"They think now I’m worthy of a fight," Damon says with a laugh. "I tell them, ‘I’m just an actor! I’m just an actor!’" True. Other than a few fellow thespians in his age bracket, Damon is the reigning champ of the performing arts.
Currently starring in The Brothers Grimm, in theaters Aug. 26, Damon plays one half of the famous duo (Heath Ledger is the other) that travels around France vanquishing witches, ghosts and goblins for a quick buck. But when the Napoleonic army gets wise to their ruses, they’re forced to contend with a real magical curse in an enchanted forest.
"I had a long-term affair with a ghost," Damon says of his personal dealings with the dead. "No. I’m kidding. I’ve had no experiences, yet. But I’m open to it."
Working with director Terry Gilliam – whose last attempt at filmmaking turned into the debacle documented in Lost in La Mancha – was a leap of faith itself. "But I figured it was impossible for somebody to get that unlucky again," says Damon. "I mean, they had a flood on that set! They had everything but locusts on Lost in La Mancha. Terry said he could have worked through it, it was only when his Don Quixote, actor Jean Rochefort, couldn’t sit on the horse that they had to shut down. Not the flood."
Along with Gilliam, what attracted Damon to this adventure was the subject matter. "I had a copy of Grimm and I read [the stories] as a child. Or maybe my mom just left the stuff out. They were very dark. I don’t remember the actual stories, but more like the bullet points. Like in Rapunzel – did you know this? – that after the prince starts climbing her hair, her clothes don’t fit because she starts developing a bump. It’s because the prince climbing up to her room was having sex with her! They’re really adult stories."
Damon was nominated – and won – an Academy Award for best original screenplay for 1997’s Good Will Hunting, written with his best friend Ben Affleck. Since then, Damon and Affleck are one of the few screenplay Oscar winners who never wrote again, leading many to the question, "What’s next?"
Damon says he’d write again if he ever stopped getting these great acting jobs. "As it is now, I don’t have enough hours in the day to get all the work done that I have in front of me. Once that all cools down, I’d love to write, direct and star in something small.
"[Writing with Ben,] there’s no formalities. We grew up together. I just cut to the chase. When we’re working, there’s no politics, no diplomacy. It’s, ‘That’s good, Ben. That sucks, Ben. Shut up. Fuck you.’ We just cut right to it," says Damon. "That’s what happens when you trust people, and I think Ben trusts me and I trust him. We get to a solution a lot quicker. If somebody you trust says, "No, no, no, don’t do that," if you trust them, you don’t get insulted, you know they’re just looking out for you."
Not that he needs someone looking out for him when it comes to the box office. Last year, Damon was in the moneymaking sequels Oceans 12 and The Bourne Supremacy, and the actor hints at some future writing he may do with an impromptu ending to both sagas. "They want to make another Bourne movie. Maybe Jason Bourne should wind up in the next Ocean’s sequel and just kill everybody?"
Not as if that would be the end of the actor’s career – no, Damon knows where that is. "I just finished this movie for Martin Scorsese, The Departed, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. If I screw that up, that’s the end of my career."
The Brothers Grimm releases in theaters Aug. 26.