March 7, 2011
Matt Damon Star in a Sci-Fi, Love Story in The Adjustment Bureau
Matt Damon stars in sci-fi, love story, The Adjustment Bureau directed by George Nolfi. “loosely” based on a story by Philip K. Dick. In The Adjustment Bureau, Damon plays a smooth talking congressman who has a serious future in national politics. He meets a beautiful ballerina, but is unable to make a connection with her due to strange and uncontrollable circumstances.
Damon’s interest was piqued by this tale of a man who stumbles on a vast, powerful and unseen world that exists on the periphery of our own. He told the filmmakers that if future drafts looked as good, he would be ready to join. “George has been a friend and collaborator for a long time,” notes Damon. “He brought this script to me that he’d written on spec…because he wanted to direct it. I was a big believer in him and felt he could do it.”
Nolfi took the opportunity to polish the idea before revisiting the project with Damon during The Bourne Ultimatum, which Nolfi also co-wrote. “I got the script to a place where I thought it was ready for Matt,” Nolfi says. “Once he said he was interested in being involved formally…it was a back and forth collaborative process.” Together, the colleagues had many philosophical conversations about the material; from these discussions came ideas that Nolfi used to improve the arc and build out his story.
Damon was impressed with the manner in which Nolfi expanded Dick’s work and made it particularly relevant for a modern audience. The performer commends: “George was specific about everything - from the look of it to the types of people that he wanted to cast. He saw what he wanted to do with this piece.”
You got involved in this film fairly early on in the process. What was it about The Adjustment Bureau that made you want to be in it?
I thought the script was great. George Nolfi, whom I had worked with before, brought me an early draft and said: “What do you think?” I thought it was a really great idea and we started talking about it.
This is George Nolfi’s first movie as a director. After knowing him as a writer, what made you believe he was ready to take the leap into directing?
George started revising the script for this film while he was working as a writer on The Bourne Ultimatum. Seeing him do a lot of problem solving under pressure on The Bourne Ultimatum made me feel that directing The Adjustment Bureau was something he could handle pretty easily. So when we both found the right time in our schedules, we decided to go for it.
You play the politician David Norris. How do you see him?
David is a guy who has a great void in his life that he is filling with his political ambitions. Without knowing it, he is being groomed by The Adjustment Bureau to be the President of the United States. Into that life comes this woman who bowls him over and he decides he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.
Their love story is the core of the movie.
Yes, it is. I always told George that if the relationship between our two characters didn’t work the whole movie would fall apart. You have to really want them to be together.
What do you believe Emily Blunt brought to the role of the dancer Elise Sellas, the woman who changes David’s life?
We got very lucky with Emily because she is such a brilliant actress. She made Elise’s character so much more formidable and fleshed her out in a way that helped the whole relationship feel like a modern romance.
What can you say of the supporting cast that play the members of The Adjustment Bureau?
We were very lucky to get our first choice for every role, which is rare. We really ended up with the exact group we wanted and they made the movie what it is. People like John Slattery, Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp are just great to work with.
John Slattery is Richardson, who is pursuing David Norris to make sure he stays on the track they have designed for him.
George Nolfi knew he wanted John Slattery from very early on. He even shot stuff with him on video to make sure some of the scenes worked.
Harry - played by Anthony Mackie- is also in the bureau.
Anthony Macke is a great actor and was the perfect choice for Harry.
Then you have Terence Stamp as Thompson, the toughest member of The Adjustment Bureau your character has to face.
We needed somebody with that kind of gravitas. When George and I were talking about who would be the right person for the role we would throw around names of people with real heft. Then one day he called me out of the blue and said: “What about Terence Stamp?” I thought he was the perfect pick for Thompson.
And you were surrounded by a solid crew.
George was very smart because he put together a crew that I would be lucky to get on my first movie. They all supported his vision for the film and had complete faith in him. We really had the top-flight group out of New York. The grip crew, for instance, was the same one I had later on True Grit with the Coen brothers. And then John Toll, whom I had worked with years ago on The Rainmaker, is just a great cinematographer.
New York is another character in the movie.
That’s something people say constantly about other movies, but in this case I believe it’s true. George wanted it that way and always talked about this film being a love letter to New York. Architecture is one of George’s hobbies so he would wander around the city to look at buildings. In the script all the locations were specific because he knew what he wanted for the movie. We shot everywhere!
It must be a luxury for an actor to shoot a film on location.
It is a rare treat, even though it can present certain challenges. For instance, when we shot at the foot of The Statue of Liberty all the tourists that were there that day got a front row seat to see a movie being made and would clap or cheer after every take!
What was it like to be running through the streets of New York City?
That was fun! The main thing for us to get right was the final chase sequence, which was shot over the course of three months. It was not easy. I actually pulled a hamstring at one point.
The Adjustment Bureau addresses the subject of the role fate plays versus free will in our lives. What is your take on that fascinating theme?
I always feel my decisions matter and that there is a consequence to everything I decide. I guess maybe to believe you are controlling your destiny is a good way to go through life. But when I look back at it and at some of the best things that have happened to me, I see that they have taken place through a series of consequences I had no control over. It makes me wonder if there was an Adjustment Bureau kind of guiding me along.
After a couple of encounters –first in the bathroom of a hotel and later on a bus- David Norris and Elise Sellas connect in a special way that changes their lives forever.
We knew those scenes were key in the film. We had to make everyone believe that David and Elise were really head over heels with each other after only those two brief encounters. So we worked hard on them. It’s always good to have a director who is also a writer because you have more flexibility to see what works best in the scene and even improvise on set.
Do you believe a connection like this can happen in real life?
I do, because I was certainly thunderstruck when I met my wife. I really believe it was love at first sight.
There is also humor in those moments between David and Elise.
I always think humor is an important element in every relationship. And in this case, it helps sell those scenes. One of the reasons why Emily is my friend is precisely because she makes me laugh. She has a great sense of humor. We laughed a lot during the shoot.
This may be the most romantic part you have played to this day.
Yes, I think it may be. That’s why we needed a great actress for the role of Elise. Even though it is inspired by Philip K. Dick’s story, I see The Adjustment Bureau as less of a science fiction movie and more of a fantastic love story. I was excited to be in it because I had never done anything like that before.
So, what did you think of the movie when you finally saw it completed?
I am really happy with it. I love all the performances and I think it is very unique. The film has this great romance but also other elements I believe people will relate to. The concept that there is some force out there that might spill your coffee on you to re-route you during your day is something we have all thought about. And, ultimately, it is a really fun and entertaining movie to watch!
And it is a film that touches different genres…
Yes, that’s one of the things that attracted me to the movie and also worried me about it. I thought blending genres was a very ambitious thing to do on your first film but George Nolfi said he wanted to take a big swing with it, and he did!
“The Adjustment Bureau” is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp, Now Showing!
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