we see each other less than we'd like to," Damon said. "Hopefully, we'll change that."

Review: The joke's on us with `The Informant!'

The exclamation point in the title is your first clue that Steven Soderbergh's intentions are more than a little askew with "The Informant!"

Then you notice Matt Damon's helmet of hair, his pouf of a mustache, his corny sportswear and the paunch where the "Bourne" trilogy star's taut abs used to be. And once the strains of Marvin Hamlisch's jaunty score begin — an ideal accompaniment to the faded, '70s-style cinematography — you know you're in some vividly retro, comic parallel universe.

"The Informant!" is about a serious, real-life subject — a whistle-blower who spied for the FBI to expose corporate corruption — only Soderbergh, directing a script by Scott Z. Burns, approaches it in the goofiest way, rather than as a serious drama like "The Insider" or even his own "Erin Brockovich."

It's a kick, really, but it also keeps you guessing: Is Damon, as Mark Whitacre, just a regular guy who gets in over his head? Is he far more scheming and malevolent than his folksy Midwestern demeanor would suggest? Or is something else entirely going on here?

Damon doesn't just dig into the role physically. He also keeps you on your toes with Whitacre's happy-go-lucky personality, a misplaced confidence that buoys him regardless of the situation, coupled with a surprisingly high comfort level for duplicity. It's a welcome opportunity to watch him show off his comedic abilities; come to think of it, Soderbergh, with his "Ocean's" movies, is one of the few directors who give him that chance.

One of the neatest tricks that throws us off course is Whitacre's running interior monologue: a series of voiceovers in which he provides stream-of-consciousness musings on everything from indoor pools to Brioni ties to the Japanese word for tuna. His thoughts may not be as innocuous as they seem.

Based on the book by former New York Times writer Kurt Eichenwald, "The Informant!" follows Whitacre's misadventures as he agrees to wear a wire to expose a price-fixing scheme at Archer Daniels Midland, the Illinois-based agribusiness conglomerate where he's an executive. Actually, "agrees" doesn't even begin to describe his reaction. He's more like a giddy little boy playing Agent 007 — or 0014, as he describes himself, because he thinks he's twice as smart.

He's totally convinced himself that he's on a mission, that he's doing the right thing for the greater good. At the same time, he tries to maintain the facade of living an idyllic, upper-middle class life with his perfectly coifed wife, Ginger (Melanie Lynskey), who always serves a proper dinner in the dining room for Whitacre and their children.

But as his ineptitude evolves into unreliability and eventually desperation, he becomes more trouble than help to agents Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) and Bob Herndon (Joel McHale). The deeper Whitacre gets, the more damage he does to the investigation — all of which Soderbergh plays for deadpan laughs, which makes it all the more absurd.

One question lingers, though: What does his wife know and when does she know it? Ginger is the weak link here, her docile, doting presence making us wonder whether she's aware of her husband's true nature, having been with him since childhood.

Some insight would have been helpful, could have fleshed things out. But the joke might just be on her, as it is on us.

"The Informant!" a Warner Bros. release, is rated R for language. Running time: 108 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Damon turns `Informant' on pre-Bourne career fears

Matt Damon was thrilled when Steven Soderbergh called eight years ago asking him to play a tubby oddball with a self-destructive talent for spinning colossal lies.

At the time, Damon feared he had used up the good will from his one certified Hollywood grand slam on "Good Will Hunting," a commercial hit that earned him a best-actor Academy Award nomination and an Oscar for the screenplay he wrote with buddy Ben Affleck.

"Ocean's Eleven," the first installment in Soderbergh's heist trilogy featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Damon, had not yet come out.

And Damon was mired in his fourth round of reshoots for a long-delayed action thriller that showed all the signs of another turkey, the last thing he needed after his string of duds "The Legend of Bagger Vance," "All the Pretty Horses" and the animated adventure "Titan A.E."

"I was about as cold as you can be in Hollywood," Damon, 38, said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Soderbergh's "The Informant!" played in advance of its theatrical release this Friday. "I get this call from the hottest director in Hollywood and also a guy I've worked with and had a really good experience with. He calls me out of the blue and says, `I have something for us to work on, and it's this incredible story with this incredible character.'"

Soderbergh saw Damon, who previously earned good notices as a master deceiver in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," as the ideal choice to play Mark Whitacre, an executive who became an FBI whistle-blower in the 1990s to expose a price-fixing scheme at corporate giant Archer Daniels Midland. Whitacre went undercover for two and a half years, wearing wires to build a case about his company's collusion with competitors.

Through it all, Whitacre also gradually revealed his own embezzlement, the amounts of money involved absurdly rising as one lie was uncovered and he made up a fresh one to take its place. While federal officials secured convictions against two other top Archer Daniels Midland executives, Whitacre wound up doing nine years in prison in the very scheme he helped expose.

It's a surprising turn for Damon, who transforms to his core to capture the manic, nervous self-delusion of Whitacre. Damon packed on 30 pounds for the role, and his boyish good looks are concealed beneath stiff hair, thick moustache and corny Midwestern suit and tie.

This is Damon as pudgy, awkward, obfuscating little man, a complete turnabout from that action thriller everyone thought was going to bomb.

Instead, "The Bourne Identity" established Damon's amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne as an operative to rival James Bond (Damon insists Bourne could kick Bond's butt. Which Bond? "I could take Roger Moore," Damon said). The franchise turned into a trilogy with "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," the character so successful that it has become Damon's career-defining role.

The team behind "The Informant!" figures that can only help their film when audiences see Damon's Whitacre, almost an anti-Bourne figure.

"It couldn't be better timing for us. The shock of seeing him and saying to yourself, `That's the guy that plays Jason Bourne' is really I think a value added to the whole experience," Soderbergh said. "He just commits so completely and is so fearless about it, and the transformation is so complete. I looked at it absolutely as Arthur Miller on acid, that there was a sort of Willy Loman aspect to this whole thing, except it was just so weird."

"Who we think Matt is now is informed by Bourne, so now this is such an opposite look," said Scott Bakula, who co-stars as Whitacre's chief FBI contact. "I hope it shows people that he's hysterically funny but just proves what a great character actor he is. In his generation, if you look around the landscape, I don't know who else does what he does."

"The Informant!" is based on Kurt Eichenwald's book, a serious account of Whitacre's story. As a straight drama, Soderbergh felt it would rehash Russell Crowe's whistle-blower tale "The Insider."

So the filmmakers centered on the incredulity factor of Whitacre's story and how he managed to string along his FBI handlers with one fib after another. Damon figures the absurdist approach makes "The Informant!" an easier sell to audiences weary of hearing about corporate greed and corruption amid the economic meltdown.

"It's a comedy," he said, "so I think people enjoy it more and will be in a position to listen to what the movie's saying because it's more lighthearted."

Matt Damon Has 'Testosterone Deficient' Home

As the only male in a household of four females, Matt Damon's life is filled with love and fairy princesses.

"I call it the 'testosterone deficit.' But I'm happy with that," Damon told PEOPLE at Friday's premiere of The Informant! at the Toronto International Film Festival of his home life. "I love my girls and it's lot of pink, a lot of princesses and a lot of fun."

With his bachelor days behind him, Damon, 38, and his wife, Luciana, are in domestic bliss, celebrating special milestones in the lives of their daughters: Gia, 13 months, Isabella, 3, and Alexia, 11.

"Gia is just ready to start talking and making sounds," said the proud papa. "It's been really exciting and we are anxious to hear what she says."

The budding linguist, however, already is a skilled walker. "She's been walking since 9 months, which is pretty incredible," he said.

Gia's big sister Isabella is getting ready to attend pre-school – possibly leaving the star in tears. "I think I will get emotional when we take her. Her mom and I will probably be a big mess. She's ready but I don't know if I will be."

As for his oldest, Alexia, she has thoroughly been entertained by the Oscar winner's transformation of gaining 30 lbs. in order to play his new role in the black comedy The Informant! "She had fun with it by squeezing all the soft squishy parts and called me 'Fatty Matty,'" Damon said with a laugh.

In fact, some believed Damon's pudgy physique was an upgrade over his normal weight. "Every day people would come down to watch us shoot and invariably somebody would say, 'Wow you are so much better looking in person,'" the star told PEOPLE at the film's press conference Friday afternoon. And I said, 'thank you.' But I really did wonder, was it the wig, the mustache, the 30 lbs. and the fake nose, or maybe the wardrobe that helped?"

And what did Luciana think of her husband's extreme transformation? "She was a good sport about it. There was just more of me to love. I loved parading around with my belly."

Prank prompts man to strip for Clooney

Matt Damon fears he and pal Brad Pitt are responsible for prompting a male fan to strip off and proposition George Clooney at a recent press conference after suggesting their Ocean's Eleven co-star was secretly gay.

Clooney was promoting his new comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats on Tuesday at Italy's Venice Film Festival when a stripper posing as a journalist professed his love for the Hollywood star.

Video footage of the encounter has popped up all over the internet ever since, and it has forced Damon to make a confession.

The Bourne Identity actor admits he fuelled gossip Clooney was secretly in love with another man and that the couple planned to marry.

He says, "I was at the Venice Film Festival last week and Brad Pitt was there doing interviews for Inglorious Basterds and I guess people had been asking him, 'When are you and Angelina Jolie going to get married?' and he finally just said, 'Me and Angelina will marry when George Clooney marries his boyfriend!'

"The thing is, you do that in America and they just laugh; you do that overseas and I guess something gets lost in translation, so at eight in the morning, I'm doing interviews and this Italian journalist comes to me and says, 'Matt, is it true what Brad say (sic)?' I had no idea what he was talking about so I just said, 'Of course, yeah.'

"And he says, 'Do you mean George Clooney has a boyfriend?' I'm trying to keep a straight face so I go, 'Yeah, of course he's got a boyfriend,' and he goes, 'You mean, he wants to marry him? You know this man?' And we've been doing this for years so I go, 'Yeah, I know this man, he's great, that's why we want them to get married!'"

But Damon was left red-faced when he realized the ongoing prank may have led to the striptease during Clooney's press chat later.

He adds, "George is coming (to Venice) the next day, I go back to New York and the next day I wake up, turn on the news and on CNN the headline says, 'Man strips for George Clooney'. And there's a video of this guy who stands up and says, 'George, I am a gay and you are gay.' And George is like, 'What's going on?'

"Then this guy starts taking his clothes off, and goes, 'If you must choose, choose me!'"

Matt Damon Not Dead, Just Kicking Ass on Kimmel

They're f---ing (with) Matt Damon.

Though at least he won't be hurting for material when he turns up—alive and well—to chat with David Letterman tonight.

Fan girls' collective hearts briefly stopped beating yesterday evening when the Internet became awash with reports—or really, just one dubious and, as it happens, reycycled year-old report—that the Oscar-winning father of two had passed away.

Unlike the usual fake celebrity death reports that see victims falling off New Zealand cliffs, Damon's demise reportedly came during a trek through California's Palo Verde mountains on Wednesday after going missing during a camping trip.

Nevermind that Damon wouldn't have time to go camping even if the inclination struck, busy as he's been promoting The Informant! in both Venice and New York over the past few days.

Giving the rumor a touch (though just) of credibility, it cited TMZ as the source of the sad news.

And while the words "Matt Damon," "is" and "dead" did in fact appear on said site yesterday, it wasn't exactly a declaration.

During a session of TMZ Live, a commenter posed this head-scratcher: "Is matt damon dead?"

The query was followed by a link to a posting on a message board that reprinted the camping-trip-gone-awry story that falsely proclaimed the actor's death. Which, incidentally, was posted way back in October of 2008.

The story began making the verbatim rounds and, somewhere along the way, included Olympian and Dancing With the Stars champ Shawn Johnson in its morbid mongering. (Fear not: She too is alive, tweeting and making the NYC rounds.)

As for Ben Affleck's BFF, it's a good thing the rumor didn't start sooner. Just think of the pent-up aggression he would have let loose on Jimmy Kimmel stooge Guillermo then.

As it is, the latest chapter in his faux-feud with the late night host can be seen on Jimmy Kimmel Not Dead Live! next Tuesday.

Matt Damon Says Gaining 30 Lbs. Was Easy - and Fun

Looking tanned and trim, Matt Damon declared his latest film challenge as "probably the funnest time I've had working."

He also enjoyed making the movie The Informant!

What PEOPLE's former Sexiest Man Alive was describing was adding 30 lbs. – not to mention the cheesy moustache, hairpiece and glasses – to become nearly unrecognizable for his role as Mark Whitacre, an agricultural company's vice president-turned-FBI informant.

"It was very, very easy to gain the weight," Damon told reporters at the Venice Film Festival on Monday. "It was very, very fun, probably the funnest time I had working because I didn't have to go to the gym after work and I just ate everything I could see."

Based on a true story, the comedy – which costars Two and A Half Men's Melanie Lynskey and Scott Bakula – is Damon's latest collaboration with Oceans director Steven Soderbergh.

In Venice with wife Luciana, Damon heads off to Toronto tomorrow for the film's North American debut just as pal George Clooney is expected to arrive in the Italian city for the red carpet turn of his film, Men Who Stare At Goats.

Damon turns corporate whistleblower in dark comedy

Matt Damon stars as a whistleblower at a big U.S. agri-business company in "The Informant!," a black comedy based on a true story which had the audience laughing out loud at the Venice film festival.

Damon had to put on 30 pounds, wear a mustache and look unusually unglamorous to play Mark Whitacre, who turns from corporate golden boy at Archer Daniels Midland to FBI informant to uncover price-fixing practices in the industry.

"It was probably the funniest time I ever had working because I didn't have to think 'I have to go to the gym after work', and I just basically ate everything that I could see," Damon told reporters on Monday.

Dreaming of becoming a national hero and moving up the company ladder, Whitacre agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder to give the FBI the evidence it needs to incriminate his bosses.

But nothing is straightforward in Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh's film, which takes a farcical twist as it quickly becomes clear that Whitacre is not as well-meaning and reliable as he may seem.

"If you are not accustomed to lying you are invariably going to trip yourself up, which makes it fun to play this guy because he is never wrongfooted. And even if he is for a moment he then catches on until someone finally just says stop," Damon said.

Soderbergh, who already worked with Damon in his "Ocean's" trilogy, is not new to exposing corruption and corporate greed.

"Erin Brockovich," also based on a true story, was about a single mother taking on a water-polluting Californian company, while "Traffic" -- which won four Oscars -- looked at the drugs trade.

But in The Informant!, set in America's Midwest in the 1990s and premiering out of competition in Venice, he takes a distinctly lighter approach.

The film, on which Soderbergh started working in 2001, could be seen as making not-so-veiled references to recent U.S. corporate scandals, but he said that what really drew him to the story was Whitacre's bizarre personality -- and the reactions of those around him.

"It takes two people for a lie to work -- it takes the liar and somebody to believe it ... In this case for the lie to work you have the FBI agents ignoring so many signs that something is wrong because the case is so big," he said.

Unlike for previous films, Soderbergh did not want to meet the real Whitacre nor any of those involved in the story before shooting The Informant!, which is based on a book by Kurt Eichenwald.

"As we determined that the film was going to be a comedy, and a very subjective film ... my talking to the real people was not going to help me and it may hurt me," Soderbergh said.

"The strange thing is that Whitacre has seen the film and says that it's very accurate."

Sightings

CLINT Eastwood, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman at a back table in the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge being interviewed by Parade Editor-in-Chief Janice Kaplan

Sightings

Matt Damon, causing a stir at Santa Monica's Café Delfini. The actor was eating with wife Luciana, as many excited diners looked on – but never approached the actor.

The Talented Mr. Damon Gets Feted!

Matt Damon is adding to his mantle.

He's only 38 but the thespian has just been tapped to receive his first lifetime achievement honor, the American Cinematheque Award.

According to Variety, Damon has agreed to accept the award in person, leading ABC to schedule the kudocast for primetime. AMC previously hosted the event the past four years.

Not a bad draw if we may say so.

The actor will have to wait awhile though. The Cinematheque folks have decided to push back the ceremony from its usual October birth to March 27, 2010 so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle of awards season. Consequently, the honor will technically be skipping 2009.

Damon, who won an Oscar over a decade ago for penning Good Will Hunting which he also starred in, has gone on to headline several Hollywood blockbusters including Ocean's Eleven and its sequels and The Bourne trilogy. His performances have also been heralded in such films as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Saving Private Ryan, All The Pretty Horses, Syriana, The Departed, and The Good Shepherd.

The Cinematheque award is given out annually to artists who are "committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion pictures."

Past honorees include Samuel L. Jackson, who was lauded last year, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Al Pacino, Steve Martin, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster.

Latest "Bourne" film lands scribe

Josh Zetumer has signed on to pen the fourth installment of the "Bourne" movie series, writing what is being described as a parallel script to one that was written earlier.

George Nolfi, who worked on "The Bourne Ultimatum" for Universal, had come back for the fourth entry in the action series. He also signed on to write and direct "The Adjustment Bureau," an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story that reteams him with "Bourne" star Matt Damon. But as that movie nears its September start date, Nolfi had to step away from "Bourne."

Not wishing to slow development and keen on making "Bourne" part of its 2011 slate, Universal hired Zetumer to write a new script. It's unclear whether Zetumer's draft will be integrated with Nolfi's.

"Our hope is that Nolfi, a key member of the 'Bourne' team, will return after he is done with 'The Adjustment Bureau,'" a Universal spokesperson said.

Zetumer's screenwriting credits include "Dune," for director Pete Berg and Paramount, and Warner Bros.' "The Infiltrator," to which Leonardo DiCaprio is attached to star.

Japanese anime 'Ponyo' cute, artful

Full marks to Pixar boss John Lasseter for resurrecting Disney's 2D animation mandate.

But we'd have preferred they'd ditched the A-list Hollywood voice-cast and run Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo in English-subtitled Japanese.

But yeah, okay, it's a kids' movie, and a lot of them can't read yet. So bring on the Jonas Brot and Miley Cyrus' sister.

Ponyo may be the most pointedly child-oriented of films by one of the legends of anime (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), and even cheapened by distracting dubbing, it remains an artful demonstration in how 2D can be a more useful imaginative canvas than CGI.

Ponyo is essentially The Little Mermaid with the added didactic preciousness of a murky Gaia parable and moral. But it's Miyazaki's vision of a living ocean that stays in your brain. The very waves that surround the ocean-view home of young Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) are sentient and capable of reaching out and pulling people in. This creeped me out a little, so I'd imagine it would make an impression on young children as well.

Ponyo opens with a human-faced goldfish escaping from the underwater lair of her human "father" (Liam Neeson), burning with curiosity about the human world above -- a world despised by her vengeful father, who orders the ocean itself to bring her back.

She ends up in the beach pail of a young boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) who feeds her some of his ham sandwich.

The meat is the lure that brings the fast-evolving Ponyo (Noah Cyrus) inexorably back to land after begin "retrieved."

Sosuke's life entirely revolves around the sea. His father (Matt Damon) is a fisherman who communicates with him by radio and semaphore. His mother (Tina Fey) -- who's in a constant state of "ticked off" at her missing husband -- often has to negotiate washed out roads en route to her job as an aide at the local seniors' care home (cue the likes of Cloris Leachman and Betty White).

It's when Ponyo makes her final leap to freedom, morphing into a magical little girl who walks on waves in her attempt to rejoin her beloved Sosuke, that Ponyo achieves visual art status. The angry ocean storms and roars as she makes her run, a scene worth showing in any class on animation.

What happens next is pretty unclear, with Ponyo's father and her Sea Goddess mother (Cate Blanchett) reuniting around a prophecy that involves Ponyo.

Seems the fate of the world hangs in the balance over whether Sosuke's love is true (a lot of pressure to put on the puppy love of two five-year-olds, if you ask me).

Seriously, I have no idea what was happening there, except there's a happy ending where humans appear to get a reprieve for the raping of the ocean.

Maybe it made more sense in Japanese. In any case -- internal logic aside -- Ponyo is a visually arresting work by an anime master, and both cute enough and suspenseful enough to keep pre-schoolers in their seats.

Clooney and Damon are Headed to Venice

George, Matt and Buzz Lightyear – and even more stars – will be sailing into Venice this fall.

Organizers of the film festival in the Italian city of canals announced a roster of films and film stars aimed at drawing maximum buzz, with possible appearances including Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Jared Leto and Diane Kruger.

Billed as the world's oldest movie confab, the 66th Venice Film Festival kicks off Sept. 2 and will feature world premieres of two much-anticipated pictures: The Men Who Stare At Goats, starring George Clooney, and The Informant!, with Matt Damon.

Men Who Stare, a comedy about a reporter (Clooney) who discovers a paranormal psychology unit at work in Iraq, also brings to the screen Jeff Bridges, McGregor, Spacey and Stephen Root. The Informant! pairs Damon with director Steven Soderbergh in a comedy-thriller involving a price-fixing scandal.

While many had expected Leonardo DiCaprio's Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese, to bow in Venice, it wasn't included on today's list, leading to suspicion the movie will headline Toronto's film festival instead.

Among other films cited to screen: 3-D versions of Pixar's Toy Story and Toy Story 2; Bad Lieutenant, starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Werner Herzog; Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story; the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road, with Mortensen and Theron; and Mr. Nobody, starring Leto and Kruger.

Matt Damon gets political in documentary

How does Matt Damon make reciting the Declaration of Independence exciting?

"You just read it," says the actor-writer-producer. "Seriously. It is an incredible document. I think people either forget about it or have been taught it too early in their lives. It's a document worth reading and rereading every single year because it's the principles in that document that we should be loyal to and fight for and struggle for, rather than whichever government is in power."

"The Bourne Ultimatum" star reads the declaration in "The People Speak," an upcoming History Channel movie co-executive produced by Damon and based on Howard Zinn's book, "A People's History of the United States." Joining Damon in reading letters, speeches and text from famous and not-so famous Americans are such stars as Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, Morgan Freeman and Marisa Tomei.

"The material is inherently dramatic," says Tomei, who recited the words of factory worker Harriet Hanson Robinson at a 2003 celebration of the millionth copy of Zinn's book sold and in the documentary. "You don't have to wonder, 'How am I going to rephrase that?' or 'How am I going to make it through this scene?' It's all right there for you in the words of these impassioned people."

One political topic Damon is avoiding is Sarah Palin. Damon drew headlines last September when he told The Associated Press during an interview that the Republican vice presidential candidacy was like "a bad Disney movie." He said he had "no idea" what Palin would do now that she has stepped down as Alaska's governor. He joked that he's still in shock about the attention his remarks received.

"I couldn't believe it," said Damon. "Certainly, that whole campaign was a next-generation campaign in the sense that YouTube and all these different things existed that weren't really around in 2004. Campaigning is different now than it was a couple of cycles ago. I think that little interview was a small part of that."

Sightings

MATT Damon and his wife, Luciana, dining at Da Silvano the night the Yankees tied his beloved Red Sox for first place

Matt Damon gets stalkery on 'Entourage'

What Matt Damon wants, Matt Damon gets.

Damon will go all-out for charity on the new season of "Entourage," according to TV Guide.

Damon will guest as himself, trying to convince Adrian Grenier's Vincent Chase to donate money. That leads him to take some extreme measures.

"The joke is that Matt is very passionate about his charity -- almost in a stalkerish kind of way," Grenier told the magazine. "Vince becomes intimidated by his intensity. He ends up bullying Vince into giving much more than he should."

"Entourage" returns to HBO on July 12.

Matt Damon Wants Hugh Jackman to Repeat as Sexiest Man Alive

The political season is over, but Matt Damon is still on the campaign trail, pushing for PEOPLE's reigning Sexiest Man Alive Hugh Jackman to take the honor again this year.

"Maybe he can be the first to do it back-to-back," says Damon, 38, who gave up the title to the X-Men star last year. "I'll start campaigning for that."

Damon also has ideas on who should not be up for consideration: His Oceans 11 cast-mates George Clooney and Brad Pitt, both of whom have been Sexiest Man Alive twice.

"It would be absolutely intolerable, so, no, I don't want either of those guys to three-peat," he joked while attending the Ante Up For Africa poker fundraiser Thursday in Las Vegas's Rio Hotel.

Sightings

At Madeo, Matt Damon and wife Luciana were eating with Jeremy Piven and a group of 10 friends. "Lucy was sitting next to another woman, chatting it up," the onlooker tells us. The whole group toasted, raising their wine glasses at one point. Meanwhile, Damon ate pasta and Piven opted for a veal dish.

Celebrities band together for docu on democracy

The History cable channel is teaming with education organization The People Speak for a dramatic documentary focused on the concept of democracy and starring a host of celebrity talent.

Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei and others will lend performances chronicling key moments in U.S. history. Damon will appear in a vignette about John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," Tomei will play factory worker Harriet Hanson Robinson, and Eddie Vedder will read Bob Dylan's "Masters of War."

The network will air a two-hour special, "The People Speak," during the fourth quarter of next year and release at least 24 short segments through 2010 for online and video-on-demand distribution.

Damon and Brolin also are on board as executive producers, as is historian and social critic Howard Zinn, on whose work the documentary is based.

Ben Affleck: Friendship with Matt Damon Endures

They were close childhood friends, collaborated on the script for 1997's Good Will Hunting and then won Oscars for it. And even after Hollywood success and "ballooning" families, Ben Affleck says his friendship with Damon" has not only gotten stronger, with shared vacations, but they're planning another movie together.

"It's cool," Affleck, 36, told PEOPLE of his and Damon's enduring bond, which includes mixing and mingling with their wives and kids. Affleck has two daughters with wife Jennifer Garner, while Damon, also 36, has two daughters with wife Luciana Barroso.

"We went on vacation last summer," says Affleck, who plays a congressman opposite Russell Crowe in the new thriller State of Play. "It's nice. It always has been. He's got his family ballooning, and we're doing okay – it's nice."

With the two having never veered from their shared Boston upbringing, Affleck observes, "I think it would be the same for anybody. You're friends when you are young, you have a certain life. Then in your 20s you have a different life. In your 30s you get married and have families."

Satisfying Friendships

Given such a perspective, Affleck adds, "It's a different kind of satisfaction being around your friends, the friends you grew up with. They have kids, have barbecues and that kind of deal. That is really satisfying, too. It's one of the nice things about having friends for a long time."

Equally nice is that, with recent arrival Seraphina Rose joining daughter Violet, 3, at home, Affleck says, "I am very lucky. I feel blessed to look around and see that I've got a healthy family and a job. Especially nowadays, you really feel very good."

When it comes to being a dad, he's mastered many of the duties – including how to mash bananas properly – that his wife was once worried would require supervision.

"I'm in a pretty good zone right now," says PEOPLE's 2002 Sexiest Man Alive. "I say that, and I'll go home to find everything exploded, [but] so far, so good."

All in all, he says, "I really am happy with what I'm doing now. In fact, I've never been at a place where I've felt better about going to work every day. I'm more engaged and very, very happy … I've really gotten comfortable with the things that are important to me."

Time to Re-Team

In terms of professional projects, though they've costarred and shared cameos in various films and collaborated as producers on different projects, Affleck and Damon haven't been paired together on screen for five years. Affleck says the timing now feels right to re-team once again.

"Supposedly we're doing this thing next year" once their busy schedules dovetail, Affleck said. For his part, Damon has to complete three films – including a fourth turn as Jason Bourne – while Affleck, who received warm reviews for his 2007 directorial effort Gone Baby Gone, will be directing and starring in The Town, which Variety reports is an adaptation of the Chuck Hogan novel The Prince of Thieves.

"Matt is always pretty busy but claiming that he's going to try and slow it down a little bit," says his buddy. "He doesn't mind taking a year to wait. I would love to, it's great, and we're both busy. Matt lives in Miami, so it's hard to get a chance to see him. If we work together it's an excuse to hang out."

Bleeping Funny

MATT Damon's wife, Luciana, so loved Sarah Silverman's video proclaiming, "I'm f - - - ing Matt Damon," that she took it to heart. "Somebody sent [her] a shirt that said, 'I'm f - - - ing Matt Damon,' and there was a note with it. 'You're actually the only person who can wear this.' I swear it wasn't me who sent it," Damon tells parade.com. "She was pregnant at the time, so it was really funny to watch her wear the shirt . . . We both laughed a lot."

Matt Damon works for 'The Adjustment Bureau'

Ever feel like someone's keeping you from finding true love? Matt Damon sure does.

Damon will take the lead for "The Adjustment Bureau," according to Variety. The movie, very loosely based on Philip K. Dick's 1954 story "Adjustment Team," follows Damon's politician character as mysterious circumstances continually prevent him from beginning a love affair with a ballet dancer. The original tale, which as usual for Dick questioned the nature of reality, followed a salesman who discovered the entire world was a social experiment manipulated by mysterious forces.

No word yet on who will play the dancer. Shooting is scheduled to begin once Damon finishes his current project, the rugby movie "The Human Factor."

"Total Recall," the adaptation of another Dick story, is also scheduled to bring his vision (as a remake) to theaters.

Matt Damon moved by plight of Zimbabwean refugees in camps

An emotional Matt Damon listened to a Zimbabwean woman describe how she was raped while pregnant on a perilous journey across the border into South Africa.

The Hollywood actor visited refugee centres in Musina on the South African border with Zimbabwe as part of his work with the human rights organization he started with a number of other celebrities.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans have fled the economic collapse and dire humanitarian conditions in their country for South Africa.

Damon said in an interview Tuesday that he was "shocked and saddened" by the plight of the people he had spoken to. He said conditions were "untenable" and called on international and regional leaders to take action.

Sighting

Matt Damon, hanging out with friends and eating some sushi at Nobu Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. "After dinner he spent about an hour at the front bar with a group of friends before disappearing into a private area of the Atlantis casino," says a source.

DAMON'S RUNWAY SIS

MATT Damon's sister, actress Sarah Bradford, 21, is trying out a new career as a model. The cute blonde will make her runway debut at Alvin Valley's fashion show at the Altman Building Thursday, followed by New Museum board member Michele Gerber Klein's dinner for the designer at Via dei Mille in SoHo.

Sighting

Wearing a navy Obama T-shirt and skull cap, Matt Damon picked up crab meat ravioli and chicken Parmigiana at Miami Beach's Cafe Prima Pasta for a quiet dinner at home with wife Luciana. "Even though Matt said he was feeling under the weather, he stopped for a photo with fans," says a source. "What a great guy."

Ben & Matt: All in the family

With the arrival of a baby girl on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Ben Affleck is catching up with best buddy Matt Damon when it comes to the size of their broods. Affleck and wife Jennifer Garner often hang out with Damon and wife Luciana, showing up beachside in Hawaii in summer 2007 and dining out in Malibu in June. USA TODAY takes a look at the two lifelong pals.

Ben Affleck

Marital status: Wed wife Jennifer Garner, 36, in a secret ceremony in Turks and Caicos on June 29, 2005

Children: The Affleck family now numbers four: Daughter Violet was born Dec. 1, 2005; their second daughter was born Tuesday in Los Angeles. No other details have been released yet.

Hunk status: People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2002.

Previous high-profile relationships: Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez.

Cause celebre: Since late 2007, he has made four trips to the war-torn Congo to bring attention to the plight of that country, where many have been displaced by violence.

Damon on Affleck: "Ben's career has taken this exciting turn because he has directed a (2007) movie called Gone Baby Gone, which is fantastic. it opens up all these doors for us: We can do movies that he directs and I act in, or we could co-write and co-direct."

Matt Damon

Marital status: Wed wife Luciana Bozan, 32, in a secret ceremony in New York on Dec. 9, 2005.

Children: The Damons have two girls: Isabella was born June 11, 2006; Gia was born Aug. 20; Alexia, her daughter from a previous relationship, is now 10.

Hunk status: People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2007.

Previous high-profile relationships: Winona Ryder and Minnie Driver.

Cause celebre: He is involved in various charities, including the OneXOne non-profit which raises money to help underprivileged kids worldwide.

Affleck on Damon: "The truth is, and it's going to sound really boring, but he's just a really good guy. Matt's a deeply kind and considerate guy."

Sighting

Matt Damon, lunching with wife Luciana at Isabella's in New York. The star couple, who were joined by their daughters and three family friends, shared appetizers and some crème brulée – sent over compliments of the restaurant – for dessert. "Matt was absolutely adorable with his girls," a source tells us. "He was cutting up their food and being an amazing dad."

We Hear...

THAT Vogue Italia editrix Franca Sozzani has dedicated her November issue to Africa with pieces by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, who penned a passionate and informative plea to stop the genocide in Darfur.

Matt Damon Gets Out the Vote in Florida

With nine days left before the presidential election, actor Matt Damon is trying to keep Americans fired up and eager to vote.

Damon is participating in the Florida VoteFest '08 Sunday and Monday, a statewide initiative to encourage people to vote early.

"I took time off from acting until the end of the year to be with my family and enjoy our new daughter," Damon told PEOPLE at a jam-packed Barack Obama rally Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla. "But it is very important for me to do what I can to help the Obama campaign so people will go out and vote. We need change in this country and now is the time to be sure that happens."

Damon, 38, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt under an open, short-sleeved, gray shirt, just returned from participating in a food bank in San Francisco, where he got a taste of reality.

"I learned that only 10 percent of the people at the food bank were actually homeless," Damon told the crowd at the rally. "And 90 percent were people who work and play by the rules yet can't afford to feed their kids. We have to change that."

The actor, who is involved in VoteFest '08 with actresses Alicia Silverstone and Kerry Washington, will travel by car to several south Florida cities, including Miami, Hollywood and west Fort Lauderdale, talking to the crowds and explaining to children how important it is for their parents to vote.

"I cannot tell you how great it is to be home with my family and enjoy our new daughter, [2-month-old Gia]," Damon tells PEOPLE. "But it is my responsibility to thank the American people for taking an interest in the political process. And in the next two days, I am asking them not to get complacent."

Matt Damon's Kids Will Be World-Wise

Matt Damon's children were born into privilege, but they'll learn about those less fortunate, the actor vows.

"It's a hard thing to explain to a kid," Damon said at San Francisco fund raiser for the OneXOne children's charity Thursday. "And it is also unbelievable the way other kids are forced to live."

Damon, who's known for his charity work, said his daughters may well accompany him on some of his overseas missions.

"The way you have to parent them is to show them the world. Explaining the world can only go so far," he said. "You can read about devastation every morning – it's on the front page of the newspaper – but when you actually go there and see it, you realize this isn't something you can turn the page on."

Damon is the sole male in a household of four females. His wife, Luciana, gave birth to their daughter, Gia, over the summer. She joined big sisters Isabella, 2, and Alexia, 10.

"It's great," Damon said about being outnumbered at home. "It is really great."

Damon 'honored' by Joe the Plumber's shout-out

Matt Damon is honored that the most recent celebrity of the presidential campaign — "Joe the Plumber" — dropped his name in an interview.

"That was a surprise. I hadn't heard that Joe the Plumber dropped my name," Damon said. "I'm honored to be in the little passion play, to be an extra."

The plumber, whose real name is Samuel Wurzelbacher, became an overnight media sensation after he was referred to constantly in the final presidential debate. When the press arrived at his Ohio home, Wurzelbacher, a Republican, said he hoped he wouldn't make a fool of himself with all the attention, "I don't have a lot of pull. It's not like I'm Matt Damon."

Damon — a hardcore Democrat who has spent as much time campaigning for Barack Obama recently than he has acting — was in San Francisco promoting a charity, OneXOne (pronounced One-by-One).

Along with hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean, Damon was promoting the group's work to end hunger and suffering for children in poverty in the U.S. and Africa.

The actor said he's headed to Florida this weekend to work with the Obama campaign on getting out the vote in a key battleground state. After that, Damon is off to Morocco to finish shooting a movie, but he said he would stay engaged with the Obama campaign.

"I'm sure I'll be on the phone over there after filming every night," he said. "I'll do telephone interviews or whatever they'll have me do. I want to sprint to the finish with the millions of us who really have been desperate for this change."

Damon previously had been openly critical of John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, calling the campaign's pick for the vice presidency "a disaster." On Thursday, Damon said he would not comment on the Republican ticket.

"The Obama campaign has decided to focus on the positive, and I should be a bigger man and be able to do that with them," Damon said.

Sightings

Matt Damon, rising to his feet as Olivia Newton John gave a surprise performance – and not at a public concert. The pop star performed at the wedding of Marquis Jet cofounder Jesse Itzler and Sarah Blakely in Boca Grande, Fla. Damon attended the ceremony with his wife Luciana, who also cheered on the musical entertainment.

Film Franchise to Be 'Bourne' Again

It seems "The Bourne Ultimatum" wasn't so ultimate after all.

Universal is planning yet another installment of the Jason Bourne spy franchise, choosing George Nolfi to write the script, report the trades.

Matt Damon, who starred in the previous three films, is attached to star in the fourth.

Nolfi helped adapt "Ultimatum", which earned $442 million at the worldwide box office. Although the first three films were based on Robert Ludlum's books, the new film will be based on an original story.

Author Eric Van Lustbader, with the permission of the Ludlum estate, has written four other novels in the series.

Matt Damon's Surprise Entry in Miami Triathlon

All that running in the Bourne movies has paid off for Matt Damon: Sunday morning he participated in the Escape to Miami Triathlon.

"'My brother talked me into it," Damon, 38, told the Miami Herald. Brother Kyle Damon finished Sunday in 27th place, with a time of 2:23:40.

PEOPLE's reigning Sexiest Man Alive, meanwhile, ran in a team that also included his stepfather Jay Jones and family friend Barry Hetherington, and was met at the finish line by wife Luciana Bozán Barroso and 7-week-old daughter Gia – and a lot of delighted fans who hadn't expected to see Damon in the race.

Damon's time for his 6.2-mile portion of the challenge was 59 minutes, 54 seconds. "I knew I was in trouble when the old guy with the oxygen tank passed me," he joked.

Damon got into the race, he said, because, "'I was doing this movie this summer The Informant where I had to put on all this weight, and my brother told me, 'October 5, save the date.' "

Besides, he said, ''I've got to get in shape for the next thing I'm doing."

Matt Damon, Wyclef Jean help Haitian storm victims

Matt Damon kept his cool as he helped distribute food from a truck that got stuck in the mud in a western Haitian town where Hurricane Ike left hundreds of people homeless and hungry.

He arrived with Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean to hand out rice, beans and cooking oil in Cabaret, a town that saw 60 people die in flash floods when Ike grazed Haiti last week.

Things got rough when the truck carrying 300 bags of food ran into a ditch, forcing the rest of the caravan to stop. Hundreds of Haitians mobbed an SUV carrying the celebrities, chanting "Wyclef!"

"I want to see Wyclef because he is my artist," said Jean Sadrac, an unemployed 25-year-old. "I want Wyclef to help me with money or water."

Jean clambered onto the roof of the SUV to calm the crowd, while bodyguards helped Damon make his way toward the truck with the food. He reached it easily; nobody recognized him.

Damon said he enjoyed being in a place where few people have seen his movies.

"It's nice, it's really easy to move through a crowd like this," Damon told The Associated Press, grinning wryly as he watched Jean talk to the crowd.

About 20 people from Jean's Yele Haiti charity formed a barrier around the back of the food truck, which leaned perilously to one side. The distribution took place right there. Damon tossed the bags to Jean, who placed them on the heads of women as they approached one by one.

Outside the human chain, one young man jumped up and down, waving a DVD of "The Bourne Ultimatum" that he had retrieved from his house after finally recognizing Damon, who laughed and nodded.

The two stars then walked to a nearby church where about 600 people were sheltered. They knelt to talk to an emaciated, elderly man lying on the muddy floor before they began serving food. Damon poured red vegetable sauce over plates of rice that Jean handed out to people.

Damon and Jean encouraged more people to help the United Nations raise more than US$100 million for an estimated 800,000 Haitians in need of aid after four devastating tropical storms and hurricanes since mid-August.

"What I'm doing, I'm doing from the heart because I love Haiti," Jean said.

Jean, who moved from Haiti to Brooklyn as a child and leapt to fame with The Fugees, has often brought his famous friends to draw attention to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt visited with his charity in 2006.

"Hopefully we can make enough noise that people will pay attention," Damon told reporters earlier at a news conference in the capital, Port-au-Prince. "I truly believe in the people of my country."

Michael Douglas, Matt Damon Tune Up for Liberace Pic

Steven Soderbergh is planning a biopic of piano legend Liberace and he's hoping Michael Douglas and Matt Damon will join him.

According to Variety, Soderbergh is in the early stages of developing the film about the flamboyant showman, teaming with writer Richard LaGravanese and producer Jerry Weintraub.

The trade says that Douglas would play Liberace, the Vegas icon who continued to deny that he was gay even after Scott Thorson sued him for $113 million in palimony in 1982.

Damon is reportedly in negotiations to play Thorson, who claimed to have had a five-year relationship with Liberace, but eventually settled for $95,000 in 1986, one year before Liberace's death.

The trade emphasizes that the Liberace film isn't expected to be on Soderbergh's immediate slate. The direct will next helm "The Girlfriend Experience" for 2929 Entertainment.

Douglas previously worked with Soderbergh on "Traffic."

Damon is a more frequent Soderbergh collaborator, having appeared in the three "Ocean's" movies and in the director's upcoming "The Informant."

Matt Damon says he fears a Palin administration

Matt Damon says the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee for vice-president could end up "like a really bad Disney movie" if John McCain wins the November presidential election.

"You do the actuary tables, there's a one out of three chance, if not more, that McCain doesn't survive his first term, and it'll be President Palin," said Damon, who was in town to promote OneXOne, a Canadian children's charity expanding to the U.S., during the Toronto Film Festival.

"It's like a really bad Disney movie, 'The Hockey Mom.' Oh, I'm just a hockey mom from Alaska, and she's president," said Damon. "She's facing down Vladimir Putin and using the folksy stuff she learned at the hockey rink. It's absurd."

Damon said the public needs to know more about such things as her views on creationism and censorship.

Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Palin, called the comments "name-calling."

"It's not surprising that the Barack Obama and his celebrity supporters continue to tear down Governor Palin with little more than blatant name-calling," she said. "It's clear they're threatened by a candidate who actually has a record of achieving reform and change, while Barack Obama just talks about it."

Damon is currently appearing in a TV ad titled "Voices," by the bipartisan, anti-poverty group ONE and its Vote '08 project. The voices of others are superimposed as the actor speaks, including Cindy McCain, wife of Republican nominee John McCain; and Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

"In this election year, please join the millions of Americans from every party - Democrat, Republican and Independent, who are working together," goes the ad. "We welcome your voice."

Matt Damon's Baby Is 'Smiling' Already

Is Matt Damon's daughter a child prodigy? Not even three weeks after the birth of little Gia, the Oscar winner says his newborn is already "smiling."

Still, the proud papa admits, it could just be gas. "She smiles normally when she goes to the bathroom," Damon, 37, told PEOPLE in Toronto Monday night before hosting the annual OneXOne charity gala to fight against child poverty. "That's natural."

Gia joins big sisters Isabella, 2, and Alexia, 10. So how is PEOPLE's reigning Sexiest Man Alive handling fatherhood this time around?

"I sort of knew what to expect with the third girl," he said. "But I'm still on high alert all the time."

In fact, Damon is so notoriously nervous, he's even earned a nickname back home. "They call me 'Red Alert,' " he said. "If any of the kids were near anything close to being dangerous, I would say, 'Is she touching that?' or 'Watch out!' And the whole family would go, 'Red alert! Red alert!' I guess I can be a bit worried sometimes."

Mom: Matt Changes Diapers

According to Damon's mom, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, the Bourne star is a happy, hands-on dad. "He's handling everything fine," she told PEOPLE. "He's been very busy changing diapers, doing feedings and nurturing crying babies."

Meanwhile, baby Gia seems a bit more Zen than her tightly wound father. "She's very alert and she seems pensive," said her grandmother. "By holding her, her energy seems calm and peaceful."

Matt Damon's $35,000 Magnum

Sources tell E! News Weekend that Matt Damon will be auctioning off the most expensive spirit ever to enter Canada at the OneXOne annual gala event in Toronto. The stylish bottle of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Black Pearl Magnum is valued at a whopping $35,000.

Along with the pricey cognac, we’re told the auctioning package will also include a private tour of the House of Rémy Martin and four-nights of luxury accommodations in the Cognac region–among other things. All totaled, the packaged will be worth over $45,000.

Ben Affleck on Damons' New Daughter: 'They're Thrilled!'

It's been a week since the birth of his new daughter Gia and what is Matt Damon doing when he's not on diaper duty?

He's working his thumbs to the bone to keep his old buddy Ben Affleck up to date on all of the details.

"I've kind of been texting him back and forth, and he's doing great and [wife] Lucy is doing great," Affleck, 36, told PEOPLE on Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention.

Affleck is in Denver supporting a variety of political and charitable causes, including playing poker on Tuesday with the likes of Sarah Silverman – on behalf of paralyzed veterans.

Still, Affleck's mind was not far from his old Cambridge pal, who is fast becoming odd man out in his Miami home, what with the addition of little Gia to his strictly female brood of wife Luciana and their daughters Isabella, 2, and Alexia, 10.

Not that Damon – PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive – has any problem with that.

"Anybody who has a child is excited, I think, no matter what the gender is. They are thrilled," says Affleck. "The thing that people really want, when you get down to it, is a healthy child."

Damon, Obama & McCain's Voices Become ONE

In its latest effort to raise public awareness about the need to assist those around the world who are suffering from poverty and disease, the ONE campaign has just come up with a creative new ad titled "Voices."

In the clip, Matt Damon begins to speak, only to have his voice replaced by those of others, including potential first ladies Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The truly bipartisan spot will run on TV beginning Aug. 24. Watch the spot here.

Matt Damon and His Wife Welcome a Girl

It's another girl for Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana, his rep tells PEOPLE.

"Matt and Lucy Damon had a baby girl named Gia Zavala on Wednesday, Aug. 20th. Everyone's doing great," Damon's rep, Jennifer Allen, tells PEOPLE. "She is a healthy baby girl."

The newest addition is the third little girl in the Damon household, joining big sisters Isabella, 2, and Alexia, 10.

Damon recently joked about living with so many females, telling USA Today from his home in Miami, "I'm so outnumbered down here, it's crazy."

Damon, 37, and Luciana, 32, met in Miami Beach in 2003 while he was filming the comedy Stuck on You. They married in December 2005 at City Hall in Manhattan.

Damon is a "phenomenal" father, his close pal George Clooney told PEOPLE in 2007. "He absolutely adores those kids. He's doing it really well."

Damon, PEOPLE's reigning Sexiest Man Alive, is currently preparing for re-shoots on his thriller Green Zone. But after that, the actor will enjoy some down time with his growing brood.

"[I'm] taking the rest of the year off," he told USA Today. "I'm just hanging out with my family."

Pitt, Damon, McAdams Frontload Toronto Fest

Our neighbors to the north are readying one heck of a welcome wagon next month, when some of Hollywood's finest are set to hit the red carpet—and debut a movie or two—at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival.

Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Canada's own Rachel McAdams are among the latest crop of A-listers set to make the Gala scene during the fest, which runs Sept. 4-13.

Booked to appear, though not to premiere films, at the fest are Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Julian Schnabel who, along with several other industry vets, will appear on the fest's Mavericks roster, giving informal talks throughout the week on their filmmaking experiences.

Also on expected at the fest to introduce their films: Appaloosa's Viggo Mortensen and Renée Zellwegger and Blindness' Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Gael García Bernal.

Roughly 249 films in all are expected to be screened during the cinematic week, with premieres from Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Colin Farrell, Peter O'Toole, Tim Robbins, Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Biel and Jeff Goldblum all making the cut.

Claiming a bulk of the potentially appearing talent is the scheduled premiere of New York, I Love You, the followup to Paris, Je T'aime, a collection of 12 short films directed by Johansson and Portman, among others, and starring Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Shia LaBeouf and Christina Ricci.

Also making its North American premiere at the fest is Ethan and Joel Coen's Burn After Reading, starring a couple little-known actors: George Clooney and Pitt. The film will get its worldwide premiere at the Venice Film Festival, which Clooney is booked to attend, just days before Toronto.

Meanwhile, Beckinsale's dramatic turn in Nothing But the Truth is also scheduled to premiere during the fest, with the actress playing a political reporter who is jailed for naming a CIA agent.

Norton, Farrell and Jon Voight will also grace the big screen during the week, appearing in the premiere of the cop-family drama, Pride & Glory. Rounding out the politically-minded films is The Lucky Ones, starring McAdams and Tim Robbins, following a group of returning U.S. soldiers who embark on a road trip.

Proving her absurd saturation of the market, a film about, though not starring, Paris Hilton, is also set to premiere at the festival. The documentary Paris, Not France, examines the pop culture phenom and is directed by Adria Petty.

Another documentary film that's been added to the Contemporary World lineup is an as yet unnamed biography chronicling the life of late Real World: San Francisco housemate Pedro Zamora. Showing in the same lineup is the comedy $5 a Day, starring Christopher Walken, Amanda Peet and Sharon Stone.

Matt Damon: Africa Trip Was Life-Changing

It was on his 2006, six-day "listening and learning trip" to Zambia with his sculptor-artist brother Kyle that caused Matt Damon to see "the world water crisis is one of the most important public health issues of our time," PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive tells Conde Nast Traveler for its September issue.

Establishing the H2O Africa Foundation, Damon, 37, hopes the work he's done will now inspire others to do the same. "I think many of our problems would be solved if people had thick passports," he says. "There's just no substitute for actually going and seeing things."

When you're a celebrity, he observes, "you start to feel a level of responsibility to direct attention to things that actually matter more than to silly things like who you're dating."

Case in point: "The world water crisis is one of the most important public health issues of our time. Clean water can help put people on the first run of the development ladder."

Looking back on that 2006 trip, Kyle Damon tells CNTraveler the brothers were determined to downplay his screen-star sibling's notoriety – and be keenly observant of their surroundings.

One thing they couldn't overcome, however, was the region's insect infestation. "We were outed as complete wusses" in the bug department, according to Kyle Damon.

Screaming out for their bodyguards, "it was hard to view ourselves as tough guys, cowering under the net and clutching our malaria meds," he says.

The Afflecks & Damons: Baby Bumps for Obama

Expectant couples Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner and Matt Damon & wife Luciana turned out for a Miami fundraiser Saturday for Barack Obama.

Garner, sporting a small baby bump, looked radiant in a chic short black cocktail dress and sexy high-heeled sandals. Luciana, very pregnant, was decked out in a long black skirt with a strapless tank top.

The couples attended a private $1,000-per-person VIP reception at club SET to support the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate.

After spending orientation time in The Trophy Room, the four friends headed for SET's Hip Hop Room to socialize with guests before giving speeches from the stage.

"Jennifer Garner gave the first speech supporting Obama, and she was very witty, clever and funny," says a source at SET. "She was followed by her husband Ben, then Matt Damon. The men gave serious political speeches on how the country needs change."

The stars drank bottled water and took pictures with the guests.

"They were all in great moods and very friendly to everyone," says another source, accompanied by a host who plunked down $5,000 for his group to meet the stars and support Obama.

Damon, who has a house in Miami Beach, told reporters outside of SET why he is supporting Obama: "For a lot of reasons. But mostly because I don't like the path this country's on and if McCain is elected we'll be continuing down that same path."

Also, Affleck told PEOPLE outside of SET that he doesn't know if he is going to the Democratic Convention, but "I'd like to."

The Afflecks and Damons departed in a limo after about 90 minutes and headed for a private party at Anthony Kennedy Shriver's Miami Beach home.

Shriver is the founder and head of Best Buddies charity and first cousin of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who is a member of the Obama Vice Presidential Nominating Committee.

Matt Damon: We're Having a Girl

Break out the pink onesies. Matt Damon's wife, Luciana – whom the actor says is "due soon" – is having another little girl!

"I'm so outnumbered down here, it's crazy," Damon, 37, told USA Today via telephone from his home in Miami.

This child will be the third girl in the Damon household, joining big sisters Isabella, 2, and Alexia, 9.

And while they're undoubtedly prepared with tons of hand-me-downs, one thing the couple doesn't have yet is a name. "We decided to wait till she's born," Damon said. "We're going to get a look at her and we'll probably keep debating it!"

The Bourne star also chatted about packing on the pounds for his "doughy" role in The Informant, joking that he was in danger of forfeiting his Sexiest Man Alive title.

Even now – when he's started to drop the weight – he told USA Today, "I'm the Sexiest Man Alive's chunky cousin."

How is he slimming down? "I'm just boxing," said the actor, who's getting ready for re-shoots on Green Zone, in which he plays a solider. "I figure if you get hit enough times, [the weight] will fall off."

After the re-shoots in September, Damon is looking forward to a much-deserved break. "[I'm] taking the rest of the year off,” he told the paper. “I'm just hanging out with my family."

'Informant' star Matt Damon blabs about weight, kids, charity

For Matt Damon, this summer has been one of gains and losses.

He's preparing for the birth of his second daughter, helping launch a charity and hoping for some major reductions around his waistline.

Damon, 37, is working overtime to drop the 30 pounds he packed on to play a whistle-blower in Steven Soderbergh's 2009 drama The Informant. He has to shed the weight by early September to be svelte for re-shoots of the Paul Greengrass drama Green Zone, in which he plays a soldier looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"If you put it on, it's easier to get it back off," he says.

His weight-loss strategy: "I'm just boxing. I figure if you get hit enough times, it will fall off."

The former Sexiest Man Alive jokes that People magazine took back the title. "Now I'm the Sexiest Man Alive's chunky cousin."

Speaking from his Miami home, Damon says that, except for the Green Zone reshoots, he's "taking the rest of the year off, and I'm just hanging out with my family."

Wife Luciana is "due soon," and the baby will join Isabella, 2, and Damon's stepdaughter, Alexia, 9. "I'm so outnumbered down here, it's crazy," jokes Damon of his girl-powered household.

The couple haven't yet picked out a name. "We decided to wait till she's born, and then we're going to get a look at her and we'll probably keep debating it," he says.

His other "baby" he's prepping for is the launching of One X One Foundation's U.S. operations, with a San Francisco gala on Oct. 23. The charity, started in Canada, helps children worldwide.

"It's about helping kids," Damon says. "It's not like before I was a father I was like, 'The hell with those kids.' But something does shift when you have a child of your own. It's hard not to look at every child as somehow connected to you."

Damon was inspired by Bono and his ONE campaign to fight poverty. Part of Damon's duties: recruiting talent for events.

"I have to make calls. Sheryl Crow is going to play at one of our events. It's the easiest call in the world to make," Damon says. "I just tell what the charity is about, and everyone wants to do anything they can."

Sarah Silverman's 'Matt Damon' Song Up for Emmy

For Sarah Silverman, this has been a week of good news and bad news.

First, the bad: On Monday, it was reported, she and boyfriend of five years, Jimmy Kimmel broke up.

Now, the good: On Thursday Silverman, 37, was one of those lucky enough to be nominated for an Emmy.

But, now for the weird news: the TV Academy nod is linked to what she did on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, an over-the-top music video in which she and the Sexiest Man Alive flaunted their (fictitious and funny) affair to Kimmel, all set to music in a ditty titled, "I'm F------ Matt Damon".

The Emmy nominating committee clearly liked what it heard. Silverman is up for the gold in the category of outstanding original music and lyrics, along with her fellow writer-composers on the ditty Tony Baubirei, Wayne McClaucey, Sal Lacono, and Dan Warner.

Their competition for the statuette are those who wrote the song "I Ain't Got No Rhythm" for the Disney Channel's Disney Phineas And Ferb; "The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)" and "Inner City Pressure," both from HBO's Flight of the Conchords; and "Sad Fitty Cent," from FOX's MADtv.

Only, so far, there's been no reaction on her nomination from composer-comedian Silverman.

Since the breakup, in fact, there has been no comment from either Silverman or Kimmel on anything of a personal nature. He made no mention of the split on his show this week.

The Emmys will be handed out Sept. 21.

Matt Damon packing on pounds

What could Matt Damon have possibly been thinking?

First the guy piles on, like, 30 pounds, and then has the audacity to show up at a public event, all soft and flabby!

How could he treat his People magazine Sexiest Man Alive status so callously?

Actually, there's a very good reason why Damon is intent on shaking his Bourne identity.

Like many before him, the 37-year-old has discovered that abusing your body could well be worth its weight in gold.

Oscar gold, that is.

The extra pounds are for the role of Mark Whitacre, a high-ranking executive who blew the whistle on his firm's price-fixing practices (think rumpled Russell Crowe in The Insider).

And whether or not the Steven Soderbergh film turns out to be a contender, recent history has demonstrated that messing with one's metabolism can pay big shiny dividends.

Because when it comes to turning the heads of Academy Award or Golden Globe voters, fat suits just won't cut it anymore.

Take Damon's buddy (and former Sexiest Man Alive), George Clooney, who gained 30 pounds in 30 days for his role in 2005's Syriana.

The upshot -- a best- supporting-actor Oscar.

Mind you, Clooney also went in the other direction, taking off 20 pounds for Leatherheads, which both critics and audiences deemed disappointingly lightweight.

Then there's the lovely Charlize Theron, who gorged herself on Krispy Kreme donuts to the tune of 30 extra pounds to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

The payoff -- a best- actress Oscar.

Let's not forget Renee Zellweger's 30-plus pounds for each of her Bridget Jones transformations (she won a Golden Globe for the first one) or Hilary Swank adding 19 pounds of muscle for her hard-hitting role in Million Dollar Baby (and snagging her second best-actress Oscar in the process).

Even if they don't walk (or waddle) away a winner, at least it gets 'em in the game, as yo-yo dieter Denzel Washington discovered when he packed on 30 pounds to play Steve Biko in Cry Freedom and shed 40 pounds to become Rubin (Hurricane) Carter in The Hurricane, earning a best-actor nomination in each instance.

He recently put a bunch of them back on again for his role in the upcoming remake of the '70s heist thriller, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Of course, sometimes things can get a little carried away.

If you thought Colin Farrell looked scary in recent photos (he dropped some 40 pounds to play the part of a war reporter dispatched to Bosnia for the upcoming Triage), that's nothing compared to what Christian Bale did to his poor body for the 2004 cult movie, The Machinist.

Emaciated doesn't begin to describe the 63 pounds Christian bailed for the decidedly Kafkaesque film in which the title character inexplicably wastes away before your very eyes.

Even Bale agrees there was a healthy price to be paid for that kind of commitment.

But two or three stone in one direction or the other can pay off nicely come awards season.

And even if things don't pan out for Damon, rest assured that he'll be back to his fighting weight for the next Bourne installment, due out in 2010.

People magazine need not fret.

Michael Rechtshaffen, a Canadian entertainment writer based in Los Angeles, appears Wednesdays and Sundays.

James McAvoy Aims to Be Like Matt Damon

James McAvoy confesses he'd like to be the Sexiest Man Alive.

"I want to be like Matt Damon and do a hugely successful thinking-man's action franchise like Bourne," the Atonement star, currently costarring with Angelina Jolie in Wanted, says in the August cover story of Details.

Not that he seems particularly Bourne-like. The Scotsman, 29, admits he's lived a quiet lifestyle throughout his 20s.

"All of my friends got so drunk they couldn't even walk, let alone dance, and you just stand there going, 'So what am I going to do?' "

Instead of partying, in 2006 McAvoy settled down with actress Anne-Marie Duff, who is eight years his senior. But don't expect him to dish on his wife or even his sister, says the interview.

"If anybody wants to talk about their own family, fine," McAvoy says. "It's not that I think it's wrong – it's just that I think it's dangerous."

The actor is, however, vocal about the state of Hollywood and the pressures it puts on women.

"I saw a clip of something – this girl has on a humongous fat suit and she's singing that 'my milk shake brings all the boys to the yard' song, and I just felt like, 'That's so disrespectful.' I would not want to be a woman in this industry. Horrible."

Matt Damon: My 'Sexiest Man' Title Is in Jeopardy

Matt Damon's wife Luciana may be pregnant, but it's his expanding waistline that's making all the headlines in Hollywood.

"I think I lost my [Sexiest Man Alive] title," the actor joked to PEOPLE Wednesday at the Ante Up For Africa poker event in Las Vegas.

But that's no sympathy bump. Damon estimates that he gained between 20 and 30 pounds for his upcoming thriller, The Informant, directed by Steven Soderbergh.

"It wasn't necessarily that I needed to be fat," he said. "It was that I needed to be 'doughy.' "

Even though the weight-gain was required for a role, that doesn't stop Damon's friends from mocking him mercilessly.

"Some things are just self-evident and don't even require making fun of," his B.F.F. Ben Affleck said at the Rio Hotel and Casino event, which raised money and awareness about the genocide in Darfur. "I mean, the man buys two seats on an airplane!"

So how did the Oscar-winner pack on the pounds?

"I just stopped working out and basically just ate whatever I wanted," he said. "I ate a lot of In-N-Out, a lot of burgers, a lot of beer and basically had a great time ... When you're in your 20s you can do that kind of stuff. When you're in your 30s, its a whole different ballgame."

Read more about what Damon eats to maintain his transformation in the Bodywatch section of this week's PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Stars bring poker faces to Las Vegas for charity

Celebrities turned out Wednesday to donate to Darfur charities — and to show their fellow stars just who the real card sharks were.

"I'm looking forward to whipping a lot of celebrity rear end," talk show host Montel Williams said before beginning play in a charity Texas Hold 'em tournament at the World Series of Poker. "I tweaked my game, and my game is really solid."

Williams and 87 others, including such Hollywood heavy hitters as Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Alexander, George Lopez, Adam Sandler and Ray Romano, played in the no-limit tournament to raise money and have a good time.

Charles Barkley also played after a recent pledge to take a hiatus from gambling. The 45-year-old former NBA star, who was sued in May by the Wynn casino for failing to pay back gambling loans, said he would donate his winnings to charity and didn't plan to spend a lot of extra time in town.

The TNT commentator paid back his markers shortly after the casino filed a civil complaint. Barkley said he wasn't going to gamble for "the next year or two" on the air during the NBA playoffs.

"I can't gamble, so I gotta drink," Barkley joked with Phil Hellmuth after the 11-time bracelet winner invited Barkley for a cocktail after the tournament. "Can you imagine how bad life would be if you couldn't gamble or drink?"

Players donated prize money from the second annual "Ante Up for Africa" event to charities working in the Darfur region of Sudan. Cheadle and poker pro Annie Duke began the event last year to raise money and awareness for the region, where more than 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since ethnic warfare began in 2003, according to the U.S. presidential envoy to Sudan.

The tournament benefited two charities — ENOUGH, a project co-founded in 2007 by the International Crisis Group and the Center for American Progress and Not On Our Watch, a group co-founded by Cheadle, Damon, George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

"It's just great to see everybody," Cheadle said as the event began. "Don't expect to win, because it's mine."

Cheadle was eliminated by Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell when his pair of jacks couldn't top Cantrell's queens.

Players in the poker tournament paid $5,000 to enter, and were asked to donate at least half their winnings evenly to the two charities. Nevada law prohibits poker tournaments from designating a certain amount of prize money for charity so players signed voluntary contracts at the tables, pledging at least half their winnings.

"Charity doesn't have to be boring, it doesn't have to be a burden," Duke said. "We want people to have a really good time."

As play began, the prize pool totaled $418,000. Last year the event raised more than $500,000 for the charities and finished with the top two players pooling their $350,000 in winnings and donating it to the cause.

Alexander won the first hand at his table with Damon, eight-time World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner Erik Seidel and others when he raised before the flop and everyone else folded.

"All the tournaments I've ever won have been for charity," Alexander said. "When there's no actual money for me, I'm very good."

Affleck, Damon, Cheadle Ante Up for Darfur

Everyone was all in for a good cause.

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle were among the Hollywood types who gathered Wednesday at the Rio Pavilion in Las Vegas for a no-limit Texas Hold'em tournament benefiting victims of the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Also forking over the $5,000 entrance fee were Adam Sandler, George Lopez, Ray Romano and Jason Alexander, who optimistically said, "When there's no actual money for me, I'm very good."

This was the second annual Ante Up for Africa event, an idea cooked up last year by Cheadle and professional card player Annie Duke in conjunction with the World Series of Poker. More than $850,000 was raised in 2007.

Tournament proceeds are going to Not on Our Watch—the advocacy and aid group started last year by Cheadle, Damon, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and producer Jerry Weintraub—and ENOUGH, a joint initiative of the International Crisis Group and the Center for American Progress that's working to end civil conflicts in Darfur, Uganda and Congo.

"It's just great to see everybody," Cheadle said as the first hand (which Alexander won, of course) was dealt. "Don't expect to win, because it's mine."

The Afflecks and Damons Go on Double Date

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck met up with Matt Damon and his heavily pregnant wife, Luciana Barroso, at Nobu Malibu on Saturday night for a two-hour dinner on the patio that included cooked fish and sushi rolls.

"Ben and Matt were entertaining the girls with stories, and they were all laughing a lot," says an observer of the couples.

When dessert came, the celebratory group toasted – after all, Garner and Affleck's third wedding anniversary was the following day.

"Jen and Ben were in a great mood, and they left Nobu hand in hand," says the observer. Also spotted at Nobu Saturday night: Kate Hudson, back in L.A. following last week's Santa Barbara getaway with Lance Armstrong.

Pitt, Clooney and Damon Push for Cyclone Aid

They're known for their love of pranks and practical jokes, but good friends Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon have come together for something far more serious.

The Ocean's 11 stars – all past or present winners of PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive title – helped launch an advertising campaign aimed at getting more aid into Myanmar, whose ruling regime has made access to the country difficult for aid agencies and relief workers in the wake of last month's cyclone Nargis.

The ad campaign is sponsored by the activist group Not On Our Watch, headed up by Pitt, Clooney, Damon and other Hollywood heavy-hitters. On Wednesday, the group bought a full page in the Indonesian English-language newspaper, the Jakarta Post, reports the Agence France-Presse.

"Burma's neighbors have the power to help victims who remain desperately in need," reads the ad, which was signed by the likes of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino, East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

The cyclone ravaged the country May 2 and 3, leaving around 138,000 people missing or dead. The ad claims Myanmar's ruling junta is putting in danger thousands of more lives by resisting foreign aid since the storm hit.

Matt Damon Plays a Heavy in Latest Movie

Bourne it's apparently not. Matt Damon's latest, The Informant, which he began shooting in Illinois last month, has been long aborning – at least six years. First announced in 2002, the film is based on New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald's book of the same name about real-life agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland and how it was brought to justice after one of its employees leaked info about it. That would be Mark Whitacre (Damon), who revealed the intricacies of the company's price-fixing scam that ultimately resulted in its being fined $100 million. Ocean's 11's Steven Soderbergh is directing, and, from the look of early production snaps, PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive isn't his usual sleek self. Guess he needs to shed those secrets.

2008 Forbes Celebrity 100 Power List

Rank Name Pay ($mil) Web Hits Press Mentions TV Mentions
1 Oprah Winfrey 275 2 5 1
2 Tiger Woods 115 12 1 3
3 Angelina Jolie 14 1 9 15
4 Beyonce Knowles 80 3 32 14
5 David Beckham 50 10 3 18
6 Johnny Depp 72 17 19 36
7 Jay-Z 82 6 43 41
8 The Police 115 15 20 51
9 J.K. Rowling 300 23 27 64
10 Brad Pitt 20 4 8 7
11 Will Smith 80 26 39 32
12 Justin Timberlake 44 5 24 17
13 Steven Spielberg 130 34 23 60
14 Cameron Diaz 50 13 50 45
15 David Letterman 45 42 34 10
16 LeBron James 38 32 13 13
17 Jennifer Aniston 27 21 67 49
18 Michael Jordan 45 38 45 29
19 Kobe Bryant 39 28 18 24
20 Phil Mickelson 45 87 12 23
21 Madonna 40 15 20 67
22 Simon Cowell 72 65 47 40
23 Roger Federer 35 40 2 26
24 Alex Rodriguez 34 51 7 6
25 Jerry Seinfeld 85 79 72 38
26 50 Cent 150 69 68 88
27 Kanye West 30 8 28 28
28 Celine Dion 40 27 44 54
29 Bruce Willis 41 45 41 47
30 Dr. Phil McGraw 40 82 55 2
31 Tom Cruise 13 7 10 9
32 Jay Leno 32 41 36 5
33 Sean "Diddy" Combs 35 19 59 30
34 Stephen King 45 33 54 86
35 Miley Cyrus 25 11 49 19
36 Kimi Raikkonen 44 53 14 90
37 Jeff Gordon 32 73 26 11
38 Ronaldinho 37 24 6 98
39 Shaquille O'Neal 32 36 29 34
40 Judge Judy Sheindlin 45 99 88 4
41 Howard Stern 70 52 90 68
42 Tyler Perry 125 94 83 80
43 Fernando Alonso 33 30 4 92
44 Leonardo DiCaprio 45 68 65 77
45 Donald Trump 30 48 40 12
46 George Lucas 50 66 74 85
47 Keira Knightley 32 37 42 82
48 Jerry Bruckheimer 145 96 94 96
49 Nicolas Cage 38 56 51 70
50 Spice Girls 21 14 37 25
51 Matt Damon 21 39 31 20
52 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 31 84 25 37
53 Bon Jovi 25 18 48 59
54 Jennifer Lopez 7 9 35 22
55 Ben Stiller 40 77 75 72
56 Kevin Garnett 29 67 30 55
57 Nicole Kidman 13 22 16 39
58 James Patterson 50 95 84 100
59 Rush Limbaugh 33 57 73 56
60 Reese Witherspoon 25 49 70 61
61 Maria Sharapova 26 61 15 69
62 Ryan Seacrest 31 72 79 33
63 Gwen Stefani 27 25 69 76
64 Daniel Radcliffe 25 62 52 74
65 Alicia Keys 15 20 53 46
66 Gisele Bundchen 35 74 99 94
67 Gwyneth Paltrow 25 50 62 78
68 Tyra Banks 23 47 81 53
69 Serena Williams 14 64 17 43
70 Eva Longoria Parker 9 31 58 21
71 Ellen DeGeneres 20 60 64 35
72 Sarah Jessica Parker 18 54 66 50
73 Katherine Heigl 13 63 61 31
74 Regis Philbin 21 91 71 8
75 Tom Clancy 35 78 96 99
76 Rachael Ray 18 80 80 16
77 Cate Blanchett 12 44 22 62
78 Heidi Klum 14 46 78 57
79 Carrie Underwood 9 35 63 44
80 Jon Stewart 14 58 60 51
81 Justine Henin 12.5 75 11 58
82 Judd Apatow 27 88 76 97
83 Kate Moss 7.5 29 33 81
84 Patrick Dempsey 13.5 83 77 66
85 Charlie Sheen 20 86 87 63
86 Drew Carey 12 90 89 27
87 Steve Carell 5 81 56 42
88 Lorena Ochoa 10 92 38 75
89 Jonas Brothers 12 55 86 84
90 Howie Mandel 14 100 98 65
91 Wolfgang Puck 16 98 91 83
92 Zac Efron 5.8 70 85 79
93 Annika Sorenstam 11 93 46 89
94 Ashley Tisdale 5.5 43 95 91
95 Gordon Ramsay 7.5 76 57 93
96 Jennifer Love Hewitt 5 59 93 71
97 Lauren Conrad 1.5 71 100 95
98 Vanessa Williams 4.5 89 92 48
99 Tina Fey 4.6 85 82 73
100 Paula Deen 4.5 97 97 87

'Bourne' films viewed as art - and science - at MoMA

One of the Museum of Modern Art's latest film acquisitions isn't an art-house experiment by Andy Warhol or Michelangelo Antonioni. It's the spy-action blockbuster "The Bourne Identity" and its sequels.

This week the museum is screening the films and hosting a panel discussion with "Bourne" director/producer Doug Liman and a noted neuroscientist to talk about memory, identity and the mysterious workings of the brain.

For the uninitiated: The films center on amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, who possesses superb espionage skills but no memory of his past, which includes the ultrasecret CIA unit that trained him and now wants to kill him to cover up an operation gone wrong.

Based on the late Robert Ludlum's series of best-selling novels, the "Bourne" movies — packed with dizzying chases, gripping fights and more scenic European locales than the Michelin guides — took in more than $525 million at U.S. box offices alone. The last installment, "The Bourne Ultimatum," won Academy Awards this year for film editing, sound editing and sound mixing.

The "Bourne" movies aren't the first smash-hit spy capers among MoMa's more than 22,000 films, which include all of James Bond's adventures. But the "Bourne" acquisition does raise interesting questions about what makes a movie art.

"You say the word 'action movie,' and everyone's standards go down," Liman said Tuesday. "And it was my goal with 'The Bourne Identity' to create a movie wherein the drama would hold up even if you took the action out."

Liman, who directed "Identity" and served as executive producer of sequels "Supremacy" and "Ultimatum," called the films' inclusion in the museum's renowned collection "a huge, huge honor."

Cinemaphiles have praised not only the movies' technical skill and heart-pounding pace, but their relatively realistic feel and character development as Bourne strives to find out who he is and why killers stalk him wherever he goes.

"What the 'Bourne' films managed to do was to move people's expectations into a whole new area in terms of what the spy genre could deliver," said MoMA chief film curator Rajendra Roy.

Roy presides over one of the nation's biggest motion picture archives, housed in a specially built repository in Hamlin, Pa. The holdings are as diverse as 1895's "Feeding the Baby (Repas de BeBe)" — one of the earliest motion pictures ever shown in a theater — and the 2006 barnyard charmer "Charlotte's Web."

The "Bourne" trilogy was a clear fit for the 73-year-old collection, which has long included what curators see as significant commercial movies, as well as experimental and historical works, Roy said.

"We would never ignore the fact that we are also engaged with a very popular medium," he said.

Nor should they, says Andrew G. Sarris, a noted cinema critic and Columbia University film history and theory professor.

There's a point to placing the "Bourne" pictures and other popular, well-executed mainstream movies alongside film festival favorites, he said: It "proves that, occasionally, the system still works."

Friday's panel at MoMA is part of World Science Festival, a five-day gathering of researchers, artists and writers meeting throughout the city. Besides Liman, it will feature University of Wisconsin-Madison psychiatrist Dr. Giulio Tononi.

That discussion is likely to focus in part on the nature of Bourne's deep amnesia.

While Liman said he focused on "character truth," not scientific veracity, Tononi said the condition depicted is real, if very rare.

Like the multilingual Bourne, who easily fends off assassins with his extraordinary physical skills, some patients do retain abilities they can't remember acquiring, the scientist said.

Tononi also said Bourne's anguish over not remembering his past rings true. On or off the screen, he said, "we have this incredible, compelling need to create a narrative about who we are."

Matt set for Bourne 4

It shouldn't take as long for Matt Damon to lose his memory again as it did for Harrison Ford to pick the bullwhip back up.

Frank Marshall, who produces both blockbuster franchises, confirms a fourth thriller about amnesiac spy Jason Bourne is in the works with Damon and director Paul Greengrass expected to return for more lightning-paced mayhem.

"We're hoping it takes a few years less than Indiana Jones did," Marshall tells Sun Media during a phone interview. "We're busily trying to put it together, but it all depends on the script."

That could prove especially challenging because: a) they are out of Ludlum books to (very loosely) adapt and b) Tony Gilroy, the scribe who penned Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum has become a white-hot commodity since helming George Clooney's Michael Clayton.

"Tony's off doing his own thing," Marshall notes, referring to Gilroy's next directorial project, the thriller Duplicity, which is currently shooting with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.

One film buff Marshall knows is looking forward to more Bourne? His longtime friend and Indiana Jones director Steven Spielberg.

"Steven loves the Bourne movies."

'Superbad,' 'Juno' Lead MTV Movie Award Nominations

The nominations for the 2008 MTV Movie Awards are out and it appears that this will be the year of the nerd and the outcast.

"Superbad" is the leading nominee, picking up five nods for the ceremony, which will air live on MTV on Sunday, June 1. "Juno" was close behind with four nominations, meaning that 2008 may actually be The Year of Michael Cera.

"Superbad" and "Juno" are both nominated for best movie along with "Transformers," "I Am Legend" and the sequels "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

In addition to the bed movie nod, "Superbad" earned nominations for Jonah Hill for both best comedic performance and breakthrough performance, where he'll have to go against co-stars Christopher "McLovin'" Mintz-Plasse and Cera.

Cera is also nominated for best male performance for "Juno," where his competition includes industry heavyweights Will Smith ("I Am Legend"), Matt Damon ("The Bourne Ultimatum"), Denzel Washington ("American Gangster") and Shia LaBeouf ("Transformers").

"Juno" star Ellen Page is up for best female performance, going against Keira Knightley ("Pirate of the Caribbean: At World's End"), Katherine Heigl ("Knocked Up"), Amy Adams ("Enchanted") and, for some strange reason, Jessica Biel for "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry".

Page and Cera are up for best kiss as well, going against liplocks from "Disturbia," "Enchanted," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and "Step Up 2 The Streets."

You can check out all of the nominees and cast your own votes over at the MTV Movie Awards official site.

Damon, Moore put baby hand-me-downs on eBay for charity

Matt Damon's diaper bag, Julianne Moore's high chair, Elisabeth Hasselbeck's car seat and other celebrity baby hand-me-downs are going up for auction on eBay.

Famous parents donated their used baby items to Johnson's Celebrity Hand Me Down Auction, which will benefit such charities as March of Dimes, Save the Children, Zero to Three and Baby Buggy. The online auction begins April 29 and ends May 9.

Damon provided his black, messenger-style baby bag while Moore, a mother of two, donated a beachwood highchair that she calls her daughter Liv's special "sit at the table with the grown-ups" chair. Mariska Hargitay from "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" gave an Adidas track suit outfit worn by her son, August.

"It is important to pass certain things on from one generation to the next," Hasselbeck, who donated a car seat, said in a statement. "I still have a children's bracelet that my mother gave to me, which I will pass on to my daughter one day. There is something priceless about having certain things around you which tell a story."

Other celebrities participating in the auction include "Shark" actress Jeri Ryan and recent mother Elisabeth Rohm.

Matt Damon Stands Up (and Breaks Toys) for Darfur

Matt Damon and Thandie Newton have lent their famous faces for a London photo shoot – but these were no glamour shots. The stars (along with Joely Richardson and other celebs) were photographed destroying toys – meant to symbolize the destruction of childhood in Darfur. PEOPLE got a sneak peek at two of the pics.

April 13, named "Global Day for Darfur," marks the fifth anniversary of genocide in the Sudan region – so some children who live there have known nothing but killings for as long as they've lived. "If it had been my childhood that was under attack I would have expected help," Newton, 35, who was depicted blow-torching a Barbie doll, said in a statement. "Five years is five years too long."

Damon, 37, destroyed a dollhouse with a baseball bat in his shots. "After the genocide in Rwanda we all shook our heads and said never again," said the actor. "Today, as killings mount in Darfur we need to make never again a priority and demand protection for the most vulnerable."

For more information, check out www.SaveDarfur.org.

Hollywood stars help sustain Darfur aid flights: WFP

Money from Europe and a charity co-founded by Hollywood actors George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle will help maintain humanitarian flights in Darfur through April, the United Nations said on Friday.

The $6 million donated by Ireland, the European Union and the Clooney-backed Not On Our Watch will allow the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) to hire helicopters and aircraft to ferry aid workers to Sudan's war-torn region for 30 days.

The WFP's air link carries some 8,000 aid workers from 160 organizations to, from and within Darfur each month, WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said.

"We have received some funds which will allow us to maintain the flights for the month of April," she told a news briefing but added the reprieve is only short term as a further $71 million is needed to operate the service for the rest of 2008.

"It is vital to maintain the service especially at a time when insecurity reigns," she said.

The western Sudanese region of Darfur is the site of the world's largest aid operation. International experts estimate five years of conflict have killed 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes.

Aid workers are increasingly at risk in Darfur where rebel groups and militias have split into factions, some of them merely bandits without political agendas who prey on civilians for their own survival.

Bandits killed three WFP truck drivers in separate attacks earlier this month in Darfur and south Sudan.

Securing long-term funding for humanitarian flights in Sudan is essential, 14 international aid agencies said in a joint statement issued on Friday.

The agencies -- which include CARE Sudan, Catholic Relief Services and Oxfam International -- said that they rely on the WFP's air service to help them deliver aid to "many of the most inaccessible, insecure and poverty-stricken areas of Sudan."

In Darfur alone, the aid groups jointly assist more than 2 million people in areas currently only accessible by air, as roads are too insecure, according to the statement.

"A service upon which millions of people depend should not have to fear for its future every month," it said.

Matt Damon to Be a Dad Again

Matt Damon has both a new Bourne and a newborn in the works.

The Bourne Ultimatum star, 37, and his wife, Luciana, 32, are expecting their second child together, his rep, Jennifer Allen, confirmed to E! News.

The announcement comes after the Damons walked the red carpet together at London's Empire Film Awards Sunday, where Luciana showed off a baby bump.

The duo's daughter, Isabella, was born in June 2006 and Luciana also has a nine-year-old daughter, Alexia, from her first marriage.

The expectant parents tied the knot in December 2005.

On the professional side, Damon is currently shooting the thriller Green Zone in Morocco.

Meanwhile, on the heels of The Bourne Ultimatum's triple victory at the 2008 Oscars, the actor recently signed on to make a fourth film in the action franchise.

New Bourne to Make Four

Universal is opting to keep Jason Bourne on the run.

Their ears ringing with the sound of three Oscar wins for the Bourne Ultimatum, Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass have reportedly committed to add a fourth film to the critically acclaimed action franchise.

Per Daily Variety, Damon and Greengrass, who took over from Bourne Identity director Doug Liman to helm the second and third installments in the series, are on board but because of prior commitments it could be a few years before cameras start rolling.

That should give producers time to figure out Bourne's next step, considering late author Robert Ludlum penned only three bestselling novels about the amnesiac secret agent on the hunt for the shady figures who turned him into a steely killing machine. Two sequels by Eric Van Lustbader, The Bourne Legacy and The Bourne Betrayal, haven't been reviewed quite so kindly.

Damon, for one, didn't seem too excited about his character's future prospects after Ultimatum's mystery-resolving (yet helpfully open-ended) denouement.

"I just don't see what story you could do that would feel right,'' the 37-year-old actor told Entertainment Weekly in August shortly after the third film hit theaters. ''It's not like you can bump him on the head again and give him amnesia. Someone suggested we could do one where Bourne loses his car keys...If that's what they're coming up with, maybe a break isn't a bad idea."

The reigning Sexiest Man Alive and Sarah Silverman's video boy-toy said that if there was another Bourne movie it should come after audiences have had a chance to catch their collective breath. Or raise children.

''I think the way you could do a number four is to do it in, like, 10 years," Damon, who at the time also joked on The Daily Show that the next film would have to be called The Bourne Redundancy, said.

''The studio obviously wants to keep it alive. I mean, look, Universal is owned by GE. When they sell a refrigerator that works, they want to try to sell more of them. But from the creative side,this is definitely the end of the story of this guy's search for his identity.''

Greengrass said it would be the audience that ultimately decided whether another film should get made. And moviegoers acted accordingly, shelling out $443 million to bring the franchise box office total to $945 million worldwide.

Critics have also been particularly kind to the franchise, singling out Damon's performance, the direction and other fine qualities that have made the films stand out in Hollywood, where big-studio action movies usually mean noise, violence, crummy dialogue and little else.

At Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, Christopher Rouse took home the statute for film editing for The Bourne Ultimatum, while the teams of Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis and Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg won for sound mixing and sound editing, respectively.

Damon also snatched the Favorite Male Action Star crown away from perennial pirate Johnny Depp at this year's People's Choice Awards.

But long before Jason Bourne dries off from that swim in the East River, Damon will film the corporate thriller The Informers for director Steven Soderbergh. He is also in talks to star in Clint Eastwood's next project, The Human Factor, a look at Nelson Mandela's life in post-apartheid South Africa.

Greengrass, meanwhile, will be busy prepping his Vietnam War drama They Marched into Sunlight and putting the finishing touches on Green Zone, based on journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book about the CIA's hunt for nuclear weapons in Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City. Damon stars in the thriller, along with Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan.

So Long, Sarah! Jimmy Kimmel Is, Well, 'Dating' Ben Affleck

As threatened, Jimmy Kimmel has blasted back at girlfriend Sarah Silverman in the wake of her recent revelation – in an hysterical music video – that she and PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive Matt Damon are intimate.

Her song: "I'm F---ing Matt Damon." Kimmel's song of revenge, unveiled on his ABC show Jimmy Kimmel Live Sunday night immediately after the Oscars: "I'm F---ing Ben Affleck." (Watch the video here.)

"Matt, Sarah, this is for you," said Kimmel, noting that Silverman and Damon's music video has been seen by about 8 million people on ABC.com and YouTube.

And the hilarious new clip – in which the two are seen giving each other pedicures before Affleck tweaks Kimmel's bare chest – isn't just a duet: It's an all-star performance on par with "We Are the World."

When it comes to backup singers, Kimmel somehow managed to round up a who's-who of the entertainment industry, including Don Cheadle, Ashlee Simpson, Robin Williams, Cameron Diaz, Huey Lewis, Christina Applegate, Joan Jett, Macy Gray, Benji and Joel Madden, Lance Bass, Josh Groban and Harrison Ford – who blows the new couple a kiss.

Costarring Brad Pitt

Even Brad Pitt makes a cameo, albeit in a non-singing role. He plays a FedEx deliveryman who brings a cake of congratulations to Kimmel and Affleck.

Kimmel and Affleck also stand nose to nose in the video, and all but kiss. As Robin Williams rhapsodizes, "This is not a man crush."

"The reason I did it like this, I didn't want my parents finding out from the tabloids," Kimmel said after showing the video.

Affleck said his wife, Jennifer Garner, didn't take the news very well. "Thank God my daughter is too young [to understand]," added the actor, referring to 2-year-old Violet.

Retorted a straight-faced Kimmel, "Well, she's our daughter now."

Boston teacher has 3 Oscar students

Gerry Speca isn't sure what about his high school drama lessons stuck. But clearly, something worked. On Sunday, Casey Affleck will be his third former student to vie for an Academy Award.

The first two — Matt Damon and Affleck's brother Ben — won.

"It's a wonderful thing. It's a humbling thing," Speca told The Associated Press. "I remember when these kids were talking about that stuff and it was a dream."

All three say Speca played a large part in making those dreams a reality.

Casey Affleck says he guided him to a career in acting, starting at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Damon cites him as an example of truly great teachers. And Ben Affleck even thanked him in the credits of his directorial debut, "Gone Baby Gone" — after giving Speca a cameo in the critically acclaimed film.

"I wouldn't be an actor if it wasn't for Gerry," said Casey, nominated for best supporting actor in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." "He both kind of turned me on to acting, why it can be fun, how it can be rewarding, and he also taught me the foundation of everything I learned."

Added Ben: "This is a guy who's been a central figure in my artistic life — my entire artistic life."

And they're not alone. Several other former students — including Aaron Stockard, who co-wrote the "Gone Baby Gone" screenplay with Ben, and Broadway and television actor Max Casella — work in show business.

Speca, a native of western Pennsylvania who moved to Boston in the early 1970s to attend graduate school at Harvard, helped run the four-year drama program at the public high school for 12 years, pushing a rigorous schedule of class work and rehearsals. Students often spent 15 to 18 hours a week preparing for a play.

More than learning how to memorize lines or to project their voices, Speca, who himself acted in plays growing up, tried to teach his students to solve problems on and off the stage. So when he had more students than available parts — and far more girls than boys — he taught the teenagers to write their own plays and their own roles.

"What I wanted a kid to come out with was a way of having confidence in him or herself, a way of achieving what they wanted to achieve," he said.

After Speca's classes, Ben Affleck said it was natural for him and Damon to write their own roles and try to get their own movie made, as they did with 1997's "Good Will Hunting," which won them Oscars for best original screenplay.

"That background was our norm," he said. "We didn't need to be afraid of writing."

Speca's lessons still come quickly to the Afflecks, such as "do the work" — Speca's mandate that students stop worrying about whether their acting was good or bad and focus instead on what was needed to finish the job correctly.

"In its simplicity, it's very profound," Casey Affleck said. "As long as you work as hard as you can, you could get it done."

Speca, 60, said he enjoyed having all three of his most famous pupils as students, but he particularly liked watching Casey figure out whether acting was for him. While Damon wanted to be an actor at 13 and Ben already had paying jobs, Casey had other interests.

"And yet he stayed with it, he loved it, I think," Speca said. "There was that sense of this exploration."

Casey said he joined Speca's class as a freshman because he was "sort of" interested in theater, then became involved in his summer plays and ended up staying in Speca's classes until he graduated.

Part of his attraction, Casey said, was that Speca, who is married but has no children of his own, never treated his students like teenagers. He wasn't afraid to set high expectations, give them responsibility or bring his own life into class, such as discussing his grief when his parents died.

"Being challenged in that way, having those kinds of expectations, it does give you a sense of confidence," Casey said. "He always made you feel good about yourself in a real way."

Speca left the high school in 1995, taking a break to pursue other interests, including writing. He returned to the classroom in 2000 and now teaches English, screenwriting and public speaking at Bentley College in suburban Waltham.

He sees his most famous pupils every once in a while, such as at a premiere of "Gone Baby Gone." He appears briefly at the end of the movie, standing on a Dorchester street.

Of course, he'll be cheering for Casey to win Sunday.

"I would love it if he did, because I know he's worked hard," Speca said. "Maybe what I wish for him is that because of this kind of recognition, he gets to get the work that he wants to do."

Not that he's willing to take credit for any past or future success.

"I'm really no different from any other teacher. You kind of go in and do what you think is right and you hope it comes out well."

Behind Matt Damon's Raunchy Payback to Jimmy Kimmel

Just call it payback time for Matt Damon.

PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive became an instant YouTube sensation on Friday following his duet with comedian Sarah Silverman, as she revealed to her boyfriend, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel: "I'm f---ing Matt Damon."

The line was an instant classic. But for many Kimmel fans, the video was just the latest salvo in the long-running "feud" between Damon and Kimmel.It all started during the third season of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, when the host made a tradition of closing out episodes with, "Apologies to Matt Damon, but we ran out of time," even though the actor was never scheduled to come on the show.

The joke continued in September 2006 when Damon finally appeared as a guest. (See the clip.) After a segment which explained the gag – and a lengthy introduction by Kimmel – Damon sat down, only to have the host cut him off and end the show. As planned, the actor unleashed a flurry of curse words on Kimmel and proceeded to storm off the set. His performance was so believable, many fans thought he was truly upset.

The gag continued into 2007, employing Kimmel's sidekick, Guillermo – once while interviewing Damon on the red carpet at the Oceans 13 premiere, and again when the show premiered the "unofficial" trailer for Damon's film, The Bourne Ultimatum.

'His Turn to Get Jimmy'

Producers at Kimmel approached Damon this past October to appear on the show for the host's 40th birthday celebration but he opted to keep the joke running.

As for creating the video, "I don't even think he thought twice about it," his rep tells PEOPLE. "He just said, 'I'll do it.'"

Damon shot the video with Silverman at the end of October in Miami. "He had so much fun," his rep adds. "It was his turn to get Jimmy."

Watch Matt Damon's Surprise for Jimmy Kimmel

Comedian Sarah Silverman had a special surprise for boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday night's 5th anniversary of his ABC late-night show – and it involved getting naughty with Matt Damon.

In what has become an instant YouTube hit, Silverman details her faux-adulterous behavior with the reigning PEOPLE Sexiest Man Alive, singing, "I'm f---ing Matt Damon... I'm not imagining it's you."

Strapped with a guitar, the potty-mouthed Silverman confesses that she's rolling in the hay with Damon while Kimmel is "drinking Diet Snapple." Damon (a Kimmel pal and frequent joker on the late-night show) gets in on the fun, too, asking Kimmel, "How do you like them apples?"

Damon and Silverman, Kimmel's girlfriend of over five years, even show off their dance moves in a hip-hop interlude. Watch at www.youtube.com

2008 People's Choice Award Winners

MOVIES:
Favorite Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Male Movie Star: Johnny Depp
Female Movie Star: Reese Witherspoon
Leading Man: Joaquin Phoenix
Leading Lady: Drew Barrymore
Male Action Star: Matt Damon
Female Action Star: Keira Knightley
Onscreen Match-Up: George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Ocean's Thirteen
Movie Drama: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Movie Comedy: Knocked Up
Independent Movie: Becoming Jane
Family Movie: Shrek the Third
Action Movie: The Bourne Ultimatum
Favorite Threequel: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

MUSIC:
Male Singer: Justin Timberlake
Female Singer: Gwen Stefani
Group: Rascal Flatts
Pop Song: "What Goes Around Comes Around," Justin Timberlake
Hip-Hop Song: "Give It to Me," Timbaland, featuring Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado
R&B Song: "Shut Up and Drive," Rihanna
Rock Song: "Home," Daughtry
Country Song: "Stand," Rascal Flatts
Soundtrack Song: "You Can't Stop the Beat," Cast of Hairspray
Reunion Tour: The Police


TELEVISION:
TV Drama: House
TV Comedy: Two and a Half Men
Male TV Star: Patrick Dempsey
Female TV Star: Katherine Heigl
Scene-Stealing Star: Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy
Talk Show Host: Ellen DeGeneres
Animated Comedy: The Simpsons
Sci-Fi Show: Stargate Atlantis
New TV Drama: Moonlight
New TV Comedy: Samantha Who?
Game Show: Deal or No Deal
Competition/Reality Show: Dancing with the Stars

MISCELLANEOUS
Funny Female Star: Ellen DeGeneres
Funny Male Star: Robin Williams
User-Generated Video: Shoes, Liam Kyle Sullivan

14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations

The ceremony will be simulcast live on TNT and TBS Jan. 27.

Oustanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

300
The Bourne Ultimatum
I Am Legend
The Kingdom
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

"Bourne," "Potter" DVDs vie for honors

It was Jason vs. Harry on DVD last week, and the showdown between "The Bourne Ultimatum" and Warner Home Video's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" ended in a split decision.

The latest Potter movie was the top DVD seller for the week ending December 16, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert data, outselling "Bourne" and fellow new release "High School Musical 2."

But the third Jason Bourne action thriller won in the rental arena, capturing the top spot on Home Media Magazine's rental chart with estimated revenue of $15.4 million, compared with $12.3 million for second-ranked "Potter."

Combined, the two films grossed more than half a billion dollars in North American theaters. "Bourne" earned $227 million, while "Potter" collected $292 million.

The previous week's top seller, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," slipped to No. 4, not far behind behind "High School Musical 2."

On the HD DVD chart, "Bourne" outsold "Potter" by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. On the Blu-ray Disc chart, "Pirates" led for a second week, with "Potter" debuting at No. 2.

Johnny Depp rates No. 1 for autographs

Want an autograph from Johnny Depp? Chances are, he'll sign something for you — and not be a jerk about it.

The 44-year-old actor is the most gracious celebrity — for the third year in a row — on Autograph magazine's annual list of the "10 Best and 10 Worst Hollywood Signers."

Depp is "`Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' on film, and Johnny and the Signing Factory in person," the magazine said.

"Though soft-spoken and laid-back, he likes to talk to fans and get to know them while signing," New York autograph dealer Anthony Risi explains in the December issue, now on newsstands. "He'll sign more than one item when he has time, too."

The magazine said editors compiled input from autograph-collecting judges based in Europe, New York and California in ranking the celebs.

Matt Damon is second on the list, followed by George Clooney, Jack Nicholson, Rosario Dawson, John Travolta, Katherine Heigl, Jay Leno, Dakota Fanning and Russell Crowe — wait, Russell Crowe?

Crowe, who has a history of throwing temper tantrums, ranked among the worst signers on last year's list. But in a turnaround, the magazine said, the 43-year-old actor "started treating fans great, signing, taking pictures and chatting them up."

Will Ferrell is deemed the worst celebrity signer, followed by Tobey Maguire, Joaquin Phoenix, William Shatner, Renee Zellweger, John Malkovich, Julie Andrews, Bruce Willis, Teri Hatcher and Scarlett Johansson.

However, "keep in mind that even the best signers don't sign sometimes, the worst sometimes do, and that just because they're on the worst list doesn't mean they're bad people," the magazine said.

Jude Law to Sexy Man Matt Damon: Keep Up the Good Work

Jude Law has a few words of advice for Matt Damon, PEOPLE's 2007 Sexiest Man Alive.

"Keep up the good work, Matt," Law said of his co-star in The Talented Mr. Ripley, at Sunday night's London premiere of his new film Sleuth.

Law, a former Sexiest Man Alive title-holder, told PEOPLE that the choice of Damon, 37, was "cool" and laughed as he disclosed that wearing the crown was "not particularly" hard work.

The 34-year-old flew to London especially for Sunday's premiere: Law said he needed to be in Toronto the following morning to resume filming Repossession Mambo.

The film also is the reason Law snipped off his golden locks. Michael Caine, who also stars in Sleuth, jokingly told PEOPLE: "You won't recognize him with the haircut."

For Law's part, he appeared to enjoy his new low-maintenance 'do. "It's very easy like this, I have to say," Law told reporters, patting his short, clipped hair.

His hair wasn't the only thing to change. Law looked exceedingly fit and admitted that he had been working out for his new film. His fitness regime is "quite intense," he said.

Damon named People's `sexiest man alive'

Matt Damon has been named the "sexiest man alive" by People magazine, an honor that has been bestowed twice on his pals George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

The 37-year-old actor is featured on the cover of People's annual issue, on newsstands Friday. Damon, who is married to Luciana Bozan, said the honor came as a surprise.

"You gave an aging suburban dad the ego boost of a lifetime," he says in a letter published in the magazine. "My 9-year-old stepdaughter now thinks I'm cool — well, cooler."

Damon, who has a 1-year-old daughter, Isabella, with Bozan, says "all the campaigning" by Clooney and Pitt had finally paid off.

"Unfortunately, after all those years out on the trail, the meet and greets, the fundraisers, the stump speeches, I've finally come to terms with the fact that this is a mantle I wasn't meant to hold," he says in the letter, which was signed "Matty."

"Don't get me wrong, though. I was really shocked and happy (Lucy said I actually blushed) when I heard the news. So I can't thank you enough for that."

People's "sexiest man alive" list began in 1985 with Mel Gibson. Others on the list: Clooney (1997 and 2006), Pitt (1995 and 2000), Denzel Washington (1996) and Johnny Depp (2003).

Damon won a screenwriting Oscar with Ben Affleck in 1998 for "Good Will Hunting." Both Damon and Affleck starred in the movie.

He has also starred in "The Departed," "Syriana," the "Ocean's" franchise with Clooney and Pitt, and "The Bourne Identity" and its two sequels.

Nominees for the 34th annual People's Choice Awards

Winners will be announced Jan. 8 during an awards show broadcast on CBS.

The nominees are:

1. Favorite Movie: The Bourne Ultimatum; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End; Transformers

2. Favorite Family Movie: Evan Almighty, Ratatouille, Shrek the Third

3. Favorite Action Movie: 300; The Bourne Ultimatum; Transformers

4. Favorite Movie Comedy: Knocked Up; The Simpsons Movie; Wild Hogs

5. Favorite Movie Drama: Disturbia; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Premonition

6. Favorite Threequel: The Bourne Ultimatum; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End; Spider-Man 3

7. Favorite Independent Movie: Becoming Jane; A Mighty Heart; Sicko

8. Favorite Female Movie Star: Halle Berry; Sandra Bullock; Reese Witherspoon

9. Favorite Leading Lady: Jessica Alba; Drew Barrymore; Queen Latifah

10. Favorite Female Action Star: Jessica Alba; Jodie Foster; Keira Knightley

11. Favorite Male Movie Star: Johnny Depp; Denzel Washington; Bruce Willis

12. Favorite Leading Man: Jamie Foxx; Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; Joaquin Phoenix

13. Favorite Male Action Star: Matt Damon; Johnny Depp; Bruce Willis

14. Favorite On Screen Match Up: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 3; George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean's Thirteen; Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3

15. Favorite TV Drama: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation;" "House;" "Law and Order: SVU"

16. Favorite TV Comedy: "The King of Queens;" "My Name is Earl;" "Two and a Half Men"

17. Favorite Animated TV Comedy: "Family Guy;" "King of the Hill;" "The Simpsons"

18. Favorite Sci-Fi Show: "Battlestar Galactica;" "Doctor Who;" "Stargate Atlantis"

19. Favorite Competition/Reality Show: "American Idol;" "Dancing with the Stars;" "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

20. Favorite Game Show: "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?;" "Deal or No Deal;" "Jeopardy"

21. Favorite Female TV Star: Sally Field; Katherine Heigl; Jennifer Love Hewitt

22. Favorite Male TV Star: Patrick Dempsey; Charlie Sheen; Kiefer Sutherland

23. Favorite Scene Stealing Star: Richard Belzer from "Law & Order: SVU;" Neil Patrick Harris from "How I Met Your Mother;" Chandra Wilson from "Grey's Anatomy"

24. Favorite Funny Female Star: Ellen DeGeneres; Whoopi Goldberg; Wanda Sykes

25. Favorite Funny Male Star: Will Ferrell; Adam Sandler; Robin Williams

26. Favorite Talk Show Host: Ellen DeGeneres; Jay Leno; Oprah Winfrey

27. Favorite Female Singer: Beyonce; Fergie; Gwen Stefani

28. Favorite Male Singer: John Mayer; Tim McGraw; Justin Timberlake

29. Favorite Group: Daughtry; Maroon 5; Rascal Flatts

30. Favorite Rock Song: "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's; "Home" by Daughtry; "Makes Me Wonder" by Maroon 5

31. Favorite R&B Song: "Beautiful Liar" by Beyonce with Shakira; "Because of You" by Ne-Yo; "Shut up and Drive" by Rihanna

32. Favorite Country Song: "I Need You" by Tim McGraw with Faith Hill; "Never Wanted Nothing More" by Kenny Chesney; "Stand" by Rascal Flatts

33. Favorite Hip-Hop Song: "Give It to Me" by Timbaland feat. Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado; "Party Like a Rock Star" by Shop Boyz; "Stronger" by Kanye West

34. Favorite Pop Song: "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie; "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce; "What Goes Around...Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake

35. Favorite Song from a Soundtrack: "Read My Mind" by The Killers from "Friday Night Lights;" "What I've Done" by Linkin Park from Transformers; "You Can't Stop the Beat" by the Cast of Hairspray from Hairspray

36. Favorite Reunion Tour: Genesis; The Police; Van Halen

37. Favorite New TV Comedy: Aliens in America; Back to You; The Big Bang Theory; Carpoolers; Cavemen; Chuck; Reaper; Samantha Who?

38. Favorite New TV Drama: Big Shots; Bionic Woman; Cane; Dirty Sexy Money; Gossip Girl; Journeyman; K-Ville; Life; Life Is Wild; Moonlight; Private Practice; Pushing Daisies; Women's Murder Club

"Bourne Ultimatum" leads People's Choice nominees

"The Bourne Ultimatum" led the nominations for the People's Choice Awards, an annual event with a dizzying array of categories voted on by the American public, organizers said on Thursday.

The spy thriller was nominated for favorite movie, favorite action movie and favorite threequel. Its star, Matt Damon, was also cited for favorite male action star.

Other multiple nominees included "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Transformers," both of which will compete against "The Bourne Ultimatum" for favorite movie.

Bruce Willis and Johnny Depp will compete with Damon for favorite male action star. Willis and Depp will also vie for favorite male movie star with Denzel Washington.

Jessica Alba also received two nominations, for favorite leading lady and favorite female action star.

Winners in all 38 categories, split among film, TV and music, will be announced during a ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on January 8.

This year's show, televised by CBS, drew 11.3 million viewers, up a little from 2006, but far below its 1977 heyday of 35 million.

"Bourne" retains foreign lead after recount

"The Bourne Ultimatum" led the international box office for the sixth time in seven weekends, according to final data issued Monday.

The third installment of the Matt Damon action thriller took in $9.4 million from 37 territories, reversing Sunday estimates that had "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" in first place. A Monday morning recount by Universal Pictures, the distributor of the Adam Sandler comedy, brought "Chuck and Larry's" $9.3 million weekend estimate down to $8.4 million.

"Bourne," which has 10 more territories to play, has taken in $10 million in 19 days in France, $12.6 million in 25 days in Germany, and $45.6 million in seven weeks in the U.K.

With six No. 1 openings among the 32 territories in which it is now playing, "Chuck and Larry" moved up to an international total of $37.2 million. The top-of-the-market openings included Germany ($2.9 million), Mexico ($1.3 million), Austria ($566,000) and Malaysia ($162,000). The comedy has 11 territories left to play, with Israel coming aboard this coming weekend.

The David Schwimmer-directed "Run, Fat Boy, Run," was No. 1 in the U.K. with a market total of $16 million after four weekends.

Foreign totals include: "Ratatouille," $224.2 million; "The Brave One," $8.2 million; "Superbad,"$16.8 million; "Surf's Up," $50.1 million; "The Simpsons Movie," $336.9 million; "Evan Almighty," $61.9 million; "Shrek the Third," $467.1 million; "Knocked Up," $53.9 million; and "Rush Hour 3," $76.2 million.

"Bourne" still on run at foreign box office

Although it opened overseas six weeks ago, "The Bourne Ultimatum" endured as the top attraction at the foreign box office box office, selling an estimated $13 million worth of tickets during the weekend.

The Matt Damon spy thriller opened at No. 1 in India, Portugal and Turkey, and held onto first place in France, Germany and Austria. After spending five of the past six weekends at No. 1 internationally, it has earned $144 million.

The weekend in general, though characteristically down for this time of year, was stronger than a year ago at this time. The top five titles this stanza grossed $34.2 million, compared with the year-ago haul of $27.8 million.

Finishing at No. 2 for the weekend was "The Simpsons Movie," with $6 million -- of which $5.3 million was attributable to Italy. Its overseas total stands at $332 million.

"I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" followed with $5.5 million. The comedy opened at No. 3 in the U.K. ($2.2 million).

In fourth overall was "Superbad," with $5 million. The best of five new markets was Australia, with $1.7 million. The foreign total rose to $10 million.

Thanks to a No. 1 bow in Spain, where it cooked up $1.5 million, "No Reservations" finished fifth with $4.6 million, good for an international total of $30.7 million.

The new North American champ, "Resident Evil: Extinction," also led the field in Mexico.

Foreign totals include: "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $641.7 million; "Shrek the Third," $463.4 million; "Transformers," $382 million; "Die Hard 4," $235.5 million; "Ratatouille," $215.5 million; "Ocean's Thirteen," $193.1 million; "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," $145.6 million; "Evan Almighty," $57 million; "Knocked Up," $51.6 million; "Surf's Up," $46.1 million; and "Disturbia," $32 million.

"Bourne" returns to No. 1 at foreign box office

Handily outdrawing an eclectic mix of fading holdovers and early fall newcomers, "The Bourne Ultimatum" reclaimed the top spot at the weekend foreign box office with an estimated $16.5 million from 37 markets.

The Matt Damon espionage thriller hiked its overseas gross to $98.8 million; the film's worldwide tally stands at $308.9 million.

"Bourne," which topped the overseas charts during the last two weekends in August, opened at No. 1 in Germany ($5 million), Austria ($850,000) and Mexico ($1.5 million). It easily outpaced the comparable gross figures in these territories recorded by the first two series titles, "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy."

"Ratatouille" came in second for the weekend with $8.5 million from 34 markets, bringing its international total to $200.9 million. Its global gross is $403 million.

The Pixar cartoon continued gangbusters in France, where the film is set. It was No. 1 in the market for the sixth consecutive weekend, grossing $1.5 million. The market total is $52.6 million, just $900,000 shy of the year's top title, "Spider-Man 3."

"Shrek the Third," the previous weekend's champion, wound up at No. 3 overall with $8 million from 63 markets, hoisting its overseas total to $451 million.

"I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," co-starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James, spread its wings internationally, taking the No. 4 slot with $5.4 million from 22 markets. It opened at No. 1 in Russia ($1.2 million) and No. 2 in Italy ($1 million, behind "Shrek," $4.3 million). Its overseas total stands at $15.4 million.

"Die Hard 4" finished at No. 5 with $4.4 million, most of it coming from a No. 1 bow in Spain with $3.7 million; the overseas total for the Bruce Willis action vehicle stands at $227.8 million.

Grossing an estimated $4.1 million each were "Knocked Up" and "The Simpsons Movie." The former has earned $44.5 million, and the latter, $309.4 million.

Other foreign totals: "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $635 million; "Ocean's Thirteen," $190.3 million; and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," $142.8 million.

We Hear...

THAT, unlike some ostentatious colleagues, low-key Matt Damon doesn't bother to travel with a bodyguard and arrived in Deauville, France, last weekend with just his wife and kids . . . THAT Jenna Jameson will be checking out bikini options to fit her new smaller chest size at the Rosa Cha by Amir Slama fashion show on Saturday.

Matt Damon: Having a Family Changed My Life

For Matt Damon, being a family man means having less time to work out.

The actor and father of 1-year-old Isabella tells the UK's Sunday Express that before his daughter was born all he did was work, exercise and sleep – but now life has more to it.

"I really used to have no life outside movies. I'd work all day, go to the gym and go to sleep," says Damon, 36, who married his wife Luciana in December 2005. (She also has a daughter, Alexis, from a previous marriage.) "Now I have a place to be so I come home after work."

And Damon says he'd rather be with his family than at the gym. "I've had the same personal trainer on all the Bourne films but once he left this time, that was it for me and working out because I wanted to get home to see my daughter before she went to sleep."

There are consequences to dropping his workout schedule that careful viewers may spot during The Bourne Ultimatum. "Towards the end of filming they had to shoot around my belly," Damon jokes. "If you pay close attention you'll see the zipper on my jacket creeping up and up. I had to keep that jacket on."

There are on-screen benefits to having Isabella around, though.

"Halfway through the movie [director] Paul Greengrass looked at me and said, 'You look terrible,' " says Damon. "I told him, 'I'm sorry. I'm awake all night with the baby,' to which he said, 'No, it's really good. She came along just at the right time – she's really helping your performance,' "

In the previous two Bourne films, "I'd have to achieve that same ragged look by staying out all night in Paris," adds Damon.

Though The Bourne Ultimatum was shot in at least eight different countries, Damon managed to be apart from his family just once.

"The only time they haven't come with me was for the Tangier sequence of this film and as soon as I got there I realized it was a mistake," he says. "Being apart wasn't good for any of us, so now they come everywhere with me."

Matt Damon lends voice to PBS' `Arthur'

Matt Damon, who plays former assassin Jason Bourne in "The Bourne Ultimatum," has a much fuzzier role in an upcoming episode of PBS' "Arthur."

Damon, bedecked with bear ears, plays himself as part of "Postcards From You," an initiative to encourage young viewers to make their own videos. He voices the character.

His guest appearance on the animated children's show about a friendly aardvark is set to air Sept. 3.

Damon, 36, took a break from filming "The Bourne Ultimatum" to tape "Arthur" at a studio in Miami, said Pierre Valette, executive producer of the show, based at WBGH in Boston. An animator also drew the actor.

"As we were thinking of possible guests, Matt Damon made sense," Valette said.

Damon is a filmmaker, he's from the Boston area, he's a young father and the head writer — Peter Hirsch — was Damon's classmate at Harvard, Valette said.

When the producers were creating the surroundings for Damon's character, they turned to works by his brother, Cambridge-based artist Kyle Damon, for inspiration.

"I thought why not decorate his studio and his home with his brother's artwork," Valette said.

"Arthur" airs on PBS stations nationwide. Check local listings.

"Simpsons," "Bourne" score surprising numbers

During the past couple of weeks, Hollywood has watched as a couple of movies that most expected to open in the $50 million range shot up to the $70 million mark.

First, 20th Century Fox's "The Simpsons Movie" opened on the weekend of July 27 to $74 million. The following weekend, Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Ultimatum" raced ahead of even the most optimistic expectations to capture $69.3 million.

The massive openers spoke to several factors. Both titles were proven commodities, even if they did come from opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum. After 18 years on network TV and in syndication, the "Simpsons" clan has developed a deep fan base, many of whom had grown up with the irreverent series. While there was some question entering the movie's opening weekend whether audiences would show up for characters they could already see for free, the opportunity for "Simpsons" fans to gather in the communal setting of their local mutliplex to laugh together at Homer's familiar catchphrases meant that the movie performed like a sequel to a proven franchise.

"Bourne," of course, already had two installments behind it that have steadily built on the original appeal of the Robert Ludlum novels. And "Ultimatum" didn't play like the third film in a series that is simply spinning its wheels. The film connects all the dots in a way that repays the loyalty of fans. Two-thirds of the plot of "Ultimatum," for example, plays out between the final Moscow chase scene in the second film, "The Bourne Supremacy," and "Supremacy's" final tag scene in New York. And the new movie ends with images that summon up echoes of the opening shots in the original "Bourne Identity."

Additionally, "The Simpsons Movie" and the three "Bournes" benefit from consistent creative oversight. "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and producer James L. Brooks, who shepherded the Simpsons' transfer to TV series, led the team of experienced "Simpsons" hands who contributed to the movie.

In the case of "Bourne," director Doug Liman, who shot the first film, may have seen Paul Greengrass take up his template to fashion the two that followed, but a team that includes producer Frank Marshall and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, among others, has been involved in all three films, contributing to the unity of vision.

In terms of the audiences they have attracted, however, the two movies did take different routes to their mega openings. Sure, both skewed toward male moviegoers; Cinemascore, in its samplings of their opening weekend audiences, reported that "The Simpsons Movie" drew a crowd that was 63% male, while "Ultimatum's" constituency on opening weekend was 56% male.

But the age of their respective audiences was another matter: Fifty-nine percent of the initial "Simpsons" audience was younger than 25. In the case of "Ultimatum," Cinemascore found that 82% of its audience was over 25. In fact, a rather amazing 33% of the "Ultimatum" audience was 50-plus.

That comes as a surprise only because for years the mantra surrounding summer blockbusters is that Hollywood gears them all for 14-year-old boys. It's further assumed that older audiences take their time before committing to a movie. True, there's no denying teens are often the first wave to hit theaters on opening day. But "Ultimatum" suggests that it doesn't have to be that way all the time. Sometimes, those slow-moving 50-somethings move almost as fast as 14-year-old kids.

50-Foot Bourne Promo Hung on Matt Damon's Building

Matt Damon can't escape the huge publicity blitz for his new movie The Bourne Ultimatum – it's literally all over his home.

Universal Studios has placed an ad featuring a towering image of the actor in his role as the hunted CIA agent on the side of the Manhattan co-op apartment building where Damon, 36, lives with his wife, Luciana, and daughter Isabella.

The 50-foot-high poster, which was originally spotted by The Smoking Gun Web site, shows Damon's character, Jason Bourne, walking down a street with a gun in his hand, with the ad art accompanied by the tagline "Bourne Comes Home."

"Home," however, refers to the movie character's domestic base of operations, not the Damon family's loft in the six-story building.

The Bourne Ultimatum, the third screen installment from the series of novels by the late Robert Ludlum, grossed nearly $70 million in its opening weekend starting last Friday, giving the thriller the best August opening for a movie ever.

The popularity of the series has solidified Damon's position as the movie industry's most bankable star, according to Forbes magazine. As the financial magazine calculated, for every dollar Damon was paid for his last three roles, theleading man brought in $29 of gross box-office income.

In a recent PEOPLE interview, Damon refused to rule out another Bourne installation.

He also attributed his haggard look in the film (in which he is always barely one step away from one type of killer or another) to sleeplessness associated with having a 1-year-old child.

"Bourne" video game departs from script

With "The Bourne Ultimatum" grossing $69.3 million in its first weekend and delivering the biggest August opening ever, surely someone would want to transform it into a similarly hot video game. What game publisher wouldn't want to ride the coattails of its huge marketing campaign?

But, oddly enough, there's no "Bourne" game in sight, at least not this year. And the one that Vivendi Games has up its sleeve for a mid-2008 release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 is no "movie game," its developers insist.

Didn't the publisher of "John Woo Presents Stranglehold" -- which leaps onto video game shelves the week of August 20 -- say the same thing about its game? Is there suddenly some stigma against movie games?

"Not at all," says Emmanuel Valdez, chief creative officer at High Moon Studios, Vivendi's San Diego-based internal developer, which is building the game titled "The Bourne Conspiracy."

"Games for next-generation consoles take longer than movies to make -- two years and sometimes longer," Valdez says. "We knew we didn't have enough time to build a quality 'Ultimatum' game and come out with it at the same time as the movie. So we decided to do things differently, something new."

That meant taking elements of the first movie, "The Bourne Identity," and stirring in lots of fresh material that needed to be approved by the estate of Robert Ludlum, the "Bourne" books author who died in 2001.

The project began in late summer 2005, when "we started off almost making a straight 'Identity' adaptation," Valdez recalls. "But the movie had come out in 2001, the sequel 'Supremacy' had come out in 2004, and we knew we could never finish in time for the release of 'Ultimatum' this year. So, together with the Ludlum estate, we set out to make something original that could stand on its own two feet."

Matt Wolf, a creative consultant to the game hired by Ludlum Entertainment, arranged for Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter for all three "Bourne" movies, to flesh out the saga. He was responsible for ensuring that the game played by the rules of the "Bourne" universe.

"For example, we needed to impress on the game developers that Jason Bourne isn't a gun-slinging maniac," Wolf says. "Part of my job was not just to guard the borders and say no; it was to come up with some creative solutions and support the process."

Matt Tieger, the game's lead designer, recalls that the High Moon team had two principles that became the basis for the game's creation.

"The first was that Bourne isn't Gucci," he says. "Meaning that he isn't the type of spy who carries a lot of stuff with him . . . He pretty much weaponizes his environment. The second really important principal was the fact that Bourne always has a target, an objective. Meaning he's not the type of character who goes wandering around an open-ended world."

Similarly, the High Moon team adopted the hand-held camera style of Paul Greengrass, director of the second and third "Bourne" movies.

"His style is very journalistic," Valdez says, "and when we use it for the action sequences, it lends a very cinematic look and feel to the game."

While the first "Bourne" game is taking three years to reach completion, subsequent titles will be speedier, Valdez says. "The first game in a franchise always takes more time; there are technical challenges that we're dealing with . . . that we won't have to face next time."

Matt Damon Named Best in Show (Biz)

The stock market may be down, but Matt Damon is up.

The movie star, who just had the best opening weekend of his career with The Bourne Ultimatum, is tops when it comes to how much his films earn at the box office for every dollar he earns in salary, according to Forbes' inaugural Ultimate Star Payback list.

Besting fellow A-listers Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp and towering over the Toms (Hanks and Cruise), Damon's last three films, not including the new Bourne, have grossed $29 per buck he was paid for the roles.

Forbes calculated a film's net revenue by totaling its worldwide grosses and U.S. DVD sales and then subtracting the project's budget. The net revenue was then divided by an actor's total compensation to produce gross income. All actors were then ranked according to the average gross income of their last three films.

So, the smaller a film's budget and its star's paycheck was, combined with how popular the movie was in theaters, especially overseas, and with DVD audiences, the larger the "star payback."

Ocean's crew mate Pitt, buoyed by Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Troy's huge international showing, ranked a close second, with a gross income return of $24, and Vince Vaughn and Johnny Depp tied for third place with $21.

Vaughn's number was helped in part by the relatively low production costs that went into making the hit comedies Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up. Depp, meanwhile, happened to star in one of the top-earning movies of all time, The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Jennifer Aniston, largely thanks to The Break-Up (it sure wasn't thanks to Rumor Has It...), which raked in about $205 million worldwide, rounds out the top five with $17.

But, while these numbers certainly give producers something to think about, you can't measure fans' love and acting prowess in dollar signs.

"The biggest stars in Hollywood are not the actors that deliver the biggest returns," Forbes senior editor Michael Ozanian said in a statement.

Tom Hanks, for instance, isn't going to be collecting smaller paychecks anytime soon, despite the fact that his gross income of $12 is half that of Damon's. Fellow top earners Tom Cruise and Will Smith check in right behind him with $11 and $10, respectively. Leonardo Dicaprio and Denzel Washington are also $11 and $10 men, according to the list.

Meanwhile, Hollywood's leading ladies tended to fare better than their male counterparts, ratio-wise, with Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock hanging tough with $15, $14 and $13.

Affected by Forbes' use of worldwide box office as opposed to just U.S. ticket sales were comedy kings Adam Sandler ($9), Will Farrell ($8—the French just didn't love Talladega Nights) and, once upon a time, Jim Carrey ($8), whose last blockbuster hit was Bruce Almighty…five movies ago.

And despite his Oscar-winning pedigree, Russell Crowe's last three films—A Good Year, Cinderella Man and Master and Commander—didn't slay the box office competition, leaving the Aussie actor in last place with $5 in grosses for every dollar he was paid in salary.

For the full list, check out Forbes' complete report.

"Bourne" slays Homer in biggest August film openin

The amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne is back, and this time he clobbered Homer Simpson on his way to scoring the biggest film opening ever for the month of August.

"The Bourne Ultimatum," the third movie in the espionage action series starring Matt Damon as a one-time CIA hit man searching for his past, grossed $70.2 million its first weekend to rank as North America's top film at the box office, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

That tally far exceeded the debut ticket sales generated by the first two films in the Universal Pictures franchise.

By comparison, "The Bourne Identity" opened at No. 2 with $27.1 million in June 2002, and the "The Bourne Supremacy" landed at No. 1 in July 2004 with $52.5 million. Those two films went on to gross nearly $485 million worldwide combined.

The latest "Bourne" total marks the biggest first weekend ever for a movie in August, surpassing the $67.4 million opening posted by "Rush Hour 2" the same weekend in 2001.

"Bourne Ultimatum," which like its immediate predecessor was directed by British filmmaker Paul Greengrass, clearly benefited from the rave reviews it earned for its tightly wound, heart-pounding action.

Exit polls showed the movie played to a slightly older crowd than much of the summer's high-profile popcorn fare, with 57 percent of its audience over the age of 30.

HOT SUMMER

"This is beyond all of the special-effects films that are in the marketplace. It offered a different kind of entertainment that's very satisfying," said Nicki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal, which is controlled by General Electric Co.

"Bourne's" robust debut continued what has been a very healthy summer for Hollywood, with domestic ticket receipts since May 1 up nearly 6 percent compared with last year, according to box office tracking service Media By Numbers. This weekend's cumulative gross for all films is up about 25 percent year on year.

Last week's domestic box office champion, "The Simpsons Movie," a feature-length version of the long-running TV cartoon, slipped to second place in its second weekend with $25.6 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.

Despite its 65 percent drop-off from week to week, "The Simpsons," from News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, has now racked up about $128.6 million domestically and $315.5 million worldwide.

Another new wide release, the canine superhero comedy "Underdog," arrived at No. 3 on the box office chart with $12 million in ticket sales for Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Pictures.

Paramount Pictures' "Hot Rod," featuring "Saturday Night Live" star Andy Samberg in his big-screen debut as a self-proclaimed stuntman, grossed $5 million its first weekend to land at No. 9.

"Bratz: The Movie," a live-action 'tween comedy based on the popular fashion doll line, opened at No. 10 with $4.3 million for Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

Bourne is Bond 'with contemporary issues'

Bourne. Jason Bourne.

He may lack the Aston Martin, garotte watch and bevy of lethal seductresses. He isn't quick with a quip.

But the amnesiac secret agent based loosely on the character in Robert Ludlum's trilogy has, over the past five years on the big screen, taken on a new identity: the American James Bond.

Or, more precisely, an anti-Bond.

Bourne is rumpled, could use a shave, and is angry at his government. He'd just as soon kill you with a shoelace as a dagger shoe. He's committed to one woman, and she's dead. You won't catch him with a martini at a poker table; he prefers solitude. He wants to retire from the spy game, but circumstances keep drawing him back into the fray.

And he's about to surface again.

The Bourne Ultimatum opens nationwide today with, once again, tough odds facing the franchise. Like the previous two Bourne films, Ultimatum opens on a lousy weekend. August can be merciless on summer movies, particularly those that don't feature computer-generated kids swinging from webs, pirates with squid faces, and robots slicing the air with karate kicks.

But that's just how Bourne filmmakers and its star, Matt Damon, prefer it.

"We've never done the big splash," Damon says. "We don't have superheroes or CGI characters or magic spells. We've always tried to keep this grounded in reality and hope that audiences find it."

They have, in spades. The first two films, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, have taken in more than $500 million worldwide. And many critics are hailing this installment as the best Bourne yet.

Audiences aren't the only ones captivated by the reticent agent. Filmmakers credit the franchise's fragile hero and cinéma vérité style with altering the spy-film archetype. Some even concede they're ripping off Bourne.

"The thing about the Bourne movies is that the handheld cameras almost make them look like documentaries," says Michael Davis, director of the upcoming Clive Owen thriller, Shoot 'Em Up. "They let the action roll and capture these happy little unscripted accidents. I love it. So I stole that. I mean, Jason Bourne is the man."

But for how long? While Bourne seems unstoppable at the box office, the man who plays him says the spy's days may be numbered. Damon isn't interested in The Bourne Ad Nauseam.

"I can't imagine doing another one," Damon says. "No one thought we'd have one successful movie, let alone that we'd be doing three. There's a part of me that doesn't want to risk our winning streak by doing a fourth."

Parallel, but different

That Damon is even discussing a fourth is a small miracle. Back in 2001, after his films All the Pretty Horses and The Legend of Bagger Vance flopped, Damon says, he couldn't get a return phone call, and the scripts that once piled on his doorstep vanished.

But then he was approached by director Doug Liman, who hooked Damon on a new kind of spy film with a single line.

"He told me he couldn't relate to James Bond, and that he wanted to make a Bond for our generation," Damon recalls. "When he said that, I was on board."

Damon understands that the Bond comparisons are inevitable.

Both were cut from the same cloth of Cold War literature. Ludlum and Ian Fleming's spies were born of Iron Curtain tensions. Bourne and Bond are elite killers for their respective countries' top government agencies: Bourne was trained by the CIA, Bond by the British Secret Intelligence Service.

"Hell, they even have the same initials," says Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass, who directed The Bourne Supremacy and United 93. "I get the parallels. But they're all just on the surface. Deep down, they are very different characters."

Wanda Teays, who teaches philosophy of film at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, says that Bourne reflects a very American post-9/11 mind-set and aesthetic.

"Bourne is not merely fighting crime," she says. "He is on a personal quest to reconnect with his own self and get at the truth. He realizes the facts he uncovers may not paint a pretty picture of the person he once was."

Bourne also isn't the tux type.

"When I think of all the Bond movies, I think of a dapper, witty, physically fit and attractive guy with a drink in his hand, flirting with a sexy woman on a yacht," she says. "If Bourne showed up, he'd be escorted out the door before he could gulp down a martini."

The key difference, says Greengrass, is the teams for which Bourne and Bond play. Throughout the Bourne films, Damon's character has struggled to regain his memory as he eludes the government agency that trained him to be a killer — and now wants him dead. In Ultimatum, Bourne returns, essentially, to meet his maker.

"I respect the Bond franchise, but I'm not a fan of it," says Greengrass, a Brit who still lives in London.

Bond, Greengrass says, "has no compunction about killing people. He enjoys it. Jason Bourne doesn't want to kill anymore, and he has contempt for the system he used to work for. There's a reality in the Bourne films that I don't think exists in the Bond films."

Stirring the plot

That reality has landed Greengrass in a bit of hot water. He answered tough questions during a publicity tour in Canada, where reporters grilled him about whether his scenes of government-sponsored torture and surveillance were a political statement.

"It's a summer action film," Greengrass says. "But I want it to be set in the contemporary world. (Those scenes) are the dashes of chili sauce in the dish."

And there's just one chef who could mix the Bourne dish. Damon, says Saw director James Wan, has created an action hero more accessible to audiences than most.

"He is scarred by what happens to him, and I think people are relating to scarred heroes," says Wan, who will introduce his own in Death Sentence, in which Kevin Bacon plays a father who becomes a vigilante after his family is killed. "He doesn't kill someone and come out with a joke and neatly combed hair. He's changed by what happens to him."

Emotionally and physically. On average, Damon undergoes three months of combat training before beginning a Bourne film.

"When I saw him in the first Bourne, I thought, 'Wow, that's not the same kid from Saving Private Ryan,' " says Ryan co-star Ed Burns. "I could tell Matt went all out. When he takes on a role, he does everything you could imagine to prepare for it."

Burns hopes to direct the crime drama The Dock Walloper with a Bourne-like hero. "Matt's brought back the John Wayne kind of lead, who doesn't have to say much to be effective."

Damon deflects the compliments, instead crediting scripts that "reflect the real world, not some world from the 1960s."

"You have images of black hoods and water boarding and this character saying he was misled into a war," Damon says. "Those are contemporary issues. It's what I love about the movies."

Enough to do a fourth? The director and co-stars have friendly wagers on whether Damon returns to the role.

"I definitely think there will be another one, though nothing has been formally discussed," Greengrass says. "But people love it so much, I don't see how they won't."

"I'd bet $10 they'll do another," says co-star Joan Allen. "There's still a lot to explore about Bourne's past."

Julia Stiles, another co-star, is betting the other way. "I'll bet $10 he's done," she says. "But I'm hedging my bet. Because I'll make that money up if they ask me back."

Anyone seen my keys?

Damon laughs. He has fielded all the questions since filming wrapped. He worries about overstaying his welcome. He won't be the gray-haired secret agent "yelling at kids to get off my lawn."

"I would never say never," Damon says. "But I'm not sure there's much left to say. I don't want to do a movie about Jason Bourne losing his car keys."

New "Bourne" set to lead weekend box office

Jason Bourne, the amnesiac political assassin, should find himself in familiar territory atop the North American box office this weekend with "The Bourne Ultimatum," the third film in the spy saga.

Although Hollywood also is fielding three other wide releases and two more modest platform launches, "Bourne" should outrun the competition and force the previous weekend's chart-topper, "The Simpsons Movie," into second place.

Universal Pictures' "Ultimatum," which takes the globe-trotting Bourne (Matt Damon) to Tangier and New York, looks poised to hit the high-$50 million range, possibly even pushing into $60 million territory.

The first film in the series, "The Bourne Identity," opened to $27.1 million in 2002. "The Bourne Supremacy" bowed to $52.5 million three summers ago. Both "Supremacy" and "Ultimatum" were directed by Paul Greengrass.

20th Century Fox's "Simpsons," which bowed last weekend to a resounding $74 million, will likely follow with a haul in the $33 million-$37 million range. The animated movie is expected to cross the century mark Friday.

In a bid for the family audience, Walt Disney Pictures is unleashing "Underdog," a live-action version of the 1960s cartoon series about a canine superhero. It should open in the $11 million-$14 million range.

Paramount's "Hot Rod," in which breakout "Saturday Night Live" star Andy Samberg makes his big-screen debut as an Evel Knievel wannabe, is expected to race off with about $7 million-$10 million.

And then there's "Bratz: The Movie," a live-action tween comedy based on the popular doll line. Handicappers will be surprised if the Lionsgate release rises much higher than the $5 million mark in its first weekend.

Utilizing a more selective rollout, Picturehouse is raising the curtain on the musical drama "El Cantante," a biopic about salsa singer Hector Lavoe starring Marc Anthony. Jennifer Lopez, who is married to Anthony, produced and also stars in the R-rated film, which should find favor among Latino audiences as it debuts in 542 theaters.

Miramax Films also will introduce "Becoming Jane," a period romance in which Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) takes center stage. It will dance into 100 theaters.

On 25 screens, ThinkFilm is venturing out with the R-rated "The Ten," a skit comedy built around outrageous infractions of the Ten Commandments.

'Bourne Ultimatum' delivers the ultimate thrill

Let's just say it now: Paul Greengrass should direct every action thriller. The world of movies would be better for it.

His masterful direction of The Bourne Ultimatum (* * * * out of four) makes this third installment unequivocally the summer's best "threequel." It also is easily the best action thriller of the year.

Directed and edited with virtuosity, it offers two hours of non-stop excitement with not only one but two of the most breathtaking, heart-racing vehicle chase sequences ever. Sure, it's a franchise, but it's one of the rare smart ones. And though it's a genre film, it transcends the limitations and expectations associated with espionage dramas, emerging as the quintessential contemporary spy saga.

Its palpable sense of urgency and rapid-fire pace is bolstered by an intricately plotted story and a strong ensemble cast. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne, a former CIA operative trained as a killing machine, whose erased memories have come crashing down on him.

Starting with 2002's The Bourne Identity and followed two years later by The Bourne Supremacy, the series has consistently blended intelligence with explosive thrills. Suspense is accomplished without the aid of wizards, robots or comic-book superheroes. This is a thriller for adults. With Joan Allen reprising her role as a principled CIA official and David Strathairn as a corrupt government honcho, it clearly is aimed at sophisticated audiences.

Damon is at his best, having grown further into the role. He is just as convincing as a nimble spy who guides a journalist past a labyrinthine set of stumbling blocks as he is at fending off a rival assassin.

His past may be muddled, but Bourne is always two steps ahead of his pursuers. With an appealing blend of toughness and vulnerability, Damon is ideal for the role. Though trained to terminate lives, Bourne has an underlying decency. In the last film, he was shattered by the murder of his girlfriend, and now he seeks to escape the terrible business he went into as a young man blinded by a sense of duty. Most of all, he is driven to learn his real identity and at whose behest he was taught to kill.

A motorbike chase through the streets of Tangier, Morocco, is relentless and riveting.

Forget those impressive chases you saw in Matrix 3 or Casino Royale— Greengrass' dazzling, adrenaline-surging pursuits rise above the rest. He has made two of the best recent films, his last being the captivating United 93. Wherever he takes his handheld camera next, audiences would be wise to follow.

(Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences. Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes. Limited opening tonight and nationwide Friday.)

Damon's `Bourne' again in action sequel

Matt Damon's Jason Bourne seemingly never met a man whose neck he couldn't break.

As the son of an academic specializing in nonviolent conflict resolution and the father of a year-old girl, Damon's selective about the sort of screen violence in which he'll participate, though.

Damon, 36, returns for his third go-round as the amnesiac former assassin in "The Bourne Ultimatum," his character returning to his roots to find out how he became a killing machine so he can finally put that life behind him.

From his mother, a professor of early-childhood development, Damon was indoctrinated from an early age to look for ways to avoid the sort of altercations that are part of daily life for Bourne.

"Every role I took, there's always a special eye toward the violence," Damon said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Violence is part of the human condition. The question is: Are you desensitizing people to violence by what you're showing?

"The reason I'm allowed to do this movie and still have a relationship with my mother is because the character bears the responsibility for his actions in a way, and you see the price that he pays for the life that he's chosen to lead."

Damon and his wife had a daughter in June 2006. Fatherhood has Damon thinking more about doing a children's film, something he could show his daughter, unlike the "Bourne" flicks, which he said "she's not going to see for quite a while."

Becoming a parent also has reinforced the values that have guided Damon over choosing roles in general.

"Those are the kinds of things where I say, `Well, do I want my daughter exposed, knowing that her dad makes movies like this or that?'" Damon said.

"There are so many movies that drive my mom just totally crazy, because there are these thousands of acts of violence. The movies are rated PG-13, but the toys are marketed to ages 4 and up. So you get these kids who are just getting pounded by this imagery from a very young age. I don't want to be a part of that."

With his boyish face, Damon did not seem a likely choice to play an action hero when he was cast as Robert Ludlum's memory-challenged terminator in 2002's "The Bourne Identity."

Previously, Damon had done mostly drama, including "All the Pretty Horses," "Saving Private Ryan," "Rounders" and "Good Will Hunting," which won him and buddy Ben Affleck an Academy Award for their screenplay.

Damon did the occasional thoughtful thriller such as "The Rainmaker" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and he has been one of the all-star gang on "Ocean's Eleven" and its two sequels. The chance to play Bourne came as a surprise.

"I kind of just react to whatever's out there, and this was definitely the best script that was out there," Damon said of "The Bourne Identity." "It was this kind of movie that I hadn't really pictured myself being offered but had pictured myself doing, had hoped that I'd be able to do."

With "Bourne Identity" becoming a $100 million hit, Damon's opportunities broadened, particularly after the 2004 follow-up "The Bourne Supremacy" also turned into a smash.

Damon had a plum role in the 2005 ensemble drama "Syriana." Last fall, he starred as a crook who infiltrates the police force in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" and as one of the masterminds who helped found the CIA in Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd."

"The Bourne Ultimatum" was preceded this summer by "Ocean's Thirteen," with Damon teaming again with director Steven Soderbergh and co-stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt for another casino caper.

"This is his time," said Paul Greengrass, who directed "Bourne Supremacy" and "Bourne Ultimatum."

Greengrass said he could not have inherited a better actor to play Jason Bourne.

"He's got a particular skill set as an actor that makes him perfect for this," Greengrass said. "He's a brilliant actor of duality. He's done it on a number of films back from the beginning. `Ripley's' a classic example. Because he's got that open face, and yet it's capable of dark actions. It makes him very, very morally ambiguous.

"I think he's been at his best on the screen when he's explored that. Particularly so in `Bourne,' because the character itself is a duality, with the dark past and the renounced past."

Co-star Joan Allen, reprising her "Bourne Supremacy" role as a CIA spymaster sympathetic to Bourne, said Damon packs as much conflict into the character as the movie packs action.

"When I look at some of the moments that he has, I can't believe the number of things he has going on simultaneously," Allen said. "Here's a character that has these super powers, he's very smart, he doesn't really understand, he's confused and he's tortured. And sometimes, I see all that in Matt in just a look. ...

"I think he's also very sexy as he does it. Even though there's very little overt sexuality, these are very sexy films, and he is very sexy in them."

Damon said he senses he's done with the "Bourne" films, but he might be interested if Greengrass were to return to make another. Greengrass and Damon hope to collaborate on the Iraq war drama "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," though Damon may be unable because of a scheduling conflict for Soderbergh's upcoming corporate-whistleblower tale "The Informant."

Amid his busy schedule, Damon also hopes to work with Affleck again at some point and follow his friend's lead by directing a movie. Affleck's directing debut, "Gone Baby Gone," is due out this fall.

"I'm jealous that he got to do it first," Damon said.

Ludlum's "Bourne" books were set amid the Cold War, but Damon said the movie adaptations reflect our current world. Though the Iraq war is not explicitly mentioned, Bourne's actions and revelations serve as a commentary on those events, he said.

"I just love that he tries to atone for what he's done at the end of the second movie. It was a really nice thing in a kind of mainstream action movie. To have that be your final beat is something I had never seen before, and I liked what that said particularly at that time," Damon said.

"All of these movies are very much of the time that they were made, and at a time when we had gone into this war. To have this character aware of what he had done and try to take responsibility for his actions I thought was a really good thing."

And how is "Bourne Ultimatum" of its time?

"It's this guy who has done these horrible things, but now we see he thought he was doing them for the right reasons at the time he did them, but he realizes he was sold a bill of goods," Damon said. "So that's very much a movie for today."

Review: `Bourne' is best of threequels

All along, they've been calling this the summer of threes — you know how "they" can be, putting things into tidy little boxes. And they focused mainly on the ballyhooed blockbusters that came out at the beginning of the summer: third installments in the "Spider-Man," "Shrek" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises.

But now as we're creeping into August, traditionally a dumping-ground time at the movies, we have easily the best threequel of all.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" kicks all of their butts — literally and figuratively. Clever and smart, fast and fun, it's the first one that doesn't feel like a dragged-out continuation of a series but rather a climactic, satisfying culmination. (Though, who knows? The ending does leave the door open for the possibility of "Bourne 4.")

Paul Greengrass, who also directed part two, "The Bourne Supremacy," as well as the riveting "United 93," continues to prove himself a master of mood. He's done something astonishing here: He's made an action film that's both delicate and aggressive, a difficult balance to strike.

It's all stuff you've seen before — car chases, fistfights, international jet-setting and spy vs. spy intrigue — but it's so expertly crafted and the cast is so superb that "The Bourne Ultimatum" exceeds all expectations of the genre.

And it's even got a brain in its head, too. The script from Tony Gilroy (who also wrote 2002's "The Bourne Identity" and 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy"), Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi, offers definite themes on the prevailing mistrust of government, but never gets specific enough that the film will feel dated in a decade.

Matt Damon remains a strong, stoic force in the center as Jason Bourne, the amnesiac CIA assassin of Robert Ludlum's novels, still seeking answers about his hazy past. This time, glimmers of how he became a trained killer are beginning to flash into his memory, which simultaneously makes him more of a threat and puts him in greater danger.

As in the first two "Bourne" films and last year's "The Good Shepherd," Damon has enough subtlety to play an enigmatic figure who still has a soul. Greengrass reportedly told him to be more "butch" and more intense, but he also shows just the right traces of vulnerability to remind you that you're watching a complicated human being, and not just an efficient killing machine. This is especially true in his scenes with returning actresses Julia Stiles as fellow spy Nicky Parsons, who risks not just her job but her life to help him, and Joan Allen as CIA investigator Pamela Landy, who brings class and intelligence to the role of woman who develops sympathy for the person she's targeting.

Starting in Moscow (where he leads authorities on a tense train chase, reminiscent of "The French Connection") Bourne hops to Paris, London, Madrid and eventually New York, seeking details about the super-secret government program that made him who he is today — fellow graduates of which have now been assigned to take him out.

David Strathairn's Noah Vosen, who runs the unit with bloodless arrogance, tries to track him down using impossibly ubiquitous surveillance equipment. But Bourne being Bourne, and possessing an infinite number of passports, he keeps outsmarting him. A scene in London's crowded Waterloo Station, where Bourne meets a journalist (Paddy Considine) who's also looking into the covert program, is a dazzling display of intricately fluid choreography. Greengrass makes it look effortless.

But he cranks up the intensity even higher during a protracted foot chase across apartment rooftops and through narrow stairways in Tangier, which ends with a knock-down, drag-out, furniture-smashing fight between Bourne and another assassin who's come from the same unit and is just as skilled. At one point they are literally trying to destroy each other with anything they can find — washrags, toothbrushes — and what's great is that Greengrass knows he doesn't need to overwhelm the sequence with needless music. The slapping, punching, crashing and cracking provide their own engrossing rhythm.

Later, things get a little ridiculous as Bourne emerges almost without a scratch from what has to be the most gnarly car pile up in the history of New York City, but hey — it's so well staged, it's easy to ignore reality.

Besides, this is summer, the time you want to escape from it all at the movies. Brilliantly, "The Bourne Ultimatum" lets you do that.

"The Bourne Ultimatum," a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action. Running time: 110 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

'Bourne' producer says fourth film unlikely

Frank Marshall won't rule out another sequel to the Jason Bourne films, but says the story has already ventured far afield from Robert Ludlum's novels.

"There might be an idea out there that we could go forward with, but right now, the trilogy is done," Marshall said Monday at a screening of The Bourne Ultimatum.

Matt Damon, who stars as amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne, also attended the screening, a fundraiser for the Boise Contemporary Theater. The event was held at the Egyptian Theatre.

Marshall and Damon have attended screening events in Boise for each Bourne movie. Marshall has local ties to Boise, and has held several premieres in the city to benefit various causes.

Damon said he hoped future projects bring him back to Idaho.

"I'm hoping that a lot of people from the industry come to Idaho — the mountains, the desert, the city, with everything that you have going for you, more movies should be shot out here," the 36-year-old actor said.

The Bourne Ultimatum opens in theaters nationwide Friday.

Locales help "Bourne" to be wild

One striking aspect of the "Bourne" spy franchise, starring Matt Damon, is its uncanny ability to transport audiences to far-flung locales, plunging them into a foreign city or country like few movies can.

The third film in the Universal Pictures series, "The Bourne Ultimatum," which opens Friday and is directed by Paul Greengrass, continues that tradition.

"One of the ingredients that make the movies work are those locations," producer Frank Marshall said. "We are in New York; we're not on a backlot. We're not playing Toronto or Pittsburgh for New York. We are in Tangier. You know it."

In the case of "Ultimatum," that meant pulling off two complicated chase scenes: one in the ancient Moroccan city, the other in New York. The Tangier hunt starts off on scooters, switches to motorcycles, then turns into a foot chase.

Asked how many setups the sequence demanded, producer Paul Sandberg laughs. "You're in streets, you're in alleys, you're up and down stairways, you're on rooftops, you're going in and out of buildings," he says. "How many setups? Oh my God!"

The foot component sees the characters not only flying from one roof to another but from one apartment to another. "Window jumps were tough because when you get it right, you don't need more," Sandberg said. "But if you can't get it right in the first few shots, you've exhausted a stuntman or two, and then that's it."

The production shot first and second unit concurrently for three weeks in the city and had to bring most of its resources with it because Tangier doesn't see regular film work. On the plus side, city officials were more than accommodating to the production.

"In Tangier, I think there was a James Bond that did a sequence there seven years ago, but otherwise they really don't have much filming. New York has got five crews shooting every day," producer Pat Crowley said. "So you can ask them to do more, and they'll cooperate more because there are few political prices they have to pay."

New York, on the other hand, is a city that can bind filmmakers in red tape, is awake 24/7 and demands to be control.

"Matt and Paul originally said, 'What we want to do is top the Moscow car chase (in "Bourne Supremacy") with a car chase in New York," Crowley said. "And we just said, 'Please don't make us do it, it's too hard!"'

The car chase is all the more impressive because it appears to be tearing up the streets of Manhattan in the daytime, something rarely seen onscreen. A small army attacked the planning, then a bigger one invaded the streets, with filming taking weeks to complete. Damon even moved to the Big Apple for six weeks of the shoot.

But that doesn't mean some mirage work wasn't necessary.

"There's some cheating going on where part of the setup is very busy, and then you go to a place where you do have more control and you go in tighter, and you don't notice that the background has changed," Crowley said.

A scene where Bourne's car drives off a roof only to land on a lower rooftop of the Port Authority actually was shot on a roof in Yonkers because "the people at the Port Authority were afraid that the car was going to go through their roof."

"A 'Bourne' movie is actually like five or six movies, one in each city, you know?" Greengrass said. "You need a story in each one and try to concentrate on the physical characteristics and the environment, while keeping the actors focused on the overall story, and keeping the crew up for it.

"It dares to go to Moscow and Tangier," he said. "It doesn't show you the picture postcard, you see the real city."

USA picks up "Ocean's Thirteen" cable rights

On the heels of acquiring the third installment in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, USA Network has snapped up cable rights to another "threequel," "Ocean's Thirteen."

The network acquired rights to the movie in a package that also includes "License to Wed" and last year's "Blood Diamond." Sources said USA paid Warner Bros. just north of $25 million for the package, but both firms declined comment on the financial and other terms of the deal.

"Ocean's Thirteen's" rights kick in January 2010, while "Blood Diamond" becomes available to USA in May 2009 and "License to Wed" in December 2009, according to sources.

Sources said USA's deals for "License to Wed" and "Blood Diamond" are for four years, while "Ocean's Thirteen" is believed to be a bit longer, roughly a 4 1/2-year deal.

USA does not own rights to the first two "Ocean's" movies. Turner acquired 2001's "Ocean's Eleven," while Oxygen ponied up for 2004's "Ocean's Twelve."

"Ocean's Thirteen," starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon, has raked in $114.5 million at the domestic box office since its June 8 release. "Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou, made $57.4 million during its theatrical run. "License," which stars Robin Williams, has brought in $38.5 million since its July 3 release.

USA acquired cable rights to Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" in May; it also owns the rights to the two previous "Pirates" films -- 2003's "Curse of the Black Pearl" and 2006's "Dead Man's Chest."

Damon gets Hollywood Walk of Fame star

When Matt Damon and pal Ben Affleck were struggling actors, they lived in a modest apartment near Hollywood Boulevard. Damon said he used to look at the stars on the boulevard sidewalk and dreamed of seeing his name on one of them someday. So when it came time to receive one Wednesday, Damon reacted with disbelief.

"A few times in my life I've had these experiences that are just kind of too big to process and this looks like it's going to be one of those times," Damon said during a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony attended by his wife, mother and a throng of screaming fans.

The star of upcoming thriller "The Bourne Ultimatum," then gave a nod to his hometown baseball team.

"I'm thankful the Red Sox are in first place," said Damon, who grew up in the Boston area.

Damon, 36, won a screenwriting Oscar with Affleck in 1998 for "Good Will Hunting." He has also starred in "The Departed," "The Good Shepherd" and the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise. He stars as the amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne in "The Bourne Identity" and its two sequels.

"Ultimatum" a natural Bourne box office killer

"The Bourne Ultimatum," the culminating film of the trilogy begun five years ago with "The Bourne Identity," gets under way with a burst of nervous energy and extreme urgency and never lets up.

It's a 114-minute chase film, dashing through streets and rooftops of any number of international urban sprawls with Matt Damon's redoubtable Jason Bourne hot on the trail of -- himself. That might be the genius of the series: A James Bond-like character who can escape any pickle and thwart any villain, but all in a quest for his own identity. Jason is not out to save the world -- though he might do that -- he'd just like to know his real name.

Director Paul Greengrass, who only made the astonishing "United 93" in the interim, returns for his second "Bourne" film (after 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy") to bring the roller coaster ride to an end in a dead heat where all the plot points and (surviving) characters of the three films converge. Audiences will eat it up: This is a postmillennial spy-action movie pitched to a large international audience. You hardly need subtitles.

The cool thing about this movie is that the real revenge is not against bad guys in the CIA, but against the high-tech world that maddens mere mortals. Your mobile phone drops calls? Your car needs towing after a parking-lot fender-bender? Well, Jason can switch phones and patch into the world from trains, subways, stairwells and undergrounds. Any car he steals leaps up sharp inclines, plunges off of roofs or smashes into other vehicles until reduced to smoldering metal yet can still outrace any car on the block.

And his body! Blow it up with a bomb, expose it to brutal hand-to-hand combat or throw it into the East River, and it gets up with a few manly scratches.

Yes, there are a few plot holes. But few are likely to care. A smart cast of veteran actors gives the film just enough emotional heft to carry you through the silliness. Damon has definitely made Bourne his own. For all his physical dexterity and killing instincts, Damon brings a Hamlet-like quality to the CIA-trained assassin suffering from a five-year spell of amnesia who can never quite tell who his friends are, or rather, which of his enemies might be a true friend.

Joan Allen returns as the CIA investigator who has slowly come to see that Jason might be the real deal. And Julia Stiles as an in-over-her-head agent again shows up for no credible reason other than the producers want her back. (They're right.)

Newcomers include a flinty and increasingly antsy David Strathairn as a head of a black-ops program that has its real-life model in all the extralegal programs sponsored by the current administration. At one point, he declares "you can't make this stuff up," and you know the filmmakers are nodding toward today's Washington.

Scott Glenn appears as a law-ignoring CIA director, though he might remind you more of the current attorney general, and Albert Finney crops up toward at the end as a Dr. Mengele figure behind a behavior-mod program that created any number of Jason Bournes.

The movie swings through Moscow (filched from the previous film); Paris; Turin, Italy; London; Madrid; Tangiers, Morocco; and New York as Jason hones in on who did this to him. (That's another thing -- he never has to endure airport security checks!)

A fatigue factor sets in somewhere; it might vary from person to person. Yet the sharp intelligence behind the screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi (though other hands reportedly contributed) gives the plot, salvaged from the Robert Ludlum Cold War spy novel, a genuine buoyancy. The film is trying to get at something, no matter how crudely, about corruption within the American espionage system, with its secret reliance on renditions and torture in the name of freedom. This might not be the best way to illustrate the problem with credibility-stretchers at every turn. But then again, how many people look at documentaries?

Greengrass stages terrific stunts and chases through crowded streets, buildings and rooftops. Cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Christopher Rouse gives the film its lightning speed and jagged edges with a close, hand-held camera and quick edits while John Powell's score pulsates pure adrenaline.

Cast:
Jason Bourne: Matt Damon
Nicky Parsons: Julia Stiles
Noah Vosen: David Strathairn
Ezra Kramer: Scott Glenn
Sam Ross: Paddy Considine
Paz: Edgar Romeriz
Pamela: Joan Allen
Dr. Hirsch: Albert Finney

Director: Paul Greengrass; Screenwriters: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi; Screen story: Tony Gilroy; Based on the novel by: Robert Ludlum; Producers: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Paul L. Sandberg; Executive producers: Jeffrey M. Weiner, Henry Morrison, Doug Liman; Director of photography: Oliver Wood; Production designer: Peter Wenham; Costume designer: Shay Cunliffe; Music: John Powell; Editor: Christopher Rouse.

Damon appears in 'Clean My Ride' video

Would Jason Bourne dress up as a gas pump for a YouTube video? Probably not. But Matt Damon, who plays him on the big screen, is willing to look silly when it comes to raising awareness about global warming.

Damon, who reprises his action role in the upcoming "The Bourne Ultimatum" film, sports the getup during a one-minute cameo in a video that is part of a series called "Clean My Ride, Flex My Fuel."

The 36-year-old actor — along with Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Sarah Silverman and Joshua Jackson — are lending star power to a new campaign aimed at putting pressure on lawmakers to require service stations to sell corn-based ethanol for flexible-fuel cars.

"Come on, Congress," Damon says in the video. "Come on, big oil. Mandate cleaner cars and cleaner fuel. Flex fuel. A little bit of corn and a pinch of can-do attitude is all it takes. And kids love it too. Yippee!"

He then sends up his action-star image, punching out a guy for asking him to do a little dance. "I feel like I'm being `Punk'd,'" he jokes.

The series of five-minute videos, produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a think tank based in Washington, also show Affleck — Damon's longtime friend — dressed as an ear of corn and vowing to bring down "big oil."

Garner, who is Affleck's wife, makes an appearance in regular garb. Silverman, known for drawing humor out of awkward moments, berates her mother for driving a gas-guzzling car.

The final two videos in the six-part series were set for release Wednesday and Thursday.

Matt Damon sides with Bourne over Bond

Matt Damon's amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne shares initials with another notorious screen operative. But other than that, Damon doesn't see any similarities between Bourne and James Bond.

Bond is "an imperialist and he's a misogynist. He kills people and laughs and sips martinis and wisecracks about it," Damon, 36, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Damon's new film, "The Bourne Ultimatum," opens Aug. 3.

"Bourne is this paranoid guy. He's on the run. He's not the government. The government is after him. He's a serial monogamist who's in love with his dead girlfriend and can't stop thinking about her," Damon said. "He's the opposite of James Bond."

The third movie in the series based on Robert Ludlum's books sends Damon's penitent killer back to his roots to uncover how he became such a perfect weapon and who was responsible.

Damon said he bumped into former Bond star Pierce Brosnan in London and they chatted briefly about how the British super-spy's movie handlers were trying to update the character with last fall's "Casino Royale," which introduced Daniel Craig as Bond.

Brosnan told him the aesthetics and style of Bond can be updated "but fundamentally, what the character is is something from the 1960s," Damon said.

Paul Greengrass, Damon's director on Universal's "Bourne Ultimatum" and its 2004 predecessor, "The Bourne Supremacy," agreed that Bond is a relic from a different era.

"He's an insider. He likes being a secret agent. He worships at the altar of technology. He loves his gadgets. And he embodies this whole set of misogynistic values," Greengrass said. "He likes violence. That's part of the appeal of the character. He has no guilt. He's essentially an imperial adventurer of a particularly English sort.

"Personally, I spit on those values. I think we've moved on a little bit from all that, the martini shaken, not stirred."

Bourne and Bond may be very different men, but that still leaves the big question: Which one would win in a fight?

"It's tough. I wouldn't bet against Bourne," Damon said. "Bond had all those gadgets, though."

Affleck, Garner & Damon Star in 'Corny' Environmental Ad

Ben Affleck is seeing green. Why else would he don a corn suit?

The leading man - along with wife Jennifer Garner, best pal Matt Damon as well as Jason Biggs, Sarah Silverman and Joshua Jackson - is starring in a series of YouTube videos, dubbed Clean My Ride, Flex My Fuel.

The five-minute films follow the adventures of a shaggy, bearded alternative fuel activist named Phin, who enlists the celebrity crew in his campaign to make "flex fuel" hip. The global warming awareness clips, produced by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for American Progress Action Fund, can be found on the Clean My Ride Web site and on YouTube.

In his starring role in the video, Affleck, (who first appears four minutes into the video), sports a pointy, yellow foam corn hat with leafy green ears and offers to take down "Big Oil."

"Congress bows to fear," Affleck hisses at the hero, who seeks to sweeten lawmakers on corn-based ethanol. "I bring the fear. Does big oil sleep around? Got bad credit? I'll find the dirt. And I will make big oil regret the day it ever uttered the words 'price gouging!' "

A new video, starring Damon, Garner and Silverman, is set to debut Tuesday, followed by new installments Wednesday and Thursday.

Damon will appear as a flex fuel pump, says Brian Komar, director of strategic outreach for the center, who terms it "hysterical" and says none of the stars took issue with their odd costumes.

In fact, he says, Affleck was happy to get in the corn suit. "It didn't take much," Komar tells PEOPLE. "Everyone was just really good-humored. Basically, it's an issue they care about."

Universal, Google are game for "Bourne" deal

Universal Pictures and Google announced a new online game, "The Ultimate Search for Bourne with Google," that uses such Google tools as Search, Maps, Images and YouTube and serves as a promotional vehicle for the upcoming action feature "The Bourne Ultimatum."

The third "Bourne" film, which stars Matt Damon and opens August 3, features a Google placement.

The game, inspired by all three "Bourne" films, launches Monday (July 16) in seven countries and incorporates a sweepstakes element. Players will assume the identity of a former CIA operative as they track rogue agent Jason Bourne across three continents and solve clues that bring them closer to uncovering Bourne's identity. The game can be played at www.google.com/bourne until the film's release and will include exclusive clips from "Bourne Ultimatum."

It is Google's second online game tied to a film release. The first involved Sony Pictures' "The Da Vinci Code."

Universal worked with Web design and marketing firm Big Spaceship to build the "Bourne" game, which is part of a promotional partnership with Google that did not involve any money changing hands.

The product placement -- a screen shot of a Google search -- emerged from the discussions between Universal and Google about the game but occurred in a scene that already called for an online search, studio executives said.

Google will promote the game through search results related to the film and through its millions of users' customized iGoogle home pages.

Volkswagen, whose new Touareg 2 is featured in "Bourne Ultimatum," will be providing the sweepstakes grand prize -- a 2008 Touareg 2 designed to the top-of-the-line specifications of the car seen in the movie. MasterCard, which is integrated in the game, will award one player a $1,000 MasterCard gift card each of the 15 weekdays that new clues and active game play are provided to Web site visitors. Other prizes include $25,000, 10 Apple iPhones and four trips to the winners' choice of New York, Paris, London, Madrid or Tangier -- all cities featured in the film.

The game will launch in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the U.K. and France.

Matt & Ben Ante Up for Africa

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are hunting for some goodwill at the card table.

The Oscar-owning pals turned up in Las Vegas Thursday for a charity poker tournament to raise awareness and money to aid the victims of the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

The event, dubbed Ante Up for Africa, was held at the Rio Hotel and benefited the Enough Project and the International Rescue Committee, which are providing relief for the 2 million refugees displaced in the conflict-ridden region of Sudan. An estimated 500,000 lives have been lost to the bloodshed.

Aside from Damon and Affleck, those celebs showing off their poker pusses were Adam Sandler, Ray Romano, Martin Sheen, Kevin James, Hank Azaria, Shannon Elizabeth and Damon's Ocean's Thirteen costar Don Cheadle, who organized Ante Up with professional poker player Annie Duke and has played a large role in bringing attention to African issues ever since starring in Hotel Rwanda.

According to Casino City Times, Damon went head to head with a pro in the first five minutes of the 170-player contest and was in the lead before losing on the river—the final card. But Damon, who helped popularize the poker craze in Rounders, didn't lament his quick exit.

"I'm here to try and raise money and awareness for the tragedies taking place," the 36-year-old thesp was quoted as saying. "I really hope it becomes an annual event. I hope it does and I hope it doesn't. I hope we can solve this issue and refocus the efforts on something else in Africa."

Cheadle seconded the sentiment.

"Hopefully we won't be here in five years for Darfur," he told reporters at a press conference. "This isn't going to be solved one nation at a time. We need to bring this to the world. We're actually doing a great job in this country."

Affleck, a former poker tournament champ, lasted little longer than his fellow celebs, getting knocked out about halfway through the game. The Smokin' Aces actor told People his game has become a little rusty as his priorities these days, like caring for his two-year-old daughter, Violet, with wife Jennifer Garner.

"I've got a kid and I'm directing movies. I have hardly any time now," Affleck said. "Poker takes a lot of time if you want to stay good. I don't want to suck. I was good. I'm still good. Family is better though."

Before the Boston buddies headed to Sin City, the New York Daily News reported that Affleck and Damon took time out over the Fourth of July for a joint family vacation in Hawaii with their respective wives and children. Aside from surfing, the star duo began collaborating on their first script since taking home a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award in 1998 for Good Will Hunting.

No word yet what the story's about, but Damon's publicist confirmed the pair are back behind the keyboard.

"That's their plan," she told the Daily News. "Whether or not they are doing it right now, I don't know."

Clooney: Cast raises millions for Darfur

"Ocean's Thirteen" stars have donated $5.5 million to humanitarian efforts in Sudan's Darfur region, according to actor George Clooney.

Clooney told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Rome that he was joined by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and producer Jerry Weintraub in raising $9.3 million for Darfur, most of which was contributed at a dinner during the film's premiere last month at the Cannes Film Festival.

Clooney said more than half the money has already been donated to various charities dealing with Darfur. He said his group wants to keep emptying and replenishing the coffers of the humanitarian organization they co-founded, called Not On Our Watch, to focus global attention on the plight of the 2.5 million civilians in Darfur who have fled their homes.

"There are only a few things we can do — protect them where we can, and provide food, water, health care and counseling," he said. "We're just trying to get them to live long enough to get to the next step."

More than 200,000 people have died in the Darfur region of western Sudan since 2003, when local rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of neglect. Sudan's government is accused of unleashing in response a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed — a charge it denies.

Clooney announced the latest donation from Not On Our Watch — $1 million to the U.N. World Food Program — which will be used to help the U.N. agency deliver food and other necessities by helicopter to inaccessible villages in Darfur.

The latest donation raised to $5.5 million the amount that Not On Our Watch has given to humanitarian and relief organizations in Darfur in less than three weeks.

Not On Our Watch's first donation of $2.75 million went to the International Rescue Committee. It has also donated $750,000 to the British-based relief agency Oxfam and $1 million to the Westport, Conn.-based charity Save The Children.

Clooney said everyone on the board is committed to keep raising awareness and money.

"I have every intention of doing it in other places," he said, and the upcoming film festivals in Venice, Italy, and Deauville, France, "sound like good spots" for fundraising events.

Matt Damon: My Daughter's a Jet-Setter

Matt Damon and wife Luciana's daughter Isabella isn't walking yet – but she sure is flying.

"We travel a lot but try to bring her everywhere," Damon, 36, told PEOPLE at the Chicago premiere of Ocean's Thirteen Thursday night.

"She has 11 stamps on her passport. She has more stamps than I did when I was 30."

(Damon's next Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, which just wrapped, was filmed in Germany, Canada, New York City, England, France, Morocco, Spain and Latvia.)

Isabella, who turns 1 on Tuesday, is still learning to master the art of two-legged transportation: "She stands up and then realizes she's standing and down she goes," Damon said. "It's fun."

At the Ocean's premiere, Damon also revealed that he's on a mission to be named PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive, like his costars Brad Pitt and George Clooney, both of whom earned the title twice.

"I put on one of my finer suits," he said, modeling his dark-blue suit to the crowd. "And I have George campaigning. I'm waiting for [imprisoned political lobbyist] Jack Abramoff to rise from the ashes so he can lobby for me. Aside from that, I have to leave it up to God."

"Ocean's Thirteen" steals No. 1 spot at box office

The all-star caper film "Ocean's Thirteen" made off with $37.1 million in North American ticket sales during its opening weekend to steal the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

The Friday-through-Sunday tally for the latest "Ocean's" sequel, returning George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Bernie Mac to the scene of their first heist, Las Vegas, was roughly on par with the debut gross of the first two films in the series.

"Ocean's Thirteen," released by Time Warner Inc. unit Warner Bros. Pictures, is the third film to team Clooney and company with director Steven Soderbergh for a franchise inspired by the 1960 "rat pack" adventure starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," which had sailed atop the box office for the past two weekends, sank to No. 2 in its third week with $21.3 million in U.S. and Canadian receipts, according to studio figures compiled by box-office tracking firm Media by Numbers.

The comedy "Knocked Up," from Universal Pictures, slipped a notch to No. 3 in its second weekend with $20 million in ticket sales, while the latest animated penguin movie, "Surf's Up," from Sony Pictures Entertainment opened at No. 4 with $18 million.

Another of this summer's blockbuster sequels, the animated storybook satire "Shrek the Third," grossed $15.7 million in its fourth weekend to round out the top five. The DreamWorks Animation SKG film, released through Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, has now grossed nearly $282 million in domestic distribution.

Matt Damon Heads to 'Emerald City'

Matt Damon is off to see the wizard, the man who directed his last two films in the "Bourne" franchise.

The Oscar-winning actor will reteam with helmer Paul Greengrass on the adapation of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," according to Variety.

The Universal Pictures film is based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book that revolves around the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. The occupational administration that was chosen for its loyalty to the Bush administration ignored the reality of local conditions in Iraq until the chaos called attention to itself.

Damon will play a composite character base on figures in the book.

Greengrass, who directed "The Bourne Supremacy" and the upcoming "Bourne Ultimatum," being released Aug. 3, also helmed the 9/11 film "United 93."

Damon next stars in "Ocean's Thirteen," currently in theaters.

Clooney, Damon talk Darfur at premiere

George Clooney and Matt Damon on Thursday used the premiere of the lighthearted casino heist film "Ocean's Thirteen" to talk about atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region.

They and fellow cast members Ellen Barkin, Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle along with producer Jerry Weintraub greeted screaming fans on the red carpet but devoted a large part of their time talking with reporters about what the U.S. has called genocide.

"We can hold rallies and fundraisers and everyone think it's fixed," Clooney said. "It's not fixed."

Ticket sales from the gala went to Not On Our Watch, an organization started by Clooney and others working the movie that is helping the International Rescue Committee raise funds for hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the Darfur conflict. Tickets went for $2,000 each.

Not Our Watch has raised at least $9 million since its May 24 fundraising debut at the Cannes Film Festival in France, according to Edward Menicheschi, editor and publisher of Vanity Fair. The magazine helped sponsor fundraising premieres in Chicago and Las Vegas.

Clooney and his father Nick Clooney, a writer and activist, approached the IRC last year looking for ways to bring attention to Darfur, according to organization spokeswoman Melissa Winkler.

"They are informed and very committed to the issue," Winkler said. "They have a unique ability to raise the alarm to turn attention to places that need attention because of their celebrity and their reach. And it has made an impact."

Cheadle and Brad Pitt, who also stars in the movie but was absent from the Chicago premiere, have traveled to Sudan.

The money will go to aid projects that include setting up health care services at six clinics in Darfur, creating learning shelters for children and training local leaders on human rights.

"It's difficult to get attention to Darfur," Winkler said. "I think in many ways a lot of these celebrities have put Darfur on the map."

'Ocean's Thirteen' is 'grand' theft

Ocean's Thirteen is as frothy and smooth as a chilled margarita on a hot Vegas night.

The corps of sharp, idiosyncratic and snappily dressed career criminals is back, plotting and executing a caper with their trademark blend of buffoonery and finesse. This time the oily bad guy is played by Al Pacino as a megalomaniacal casino owner who cheats Elliott Gould's character out of his land, money and future profits. Former bad guy Andy Garcia takes an interesting turn.

High-tech gadgetry abounds, as do perilous action sequences and hilarious disguises. As in the previous films, the banter is witty and the sets and production design are handsomely mounted.

Though it takes a little while before it really takes off, this slick bauble of a movie qualifies as the best of the summer "threequels"— at least thus far. (There remains the third Bourne film and the third Rush Hour movie, both of which open in August, as well as a new Die Hard and the second Fantastic Four).

Eminently capable director Steven Soderbergh hits a few weak notes: There is not much suspense to the caper, and the casting of Ellen Barkin as Pacino's assistant is fine, but her comic femme fatale falls flat.

Matt Damon, who attempts to seduce her as part of the elaborate heist, is very funny as a larcenous Cyrano with a pointily protruding proboscis.

The chemistry between Brad Pitt and George Clooney makes for some of the film's most winning moments. Each interrupts the other, answers questions before they're asked and finishes the other's sentences.

What makes this film most appealing may be its inherent morality within the slippery ethical context of a heist movie. The guys are not out for riches this time, but to help Gould regain his self-respect, joie de vivre and stolen money. Pacino's massive fraud lands Gould in the hospital with a heart attack and renders him deeply despondent. His pals are determined to restore his will to live.

Not only is this a glossy, alluring world of male camaraderie, but there's an undercurrent of decency and loyalty that informs their complex scheme. These suave techno-savants have always been wily rascals, but they're not heartless villains.

Ocean's Thirteen is more dazzling visually, better plotted and paced than Ocean's Twelve, though it doesn't fire on as many cylinders as Ocean's Eleven did.

In the first one, everyone seemed to be having so much fun that we were almost voyeurs watching their tomfoolery, as if we were peeping in on Clooney, Pitt, Damon and their pals goofing around and channeling Sinatra, Martin, Davis and the rest. This one feels less fresh and more forced.

There are moments when it seems as if some of the cast is going through the motions, but there is inspiration, too.

The best are a turn by Don Cheadle and a subplot involving Casey Affleck, who is sent south of the border and becomes a Zapatista, agitating for better wages and more humane working conditions.

As escapist entertainments go, Thirteen is far from unlucky: It's breezy, clever fun and ridiculously easy on the eyes.

"Ocean's" on deck to overtake "Pirates"

This weekend should feature a new crew of boxoffice pirates -- the cool, nattily attired cats of "Ocean's Thirteen."

George Clooney and company are looking to shake up the status quo, sending "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" down a few notches while declaring themselves the new boxoffice kings.

After a month in which movies reaching for the widest possible audience dominated, this weekend the studios, though still aiming big, are starting to carve out more specific constituencies. While "Ocean's," from Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow, is expected to demonstrate broad appeal thanks to its all-star cast -- which should attract an older demographic, i.e. moviegoers over 25 -- Sony Pictures will aim for families as well as teens with its animated "Surf's Up," and Lionsgate Films will attempt to lure the hardcore horror crowd with its sequel "Hostel: Part II."

Even though "At World's End" will command a sizable audience -- if its third-weekend decline stabilizes at around the 50 percent mark, it could bring in a sum just north of $20 million -- it still should be smooth sailing for the "Ocean's" crew. The PG-13 film is the second sequel to a remake, but director Steven Soderbergh remains on board and has rounded up the usual suspects (Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle) while adding Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino to the Las Vegas heist tale.

Soderbergh's first two "Ocean's" films had consistent openings: "Ocean's Eleven" bowed to $38.1 million in December 2001, while "Ocean's Twelve" debuted to $39.2 million three Decembers later. Re-outfitted as summer entertainment, the latest edition, launching in 3,565 theaters, is expected to cross the $40 million mark. Some observers have it reaching as high as $50 million.

PENGUINS POISED FOR ACTION

Meanwhile, with Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks' "Shrek the Third" starting to lose ground -- it ranked third last weekend, grossing $28 million -- Sony is betting that there's room for a new animated entry. The PG "Surf's Up," from Sony Animation, is co-directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck and will have to prove itself as an original; like last year's "Happy Feet," it is yet another movie about penguins. But never underestimate penguins.

Shia LaBeouf ("Disturbia") leads the voice cast as surfing penguin Cody Maverick. In a bid to give the film a hipper sheen, "Surf's Up" is shot as if it is something of a sports documentary.

Sony Animation doesn't have the track record yet of a Pixar or a DreamWorks -- its first feature, "Open Season," arrived in September to a $23.6 million opening. But if the waves break right, the new movie could find itself in the low- to mid-$20 million range, which could allow it to nudge aside "At World's End" and capture the No. 2 spot.

The competition likely will be intense for the second through fourth slots because the comedy "Knocked Up," which debuted last weekend with a strong start at No. 2, looks as if it will post one of the best holds of the summer to date. The movie more than held its own during the week; Monday through Wednesday it supplanted "At World's End" in the top spot. A strong hold would see "Knocked Up," which bowed to $30.7 million in its first weekend, hang on in the $20 million-plus region.

The new "Hostel" sequel probably will end up contending in the midteen million-to-$20 million range. Like "Knocked Up," the movie is rated R, though the former is the sweeter of the two, while the latest "Hostel" is aimed at true gore aficionados.

Directed by Eli Roth, who also helmed the original, the new "Hostel" stars Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips as college students who wind up in a veritable meat locker of a Slovakian hostel. The first "Hostel," which opened in January 2006, bit into a first weekend of about $20 million. Because the new entry faces stiffer competition it might not reach that figure. But, debuting in 2,350 theaters, it still could find a spot in the top five.

'Ocean's 13' cast, producer get feet wet

"Ocean's Thirteen" producer Jerry Weintraub — accompanied by the film's stars, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon — on Tuesday became the first movie producer to cast his hands and feet in wet concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The honor usually goes to movie stars.

"I know this is all about me and not about these three guys," Weintraub said.

Damon said: "It should be noted this isn't the first time somebody tried to put Jerry Weintraub's feet in cement."

The ceremony came hours before the Hollywood premiere of "Ocean's Thirteen," which opens Friday.

Review: `Ocean's' sequel plays same hand

The third roll of the dice for George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and their merry band of casino crooks is an almost certain winner for its makers, a break-even deal at best for audiences.

Glittery as a Vegas Strip stage revue, smooth and smarmy as a high-roller on the lucky streak of his life, "Ocean's Thirteen" wins back some of the "Ocean's Eleven" charm the franchise lost amid the sputtering sequel "Ocean's Twelve."

Yet "Ocean's Thirteen" still feels like one trip too many to the craps table, playing the same hunches, with the outcome unimaginatively clear from the start: Categorical victory for the rascally good guys planning a Robin Hood-style heist, utter defeat and humiliation for the villain (Al Pacino).

Oh, and also obvious from the get-go: a big summer hit for distributor Warner Bros., which pretty much had a sure bet just by rounding up its superstar cast (minus Julia Roberts) and director Steven Soderbergh one more time.

With jazzy, funky music reminiscent of movie scores of the 1960s, the era that spawned Frank Sinatra's original "Ocean's Eleven," the new movie dashes through a prologue meant to establish a fresh bond with our mercenary gang and the honor-among-thieves motive for their latest caper.

Vegas mogul Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), the money man of the Ocean's Eleven crew, is bilked out of his half-interest in a swanky new casino and hotel being opened by cutthroat Willy Bank (Pacino), who egotistically names his joint The Bank.

Stressed into a heart attack, Reuben lies listless, waiting to die, prompting Danny Ocean (Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Pitt) to call out the troops for a revenge job that will break The Bank and its owner on opening night.

The absence of Roberts, who costarred in the first two flicks, is dismissed with an offhand remark by Danny, while "Ocean's Twelve" co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones also is a no-show.

Everyone else is back: Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison and Shaobo Qin. Also returning is Andy Garcia as the gang's old adversary Terry Benedict, who forges an uneasy alliance with Danny and the boys to help nail casino rival Bank.

Ellen Barkin joins the cast as Bank's top aide, Abigail Spooner, a character played for comic effect, a woman who seems too giddy and insecure to serve as lieutenant to a ruthless titan.

Eddie Izzard comes on board as a new Ocean's ally, an engineering genius whose little duel with an old school mate (Julian Sands as designer of The Bank's invulnerable security system) is one of several subplots that muddy the works without raising the dramatic stakes of "Ocean's Thirteen."

Another of those meandering subplots is Affleck and Caan's labor battle on behalf of workers at a Mexican plastics factory that makes casino dice. Another is Cheadle's brief impersonation of an Evel Knievel-type motorcycle stunt driver. Another is David Paymer's presence as a hotel reviewer hurled into the assignment from hell by Danny's machinations.

"Ocean's Thirteen" tries to give all of its players, old and new, something meaningful to do. But like "Shrek the Third" with its ever-expanding cast, too many cutthroats in the casino wind up watering down whatever's stewing in the pot.

The movie is at its best when it lets superstars Clooney and Pitt do their thing, mugging and wisecracking with style and the uber-confidence that comes with knowing you're Hollywood kingpins in a game where you and yours always have the better hand.

Damon gets a bit of a promotion with a side-story involving his character's con-man father and another in which he dons a fake nose and artificial pheromones to romance Barkin.

Pacino thankfully tones down his booming, bellowing bad-guy act, with Bank coming off as a clear megalomaniac, but at least a tolerable one.

Soderbergh remains a director alternating between noble creative forays and crass commercial successes. After the failure of last fall's film-noir throwback "The Good German," also starring his frequent collaborator Clooney, Soderbergh has a near-certain smash in "Ocean's Thirteen" that will help carry him through whatever strange, idiosyncratic experiments are next on his to-do list.

As much as Clooney and Pitt, the fictional casino itself is a key star, with sparkling interiors created on a Hollywood sound stage and dazzling computer-crafted images of the high-rise joint slicing into the Vegas skyline. A series of three wafer-thin, twisting towers dozens of stories high, The Bank seems an architectural impossibility, but it sure looks cool.

Clooney's Danny, Pitt's Rusty and some of their cohorts bemoan how Vegas has changed, pioneer casinos such as the Dunes and the Desert Inn supplanted by bigger, flashier entertainment and gambling behemoths.

The same holds for "Ocean's Thirteen." Bigger and flashier than "Ocean's Eleven," yes. Worth betting on for movie-goers? Even-odds, maybe.

At least all you'll lose is the price of a ticket and a couple of hours time, though.

"Ocean's Thirteen," a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for brief sensuality. Running time: 122 minutes. Two stars out of four.

What's in the cards for 'Ocean's'?

George Clooney & Co. are rolling the dice in theaters again Friday with Ocean's Thirteen, the franchise's third.

The gang is back in Vegas, and this time they're after revenge more than loot. The film isn't the surest bet, especially in a summer in which sequel fatigue is showing after the third Spider-Man, Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean. But the stakes are perhaps not as high, given that the Ocean's movies have brought in just over $300 million domestically, compared with the first two Pirates' take of nearly $730 million.

It'll take a good bit of luck to win audiences over. But that's something Clooney is used to.

"Think about how random things are," he says. "For me, it required a Thursday night time slot for a medical show (ER). … There had only been two shows in 16 years —L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues— and it opened up. We had a show, and immediately everything changed. And you go, 'That has nothing to do with me.' That has to do with pure luck all the way around."

But the co-stars assembled for this conversation — Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia and Ellen Barkin — aren't entirely buying it.

"Even luck is created by persistence, study and dedication, and aspiring to a dream, and sticking around and taking the licks, staying in the game," Garcia says. "And then all of a sudden, you get lucky."

Adds Cheadle: "The worst thing is to get that shot and not know what to do with it because you really don't have anything but a desire to be famous. That ain't gonna get you there. And if it does, that's worse. Because if that's all you have … we've seen those meteoric rises, and then you're down the other side."

It's that other side that these veteran actors seem to fear most.

"The more difficult thing is sticking around," Pitt says.

Damon adds, "I remember vividly on Ocean's Eleven George saying to me, 'You know, if you can pull off a 10-year career in this business, you are really doing something.' "

Says Clooney: "We're on borrowed time! Enjoy!" He adds that it is all about adjusting — that's what the people who have lasted do. "The best example is (Paul) Newman. He was the greatest movie star in the world and then decided to become more of a character actor and does The Verdict. If you're able to last, it's about how you're able to work it."

Even if this gang pulls off every box-office heist, saying they've "made it" isn't an option. Says Cheadle: "We're all too neurotic."

How lucky are those 'Ocean's' cats?

Luck and Ocean's Thirteen go hand in hand. You need a bit of it to gamble, pull off heists — or open a movie. For this film's core crew, though, luck might not be as much a driving force in their careers as it seems. "There's a lot more planning with these stars than they let on," says Paul Dergarabedian, head of box-office tracking company Media By Numbers. USA TODAY asked Dergarabedian to analyze how the stars have managed to keep playing with house money:

George Clooney, 46: "Look where he started out, on Roseanne and The Facts of Life, and now he has evolved into this actor/director/producer. He made a decision to leave ER. That was not just luck. And he never forgot his roots there. He has carefully planned his career, and you see it. Deciding to direct — that's not luck. His teaming up with (director Steven) Soderbergh. He has made strong alliances with important filmmakers. Plus, he's got the acting side. He can do it all. Everyone thinks he's the coolest guy. He's this affable, seemingly likable person who doesn't seem affected by his celebrity. He's a regular guy who made it big. He's a real force in Hollywood."

Matt Damon, 36: "He's a talented actor. That's not luck. He has made some very interesting choices. Coming off Good Will Hunting, people tried to spread the rumor that he and (Ben) Affleck didn't write that movie. Fast-forward to The Bourne Identity and wow, this guy is really good. The rap on him is that he has the goods to back up the look. He's not a pretty boy. He can act. Matt Damon did the Farrelly brothers comedy Stuck on You — how much more goofy could that be? A lot of actors would never do that because it would take away from their cool persona. He's willing to put his vanity aside and play against type, and that's not luck."

Brad Pitt, 43: "There is some luck involved with how you look. A lot people consider Brad Pitt pretty lucky to be born with his looks. But you have to create your own luck in your own career. He has had a real mix of roles. He has aligned himself with some really great directors, like David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). That's important. You have to pick good projects and work with the right people. He's more than just a pretty face. He seems like a regular guy and very interested in architecture. Other people want to work with him. You can tell a lot about these actors by the company they keep."

Don Cheadle, 42: He's the actor's actor. He can be in Boogie Nights, and he can be in Hotel Rwanda. Cheadle can play any role. It's about choices. He's lucky to have been able to work with great directors, but those choices aren't made in a vacuum. There's a modicum of luck involved but if you don't show up on set, that has nothing to do with luck."

Andy Garcia, 50: "He's older, he's respected. He has been in some amazing films (1987's The Untouchables, 1990's Internal Affairs, 1994's When a Man Loves a Woman, the previous Ocean's films). But he has gone from small movies to the big movies, and he's one of those actors who can have it both ways. His career isn't the product of luck. He was never trying to be the next Tom Cruise. He was doing consistently good work. He's still working, and he's been acting a long, long time."

Ellen Barkin, 53: "From Diner (1982) to Sea of Love (1989) to This Boy's Life (1993), she has had some great roles, but we don't see her that often. She could have been the next big thing, but she chose not work that much. Opting out is the prerogative of any actor. Once you do that, if you're out of the loop, you could be forgotten. But she's still relevant enough today to be in Ocean's Thirteen. It's not like, "Ellen who?" She was the femme fatale back in the day. It's luck that she has that sex appeal, but you also have to be able to create it and sell it to the audience."

"Ocean's Thirteen" brings series to spirited close

Rolling the dice for a third time in "Ocean's Thirteen," Steven Soderbergh and his team beat the odds. Final chapters of trilogies invariably suffer from lameness. This, of course, already transpired in "Ocean's Twelve," where subplots misfired and the script resorted to all sorts of sleight-of-hand trickery.

The new film returns to Las Vegas and recaptures much of the spirit of the original film. Of course, after six years and two installments, a new film can no longer have the bracing freshness of "Ocean's Eleven." Then again, "Thirteen" doesn't need to waste time explaining everyone's role. We know how these heist-masters operate. Familiarity also will breed solid box office for the film both domestically and internationally, as many will want to catch these cool men in cool clothes shaking down Vegas as you only wish you could.

This time, in a clever script by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who wrote the poker drama "Rounders"), the heist is for friendship. It seems a sleazy hotel and casino operator with the name of Willy Bank (Al Pacino) has suckered Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) friend and mentor, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), so badly that he was rushed to ICU with a critical heart condition.

Ocean gives Willy a second chance to let Reuben back into his fair share of Vegas' newest casino, called the Bank, but Willy laughs it off. Only then does the gang re-assemble. The plan is not to steal a thing. Rather the boys will rig every game so that on opening night everyone but everyone can break the Bank.

Dice, cards and slot machines are traced back to the manufacturer. Payoffs are made, and electronic equipment installed. One very amusing touch has the boys making certain that a hotel reviewer (David Paymer), who holds the key to a coveted five-diamond rating, will have a perfectly awful stay.

Then the boys hit a problem. Actually two. To devise an "exit strategy," Danny and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) call in a top take-down expert (played with sly zeal by Eddie Izzard). He discovers the casino operations are protected by "Greco," an artificial intelligence so great and so sensitive it can sense when even one thing is amiss, much less all things. He suggests that Ocean's gang fold a losing hand.

The boys brainstorm: What if an "earthquake" knocked out Greco, which would take more than three minutes to reboot? Would that be enough time to break the Bank? Basher (Don Cheadle), the Cockney mechanical whiz, rents the massive drill used to dig the Chunnel connecting England with France. That ought to cause an earthquake!

Then the drill breaks down. To buy, not rent, the other drill -- the one that dug from the French side -- will set the team back $36 million. Time to recapitalize.

Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), always the most put-upon of the team, has a risky idea: Ask Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), their mark in the first movie and nemesis in the second, to fund the drill. He agrees -- he hates Bank, too -- but on one condition: Ocean's team must steal a necklace of diamonds worth $250 million from an impenetrable room on top of the Bank. This will require Linus to seduce Willy's right-hand woman, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin in a wonderfully comic role).

One or two subplots misfire due to lack of time to make them work: Frank (Bernie Mac) persuades Willy to let him operate a dominoes game on opening night. (Highly unlikely.) And Virgil and Turk (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan), sent to a Mexican factory to make certain that dice for the casino are loaded, wind up organizing a strike by underpaid workers. (Even less likely.)

Things move too fast for anyone to care much are about the misfires. Meanwhile, Clooney and Pitt smoothly MC the many-ring circus that is an Ocean's con game. Damon gets to play two roles, Linus and his sexed-up alter ego, Lenny Pepperridge, a handler for a mega-rich Asian real estate mogul, who undertakes the task of seducing Willy's vulnerable assistant. But Pacino is stuck with a wafer-thin role that denies us his usual fire.

Philip Messina's design of the fictitious hotel, a jazzy score by David Holmes and Louise Frogley's cool costumes keep everyone and everything perfectly in character.

Cast:
Danny Ocean: George Clooney
Rusty Ryan: Brad Pitt
Linus Caldwell: Matt Damon
Terry Benedict: Andy Garcia
Basher Tarr: Don Cheadle
Frank Catton: Bernie Mac
Abigail Sponder: Ellen Barkin
Willy Bank: Al Pacino
Reuben Tishkoff: Elliott Gould
Virgil: Casey Affleck
Turk: Scott Caan

Director/director of photography: Steven Soderbergh; Screenwriters: Brian Koppelman, David Levien; Producer: Jerry Weintraub; Executive producers: Bruce Berman, George Clooney, Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Frederic W. Brost; Production designer: Philip Messina; Music: David Holmes; Costume designer: Louise Frogley; Editor: Stephen Mirrione.

Cast of 'Ocean's Thirteen' shares a lucky chemistry

They're fun together on screen. And they're fun together at the Hotel Du Cap, full of those stars that shine all over the Riviera every year during the Cannes Film Festival.

Six of the Ocean's Thirteen cast members — George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle and franchise newcomer Ellen Barkin — sat down with USA TODAY in Cap D'Antibes, near where the film will have its Cannes premiere today.

Ocean's Eleven did a pretty fair job of turning Vegas upside down. Ocean's Twelve turned romantic, with stops in Lake Como and Rome. Ocean's Thirteen, which opens stateside on June 8, returns to Vegas, where the guys take on Willy Bank, a sleazy hotel tycoon played by Al Pacino, who cheated Elliott Gould out of his half of the next great hotel on the Strip.

"This (edition) is about stickin' up for your friends," Clooney says.

"And no, the (Bank) character is not Steve Wynn," Cheadle says. Which sets off a chorus of "Noooooot Steve Wynn."

"They kept asking me if I was playing Steve Wynn on the first one," Andy Garcia says. "And I said no …"

"No, you were (Kirk) Kerkorian," Clooney interjects.

"I was playing (Wynn's) wife," Garcia jokes.

It's a cast that seems to enjoy each other, trading wiseacre patter and ribaldries with ease. Maybe that's the result of working together and feeling comfortable — or being pros and knowing the territory. Clooney and Damon often finish each other's thoughts. And Pitt is mostly happy to take it all in from the corner.

During the six years since Steven Soderbergh remade the original 1960 Rat Pack vehicle, a lot of changes have transpired for the cast. It's Pitt, however, who takes the lead in articulating it all.

"Besides us all growing up a bit," he says, "our families have grown immensely. Mine specifically. (He now shares four children with Angelina Jolie.) That's kind of the beauty of it. … We know each other for a good amount of time now. We know each other's families, and these automatic rhythms begin immediately when we get on the set again. That's with the same crew, as well."

"You see the five or six of us here," Damon says, "but in reality it's a huge crew — the same 200 people."

More bantering ensues, proving their sincerity in pushing a movie that everyone who is involved wants to be a cash cow.

Then Damon stops things on a dime and changes the subject — to Darfur. "We've been trying to raise money and awareness here (in Cannes) to try to redirect some of the attention brought to bear on a film opening to the crisis there."

Adds Clooney: "Strangely, there's more attention on (Darfur) in the United States than here."

Six stars into 'Thirteen' equals fun

Six Ocean's Thirteen players — George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle and Ellen Barkin — made time on Wednesday to chat at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film premieres today. Harlan Jacobson captured the moments:

On the romance of Old Vegas:

Damon: "I like the new Vegas."

Clooney: "You know, there's a part (in the movie), whatshisname (Al Pacino as Willy Bank) says to us, 'You're analog in a digital world.' Part of this is, we're starting to become obsolete and long for those things."

Damon: "Pretty soon the Bellagio will be the Dunes, and people will be going, 'I remember when the Bellagio was here, and Ocean's Eleven will look like some old movie with these guys standing by this fountain" (like the classic Rat Pack photo).

Clooney: "No. Non-ononono. Never!"

On being back on the set for 'Ocean's Thirteen':

Pitt: "I knew something had changed when Matt (Damon) asked me in passing if I had any extra diapers — No. 1s, 'You got a 1?' "

Damon: "I got a 1."

Clooney: "I'd ask for a No. 2 … and don't think I haven't asked for diapers before."

Cheadle: "Depends don't count."

Garcia: "On the first one, only Don and I had children. Now we see each other and go, 'So how ya doin'? How's the sleep coming along?' "

Clooney: "I'm still … in the paternity test. I counted the months, and it's been like nine months, so I figure I'm clean,"

Barkin: "That's on the third kid. The other two … "

Damon: "He's not claiming them."

Clooney: (For Ocean's Fourteen), "we'll be going, 'Let's roll a Chuck E. Cheese!' "

On possibility of a fourth movie:

Cheadle: "If we do another Ocean's, we're going to have to start dropping people."

Clooney: "Yeah, people are gonna have to die."

Cheadle: "We're gonna go down, go the other way —Ocean's Ten."

Clooney: "It's gonna get ugly."

Garcia: "It's gonna be like Star Wars and go back to the beginning."

Damon: "Ocean's Begins," with a wave of the hand.

Pitt: "Yeah, George is gonna have nipples on his suit."

`Ocean's 13' cast at Cannes film fest

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and company became good friends while playing a bunch of crooks and con men. They're still as thick as thieves — and that was reason enough to get together again for "Ocean's Thirteen."

Friendship — and the importance of sticking by your buddies — is the running thread in the story line for the movie, the third in a series that began with "Ocean's Eleven" in 2001.

"We all love working together, and making movies is about as fun a thing as you can do," Damon told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. "The only thing that tops it is making it with your friends. When the call came, I think we all jumped."

After the gang's foray into Europe for 2004's "Ocean's Twelve," the new flick returns the action to Las Vegas, where Reuben (Elliott Gould) thinks he's getting in on a casino deal with ruthless, sleazy Willy Bank (Al Pacino, a newcomer to the series). But Bank double-crosses him — giving Reuben a heart attack.

That's when the crew, led by Danny Ocean (Clooney), decides to avenge Reuben's losses by sinking Bank on his casino's opening night. Robin Hood-style, they rig the casino so that all the gamblers win, sucking millions from the slot machines and blackjack tables.

Clooney said the actors "wanted to go out on a high note" in what is expected to be their last "Ocean's" film together.

"We felt that `Twelve' was not, was not certainly received as well (as `Ocean's Eleven')," Clooney told AP Television News. "So we wanted another crack at it, too."

Visual gags abound: Clooney briefly turns up in a thick mustache and gold chain. Damon, who sports an enormous fake nose for much of the movie, has to seduce the enemy's right-hand woman, played by Ellen Barkin, the lone female star in the ensemble movie.

"Ocean's Thirteen" was to have its black-tie premiere Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival. Meanwhile, cast members hosted a fundraiser for Not on Our Watch, which is working on behalf of refugees from the Sudanese province of Darfur, and gave back-to-back interviews in beach cabanas at a secluded luxury hotel outside Cannes, cracking jokes and finishing each other's sentences.

Many of them had their families in tow — a reminder of how much their lives have changed since "Ocean's Eleven." Brad Pitt and his partner, Angelina Jolie, have four young children, and Matt Damon's wife gave birth to a daughter last June.

Damon: "Brad has had it tough. He's ..."

Clooney: "Hobbled with children ..."

Damon: "And that wife ..."

Clooney: "That horrible, ugly wife."

Damon: "I mean, to go home to her every day ..."

Clooney: "What do you do?"

Damon: "Well, you have your work. That's about it. You can take refuge there."

Clooney, still single, reminisced about turning up at the makeshift bar on the "Ocean's Thirteen" set and finding it overrun by children.

"Matt said, `We should take a photo of this' because I'm in here with a bunch of, like, kids in diapers, and I'm sitting here having a vodka," Clooney said.

"Ocean's Thirteen," a Warner Bros. Pictures film, will be released June 8.

Clooney & Co gamble by taking Ocean's 13 to Cannes

The men of "Ocean's Thirteen" -- Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon and the rest -- rolled into Cannes this week betting its notoriously tough film critics would declare their movie a winner.

The follow-up to two previous "Ocean's" capers about a group of con artists led by suave Danny Ocean (Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Pitt), who swindle money from bad guys, opens at the world's top film festival on Thursday and lands in theatres in June.

A Cannes debut represents a risk for a major Hollywood movie like "Ocean's" because reviewers in the French Riviera resort tend to throw their support behind European, Asian and U.S. art house films, and foresake Hollywood studio fare like "Ocean's."

But Pitt, Clooney and the gang defended "Ocean's" as a form of pure entertainment that deserved its place alongside films like Cannes opening night movie "My Blueberry Nights" from Chinese director Wong Kar Wai.

"There is a fair argument for deep and thought-provoking ... types of films as well as pure, unadulterated entertainment," Pitt told Reuters.

Damon, another of the "Ocean's" stars, said: "You still want the bigger movies to be good."

But sometimes the critics in Cannes misread the mood of the public when it comes to big-budget Hollywood films.

Last year, studio film "The Da Vinci Code" opened the festival with a smattering of boos from Cannes audiences, poor reviews and newspaper headlines that immediately trumpeted the poor reception.

Yet "Da Vinci" went on to haul in $232 million in its initial weekend following the Cannes premiere, and it still ranks as No. 4 on the list of all-time worldwide debuts.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?

With years of movie experience behind it, the "Ocean's" crew knows as well as anyone that the marketing muscle of a major Hollywood studio can often guarantee big box office, despite what could be a round of poor reviews at Cannes.

With that box office logic in mind, the stars were happy to joke about what awaited them.

"It's really not about the film, as much as (winning) the award," Clooney quipped, referring to the coveted Palme d'Or handed out to the best film in Cannes. "Ocean's Thirteen" is not in competition and so does not qualify for the award.

"We think we're going to win," joked Damon.

In the film, the follow-up to "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve," Danny reunites the crew that includes intellectual geek Linus Caldwell (Damon) and mechanical whiz Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle) to exact revenge on Vegas casino operator Willy Bank (Al Pacino).

Bank has swindled a senior member of Ocean's crew, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), out of his share of a new casino Bank is building. The underhanded thievery gives Tishkoff a heart attack and sends him into deep despair.

Ocean calls the men together to help rouse the old man back to life, and the way to do it is to hit Bank's new casino on the night of its grand opening.

Ocean's Crew Dives into Darfur

Danny Ocean and the boys have their next big scheme all figured out.

The stars of Warner Bros. upcoming crime caper, Ocean's Thirteen—George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle—along with producer Jerry Weintruab are aiming to parlay the hype surrounding the sequel into aid for victims of the ongoing genocide in the Darfur.

The film is scheduled to hit theaters on June 8. But, to increase pressure on U.S. and international policymakers to take action to stop the mass killings, the Ocean's crew is holding a series of benefit screenings to raise funds for the International Rescue Committee, which has aided more than 2 million Sudanese refugees displaced by the conflict.

They've also set up their own organization, Not On Our Watch (notonourwatchproject.org), which will partner with the IRC to raise awareness about the atrocities that have left more than 200,000 people dead.

"All the guys have been to the Sudan this year. They saw this huge genocide and nobody doing anything about it," Weintraub tells the Associated Press. "Clooney got attention earlier, but it faded."

The producer is referring to the Oscar winner's April 2006 trip to the border area, where he met survivors in a refugee camp and recorded their stories for a documentary that aired last January. Since that visit, talk of an international force intervening to stop the genocide has failed to gain traction. So Clooney and cohorts hope to reenergize the human rights campaign to save those caught in the maelstrom before even more die.

"What we are trying to do here is bring our celebrity to raise money and bring a spotlight on Sudan again," says Weintraub. "We decided to dedicate ourselves to this. The thing I am most proud of by far is that these events will benefit a cause that is very important to me and my colleagues."

Among the events being planned is a May 24 premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which will also double as a fundraiser for the two organizations; a June 5 North American debut in Hollywood, where Clooney and his fellow stars will leave their shoeprints in the cement outside of Graumann's Chinese Theater; and a June 6 benefit showing at the CineVegas Film Festival, where the 69-year-old Weintraub will receive the Vanguard Producer Award honoring his 50-year career.

Weintraub also said he planned to head to Darfur as well later this year to see for himself the death and destruction wrought there.

"It's not a pleasant place to go," he tells the wire service. "They don't need another tourist like me going there. I can do a lot more good here raising money. But I will go. We are all very good friends so when one does something we all get onboard."

The Steven Soderbergh-helmed flick chronicles the latest heist concocted by charming crook Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his accomplices as they even the score with a casino owner (Al Pacino) who double-crossed them.

Of course, what good's an Ocean's adventure without a little money on the line.

To help raise even more cash for Not On Our Watch, online gambling site PokerStars is planning to hold two charity tournaments—one in Cannes on May 13 and the other in Los Angeles on May 27—to benefit Darfur victims.

The top four finishers in each game will get tickets to the premiere of Ocean's Thirteen either in Cannes or Hollywood. The top 18 finishers will also each receive a copy of the crime caper's DVD autographed by all the stars; PokerStars has pledged to match the final tally in each tournament's prize pool in the final donation.

In other Ocean's-related good-works news, construction began Thursday on the winning design in an architecture competition organized by Pitt to build eco-friendly homes in New Orleans' Katrina-devastated Lower Ninth Ward.

Workers broke ground on the first home, which is being built by Global Green USA. The environmental group teamed up with the mega-star in April 2006 to launch the contest, and Pitt donated $100,000 to the effort and an additional $100,000 to cover the prize money.

Building is expected to be completed by the second anniversary of the storm this September.

We Hear...

THAT for the screening of "Ocean's 13" at the Cannes Film Festival, the producers are flying 100 people, mostly the cast and their entourages, to the South of France

Good Thinking

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck thankfully were talked out of turning their 1997 Oscar winner "Good Will Hunting" into an action thriller. Director Gus Van Sant told The Post's V.A. Musetto at a film festival in Istanbul that the original script, which the actors wrote, had Damon's character being chased by U.S. agents be cause "they feared he was so brilliant he would be kid napped" by a foreign government. "They wanted the chase scenes so they could sell the film to Hollywood," Van Sant said, adding they were talked out of the idea by Rob Reiner, one of the producers.

'Departed' Men Reunite For 'Fighter'

Boston boys and "Departed" co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon are in talks to topline "The Fighter," a biopic about Lowell, Massachusetts-born pugilist "Irish" Micky Ward.

Paul Attanasio ("House," "Quiz Show") is doing a rewrite on the script, which focuses on Ward, a boxer whose underdog story includes a light welterweight title and a trio of tough losses to Arturo Gatti that are considered among the best and most brutal bouts of the past 50 years.

Wahlberg, no stranger to the underdog sports genre after his summer hit "Invincible," would play Ward, with Damon taking the role of Danny Ecklund, Ward's half-brother who battled drugs and the temptation of crime to become the boxer's trainer.

If the two actors like Attanasio's script, the film would move to the top of their production slate, with a possible start-date of this summer, according to the industry trade papers.

Wahlberg earned his first Oscar nomination for his work in "The Departed" and will next appear in the spring thriller "Shooter."

Damon, whose late 2006 also included a starring role in "The Good Shepherd," has "Margaret" and "Ocean's Thirteen" set for release this year.

'Departed' Stirs Sequel Buzz

If your movie is a popular ($125 million and counting) and critical (Oscar nods include best picture) success, sequel buzz is natural.

In the case of Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," talk of a second installment is quite complicated.

According to both industry trades (citing unnamed sources), "Departed" screenwriter William Monahan is looking for a way to dig himself out of the pile of carnage than completed his Oscar-nominated gangster saga.

The Hollywood Reporter offers the specifics that Monahan's script may focus on Mark Wahlberg's Dignam character, which would make some sense for plot reasons, but also because Wahlberg was the only member of the star-studded cast to earn an Oscar nomination. A new part may be written for Scorsese favorite Robert DeNiro, who probably felt some regret about being left out of the film in the first place.

It's not like they have to look far for inspiration to go on. "The Departed" was based on the Hong Kong smash "Infernal Affairs," which produced two subsequent films itself. "Infernal Affairs 2" was a prequel and "Infernal Affairs 3" followed a character who, to give nothing away, fails to live through "The Departed." Warner Bros. has option rights on both movies.

Monahan is still batting around ideas and its expected that nothing could even go to script without the approval of Scorsese, who wouldn't necessarily direct a sequel but may still produce.

Is that enough uncertainty without any substance? Kudos, then, to the local entertainment journals.

We Hear...

THAT Matt Damon told pals at Casa Casuarina during the party for the launch of Jonathan Cheban's new clothing line Kritik that, "It's past my bedtime" at 12:30 a.m., but left closer to 2 in the morning.

Top movies at the North American box office

Following are the top 10 movies at the North American box office for the three-day weekend beginning December 29, led by "Night at the Museum," according to studio estimates compiled on Sunday by Reuters.

1 (1) Night at the Museum ........... $ 37.8 million
2 (2) The Pursuit of Happyness ...... $ 19.3 million
3 (7) Dreamgirls ..... $ 15.5 million
4 (5) Charlotte's Web ............... $ 12.0 million
5 (3) Rocky Balboa ... $ 11.4 million
6 (4) The Good Shepherd ............. $ 11.2 million
7 (6) Eragon ......... $ 8.5 million
8 (8) Happy Feet ..... $ 8.0 million
9(10) We Are Marshall ............... $ 7.8 million
10 (9) The Holiday .... $ 6.7 million

NOTE: Last weekend's rankings in parentheses.TOTALS TO DATE
Happy Feet ..... $ 176.2 million
Night at the Museum ........... $ 116.9 million
The Pursuit of Happyness ...... $ 98.4 million
Eragon ......... $ 56.7 million
Charlotte's Web ............... $ 52.9 million
The Holiday .... $ 50.0 million
Rocky Balboa ... $ 48.8 million
Dreamgirls ..... $ 38.5 million
The Good Shepherd ............. $ 35.3 million
We Are Marshall ............... $ 25.1 million

Mesmerizing 'Good Shepherd' will rope you in

Deliberately paced, epic and ambitious, The Good Shepherd feels related in tone, mood and style to The Godfather.

That is not surprising given that its director, Robert De Niro, starred in Godfather II and must have absorbed some of Francis Ford Coppola's filmmaking flourishes.

The mesmerizing espionage thriller chronicles the inception and ascendancy of the CIA. At its heart is the stoic Edward Wilson (Matt Damon, in a superb, nuanced performance).

Wilson is an idealistic Yale student who harbors a tragic past. Shortly after his recruitment into the college's Skull-and-Bones secret society, he is asked to spy on a professor who seems to be a Nazi sympathizer (Michael Gambon). Upon graduation, he is approached (by De Niro in a small but important part) to work for the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's precursor. His acceptance of the offer, which entails a stint in Europe during World War II, changes his destiny. A principled and patriotic young man, he soon becomes paranoid and coldhearted, unsure whom to trust.

Just before taking the assignment, Wilson is embroiled in an unlikely tryst with a friend's sister (Angelina Jolie), who becomes pregnant. He marries her, but the marriage is the only part of the film that doesn't feel authentic. Perhaps it is the casting of Jolie as the lonely wife he never really loved. She capably plays the part, but it's hard to picture her settling for a life of quiet desperation.

The fascinating relationship is between Wilson and his son (Eddie Redmayne). At first, Wilson seems coldly unresponsive to the boy, but as each grows older, a bond develops.

The saga clocks in at nearly three hours and feels too long. Still, it is a complex story spanning three decades and takes a while to unfold. It jumps back and forth between the late '30s and the early '60s and the Bay of Pigs mission and its aftermath. The plot can be hard to follow initially, but it soon grows clearer and more compelling.

Supporting players put in strong performances, notably Gambon, John Turturro, Alec Baldwin and William Hurt.

Apparently, De Niro has long had an interest in intelligence-gathering, and The Good Shepherd is the culmination of his fascination. What makes the story work so powerfully is his focus on a multidimensional individual — Wilson — thereby creating a stirring personal tale about the inner workings of the clandestine government agency.

Review: 'Shepherd' intriguing, overlong

It's the story of the season: Trim about a half-hour and you could turn a good movie into a great one.

The latest overlong would-be masterpiece, "The Good Shepherd," traces the origins of the CIA through the eyes of one of its earliest agents (played with powerful stoicism by Matt Damon) and runs a butt-numbing two hours and 40 minutes.

While it can be suspenseful in its Cold War, cat-and-mouse intrigue, and features some great performances, director Robert De Niro's film simply doesn't maintain the sort of tension it needs for the duration.

And it completely wastes Angelina Jolie, who's woefully miscast as Damon's wife. She is simply too va-va-voomy to play a patrician, East Coast senator's daughter. It's also incredibly hard to accept that she would not only throw herself at him but on him the night they meet — in the woods in front of a campfire, no less, with everyone they know nearby. (Not that any guy would mind having that happen; it just seems implausible, even in your wildest fantasies.)

As pioneering agent Edward Wilson, Damon has a relationship that's much more believable with his Soviet counterpart, whom he knows as "Ulysses," played by Oleg Stefan. There's a great spy-vs.-spy banter in their exchanges, a natural interest that goes beyond national security.

But in the end you have to believe that Edward would be willing to sacrifice his wife and son (Eddie Redmayne) for his country — he's idealistic, yes, but is that enough? We just don't know enough about what drives him to make that possible.

It's a testament to Damon's abilities and his ever-expanding range that he's able to convey any presence at all in the role. Edward is supposed to be enigmatic — precisely the reason he's recruited out of Yale University and the elite Skull and Bones society to serve as one of the founding members of the Office of Strategic Services, which would become the Central Intelligence Agency.

Buttoned-down with his glasses and his proper little hat, he blends in and reveals nothing. That's why he has such an exceptional career, which ranges from World War II through the Bay of Pigs. The script from Oscar winner Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump") jumps around in time, showing us who Edward has become before detailing how he got that way.

But it's hard to build a movie around a central figure like that. Fortunately, Roth and De Niro (directing for the second time following 1993's "A Bronx Tale") have surrounded him with an illustrious array of supporting players, one of whom De Niro plays himself: Gen. Bill Sullivan, the uncensored Army official who chooses the agency's promising young recruits.

Also among the esteemed cast are Alec Baldwin as the brash FBI agent who first approaches Edward in the shadows of the Yale campus; Michael Gambon as the predatory English professor accused of being a Nazi sympathizer; and William Hurt as a top agency official who comes under suspicion. And John Turturro has come excellent scenes as Edward's right-hand man, who seems to revel in the dirty work inherent to dealing with the bad guys.

As in any decent spy movie, though, most of the dealings are clandestine, and the requisite paranoia and elaborate subterfuge can be dazzling — for the audience, at least, if not for the participants. Secret meetings and code words, surveillance footage and underground passageways — "The Good Shepherd" is loaded with them, all of which take a toll on Edward's already stilted home life.

At one point, Edward's wife, who goes by the WASPy nickname Clover, screeches at him in a drunken rage about how she has no idea who he is or what he does for a living (which is funny, considering her high-profile role as a spy in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith").

As protracted as the film is, De Niro himself should have followed the advice Edward receives from a veteran spy: "Get out while you still can, while you still have a soul."

"The Good Shepherd," a Universal Pictures release, is rated R for some violence, sexuality and language. Running time: 160 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Hard To Swallow

"THE Good Shepherd" had an exemplary story - it was just the casting that wasn't believable. In an interview with Chris Matthews on "Hardball" to air tonight, Matt Damon says his biggest problem with the script is that his character is married to Angelina Jolie - and ignores her because he's obsessed with his job and another woman. Matthews sums it up: "You're married to Angelina Jolie and you've got no time for her, which is kind of hard to believe."

Co-stars talk about `Good Shepherd' kiss

What's the biggest difference between kissing Matt Damon and kissing Brad Pitt? "One's a friend and one's my love," says Angelina Jolie, who co-stars with Damon in the upcoming drama "The Good Shepherd."

"In reality, both the people we're involved with couldn't have cared less about that (love scene) because they know us," Jolie told Diane Sawyer in an interview that aired Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"It's one of those things where it's like the least threatening person," the 31-year-old actress said. "Good luck to you guys, I hope it's not too awkward."

Said Damon, who co-starred with Pitt in the "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve" movies: "It's weird. ... We all know each other."

Damon married Luciana Bozan while filming "The Good Shepherd." The couple have a 6-month-old daughter, Isabella.

The 36-year-old actor said getting married had more of an impact than he thought it would. "We already had the house in Florida and everything, and so I didn't. ... I didn't think it was going to really change anything necessarily, but it actually did."

Jolie has said that she and Pitt, who will be 43 on Monday, are in no rush to wed. Pitt has wondered why they should marry when gay couples can't.

"I think ... he was commenting just on the state (that) we all wish for," Jolie said. "That's not really a comment on whether or not we would or if we plan to."

"The Good Shepherd," a Universal Pictures release, opens in theaters Dec. 22.

2007 Golden Globe Nominations

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
BABEL
BOBBY
THE DEPARTED
LITTLE CHILDREN
THE QUEEN

Matt Damon's year of goodwill

Back in June, as Matt Damon held his 2-week-old daughter, Isabella, he contemplated the vagaries of fate.

One day, you're celebrating the birth of your first child in Miami, only to learn that 1,300 miles north, your East Village apartment had been flooded by a malfunctioning sprinkler. Nothing survived the deluge.

"I got the phone call that literally everything you own in the world is gone," recalls Damon, 36, with a rueful smile. "Had it happened six months earlier, I would have been a mess. But I was sitting there with Isabella in my arms, and I didn't miss a step. I don't need anything else in the world."

Between a solid career and settled home life, Damon has pretty much everything he wants. The fresh-faced wunderkind who, with childhood buddy Ben Affleck, won a screenwriting Oscar for 1997's Good Will Hunting, has grown up.

Driven by a desire to model his career after Robert Duvall's long and versatile one, Damon has matured into a respected actor with a rich résumé. Earlier this fall, he played a corrupt cop in Martin Scorsese's Mob hit The Departed and caps his year off with a quietly agonized turn in Robert De Niro's CIA drama The Good Shepherd, opening Dec. 22. Damon stars as an undercover operative with Angelina Jolie as his boozy, bitter wife.

Next summer, he returns in the glossy romp Ocean's Thirteen; later comes The Bourne Ultimatum, the third installment of the hit action franchise.

"He really is the everyman," Jolie says. "Some guys are Hollywood versions of the everyman, but he really is. People can sense that. We watch him and believe him. He's such a real person."

Even in the midst of interviews, which he famously dreads doing, he has never seemed happier or more easygoing. He breaks into an impromptu, dead-on imitation of Matthew McConaughey, first with a languid drawl, followed by a tongue-in-cheek tirade about never winning People's Sexiest Man Alive crown.

Much of that contentment is due to his low-key marriage to Lucy, 30, a bartender he met in Miami in 2003 while shooting the comedy Stuck on You and quietly wed in New York's City Hall last December.

Their relationship, says Steven Soderbergh, who directed Damon in all three Ocean's capers, "seems like a really good thing all around. He met someone he really cares about. He just follows his emotion and his feelings. He seems like one of the least neurotic actors I've ever seen, that's for sure. He has great equilibrium."

'Really weird' to be famous

He and Lucy split their time between a spread in Miami, so Lucy's 8-year-old daughter, Alexia, from a first marriage, can be close to her father and Manhattan. Damon says they plan to relocate closer to his native Boston when the kids are older.

For Damon, celebrity is a "really weird" distraction from his day job, but he's loath to moan about it. "It's never been that bad," he says. "For years I was living (in New York), and nobody bothered me, ever. No one could find me."

And now, in Miami, "it's me and Shakira, basically, down here. We don't get bothered at all."

His existence is the antithesis of the media circus that surrounds Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt.

Damon got a taste of the madness during an appearance with Pitt at the Monaco Grand Prix in May 2004 while shooting Ocean's Twelve. Damon and Lucy joined Pitt and George Clooney for a quarter-mile walk from a boat to the racetrack. Damon stands up to demonstrate the mayhem.

"Lucy and I got arm-barred by security three or four times. I was like, 'Lucy, hold on to my arm!' We were trying to hold on to each other. In the middle of this hurricane, I looked up and saw Brad. The whole world was focused on him, and he was walking in the middle of it, holding a little miniature Leica, and he was just taking pictures of people, of the experience, of everyone else being out of their minds and him being normal.

"I realized in that moment that this was the craziest thing I'd ever seen, and it wasn't even top 10 for him. He wasn't even fazed by it. Lucy and I were panicked, and he didn't even know what happened."

Working with Jolie on Shepherd was equally jarring.

"We were shooting in Brooklyn in the armory, and suddenly she'd show up for work. There would be 70 cameras just sitting there, just outside her trailer," he says. "She and Brad — they have it worse than anybody I have ever seen. Them together is absurd."

The good cop

Just before Isabella's birth, Damon felt the rare intrusion of the media.

"People were outside our house, and that was a drag, particularly since it was something that personal," he says. "I drove us to the hospital when she was in labor, and this guy was following us. That's as close as I've come to jumping out of the car. You're having this intimate, personal experience, it's a medical situation, it's scary. Literally, thinking back on that experience makes my hair stand up."

The delivery went smoothly, and the proud papa says that Isabella, 6 months, just started rolling over and recently plopped off their bed.

"She's fine!" he assures.

At home, he admits, it's his wife who cracks the whip.

"We haven't really started disciplining the infant yet, but in terms of my stepdaughter, I am (no good) at discipline. When it started out, I was a 'fun guy.'

"Now that we're married, it's still hard for me to discipline."

The family, along with a tutor for Alexia, has followed him around the world to shoot Ultimatum.

"My assistant has an infant also, and we roll like J. Lo," Damon says with a laugh, referring to Affleck's former fiancée and her famous entourage. "When you have kids, you have 10 times the amount of luggage. Where you used to have one bag, you now have a bag for the baby's clothes, the stroller, the car seat, the playpen. Just to get out the door, you have 10 bags. It's nuts."

What's worse was the three-week period while Damon shot Ultimatum in Morocco this year when the family was apart.

"With a kid, it's instantly not OK to be away," he says. "There is something terribly wrong if I'm not with my kid. I can see how going on the road can really work, provided that you have a stable base."

His base is made up of old friends and colleagues.

Says Julia Stiles, who has co-starred with Damon in all three Bourne flicks: "He's extremely dedicated to his family and the people he works with. He works with a lot of the same people, like hair and makeup people from Bourne, and the costumer works with him on all his other movies.

"It's a tight-knit family. He seems to maintain a good group of people around him."

Perhaps that's why Damon often is described as one of the nicest, most decent actors in the business.

"The truth is, and it's going to sound really boring, but he's just a really good guy," says Affleck, who has known his Harvard dropout friend since their early days in Boston. "Matt's a deeply kind and considerate guy."

He does have a dark side of sorts.

"He's capable of living in squalor for months at a time," Affleck says. "He's definitely not a perfectionist about putting stuff away around the house. But he's a real artist in that he really cares about acting."

The dedication continues to pay off. Even Damon appears to be a bit surprised by what 2006 had in store for his career.

"It's been a good year, Marty and then Bob," he sighs, referring to Scorsese and De Niro. "Jesus."

Says Soderbergh: "Anybody who has worked with him respects him and knows he's a terrific actor. He's going to put together a pretty significant body of work. He's going to just get better as he gets older."

Damon's most exhausting shoot to date: playing the emotionless, tightly wound CIA operative in Shepherd, a film De Niro had dreamed of directing for years.

"It was a hard movie. (De Niro) had been thinking about it for years. You'd do take after take after take. His attention to detail is unbelievable. His drive to do this movie was intense. Every day was 16 or 18 hours. No exaggeration."

His love scene with Jolie proved jarring — at least for her.

"It was weird in that we both know each other's families very well," she says. "It doesn't feel real. We're friends. It's an odd day at work."

After wrapping the third Bourne next year, Damon plans to shoot the long-simmering drama The Informant with Soderbergh. After that, he'd like to team up again with Hunting compadre Affleck, who just finished helming his directorial debut, Gone, Baby, Gone.

"I miss working with Ben. It's so much more fun to work with your friends. Ben and I are talking about directing something, something that we'd like, so hopefully that's on the horizon."

Damon jokes he would "give it all back for one shot at the crown."

It's not an obvious honor: People's Sexiest Man Alive.

Damon has never won, and his buddies Affleck, Pitt and Clooney all have.

"I need to build up my war chest if I run out of money, as George says," he says.

DAMON'S DRAWING POWER
Domestic box-office receipts for Matt Damon's films
The Departed (2006) $118.7
Syriana (2005) $52.2
The Brothers Grimm (2005) $38.9
Ocean's Twelve (2004) $133.3
The Bourne Supremacy(2004) $187.0
Stuck on You (2003) $36.9
The Bourne Identity (2002) $135.7
Ocean's Eleven (2001) $207.7
Jay and Silent Bob... (2001) $34.1
All the Pretty Horses (2000) $18.1
Finding Forrester (2000) $60.3
Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) $36.0
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) $97.9
Dogma (1999) $36.9
Rounders (1998) $28.2
Saving Private Ryan (1998) $266.0
Good Will Hunting (1997) $172.9

Holiday Tidbit

Matt Damon spoke of his and his wife Luciana's 6-month-old baby Isa bella: "My best Christmas ever will be this one. You know why? Because it'll be my very first Christmastime with my brand-new daughter."

2007 People's Choice Award Nominees

Movies:Favorite Female Movie Star: Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock
Favorite Male Movie Star: Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington
Favorite Leading Lady: Cameron Diaz, Kirsten Dunst, Scarlett Johansson
Favorite Leading Man: Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn
Favorite Female Action Star: Kate Beckinsale, Halle Berry, Uma Thurman
Favorite Male Action Star: Johnny Depp, Samuel L. Jackson, Jet Li
Favorite On-Screen Match-Up: Jennifer Aniston & Vince Vaughn, The Break Up; Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson & Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed; Johnny Depp & Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Television:Favorite TV Comedy: The King of Queens, My Name is Earl, Two and a Half Men
Favorite TV Comedy – Animated: Family Guy, King of the Hill, The Simpsons
Favorite TV Drama: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Grey's Anatomy, House
Favorite Competition/Reality Show: American Idol, Deal or No Deal, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Favorite Female TV Star: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Eva Longoria, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Favorite Male TV Star: Patrick Dempsey, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland
Favorite Talk Show Host: Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Oprah Winfrey

Music:Favorite Female Singer: Faith Hill, Shakira, Carrie Underwood
Favorite Male Singer: Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith
Favorite Group: The Black Eyed Peas, Nickelback, The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Favorite R&B Song: Christina Aguilera, "Ain't No Other Man"; Justin Timberlake, "SexyBack"; Mariah Carey, "Shake It Off"
Favorite Hip-Hop Song: Nelly, "Grillz"; Chamillionaire, "Ridin'"; Eminem, "Shake That"
Favorite Pop Song: Shakira, "Hips Don't Lie"; Nelly Furtado, "Promiscuous"; Pink, "Stupid Girls"
Favorite Country Song: Carrie Underwood, "Before He Cheats"; Rascal Flatts, "What Hurts the Most"; Tim McGraw, "When the Stars Go Blue"
Favorite Rock Song: Evanescence, "Call Me When You're Sober"; Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Dani California"; Bon Jovi, "Who Says You Can't Go Home"

Miscellaneous:
Favorite Funny Female Star: Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Queen Latifah
Favorite Funny Male Star: Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Robin Williams

Fans can vote for their favorites in movies, TV and music online at pcavote.com. Winners will be announced when the show airs live on CBS Jan. 9.

Damon, Clooney Urge Voters to End Poverty

Why would George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Don Cheadle be standing in line? The stars recently filmed a public service announcement that shows them patiently waiting their turn at a voting booth. The queue also includes New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, Toby Keith and Alfre Woodard.

But they're not promoting a candidate or political party. The ad is an effort to raise support for ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.

"This is a first step in a long-term effort to start making the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty part of the election conversation, and Americans can be part of that by joining ONE.org," Matt Damon says in the spot, which is slated to run through Nov. 7's Election Day.

The PSA started airing Monday on MTV and will also run on FOX, Comedy Central, Spike TV and other stations, as well as MySpace.com and YouTube.com.

"Saving lives in the world's poorest countries. Winning the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty," Damon goes on to say. "There aren't two sides to these issues. There is only one. Please vote. ONE.org."

Says Clooney, "Both this election and as we start to look toward 2008, you can talk with the candidates, you can get on their Web sites, let them know that you will be asking them about their positions and to do even more to save lives in Africa and the world's poorest countries."

Adds country star Keith, "My deal has always been, forget politics. … I've been to Africa and seen it firsthand; it left a mark on me that I have to live with now, so I want to do my part."

According to the official Web site for ONE (www.one.org), which was launched with the help of U2 rocker Bono, the organization "is a coalition of 2 million people and over 70 non-profit, advocacy and humanitarian organizations."

The site points out that ONE is supported by "such notable people as: Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Pat Robertson, Kate Hudson, Rick Warren, Jamie Foxx, Jars of Clay, Penelope Cruz, Dave Matthews, Salma Hayek, George Clooney, Bill Gates and many, many others."

Matt Damon helps form African charity

Matt Damon went to the Sahara Desert to scout locations for a movie about long-distance runners. But when he got there, he took on another project: helping bring clean water to Africa.

Damon and the production team behind the upcoming documentary "Running the Sahara" created a charity to accompany their filmmaking expedition in Africa, which gets under way this month.

During his preliminary visit to the continent, Damon, 36, said he "saw firsthand the effects of one of the largest public health issues of our time — the world water crisis which is at its worst in Africa."

H2OAfrica aims to raise awareness about Africa's water needs and support clean-water programs.

"Running the Sahara" is a documentary that will follow three ultra-marathoners as they attempt to become the first people to run across the Sahara Desert, which spans six countries. Along the way, the film's crew will identify locations in particular need of clean water so H2OAfrica can target its efforts. Damon will narrate the film. No release date has been scheduled.

Scorsese crime drama "Departed" leads box office

Martin Scorsese's first contemporary crime drama in 11 years blew away its rivals at the weekend box office in North America and scored the best opening in the director's career.

"The Departed," a cops versus criminals saga starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, sold $27 million worth of tickets in its first three days, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said on Sunday.

New at No. 2 was the low-budget horror "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" with $19.2 million, about $9 million less than its 2003 predecessor.

Last weekend's champion, the wildlife cartoon "Open Season," slipped to No. 3 with $16 million. The comedy "Employee of the Month," starring Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook, opened at No. 4 with $11.8 million.

"The Departed," a $90 million remake of the Hong Kong drama "Infernal Affairs," marks Scorsese's best opening since his remake of "Cape Fear," which started with $10.2 million in 1991. His most recent film, 2004's "The Aviator," was the highest-grossing of his career, earning $102 million. It started with $8.6 million during its first weekend of wide release.

His last modern-day crime saga, "Casino," opened with $9.9 million in 1995 and finished with $42.5 million.

COMIC RELIEF

Nicholson plays a Boston crime boss whose organization is infiltrated by a mole (DiCaprio) even as he plants a rat (Damon) inside the Boston Police Department.

Carnage results, but there is also "a lot of comic relief," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic theatrical distribution at Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc..

Reviews were enthusiastic, and Warner Bros. said the film played strongly across age and gender lines. Exit surveys showed that 74 percent of people definitely recommended the film. The industry standard is 55 percent, Fellman said.

Corporate sibling New Line Cinema released "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," the latest film descended from the gory 1970s horror.

The $16 million film focuses on the early days of Leatherface, the killer with a penchant for farm machinery. The franchise was resurrected in 2003 with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which started with $28 million and went on to gross $80.5 million.

"Employee of the Month" revolves around the rivalry between two employees at a warehouse store (Cook, Dax Shepard) for the coveted monthly prize. Simpson plays a well-endowed new staffer with a penchant for sleeping with the title holder. Its $11.8 million opening was within industry expectations. The film was released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

"Open Season," about the exploits of a pampered bear (voiced by Martin Lawrence) released in the wilderness during hunting season, has earned $44.1 million after 10 days. The film is "proving to be a family favorite during a time when nothing else really exists" for family audiences, said a spokesman for distributor Columbia Pictures.

Additionally, the Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE). unit expected business to remain strong on Monday thanks to the Columbus Day holiday in the United States and Thanksgiving in Canada.

Lau gives 'Departed' an 8 out of 10

Andy Lau gives "The Departed" — an Americanized version of one of his movies — an eight out of 10. The new Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson was inspired by the 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller "Infernal Affairs," which features Lau and Tony Leung.

"It's correct that he gave it eight on a scale of 10," Lau spokeswoman Alice Tam said, confirming remarks published Friday. She added that Lau dislikes the amount of foul language in the film and the fact that it has only one main female character.

"Infernal Affairs" is about a gangster who infiltrates the police (Lau) and a police officer who goes undercover in a gang (Leung). In the original, the two have separate love interests.

In "The Departed," the undercover gangster in the police (Damon) and the undercover policeman in the gang (DiCaprio) both get romantically involved with the police psychiatrist played by Vera Farmiga.

Lau thinks "the effect of combining the two female characters in the original into one isn't as good as in the original," according to Tam.

She also said the veteran Hong Kong actor contrasted his approach to his role with Damon's.

"He said he focused on his character's psychology, and that the character didn't look like a bad guy on the surface," Tam said, whereas Damon's portrayal showed his character as an obvious bad guy.

Review: Scorsese makes Hong Kong hit his

This is what you want in a Martin Scorsese film: beautifully edited, brutally violent sequences, brimming with life even as bodies are hitting the floor, all awash in a blaring Rolling Stones tune.

(In this case, "Gimme Shelter." Again.)

While "The Departed" is an Americanized version of the 2002 Hong Kong hit "Infernal Affairs," it's vintage Scorsese — for a while at least. The veteran director has made two-thirds of a great film about Boston cops and mobsters, with dazzlingly rich performances from a dizzyingly stellar cast and an ambiance that screams Scorsese's typical cultural authenticity. (It's as if the fellas from "GoodFellas" took a road trip up I-95.)

Leonardo DiCaprio, reuniting with the director for a third film following "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," stars as Billy Costigan, a Massachusetts State Police detective who's gone undercover to take down crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, in a devilish tour de force). Matt Damon, meanwhile, stars as the crime boss' protege, Colin Sullivan, who's worked his way up the state police ranks to become staff sergeant of the special investigations unit.

The two function in a perfect parallel until it starts to become clear that Costello's gang is staying one step ahead of the police, even while the police seem to know too much about Costello's operations. Never has the use of cell-phone text messaging seemed so sinister.

And so Billy and Colin are each asked to sniff out the rat in their midst — to seek out each other. As in the original, it's a nice touch that the two actors so strongly resemble each other, with those crystal blue eyes and a look that can either be considered boyish or fiendish, depending on your perspective.

Billy and Colin are two sides of the same coin, both raised in South Boston, both trying to escape their lineage of Southie Irish trash but having chosen opposing routes. (Screenwriter William Monahan grew up in the city and draws strongly from his roots. He absolutely gets this place, its people and rhythms, leaving you feeling immersed. It also helps a great deal that Scorsese shot much of the picture on location, and that Damon and co-star Mark Wahlberg are natives. At least you know they'll get the accent right.)

It's a clever premise and it can be thrilling, but "The Departed" is also about a half-hour too long, and tends to drag just when it should be at its most intense. A movie like this should grab hold of you and never let go; "The Departed" does just that in its setup and as the cat-and-mouse game begins, with several supporting actors infusing the film with a brash energy.

Wahlberg, as an eloquently surly sergeant in the detective unit, steals every scene he's in; Alec Baldwin, as the jacked-up police captain, is just as darkly funny. On the other side, the underappreciated British character actor Ray Winstone is a force of nature, as always, as Costello's top thug. And Vera Farmiga provides a touch of warmth as a police psychiatrist and the only woman among the main cast — though it is a massive plot contrivance to have her character get involved with both Billy and Colin.

But mostly the film belongs to Nicholson, as they all do whenever he's involved. The part is tailor-made for him — all bluster and swagger, with bottomless menace beneath the suave smile, and it's a hoot to watch him unravel as the film evolves.

Their work, and that of Martin Sheen as the levelheaded captain who places Billy undercover, protects his identity and helps keep him sane, can only sustain a film for so long when it's bloated. "Infernal Affairs" remained taut throughout its 101 minutes; "The Departed," at 150 minutes, sort of lolls around awhile, with lots of soul-searching and pill-popping, before reaching its climactic rooftop conclusion.

Ultimately, though, what began life as a classic Scorsese film nearly morphs into self-parody, with characters literally standing around, waiting to get shot in the head.

This is the problem when you're good at your job: People come to expect nothing short of excellence from you, and they're disappointed when they receive anything less.

"The Departed," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material. Running time: 150 minutes. Three stars out of four.

In 'Departed,' Scorsese's best is back

In The Departed, director Martin Scorsese returns with breathtaking assurance to the arena in which he is at his best: the gritty and complex crime drama.

Loosely based on the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, Scorsese's latest is his best since 1990's Goodfellas. Two and a half hours race by as this twisting, turning tale blazes its exciting, funny, brutal path.

The film's score and editing brilliantly heighten the film's energy, keeping the audience somewhat off-kilter and unsure where things are headed.

Set in the mean streets of South Boston, the film hinges on the duplicitous actions of two young cops, played winningly by Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio — in his best performance in a Scorsese movie — plays rookie Billy Costigan, who has a foot in tough South Boston, where he lived with his father, and another in the wealthier existence of his mother and stepfather. Smart and educated, he disappoints the moneyed relatives by becoming a cop.

Once on the force, he is goaded into going undercover by a good cop/bad cop pair played by Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg (in a wildly compelling performance).

The police department is hellbent on taking down crime boss Frank Costello, played with just the right blend of menace, sleaze and dissipation by Jack Nicholson. Costigan's infiltration of Costello's ring grows more terrifying the deeper it gets.

Meanwhile, rising police department star Colin Sullivan, superbly played by Damon, leads an increasingly fraught double life. Named as head of a team that investigates Costello, he also secretly works for the crime lord, helping him elude the police. When the department realizes it has a mole in its ranks and Costello begins to grow suspicious of his men, Damon and DiCaprio's characters face a host of dangers. It's a riveting dance in which they must keep a step ahead of their cohorts and each other, to avoid exposure.

To further complicate matters, both men fall for the same woman, a department psychologist played by an oddly lackluster Vera Farmiga.

Unlike many by-the-book crime dramas, the characters are nuanced, dialogue is crackling and the action crescendoes to a startling ending. This group from Boston is far more fascinating than Scorsese's Gangs of New York or reclusive Aviator Howard Hughes. Kudos to him for coming back from those flawed, but ambitious, efforts with one of the best films of his career.

Trivia

Matt Damon's aunt baby-sat Jay Leno as a kid

Matt Damon: Fighting Poverty in Africa

Matt Damon is on a mission. No, it's not another installment of his hit Bourne Identity films (though the third one is due out next year.) This time, the actor is fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa.

Damon, who took up the cause after spending more than a week visiting Africa in May, hosted a fundraiser in Toronto last week to raise money to fight global poverty.

The event, attended by Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Wyclef Jean and John Legend, raised almost $1.8 million for Canada’s One X One and the U.S.-based Millennium Promise, headed by United Nations adviser Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.

Damon ran a celebrity auction for prizes that included a chance to escort him and Pitt to the premiere of Ocean's Thirteen. Sold! But that's not all Damon is doing. He talks to PEOPLE's Mary Green about the documentary he's working on, his hopes for the future and watching Wyclef sing with the African's Children Choir.

PEOPLE: How did visiting Africa affect you?
Damon: It's not some theory that someone's trying to explain to you. You're looking right at people who are living in extreme poverty, and it's really unnecessary. But what overwhelmed me the most was a sense of hope that I got, because I really felt like a lot of these problems are fixable. There are some really basic things that can be done that will have an unbelievable impact. So it's about educating people about that. Look, I'm learning too. I feel like I just started down this road – down what's going to be a lifelong trek – but it's most important that we all make it together.

Were you happy with your Toronto fundraiser?
I thought it was great. I mean, John Legend, I don't think there's anybody on the planet right now with a better voice. And how about Wyclef? When he got up (to sing with the African's Children Choir) – was that unbelievable! And how about when he turned to the kids and said to the translator, "Tell them to have fun," because they were on their best behavior. They've come from Uganda and they're trying to be polite and he's like, "No, no, no. Tell them to have fun!" And then they started dancing. My wife (Luciana) was crying just watching these kids because they were so happy.

What will it take to implement change in Africa?
This is going to be fixed by people and not by politicians. (Politicians) don't feel like they have an incentive to do anything because these people are in Africa and they don't have a vote here, and until they realize that the people who vote here do care about it, they're not going to do anything. So it's up to us.

Tell us about the documentary you're making, Running the Sahara.
The film (follows) three ultramarathoners running across the Sahara to shed light on the issues there, particularly the lack of water. As part of that, we've started a group called Africa H20. Lack of clean water and sanitation kills nearly 4,500 children a day. Running the Sahara (which the filmmakers plan to debut next year) is, hopefully, incredibly entertaining and brings a lot of awareness to some of the issues that people face in Saharan Africa. At RunningTheSahara.com, you can actually follow the progress of the runners. They start at the end of next month and you can watch them run across the Sahara and see what's happening to them as they're going.

To learn more about the causes Damon has been discussing, go to Millennium Promise or ONE.org.

We Hear...

THAT "Feast" - the horror flick chronicled on the last season of the Matt Damon / Ben Affleck-produced Bravo series "Project Greenlight" - couldn't find a distributor and is going straight to video on Oct. 17. The reality show's other films, "Stolen Summer" and "The Battle of Shaker Heights," were released with a thud in theaters.

Martin Scorcese to remake Hong Kong film

Hong Kong director Andrew Lau said he's honored by Martin Scorsese's decision to remake his acclaimed crime thriller "Infernal Affairs."

Scorsese's remake is named "The Departed" and features Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg.

Lau, who hasn't seen the remake, said Sunday he considered Scorsese's decision an honor.

"Of course I want it to be good," Lau said. "After all, its a remake of a local film. It's very rare for Hollywood to remake a Hong Kong film."

It wasn't immediately clear when "The Departed" will be released. "Infernal Affairs," the story of a police officer who infiltrates a gang and an undercover mobster in the police force, came out in 2002.

The original starred Cannes best actor winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Andrew Lau.

Lau made the comments after a news conference for his coming film, "Confession of Pain," which also has a police theme.

Matt Damon, Shania Twain among honorees for 2007 on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Canadians Kiefer Sutherland and Shania Twain, and Barbara Walters have something in common: They will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Recipients for 2007 were announced Friday by Walk of Fame committee chairman Johnny Grant. "It's a privilege to honour these performers," he said. The committee said it had reviewed more than 200 nominations to select next year's 23 honourees.

The list of recipients, as ratified by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce board of directors, also includes Sean (Diddy) Combs, rock disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Lauren Shuler Donner, Jamie Foxx, John Goodman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Altman, Erik Estrada, Jerry Stiller, Dick Wolf, Mariah Carey, The Doors, Crystal Gayle, Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Tim Rice, Lily Tomlin and Stu Nahan.

It's a girl for actor Matt Damon and wife

"Good Will Hunting" Oscar winner Matt Damon and his wife are parents of a girl, their first child.

Damon's wife Luciana gave birth in a Miami hospital on Sunday to Isabella, the actor's publicist Jennifer Allen said. No other details were released.

"Mother and baby — everyone — is wonderful, fine," Allen said here Monday.

The couple married Dec. 9 in New York City during a private ceremony attended by the bride's then-7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. It was the first marriage for Damon, 35.

Damon and friend Ben Affleck, both from Cambridge, Mass., won a best screenwriting Oscar for 1997's "Good Will Hunting," set in the Boston area.

Damon's movie credits also include "Saving Private Ryan," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Ocean's Eleven" and "Syriana."

Sightings

MATT Damon dining with his very pregnant wife, Luciana Barroso, at the Forge in Miami Beach . . .

Depp Best, Diaz Worst for Autographs

Johnny Depp has the write stuff when it comes to signing autographs while Cameron Diaz is the worst, according to a new list Friday from Autograph Collector magazine.

Depp, followed by George Clooney, topped the magazine's 14th annual survey of Hollywood's best and worst signers. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star also was rated best last year.

"Many stars become bad signers once fame and fortune hits, but not Depp. He's even signed autographs for crowds at the airport while carrying luggage," said Steve Cyrkin, editor and publisher of the Santa Ana, Calif.-based magazine.

As for Clooney, "he'll joke as he signs, and make fun of how he looks in photos he's handed to autograph," Cyrkin said.

When it comes to her moniker, however, Diaz gets a flunking grade.

"Cameron Diaz may be a talented actress, but she's persistently a terrible signer. Instead of just turning down a person's autograph request, she'll lecture them about how dumb autographs are," Cyrkin said.

Russell Crowe would have been named as the best of the worst but in recent months he has been much nicer to fans, Cyrkin said in a telephone interview Friday.

Cyrkin said the list, which appears in the magazine's June issue, was based on information from a professional autograph collector and an enthusiastic amateur who is a journalist.

"They're the guys who want to get five or 10 or 12 of everything but they do see people" and know the "track records" of the stars, he said.

"It's looking at the spirit of the way they sign," Cyrkin said. "It's how they treat their fans."

Here is the list of 10 best and 10 worst Hollywood autograph signers for 2006, according to the magazine:

Best
1. Johnny Depp
2. George Clooney
3. Matt Damon
4. Al Pacino
5. Tom Cruise
6. Angelina Jolie
7. Elijah Wood
8. Brittany Murphy
9. Jack Nicholson
10. Clint Eastwood

Worst
1. Cameron Diaz
2. Bruce Willis
3. Demi Moore
4. Tobey Maguire
5. Alan Alda
6. Halle Berry
7. Winona Ryder
8. Teri Hatcher
9. Joaquin Phoenix
10. Russell Crowe

Matt Damon Urges Funding for AIDS Overseas

Actor Matt Damon is back from a trip to Africa with a passion for fighting AIDS and praise for President Bush's relief program.

"The work that's being done and the people that I met who are on the front lines there, I just came away feeling like we're going to beat this," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Damon returned April 29 from a six-day trip to Africa. He spent most of his time there in Zambia, which had an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 16.5 percent in 2003, according to the CIA's World Factbook. The U.S. prevalence rate was 0.6 percent in 2003.

Damon visited a number of sites including a clinic sponsored by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an independent charity.

"You walk into these clinics; you're surrounded by people who are alive and well because of the president's plan and because of this money," he said.

Damon's trip was organized by the DATA Foundation, a nonprofit Africa advocacy group, and the ONE Campaign, a coalition of groups working to fight AIDS and poverty.

'Ocean's Thirteen' Secures July Start Date

According to Variety, the studio hopes to have "Ocean's Thirteen" in production on July 21, which would put the film in play for a summer 2007 release.

While "Ocean's Eleven" went to Las Vegas to shoot and "Ocean's Twelve" went off to Europe, "Ocean's Thirteen" will do most of its work on five soundstages on the WB lot in Burbank. Steven Soderbergh is returning to direct, this time working off a script by the "Rounders" team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien.

While "Ocean's Eleven" went to Las Vegas to shoot and "Ocean's Twelve" went off to Europe, "Ocean's Thirteen" will do most of its work on five soundstages on the WB lot in Burbank. Steven Soderbergh is returning to direct, this time working off a script by the "Rounders" team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien.

Returning cast members include George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Quin, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould. Not surprisingly, the ASAP shooting start is at least partially to make things convenient for top bananas Clooney, Damon, Pitt and Soderbergh.

Notice a few names missing? It seems that previous "Ocean's" love interests Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones won't be playing along. With those two A-listers out of the picture, the producers sent out an offer to the industry's biggest star who hadn't been in the previous movies. That's right. Joining the cast of "Ocean's Thirteen" is Ellen Barkin.

All producer Jerry Weintraub will tell Variety is that Barkin ("The Big Easy") "gets closely involved with Damon's character."

Released in late 2001, "Ocean's Eleven" made over $450 million worldwide and also scored some very positive notices from critics. "Ocean's Twelve" dropped three years later. While it still made $360-plus million worldwide, the reviews weren't nearly so friendly.

In Style Celebrity Wedding

Oscar winners Matt Damon and Ben Affleck may be on the verge of their first featured collaboration since "Dogma."

According to Variety, Touchstone has picked up an untitled legal drama scripted by Chris Murphey with an eye toward pairing up the "Good Will Hunting" stars. The trade paper reports that Damon and Affleck's LivePlanet partner Sean Bailey will produce along with Amanda Stern and Fred Bodney.

The project is based on a true story and would feature Damon ("Gerry") and Affleck ("Gigli") as a pair of lawyers who spend 15 years attempting to overturn a murder conviction. More specifically, Damon would play J. Gordon Cooney and Affleck would appear as Michael Banks, two Philadelphia attorneys who battled for death-row inmate John Thompson.

Affleck is still planning to make his directing debut on Miramax's "Gone Baby Gone," set to begin production this summer in Boston. His next acting gig is as "Superman" star George Reeves in the recently retitled "Hollywoodland."

Damon has completed work on Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," with Robert DeNiro's "The Good Shepherd" also on the way. He'll start shooting "The Bourne Ultimatum" this fall.

De Niro, Jolie and Damon to Film in the Dominican Republic

Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon will soon begin shooting scenes for De Niro's latest work, "The Good Shepherd," in the Dominican Republic.

The actors should arrive by Saturday, said Felix Manuel Lora, spokesman for the national film office.

"The government is going to help the crew with the logistics so they can do their work without any inconveniences," Lora told The Associated Press.

"The Good Shepherd," which is directed by De Niro, recounts the history of the CIA. Damon plays James Wilson, one of the spy agency's founders; Jolie plays his wife.

The production is expected to remain in the Dominican Republic one week.

De Niro, 62, previously directed 1993's "A Bronx Tale."

Warners May Get Lucky with 'Ocean's Thirteen'

Jerry Weintraub Prods. may be moving forward on "Ocean's Thirteen," the potential third installment of the franchise spawned by a Brat Pack remake.

According to Variety, screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien ("Rounders") have submitted a sequel script to producer Weintraub.

No details about the sequel area available, though the trade paper reports that Weintraub is working with Section Eight partners Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney to get "Ocean's Thirteen" in production by later this year. It isn't like Weintraub's going to be twiddling his thumbs until then, though. His shingle's updated version of "Nancy Drew" is set to begin shooting at the end of this month.

Released in late 2001, "Ocean's Eleven" made over $450 million worldwide and earned a slew of strong reviews. "Ocean's Twelve" dropped three years later and met with inevitable diminishing returns. The reviews were much less positive and the worldwide box office slipped to $360-plus million.

We Hear...

THAT Matt Damon checked out the exclusive photo of his very pregnant new bride, Luciana Barroso, in the Sunday Post while he waited at the Miami airport for his flight back to New York . .

MIKE'S LOOSE LIPS

HIZZONER's aides were mostly mum about Matt Damon's ultraquiet wedding to Luciana Bozan last week at City Hall — but Mayor Bloomberg let a detail slip about the ceremony yesterday, reports The Post's Stefan C. Friedman. "I kissed the bride; I will admit to that," Bloomberg proudly stated at a joint event with supermodel Heidi Klum (right). After a brief pause, the mayor clarified, "not on the lips," to more than a few laughs. Always the chief promoter of the city, Bloomberg added, "All of us are thrilled that they chose New York to have their marriage," noting that the couple will split their time between Manhattan and Miami.

Damon Marries His Baby Mama

Matt Damon's girlfriend has made an honest man of him.

The "Bourne Supremacy" star married fiancee Lucianne Bozan in a private ceremony on Friday, Dec. 9, report news sources.

The couple was hitched in an undisclosed location in New York, witnessed by the bride's 7-year-old daughter Alexa. Platonic Damon partner and pal Ben Affleck was not present. No other details have been released.

The marriage comes one day after "Access Hollywood" announced that the couple is expecting their first child together. Bozan, whose name has been recently been reported as Luciana Barroso, was married once before. The couple will split their time between their New York and Florida homes.

The couple got engaged just before Labor Day after having dated for a year and a half. Bozan is an interior designer and former bartender. Damon, 35, has had high-profile relationships in the past with actresses Winona Ryder and Minnie Driver.

Damon currently stars in the political thriller "Syriana" and in the upcoming films "The Departed" and "The Good Shepherd," both due out in 2006.

Matt Damon and Fiancee Expecting a Baby

Just call it the Bourne Pregnancy.

"Bourne Supremacy" star Matt Damon and his fiancee Luciana Barroso are expecting a child, reports "Access Hollywood." The would-be mother is about three months along.

This will be Damon's first child and Barroso's second. She has a daughter, Alexa, from a previous relationship.

The couple got engaged just before Labor Day after having dated for a year and a half. Barroso is an interior designer and former bartender. Damon, 35, has had high-profile relationships in the past with actresses Winona Ryder and Minnie Driver.

With impending fatherhood and marital bliss, Damon is keeping up with his pal and Oscar-winning screenwriting partner Ben Affleck, who married "Alias" star Jennifer Garner in June and now has a baby daughter, Violet, born on Nov. 30.

Damon currently stars in the political thriller "Syriana" and in the upcoming films "The Departed" and "The Good Shepherd," both due out in 2006.

No dark side to Damon

Matt Damon is so tired that he'd rather talk in the dark.

"There we go," he sighs, rubbing his eyes and turning off the lamp next to him.

The actor, who is wiped out from a long week, prefers the subdued to the obvious. It's that same fondness for shades of gray that drew him to Syriana, a drama from Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (Traffic) about the politics of black gold. The film, opening wide Dec. 9, is a series of intertwined stories, starring George Clooney as a CIA agent and Damon as a sincere, well-meaning oil trader who uses his son's death to fuel his own career.

"There's no good or bad guy in the movie," says Damon, who doesn't see much of himself in his character. He doesn't have "ambition to the extent that you'd trade on the death of a child. But I think I could identify, to a certain degree, with that kind of self-destructive, annihilistic kind of streak that just allows him to be that reckless."

For Gaghan, casting the likable Damon as a morally wobbly slickster made sense.

"I spent a lot of time with actual oil traders and analysts, and these guys are really smart. They all went to Harvard or Yale. Matt went to Harvard. He understands these guys and this world," Gaghan says. "Matt is genuinely kind of a brilliant guy. He's a great writer and incredibly articulate. He's really incisive."

Damon, 35, flashes his trademark toothy grin only when he's congratulated on his recent engagement to his girlfriend of two years, Luciana Barroso, 29.

He is due on the set of the CIA drama The Good Shepherd at 5 a.m. the next day. When it wraps in a few months, Damon is eagerly anti-cipating "taking a break" after nine years of shooting hits, such as The Bourne Identity, and misses, such as All the Pretty Horses.

The actor and his fiancée, who have not set a wedding date, split their time between an apartment in downtown Manhattan and a home in Miami. Damon, who has always been tight-lipped about his personal life, says Barroso hasn't had problems with the attention she now attracts.

"She's been pretty much left alone," he says. "Fame is a really weird thing. It's surreal. Eventually, once you accept it and accept that that's the way it is, you're a little more guarded. It can be as prominent in your life as you want it to be."

Damon would rather focus on the work. He's choosy about his roles. "Whenever I fade, I want to be able to look back and go, 'Hey, that was a hell of a run,'" he says. He plans to write another movie, after winning a screenwriting Oscar for 1997's goodwill Hunting, "when the acting jobs dry up a little bit. Ben (Affleck) and I did goodwill to get work as actors, and that's happened."

Affleck, who is expecting his first child with wife Jennifer Garner, is "pretty excited" about fatherhood, Damon says. The two live on opposite coasts, but "there's no rift between me and Ben."

Unlike Affleck, whose every coffee break seems to end up in the tabloids, Damon lives under the radar. He runs along the Hudson River in the mornings, goes out for burritos at night, catches a movie like Good Night, and Good Luck.

"I don't really live an outrageous lifestyle. I'm not dancing on the bar - ever," he says. "I think it's just not really worth anybody's while to follow me around and take my picture because you're not going to be able to sell it for anything. "

That's not the case with Angelina Jolie, who plays Damon's wife in Shepherd. "You'd know when she's working. You'd get there at 6 in the morning, and there's 30 guys camped out waiting for her," Damon says. "With Brad (Pitt) on Ocean's (Twelve), he gets it worse than anybody I've ever seen. "

Mention Damon's name to people in the movie business, and they'll rave about how nice he is. Billy Bob Thornton, a man with few actor friends, considers Damon a close one and calls him "wonderful." Gaghan recalls watching Damon cavort with his two young sons on the Syriana set. "He played with them for an hour and 45 minutes, rolling around on the floor and playing superheroes," Gaghan says. "It came from inside him. He's genuine. A year later, my kids still remember him."

Surely even nice guys have nasty habits?

"Besides the bestiality?" Damon says with a grin. "I quit smoking (15 months ago). It's a tough thing to do, so I was happy I did that. I'd been smoking for 17 years. It felt like the joke was over. I wasn't a kid anymore. I'm out of vices, I guess."

Sightings

MATT Damon and his parents eating dinner at Mexican fast-food joint Burritoville on Second Avenue in NYC

'Syriana' explodes on the screen

Syriana (* * * ½ out of four) is a gripping and fascinating tale of political intrigue that spans three continents, its focus trained on the volatile Middle East. It's a global portrait of danger, deception and disillusionment, with no dearth of human casualties.

The storytelling style is multilayered and challenging with several plot threads interwoven, all dealing with the politics of oil. The movie zigs and zags and requires close attention to catch every twist and turn.

A heavier-than-usual, hirsute George Clooney is a CIA agent whose assignments in Lebanon and Iran are not what they seem. His world-weary but heroic agency veteran is the emotional center of the film. Clooney does a masterful job portraying a smart guy who knows he should probably take a desk job in D.C., but is hooked on the adrenaline rush of top-secret overseas assignments. Matt Damon artfully plays an ambitious energy analyst based in Geneva who becomes the confidant of an oil-rich Arab prince. The principled, reform-minded Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) has given natural-gas drilling rights to a Chinese corporation, striking a serious blow to Connex, a huge Texas energy company.

Jeffrey Wright plays a corporate lawyer with some conscience working for a powerful law firm that lacks it. "We're looking for the illusion of due diligence," his superiors tell him, referring to his assignment guiding a merger between giant Connex and Killen, a smaller American oil company. Chris Cooper plays a good ol' boy turned CEO of Killen Corp. He's a self-made Texas oil billionaire who keeps exotic animals on his ranch for hunting.

Worlds away from the wheeling, dealing and corruption, the life of a young Pakistani migrant worker (an excellent Mazhar Munir) unfolds as he loses his job in an oil field and is recruited by a Muslim extremist in a fatalistic but poignant story line.

Writer/director Stephen Gaghan, who won a screenplay Oscar for his equally probing drug-trade saga, Traffic, has fashioned an uncommonly intelligent story, inspired by CIA agent Robert Baer's memoir, See No Evil.

Gaghan assumes his audience is smart enough to follow his explosive tour of global petro-politics. The result is thought-provoking and unnerving, emotionally engaging and intellectually stimulating. Gaghan shakes us up and prompts us to question world policies - without preaching or dumbing down intricate economic and political realities. We need more movies like this. (R for violence and language. Running time: 2 hours, 7 minutes. Opens Wednesday in select cities.)

'Syriana' a Middle East muddle

Stephen Gaghan, who wrote Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic," a movie about the international drug trade, takes on a different kind of addiction -- oil -- with "Syriana," his second directing effort.

His approach is similar. The movie, which he also wrote, moves back and forth among several story lines involving the global oil industry, Middle East politics and terrorism, all of which intersect at key moments. This time, however, the character and geographical jumps leave you in a muddle with thinly sketched personalities and confusing plot points. Worse, dialogue dense with nuance and shaded meaning flies by too quickly. So what "Syriana" feels like is a television miniseries condensed into two hours.

Gaghan directs the film as if it were a thriller, and Alexandre Desplat's pulsating music encourages this notion. Ultimately, though, the film is too talky to thrill mainstream audiences. Despite the presence of stars George Clooney and Matt Damon, the film might play more comfortably to older adults in major markets than the under-25 crowd.

Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) awarded natural gas drilling rights in his oil-producing Gulf state to the Chinese, which is a serious blow to Texas energy giant Connex. To counteract this loss, Connex seeks a merger with Killen, a smaller oil company owned by Jimmy Pope (Chris Cooper). Killen has just won drilling rights in Kazakhstan. Both the merger and this surprising contract attract the scrutiny of the Justice Department, which assumes hanky-panky is involved.

Dean Whiting (Christopher Plummer) heads a powerful D.C. law firm hired to guide the merger through the tricky shoals of inside-the-Beltway politics. He asks ambitious attorney Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) to perform due diligence, which in this case means give Justice a scapegoat or two to make certain the deal goes through. Whiting also seeks to undo the Chinese deal by going behind the prince's back to his younger brother Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha) and his venal father to ensure that he aging Emir picks the younger man as his successor.

Meanwhile, Prince Nasir asks energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Damon) and his Geneva-based energy trading company to consult on maximizing oil profits so he might reform his corrupt country. This alliance is partially a debt of guilt, as the family feels responsible for the death of Bryan's young son in a swimming pool accident at their villa. Bryan's willingness to accept the offer drives a wedge between him and wife Julie (Amanda Peet).

Another story line follow the ups and downs of veteran CIA agent Bob Barnes (Clooney) on assignment in the Middle East. He succeeds in assassinating two arms dealers in Tehran, but in the process a Stinger missile falls into the hands of a shady Arab. His next assignment is the assassination of Prince Nasir. Evidently, the U.S. government shares Connex's concern about the Chinese deal. Then two double crosses, by a contact in the field and by the CIA itself, turn him into a rogue agent.

The final plot involves a disillusioned young Pakistani oil worker (Mazhar Munir) who gets fired from his job. He becomes increasingly radicalized in Muslim extremism at a local madrassa. In no time, he emerges as a willing suicide bomber.

Clearly, the film supports the view that America's addiction to oil drives all its Middle Eastern policies; the superpower will stop at nothing -- not corruption, war or assassination -- to tie up oil rights. While the view is not unjustified, this creates a simplistic good guys/bad guys situation that is dramatically uninteresting. So much more goes into the turmoil in the Middle East. Things are much grayer and murkier than Gaghan has time to acknowledge in a two-hour movie. Perhaps "Syriana" should have been a miniseries.

Needing to move quickly, Gaghan reduces each story line and its characters to cliches. Bob is an all-too-familiar figure in spy fiction, the burnt-out case betrayed by his own agency. By gaining weight and growing a beard, Clooney gives the rumpled spy some gravitas, but the character needs a movie all to himself to flesh out his personality.

And so it goes with all characters. Bennett is a classic sellout, willing to put personal ambition above ethics or morality. The strife between Bryan and his wife is unconvincing as the movie lacks the time and temperament to engage these characters beyond the superficial level. And the suicide bomber barely registers. Indeed all of the Islamic characters fail to move beyond stereotypes.

The sprawling production, containing more than 70 speaking roles and locations in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, comes together smoothly, greatly aided by Robert Elswit's gritty cinematography and designer Dana Weil's naturalistic sets.

Warner Bros. presents in association with Participant Prods. a 4M film, a Section 8 production.

CAST:
Robert Barnes: George Clooney
Bryan Woodman: Matt Damon
Bennett Holiday: Jeffrey Wright
Jimmy Pope: Chris Cooper
Stan Goff: William Hurt
Wasim: Mazhar Munir
Danny Daldon: Tim Blake Nelson
Julie Woodman: Amanda Peet
Dean Whiting: Christopher Plummer
Prince Nasir: Alexander Siddig

Screenwriter-director: Stephen Gaghan; Based on the book by: Robert Baer; Producers: Jennifer Fox, Michael Nozik, Georgia Kacandes; Executive producers: George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Ben Cosgrove, Jeff Skoll; Director of photography: Robert Elswit; Production designer: Dan Weil; Music: Alexandre Desplat; Costumes: Louise Frogley; Editor: Tim Squyres

Tidbit

Wedding of agent Patrick Whitesell and TV's "So You Think You Can Dance" host Lauren Sanchez drew Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Also Hugh Jackman, who sang "Mack the Knife," and how that tune fits at a wedding I'm not sure

'MRS. DAMON' HAS NICE RING TO IT

LOOKS like Matt Damon has finally taken a cue from his Cupid-struck sidekick, Ben Affleck — and popped the question to his own sexy sweetie. Damon — the star of such flicks as "The Brothers Grimm" and "Bourne Identity" — proposed to curvy single mom Luciana Barroso "shortly before Labor Day," his publicist confirmed to Us Weekly. The couple, who can be frequently spotted cuddling at Boston Red Sox games, have yet to set a wedding date, the mag said. Damon and his Italian cutie — who has a 6-year-old daugther, Alexa — had been dating for two years. A former Miami bartender, Barroso is now billed as an interior designer. Meanwhile, her famous fiancé shared a screenwriting Oscar with best pal Affleck for "Good Will Hunting" in 1997. Affleck and newlywed wife Jennifer Garner are expecting their first child.

Stars Support Kanye West's Outburst

Jay-Z, Sean 'Diddy' Combs and Matt Damon are among a host of stars who have applauded Kanye West for his public attack on US President George W Bush on last Friday. During an appearance on A Concert For Hurricane Relief - a live telethon broadcast across America - West broke away from his script to voice his disgust at the media's portrayal of the Gulf Region's African-Americans and to slam the slow delivery of aid. But the biggest stir of all came when West boldly declared, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." West's Def Jam colleague Jay-Z says, "I'm backing Kanye 100 per cent. This is America. You should be able to say what you want to say. We have freedom of speech. "(The slow response to the disaster) is really numbing. You can't believe it's happening in America. You wonder, what's going on? Why were people so slow to react? I don't understand it." Combs notes, "I think he spoke from his heart. He spoke what a lot of people feel... It ain't adding up, man. It's not making sense. If the reporters can get there and you all can get there with microphones, somebody should be able to get there with food." Damon adds, "This guy with his moment on live television made a statement that hopefully now Bush will come out and address, because he doesn't have to address anything else... The White House Press Corp, they should all have their credentials taken away. Not one of them is an honest journalist. Not one of them asked a question of the guy." Meanwhile, actress Susan Saradon has a slightly different take on West's comments: "I don't think that's an original thought, but it's probably true."

Celeb Voices Venture Into IMAX 'Desolation'

As you may already have known, Oscar winner Tom Hanks is really interested in the moon and he's bringing some of his celebrity buddies along for "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D."

Hanks is producing and narrating the IMAX film, which will hit the extra-big screen on Sept. 23, 2005.

The Playtone/IMAX Films production heads to the lunar surface to simulate the experience felt by the 12 men who have walked on the moon. The project relies heavily on CG-imaging, previously unreleased NASA footage and live-action representations of the moon's landscape and geography.

Voice transmissions from the original Apollo astronauts will be featured, along with Hanks' narration, but if that isn't enough, John Corbett, Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Scott Glenn, Rick Gomez, Frank John Hughes, Tim Matheson, Matthew McConaughey, Paul Newman, Neal McDonough, Bill Paxton, Barry Pepper, Kevin Pollak, Peter Scolari, Gary Sinise, John Travolta, Donnie Wahlberg and Rita Wilson will also be heard.

"We are delighted to be working with Tom Hanks, Playtone, a stellar lineup of all-star actors and our great partners NASA and Lockheed Martin to offer the most realistic extra-terrestrial experience possible on planet Earth," says Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment. "By combining IMAX 3D, Hollywood's best talent and the top minds of space exploration, this film will offer audiences of all ages an out-of-this-world experience that is both entertaining and educational."

The Wrong Meal

MATT Damon's girlfriend, Luciana Barroso, was rushed to the hospital Sunday after she suffered a bad case of food poisoning. Our spy spotted Damon comforting a tearful Barroso in the St. Vincent's emergency room. A spokeswoman for Damon — in town shooting the Robert De Niro-helmed "The Good Shepherd" opposite Angelina Jolie — confirmed that Barroso was sickened by something she ate. "She had food poisoning and got really dehydrated because of that," the rep told us.

'Grimm' lacks that fairy-tale sparkle

Late-August release. Color photography that's supposed to evoke fairy-tale mysticism that looks closer to muddy brown. Matt Damon in late-18th-century costuming. If there were a movie genre called "the non-starter," it sounds as if The Brothers Grimm could be a leader of the pack.

But the director is Terry Gilliam, who on paper seems the perfect person to portray Grimm grotesqueries. And as it turns out, the best thing to be said about this expensive but drab wannabe mirthmaker is that it has some of its director's quirky touches. This, at least, sustains goodwill here and there amid storytelling that frequently sputters.

The movie portrays Grimms Wilhelm (Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) as traveling con men who are milking what they can in backwoods Germany. That is, before they butt heads with one of Napoleon's snobbiest, an occupying French general played by Jonathan Pryce (star of Gilliam's unforgettable Brazil).

This automatically portends an eccentric and commercially daring spin on the siblings' saga, something opposite in tone from the solidly kiddie-oriented The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, a just-as-lumbering spectacle from 1962.

The con involves protecting villages from witches, and Pryce decides to call the brothers' bluff.

Someone, possibly a sorcerer, has whisked away the local children into an enchanted forest. But as is often the case, grisly inhabiting creatures aren't that enchanting. If the brothers can solve the mystery and return the kids, they can survive a fate worse than some of the food Pryce gets served in one of the film's funnier throwaway bits.

Ledger has more experience in period pictures, which may be why his heart seems slightly more in his acting assignment. Still, neither lead comes off as glib enough to seem comfortable with a con.

In fact, for a movie set up to deal with brothers, this is a show the women steal. Lena Headey plays the one character who makes an emotional connection: the Grimms' contentious but attractive forest guide (even without makeup and in dress-down garb).

And as an evil queen, Monica Bellucci is an apt flesh-and-blood equivalent of all those Ms. Evils we're used to seeing in vintage Disney animation.

Brothers never catches fire the way Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen did. And you almost feel during subpar special effects that sweaty stagehands are pushing the trees around.

As with last week's animated Valiant, this isn't a movie to invite contempt; you can always see what it wants to do and where it wants to go.

But both seem passé, which wouldn't be altogether fatal if they were made with a bigger grin or even a zestier wink.

A happy beginning for 'Grimm' at box office

With summer drawing to a close in Hollywood, the studios will try to draw weekend crowds at a time when the focus is more on back to school than moviegoing.

"The Brothers Grimm," from Miramax Films' Dimension label, at one point looked as if it might become just another throwaway film quickly released by Miramax before company founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein officially depart at the end of next month. But now it's in a position to lead the box office with an opening in the mid- to high-teen millions.

Instead of appealing only to film buffs and fans of director Terry Gilliam, "Grimm" looks as if it will lure in the highly coveted young female audience -- those wanting a glimpse of Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in period garb.

Damon and Ledger play sibling con artists who travel the countryside telling villagers that they will protect them from unseen nasties -- for a price. But their mettle is tested when they come across a too-real curse in a haunted forest. Monica Bellucci co-stars in the PG-13 film.

Sony Pictures' Screen Gems division will open "The Cave" using a release date strategy that benefited its end-of-summer release "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" last year. But insiders are not expecting the new horror picture to beat the $13 million opening that "Anacondas" registered: a bow in the $8 million-$10 million range seems more likely.

The PG-13 film from director Bruce Hunt and starring Cole Hauser, Piper Perabo and Morris Chestnut revolves around bloodthirsty creatures threatening a group of divers trapped in an underwater network of caves.

Lions Gate was banking on the rising success of Ashlee Simpson as the catalyst for box office grosses for its "Undiscovered." But with her career stalling somewhat during the past year after a few media slip-ups, industry insiders are not placing many bets on the teenage romantic comedy from Irish music video director Meiert Avis.

The film follows a group of aspiring entertainers trying to establish careers in Los Angeles. Pell James, Steven Strait and Shannyn Sossamon co-star. With teen girls showing more interest in "Grimm," "Undiscovered" is unlikely to generate much heat. Insiders say the PG-13 film isn't expected to top $5 million.

As far as holdovers go, Universal Pictures' "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which opened at No. 1 last weekend with $21.4 million, is likely to hang in there for its sophomore session amid good reviews and word-of-mouth, while DreamWorks Pictures' "Red Eye" and Disney's "Valiant" are likely to drop more precipitously in their second sessions.

In limited release, Freestyle Releasing will unveil "American Pie" knockoff "Dirty Deeds" in 64 theaters. Starring Milo Ventimiglia, Lacey Chabert and Charles Durning, the PG-13 film centers on a high school senior who tries to become the first student ever to complete a series of twisted challenges called the "dirty deeds."

Sony Pictures Classics will bow "The Memory of a Killer" in Los Angeles and New York. The R-rated crime thriller that played at last year's Toronto International Film Festival centers on an aging contract killer from Italy who has the first signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Damon Wants To Be Bourne Again

Universal Pictures views Matt Damon's Jason Bourne franchise as currency. The 2002 "Bourne Identity" made more than $120 million at the domestic box office and the 2004 sequel "The Bourne Supremacy" did more than $175 million. If the studio had its way, there would be a different movie about the spy with amnesia every summer.

Interestingly, Damon also views the blockbuster movies as currency. The Oscar-winning screenwriter knows that every time he does an "Identity," he can do a "Gerry" and that every time he does a "Supremacy," he gets the extra power to do something like his latest, the Terry Gilliam fairy tale film "The Brothers Grimm." The "Bourne" films have done for him what ambitious duds like "The Legend of Bagger Vance" and "All the Pretty Horses" couldn't. Does that mean that Damon sees another sequel on the horizon somewhere?

"Yeah, off in the middle distance somewhere," he says. "I keep doing movies like with Terry Gilliam, I just wrapped one with Scorsese ["The Departed"], I'm going to do this run of movies and then, if I flame out in all of them, I'll do another Bourne movie [and] buy myself a few more years."

Damon's upcoming slate isn't exactly loaded with obscure indies like the walking-and-dying-in-the-desert drama "Gerry." He'd got "The Departed" with Leonardo DiCaprio, this winter's "Syriana" with George Clooney," the Robert DeNiro-directed "The Good Shepherd" with Angelina Jolie and he's rumored to be attached to "Margaret" from Kenneth Lonergan. None of those films, though, is the sure thing that "The Bourne Ultimatum" will be, whenever it gets made.

Although screenwriter Tony Gilroy is the only confirmed participant for "Ultimatum," Damon insists that Paul Greengrass, who earned rave reviews for his work on "Supremacy," is interested in a return.

"There's no reason the third one shouldn't be the best of all of them," he says optimistically. "That would be the only way to kind of come back and do it, is not just to milk the cash cow, but to make it a proper kind of trilogy and finish it on a great note so that people look back and say, 'You know what, that was a f***ing kick-ass three-movie trilogy there.' It's not something I would want to do forever, you know."

He continues in an Old Man voice, "I'm Jason Bourne! Get off my land."

Damon has never seemed particularly interested in maintaining the image of a prototypical studio leading man and even with a signature franchise to his credit, it doesn't sound like he's ready to start being safe.

"It's gonna go away anyway, so you kind of take your shots and make stuff that you can be proud of, that you can kind of look back and say, 'Yeah, that was an amazing experience, I learned a lot, I took a big swing, you know?'" He explains. "I think that's kind of the healthiest way. I think when you see people... that look at their careers like, they get some success and then they protect it like a beachhead. They just sit there, 'Don't take this away from me!' And they make really safe, boring choices. And eventually it goes away anyway. Scared money never wins."

"The Brothers Grimm" opens on Friday, Aug. 26.

Sightings

ROBERT De Niro, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon taking a lunch break from filming "The Good Shepherd" in Manhasset's Muncie Park at nearby Stresa restaurant

Film review: The Brothers Grimm

Hugely ambitious but often failing to live up to those ambitions, Terry Gilliam's long-awaited "The Brothers Grimm" emerges as a folkloric adventure that intermittently entertains.

The central problem is that Gilliam never figures out what movie he wants to make. "Grimm" ranges from 18th century slapstick to pure fairy tale and from Monty Python absurdity to a semi-serious meditation on the collision between rationalist convictions and mystical beliefs.

Not helping matters at the box office, the movie strands its two young stars, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, in quaint, off-putting period costumes and confusion about their roles. One minute they are cowardly buffoons and con artists and the next they're heroes bent on rescuing a damsel in distress -- despite the fact this damsel has more spunk than the two men combined.

Prospects for the Dimension/MGM co-production -- pegged at $75 million but with production delays that must have pushed that figure seriously north -- are iffy. Certainly, Gilliam puts on a splendid show, one filled with bizarre imagery and imaginative design that serve a Borges-tinged tale about collectors of folklore who find themselves living through one of their own fairy stories.

The movie gets off to a rocky start by thrusting a viewer into so much frantic action that one struggles to get one's bearings. Nor does the film pay much attention to the one thing vital to all storytelling -- creating empathy for its protagonists.

The screenplay by "The Ring's" Ehren Kruger imagines that the legendary German brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm -- here called Will (Damon) and Jake (Ledger) -- are rogues who travel from village to village in "French-occupied Germany" in 1796. They pretend to protect townsfolk from witches and enchanted creatures by performing fake exorcisms. The French authorities, led by the autocratic snob, Gen. Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce), get wise to their con and arrest the brothers.

The Grimms are threatened with gruesome torture and death, then presented with a deal they cannot refuse. Apparently, even greater con artists are terrorizing a small village, where young children are missing and villagers blame an enchanted forest. The Grimms can escape their grim fate by uncovering the miscreants behind the hocus pocus and delivering the children back to their parents. To make certain that the boys keep the bargain, the general saddles them with a sadistic Italian torturer named Cavaldi (Peter Stomare.)

Things in the village are as bad as advertised. What's worse, the Grimms cannot unmask the magician: The forest seems to be really haunted, and the village's curse proves all too real. Will refuses to believe folk tales are anything other than superstition and lies told by village elders. Yet brother Jake, even as a small boy, has believed in fairy tales. There is, in other words, a clash between the Napoleonic rationalists, personified by Delatombe and Will, and traditionalist inspired by folk tales, represented by Jake.

Further upsetting the delicate balance between the brothers is the beauteous Angelika (Lena Headey). She has lost two sisters to the curse, yet is reluctant to help the brothers other than guide them into the enchanted woods to demonstrate the impossibility of lifting the curse.

There is never a dull moment onscreen, but this perhaps is the movie's curse. Actors bustle here and there. Creatures, insects, toads and enchanted animals pop up everywhere. Trees move menacingly. A horse swallows a small girl. A wolflike beast turns into a man and back into a beast. Actors chew the scenery and, for once, the scenery chews back.

While the Brothers Grimm cannot fathom the magic that confronts them, the modern moviegoer has no such problem. The CGI and visual effects are all too transparent. Overall the production feels disjointed as the tone keeps shifting even as the fake scenery keeps shaking.

Damon and Ledger don't really locate their characters until about the midway point. By then, viewer allegiance has shifted to Headey, the most charismatic figure in the film. Stomare is so over the top that he is simply annoying. Pryce at least is consistent as the smug commander determined to root superstition out of the territory. Monica Bellucci lends an eerie eroticism as an ancient queenly corpse whose struggle for rebirth is the key to the village curse.

Dimension Films and MGM present a Mosaic Media Group/Daniel Bobker production.

Cast: Will Grimm: Matt Damon; Jake Grimm: Heath Ledger; Delatombe: Jonathan Pryce; Angelika: Lena Headey; Cavaldi: Peter Stomare; Mirror Queen: Monica Bellucci.

Director: Terry Gilliam; Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger; Producers: Charles Roven, Daniel Bobker; Executive producers: John D. Schofield, Chris McGurk, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jonathan Gordon, Andrew Rona; Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel; Additional photography: Nicola Pecorini; Production designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Music: Dario Marianelli; Co-producer: Jake Myers, Michael Solinger; Visual effects supervisor: Kent Houston; Costumes: Gabriella Pescucci, Carlo Poggioli; Editor: Lesley Walker.

We Hear...

THAT Jim Carrey, Natalie Portman, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon have already ordered tickets to the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 29 and ends Sept. 11 . .

Damon: 'Project Greenlight' Is 'On a Respirator'

As viewers of the most recent season of "Project Greenlight" will recall, Matt Damon came across as the great defender of quality over commerce, fighting a legion of studio suits to try to select the best script and director for show's third film. Although Damon's support helped land the eccentric, but talented John Gulager the directing gig, he was powerless to prevent Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton's "Feast" from winning the script competition.

Many months after the choices were made, Damon has softened somewhat on his losses.

"Even though, by their own admission, the people who voted for that script didn't think it was the best script, it probably was the smartest movie to choose because it does, in an odd way, give the project the greatest chance of surviving, because the movie might actually make money," says Damon, on the promotional circuit for his upcoming Terry Gilliam romp "The Brothers Grimm."

Despite the long delay between the show's completion and the pending "Feast" release (previous "Greenlight" movies were rushed into theaters almost immediately after the shows ended), Damon has already heard what constitutes enthusiasm from Dimension Films bigwig Bob Weinstein.

"Bob's gonna bring it out at Christmas and he was like [transitions into a spot-on Bob Weinstein impression], 'I released this movie 'The Darkness' last year at Christmas. It's the worst movie I've ever seen in my life, this f***ing 'Darkness,' but it's a great slot. 'The Darkness' made 22 million. So I'm putting 'Feast' in the 'Darkness' slot,'" Damon is clearly getting into it now, as he continues to mimic the Weinstein brother. "'F***ing 'Feast' is 'Citizen Kane' compared to 'The Darkness.'"

Several points of clarification: The most recently announced release date for "Feast" is Jan. 20, 2006, though it may yet get the Yuletime spirit. Weinstein did, indeed, release "Darkness," which starred Anna Paquin, last Christmas, over a year-and-a-half after it came out in the rest of the world. The negative pick-up, which was budgeted at just over $10 million, did manage to make $22 million domestically. As for Weinstein's critical appraisal of the film, it has a robust 95 percent "Rotten" rating over at RottenTomatoes.com.

It would be very difficult for "Feast" not to surpass "Stolen Summer" (roughly $119,841 domestic) and "The Battle of Shaker Heights" ($279,282 domestic) as the most successful film in "Project Greenlight" history. However, the transition from HBO to Bravo wasn't a smooth one for "Greenlight." Bravo never figured out how to promote the show and had difficulties keeping it in a stable time period and the resulting ratings were painfully low.

"The show was really good this year and yet we had horrible horrible ratings," Damon acknowledges. "When we were in conversation with Bravo, they were like, 'Look, the show is good,' we got the best reviews of any show on television, and they said, 'But there's a certain number,' and they showed us the number and I'm not a TV guy, but they said, 'Look, this number, no matter what, we can't bring the show back... This is just terrible, we can't justify keeping it on air.'"

A recent Emmy nomination in reality television category may give the show a minor boost and if "Feast," a creature feature starring Navi Rawat and Krista Allen, can turn a profit, Damon thinks "Project Greenlight" might somehow be salvaged.

"It's up in the air right now," he says. "I suspect if the movie does well enough, maybe Bob would help with it, maybe there's some way to get them all to do it one more time, but it's on a respirator."

Sightings

MATT Damon, Eva Mendes, David Byrne, Nas and Kelis grooving to Sri Lankan songbird MIA at S.O.B.'s.

Pulling Plug on "Project Greenlight"?

Project Greenlight may have hit a red light.

Chris Moore, who masterminded the Bravo reality show with pals Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, said Friday that the movie-making documentary series has likely aired its final episode.Damon and Affleck conceived Greenlight as a way to discover would-be Spielbergs and give them a chance to make a movie. They cited their own Oscar-winning success with Good Will Hunting as the prototype.

The first two seasons of Project Greenlight aired on HBO, but the premium cable net axed the series in 2003. Bravo quickly snapped up broadcast rights and expanded the show from a half-hour to an hour. The nine-part third season wrapped Thursday.

However, Greenlight's ratings dwindled over the course of the season, jeopardizing the future of the show.

"Last night was probably the last new episode of Project Greenlight ever," Moore writes in his blog at Bravotv.com.

"I am sorry to be reporting this here, but anyone reading this blog is a devoted and loyal Project Greenlight fan. You have been loyal and vocal and true fans of what we have tried to do, so I want you all to know the truth first."

Further, Moore has left Live Planet, the multimedia company that coproduced Project Greenlight, to form his own company.

Another factor hurting the series' long-term viability is the split between Disney and Miramax bosses Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Miramax released the first two Project Greenlight films and its horror subsidiary, Dimension, will release the third season flick, Feast, later this year. Without Disney's deep pockets at their disposal, the Weinsteins are presumably reluctant to gamble on unproven talents.

While the filmmaking contest series drew a rabid, if small, following, the first two releases--season one's Stolen Summer and 2003's The Battle of Shaker Heights--both bombed at the box office.

This past season, Greenlight eschewed the coming-of-age plots of its first two seasons' films in favor of a more commercial horror flick called Feast.

Feast has no official release date, although producers say it will likely be out during the holiday season.

Derby Doing

SOME folks have all the luck. Matt Damon took his girlfriend, Luciana Barroso, to O'Neill's in Maspeth, Queens, to watch the Kentucky Derby and she ended up winning $15,000, sources said.

We Hear...

THAT Matt Damon's new house on North Bay Road in Miami is a couple of doors down from Jennifer Lopez's, which could make for interesting situations when Damon's pal Ben Affleck visits with new fiancée Jennifer Garner

Back To The Future

Clearly, if everybody else jumped off a bridge, so would Matt Damon. Following in the footsteps of Orlando, Brad, et al. the Good Will Hunting hunk is set to star in his own historical epic, a Marco Polo bio to be written by Kingdom of Heaven scribe William Monahan. Sample dialogue: Explorer No. 1: Marco? Explorer No. 2: Polo!

We Hear...

THAT Matt Damon has bought a house in the Miami area where he will live with his girlfriend of the past year, single mother Luciana "Lucy" Barroso. The couple was spotted shopping for furniture last weekend at the Design Center of the Americas in nearby Dania Beach.

Tidbits

Matt Damon to take tutoring in manners and attitudes for his 1920s Yale University role in "The Good Shepherd"

Damon Takes a 'Journey'

Actor Matt Damon is not an environmental expert, nor does he play one in the movies. But it is because of a movie that he met documentarians Marilyn and Hal Weiner and took the gig of narrator and host of their documentary series "Journey to Planet Earth," which returns to PBS with two new installments on consecutive Mondays, April 11 and 18 (check local listings).

"It was through Doug Liman, who directed 'The Bourne Identity,'" Damon says. "The Weiners' son worked in Doug's offices. So, in this roundabout way, I heard about them. It was total serendipity. They had sent me some scripts. They were lying around; I hadn't read them yet. During editing of the 'Bourne' movie, Doug and I were [at my house], looking at it to talk over changes he was going to make. He just looked down, saw the scripts and said, 'I know them.'

"Then I read the scripts, and they were so well put together, and they were so interesting, that I jumped at the chance to do them."

Damon narrated the four episodes of the show's second season, which aired in the spring of 2003 on PBS. This season, he also appears on-camera, perhaps hoping that his face will attract fans.

"That's what Hal and Marilyn want," he says. "That's their hope. It's the only reason they would want me to do it. If not, they'd get an expert or the guy who did 'Wild Kingdom.' The idea is to try to get kids a little more interested. Maybe it will get them to hang in and watch the shows."

Part 1 of "Journey to Planet Earth" is the first annual "The State of the Planet" special, which looks at how population and economic pressures affect the world and resources such as food and water. Filming locations include Israel, Iowa, Bangladesh, the Amazon and Nairobi, illustrating both problems and solutions.

Part 2, "Future Conditional," looks at the spread of pollution from disparate locations such as the Arctic, Mexico and California, and how contamination in one area can affect people far away.

"I watch these shows when they're finally put together," Damon says, "and it does make the world seem so small. You feel the impact of your behavior on the planet and how fragile it is. You travel around the world and see what's happening.

"The way I think of it, it's education in the best way, where you're not being preached to. You don't feel like you have to pull out a notebook and take notes. You just feel like you're getting a lot of information in a very fluid way."

Asked how much he knows about environmental topics, Damon says, "Educated enough that I'm not a buffoon when I'm being interviewed. There's a kind of downside protection for one. Then on the other side, you want to learn, especially if it starts to gain importance in your life, which this is starting to for me. At the same time, I'm busy as hell on my day job.

"But 'The State of the Planet' asks totally basic questions, like, are we running out of water? That's something I'd like to know, as a citizen. So things like that -- are we running out of water, can we feed everybody on the planet? These are really basic questions that are interesting and salient."

Affleck-Damon Collaborator to Direct 'Devil' Remake

Producer Chris Moore, who got his start collaborating with actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, will make his directorial debut on "Race With the Devil," the remake of a 1975 horror thriller.

The original, released by 20th Century Fox, centered on two couples who head off to Colorado for skiing and dirt biking. Along the way, they witness a satanic sacrifice, but when they call the local authorities, all evidence disappears. They resume their vacation but find themselves shadowed by a cult.

Peter Fonda and Loretta Swit starred in the original.

The film is being updated for the production outfit Regency Enterprises by writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan.

Moore had been partners in the LivePlanet production venture with Affleck, Damon and Sean Bailey. Among Moore's producer credits are the "American Pie" movies, the "Project Greenlight" movies, "Joy Ride" and Affleck and Damon's breakout hit "Good Will Hunting."

When LivePlanet reupped with the Walt Disney Studios this year, Moore left to pursue a directing career, a move he said was about four years in the making.

"I didn't wake up at 12 and have a Super 8 camera in my hand," Moore said. "I'm the kind of guy who learns by being around people who are doing it, and I've been around a lot of sets with experienced directors and first-time directors. I got into the movie business to tell stories, and I think directing is really the ultimate storytelling job.

"I feel like I have enough experience now that I might be able to do a good job. I went through the drill with a pad and paper and asked, 'Would I hire myself?' And you know, I decided that on genre pictures and things of small budgets, I would hire myself. Maybe after I do it a few times, I'll do bigger movies."

Swan and McWeeny, who also writes under the name Moriarty on the Web site Ain't It Cool News, are writing the John Carpenter-directed episode of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" anthology. They also wrote "Dread" for Fox and "The Final War" for Revolution Studios.

Damon Doesn't Feel Like an Action Hero

While Matt Damon has two successful action films behind him -- playing secret agent Jason Bourne in "The Bourne Identity" and its sequel, "The Bourne Supremacy," with a third film, "The Bourne Ultimatum," due in 2006 -- the 34-year-old still doesn't consider himself an action hero.

"That's my one foray into the action world," he says, "that 'Bourne' stuff. They're action movies, in that there's some action in them, but it all comes from character. The directors are really good directors who come out of independent movies generally -- at least the first two movies we've done -- and they're all about these moments between people, and the action's secondary to them.

"Whereas most action movies, I think, go into it with a regulated number of set pieces that they're going to do, and then the characters are kind of secondary or tertiary."

There are exceptions, of course, including the 1988 hit "Die Hard" (itself followed by several sequels), which starred Bruce Willis as a New York cop trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper with thieves posing as terrorists.

"It's a great action movie," Damon says, "but that's because it's all about character. Willis is so utterly watchable, and you're so pulling for him in that movie. It's a really great script.

"'Speed' is actually a rip-off of 'Die Hard,' but those two are really good. 'Lethal Weapon,' the first one, is also a good example of a good action movie, but those are really rare. God, 'Die Hard' is 17 years old."

Next up for Damon is "The Departed," directed by Martin Scorsese, a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film in which a Boston cop infiltrates an Irish-American gang, and a gangster infiltrates the police force. The cast also features Leonardo DiCaprio (Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"), Mark Wahlberg --who, like Damon, is a native of the Boston area -- Jack Nicholson and Anthony Anderson ("The Shield").

"There's always that fear that anybody has," Damon says, "that Scorsese will tell you that you suck. But no, I really don't have any fears going into it. I'm doing a lot of preparation. I'm playing the cop."

Oddly, this is the first time Damon has donned a badge for a film.

"Yeah," he says, "20 films without playing the cop, and he's a really complicated character. So I'm going to do all the police-academy stuff this week, meeting all those detectives and guys that work in the organized-crime unit for the state troopers.

"It takes place in Boston, so we're going to shoot some of it in New York and some of it in Boston."

As to why the entire film isn't being shot in Boston, a frustrated Damon gives the credit to New York City's mayor and New York State's governor.

"Bloomberg and Pataki passed this tax-relief program," he says. "They should do it in Boston, too. Here's Scorsese, he's in this 'Let's keep filming in America' battle, then they looked at the prices in Boston, and New York was cheaper. Classically the most expensive place to shoot, New York, was cheaper than Boston.

"They just haven't figured it out [in Massachusetts]. It's got to be Governor Mitt Romney. These guys have to come through and understand that they're losing significant money, because things don't come to Boston a lot.

"The lawmakers in Boston aren't understanding that they're letting all this money get away, and it would be great for the city to get more work. But I finally get to work at home."

Sightings

MATT Damon, Tatum O'Neal, Harvey Keitel and Sarah Ferguson table-hopping at Indochine with cast members Ben Stiller, Amanda Peet and Jeffrey Wright after the opening of "This Is How it Goes" at the Public Theater.

Matt Damon Gets a 'Greenlight'

There's an old axiom that if one thing's working in your life, something else isn't. If your health is good, your bank balance is anemic; you find $20 bucks on the sidewalk, but somebody dings your car door -- that sort of thing.

In a way, that's the story of Matt Damon's life right now. The 34-year-old actor is coming off three successful big-budget films: "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Oceans Twelve." Waiting in the wings for release are Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm," Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana," with George Clooney, and "The Good Shepherd," in which Damon plays the younger version of Robert De Niro, who also directs.

Damon is now starting work on "The Departed," for director Martin Scorsese, with co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. Oh, after that there's "The Bourne Ultimatum," due out in 2006.

It's going well now," Damon says. "I've gotta work when I can."

On the other hand, things haven't been going so well with "Project Greenlight," the reality series that chronicles the low-budget filmmaking efforts of first-time directors and writers chosen through a contest.

Damon is executive producer of "Project Greenlight," along with fellow LivePlanet principals Ben Affleck, Larry Tanz and Chris Moore, and the studio involved has been Bob and Harvey Weinstein's Miramax. The films produced from the first two seasons, 2002's "Stolen Summer" and 2003's "The Battle of Shaker Heights," tanked at the box office.

Things have been shaken up for the show's third season. First, "Project Greenlight" has moved from pay-cable HBO to basic-cablenet Bravo.

"We're on Bravo this year," Damon says, "which is really good for us, because it's in much more homes than HBO, and they're doing really good programming over there."

Also, this time the studio is Dimension, a division of Miramax, and the mandate is to do what that studio does best -- produce mass-market horror flicks. Damon and partners also called in veteran horror writer/producer/director Wes Craven ("Scream," "A Nightmare on Elm Street") as a producer on the movie.

The first episode premiered on Tuesday, March 15, when it was revealed that the script is "Feast," a monster tale by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston -- not considered the best script, but the most marketable one -- and the director is talented but inarticulate John Gulager, a 46-year-old Los Angeles cameraman and editor.

"We had to do a horror movie this year," Damon says. "We did it with Dimension instead of Miramax, because we lost enough of Miramax's money. They were kind of sick of us, so we did it with Dimension. Bob Weinstein was literally saying, 'How are we going to sell this thing?'

"It's about the marketing. It's about the genre. It's a different world."

Both "Summer" and "Shaker" were character-driven, coming-of-age stories, which don't fit easily into a marketing niche.

"You're shooting in such a small bull's-eye when you're trying to make a character movie for a low budget," Damon says. "There are the 'Reservoir Dogs' or 'Swingers' even, but those movies are really rare. There's God knows how many little horror movies that you and I have never seen, but were made for a small budget and got their money back and made a little profit."

Fans will have to tune in to the show's remaining eight one-hour episodes on Tuesdays to see if Gulager falls prey to some of the melodramatic hijinks indulged in by the season-two directing tag team of Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle.

"It's like the bad second act of the movie," Damon says, "where the guy finds out he's king, like 'King Ralph.' Or like 'Bruce Almighty,' with Jim Carrey as God blowing someone's skirt up. It's that first reaction to having this power that you never thought you'd have. Then you get over that.

"They're suddenly the director, and everybody is listening to them. They're in charge of 60 people. You can [get drunk on it]. Most people I know don't, or didn't, even when they could have, but these guys ... and also, they've got a camera in their face for 24 hours, so if they have one moment of weakness, the director's going to pull that clip and use it, because she's trying to make a TV show."

Damon still feels good about giving talented amateurs a chance, but like the reality of Hollywood, it's all about the bottom line in the end.

"If we don't make money this time," he says, "we're f***ing cooked. That's it. No one else is going to give us money for this project. I think, on Bravo, we'll get more viewers, and hopefully they'll go see the f***ing movie, and we can do it again."

ShoWest to Fete Damon

Matt Damon will be honored as the Male Star of the Year at ShoWest 2005's closing-night ceremony Thursday (March 17) at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas.

Damon, who starred last year in "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Ocean's Twelve," stars in Warner Bros. Pictures' upcoming "Syriana," written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, as well as Dimension Films' "Brothers Grimm," directed by Terry Gilliam. He next films Martin Scorsese's "The Departed."

Crimson Pride

HARVARD faculty members are still debating whether to give a vote of "no confidence" to embattled university president Lawrence Summers — but at least Matt Damon is in his corner. Damon, who dropped out of Harvard 12 credits short of graduation, tells today's New York Observer, "I've heard whisperings that his remarks were taken out of context. I will say that when you're trying to encourage 18-year-old kids to exercise freedom of thought, it can be dangerous to remove [Summers] for doing just that." The Harvard honcho has been under fire since he opined that women may be less likely to thrive in the field of science due to innate gender differences.

Sightings

MATT Damon and girlfriend Lucia Barossa enjoying a couples' treatment at the Clarins Treatment Boutique . . .

NBC's Tsunami Aid Raises More Than $18M

NBC raised more than $18 million for the American Red Cross to send to tsunami victims with its benefit broadcast last weekend, the network said Friday.

Individual NBC stations raised another $10 million through separate telethons, the network said. Stars donated their time and the $2 million in production costs were covered by a corporate sponsor.

Madonna sang "Imagine," and Elton John, Eric Clapton, Norah Jones, Maroon 5 and others all performed. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Ben Affleck were among the stars who took phone pledges.

The tsunami benefit, aired on NBC and its affiliated stations, struggled for viewer attention Saturday night. It was modeled after a similar benefit aired after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which raised $130 million for victims.

Matt Damon mulls third "Bourne" project

Matt Damon may act in a third instalment of the "Bourne" spy thriller movies about an amnesiac CIA killer, following the box-office success of "The Bourne Supremacy", the actor has told a Singapore newspaper.

Starring in "The Bourne Ultimatum", third in a series of spy novels written by Robert Ludlum, was not out of the question, Damon said in an interview with the Straits Times published on Thursday.

"It depends on the script," he said. "If it's interesting, I'll do it. If not, I'll just bag it."

"The Bourne Supremacy" is the second in a series about Jason Bourne, a U.S. assassin beset by amnesia and nightmares of his past life, has already taken $165 million (92.4 million pounds) in North American theatres.

Despite the movie's financial success, the 33-year-old actor once outright dismissed the idea of a follow-up to the 2002 "The Bourne Identity", which earned more than $210 million worldwide.

"Sequels generally kind of suck," Damon told the Straits Times from Spain, where he was promoting the movie. "I didn't want to add my name to the list of offenders who've made bad sequels."

He also ruled out romance with celebrities following a media frenzy that shadowed long-time friend Ben Affleck's relationship with singer-actress Jennifer Lopez and after Boston-born Damon famously dated Hollywood star Winona Ryder.

"I don't date celebrities any more. This way the media doesn't have much to talk about," he said.

But current girlfriend, 28-year-old Miami bartender Luciana Barosso, has him thinking about a family, the report said.

"Do men have a biological clock?' he asks. "Because if we do, I think mine might be ticking."

Matt Damon's Uncle Becomes Oldest Channel Swimmer

The 70-year-old uncle of Hollywood star Matt Damon (news) became the oldest person to swim the English Channel Sunday, arriving on the French coast in the early hours after a grueling 21-mile swim.

"I am tired, but this is it, I've got the world record and I feel wonderful," George Brunstad told Reuters by telephone from the British port of Dover, after returning by boat and having a short sleep.

"When I arrived I just said 'Praise the Lord,' stood on the beach and raised my arms in a V sign," the retired American pilot added.

The swim took 15 hours and 59 minutes and Brunstad, a champion swimmer who had trained for the challenge for a year, took the record from a 67-year-old.

He raised about $12,000 for Haitian children.

Honorary Secretary for the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation Michael Oram, who accompanied Brunstad on his swim, said more than 100 people swim the Channel every year.

The main challenge, other than the distance, is the coldness of the water, but Oram said the conditions had been good for the record-breaking swim.

"It is a grueling thing to do, but this was a textbook swim," said Oram.

"And Mr. Brunstad was full of the joys of spring when he arrived -- an incredible achievement for a 70-year-old," he added.

Matt Damon on 'Bourne' Again

As an assassin on-the-run in "The Bourne Supremacy," Matt Damon can take a real punch, absorb a real car crash and wave a real gun around to terrify his co-stars — but he's got to fake that tricky Russian dialogue.

The actor's performance as an amnesiac government killer made a hit out of 2002's "The Bourne Identity," which on the eve of the sequel has been re-released on DVD with an alternate beginning and ending.

Damon spoke with The Associated Press about the grueling stunts involved in the new movie.

AP: In "Supremacy" you have a pretty ugly fight with another assassin, played by Marton Csockas. In the era of high-flying wire kung-fu, why'd you go the opposite way?

Damon: We didn't want it to feel staged or fake in any way. That fight is really violent and really brutal. These are two extremely dangerous guys in a small space trying desperately to kill each other with every single thing that they do. It's just a mess, it's just violent and brutal. (Director Paul Greengrass) didn't want it to be balletic at all, with sweeping kicks and jumping around. He wanted it to be two guys just slamming each other around.

AP: Take any real hits?

Damon: We got hurt. I threw my back out. I got punched in the face once and cut my lip open. It was a good brawl. (Laughs.) Marton worked really hard on that.

AP: Your character does a lot of vicious things — even when he's trying to make up for past wrongs. Don't most big-budget Hollywood movies like their good guys a little more ... good?

Damon: It seemed really bold to me. Generally when the budget gets north of a certain number, the studio wants to make the characters more and more simple. They don't want confusion, they don't want people thinking too much saying, `I'm not sure how I feel about this guy' That to them is a recipe for disaster. But to be able to come back and do it and make him still a deeply flawed character and a more complicated character in a mainstream movie ... (that's better) than being a classic revenge story.

AP: In one scene, you menace a CIA (news - web sites) liaison, played by Julia Stiles, with a gun to her temple. She seems to really come unglued and even you look shocked by what you're doing. What was it like filming that?

Damon: That was a thankless thing for her. The only thing you can do to that scene is (mess) it up. You have to freak out and if you don't go for it and don't do it then it's going to completely take people out of the movie. ... She was really, really good. It also didn't hurt that I had a real (unloaded) gun and whenever I pressed it against her head it DID make her very uncomfortable.

AP: The "Bourne" movies have you traveling the globe and speaking Swiss, German, French, Russian. How'd you handle all the foreign-language dialogue, since you had to lose your American accent to sound like a native speaker?

Damon: That's kind of like a parlor trick. I speak some Spanish and that's it, and Bourne never speaks Spanish, unfortunately ... When we're filming I just learn (the lines) phonetically and move my mouth in the right way and then in post-production I go to a soundstage with a German-speaking person or a Russian-speaking person, whatever the language is, and we'll just say it over and over and repeat it and repeat it until I say it — once — in a way that sounds to them like their mother tongue.

AP: Both "Bourne" movies have car-chase set pieces_ but in "Supremacy" you seem to wreck into something every five seconds. How did that come about?

Damon: A lot of it was designed by Dan Bradley, who did the car crash in "Adaptation." Remember that? It was just this completely out-of-nowhere horrifying thing that happens. The goal was to make a full car chase with moments like that throughout.

AP: How did they shoot so much footage with you in the car?

Damon: Dan invented something called "The Go-Mobile." It's basically this 550-horsepower, uh, rocket that attaches itself to a car and pulls the car. So you've got a professional driver in there, and you can do all these things with an actor in the car and a camera in the car that you could never do before.

AP: What were the crashes like for you?

Damon: They did (effects) shots where they put a driver on the roof of the car and the stunt driver in the (SUV) was slamming into me. I wasn't really driving the car, but I was in the car getting slammed into by this car. It was totally safe. I had a seatbelt on and two of the best drivers in the world slamming into each other. The camera's sitting on the passenger seat while this is happening, and you haven't seen that shot before. If you've seen it's been from a soundstage.

Matt Damon 'Bourne' to Play Role

Matt Damon says he knows he needed a hit just before "The Bourne Identity" came out two summers ago.

"Really recently, right before 'The Bourne Identity' came out, I hadn't been offered a movie in a year, because 'The Legend Of Bagger Vance' had come out and bombed and 'All The Pretty Horses' had come out and bombed," says the actor in a small press conference attended by Zap2it.com.

That's not to mention two smaller films, "Gerry" and "The Third Wheel," around the same time that few people ever even heard of that disappeared into the film festival circuit. Damon, who won a writing Oscar for "Good Will Hunting" and was nominated as best actor in 1997 for that role, was seeking a revival in his short career.

"The word on 'The Bourne Identity' was that it was going to tank also because we had pushed back the release date a couple of times and for people who know that's always a sign that things aren't going well," says Damon in an interview. In fact, Universal offered more money to re-shoot scenes and make the movie better. "The outward signals within the industry were 'Oh God, this thing's going to suck.' So nobody really gave me job offers."

So, Damon went to London to do a play that closed the weekend that "Bourne" opened to a spectacular $27 million. It made more than $200 million worldwide and $90 million in DVD sales.

"I got back to New York Sunday night," he laughs as he remembers, "Monday morning there were something like 30 script offers. So in terms of any success I've had, it's always been tenuous. I don't think anyone really feels secure."

Dressed in a tan shirt and jeans, Damon discusses the sequel, "The Bourne Supremacy" and how he's an unlikely star for the modernization of the Robert Ludlum novel as rogue secret agent Jason Bourne, a cool killer with amnesia. This time around he's teamed up with Joan Allen, as well as "Identity" stars Brian Cox, Julia Stiles and his love interest played by Franka Potente in the first film. The director changed from Doug Liman to Paul Greengrass, who filled the action sequel with fast-paced camera movements.

"When I took the job the first time it was something that Doug Liman, the director of the first movie, and I talked a lot about because he thought it was really daring to cast me as this guy because of the way I look. I look so young and this guy clearly has to have a history and he's got a very dark past. If the central character is just not quite believable and he's constantly taking your audience out of the movie, that's a complete disaster."

So, Damon boxed for half a year to get into shape and learned a lot about weapons. He logged hundreds of hours on a firing range and kept to a strict training regime.

"He brings a sense of torment to the role of Jason Bourne, he's a fine actor," says Allen, who is an Oscar nominee herself with "The Contender."

"He is very serious, very focused and responsible, and very funny, too," says co-star Potente. "It's rare to have both."

Damon says he's picked up a lot about police work. "For instance if you see a cop off duty at a bar and you're having a conversation, you know they're a cop because they'll angle their right hip away if they're right-handed even if they're not wearing a gun. It's little things like that that add up throughout the course of a movie that, if you just see somebody's body moving in a certain way, suddenly they're more believable."

For the sequel, shooting in Berlin most of the time was depressing because of the weather and the short days. "One of the biggest challenges starting out as an acting thing was that I don't talk a lot in the movie. It's a pretty dark journey the guy goes on, so to get into that mindset every day, that was a huge challenge. The good news is that I got my requisite amount of laughter every day when I'd go home at night and unwind a little bit, get on the phone or talk to people - you know, rejoin humanity for the evenings but go to work. It's a pretty kind of heavy role this time around."

Next up, he'll be seen in a much lighter role with Heath Ledger as the fairy tale writing brothers in "The Grimm Brothers," directed by Terry Gilliam.

"The Bourne Supremacy" opens nationwide on Friday, July 23.