Brothers Grimm and The Bourne Supremacy:USA Today visited Matt Damon on the set of of the upcoming dark fantasy Brothers Grimm last year in Prague. In the interview Damon talked about the current proiduction in the city on the film as well as the proposed filming of the The Bourne Identity sequel in the location...
It's 11 a.m., and Damon has been on the set since 7, but his mood is upbeat and he jokes with the crew during the takes. The scene is simple and brief, but it takes time to get just right.
Hanging alongside him is co-star Lena Headey. With the wind machine cranked up and the take in full swing, Headey and Damon gasp and grunt as she appears to be helping Damon climb onto the fake tree branch where she's already hanging on for dear life.
"I was (expletive) brilliant in that scene," Damon jokes, "and the blue looks really good in this shot."
When the crew calls for a break to reload a camera, Damon admits that the harness and wires that have been hoisting him up are uncomfortable, but he's still smiling.
"Days like today, it's just kind of goofy when you're flying around," he says. "It hurts a little bit. Lena's all bruised up. Her harness is less comfortable than mine."
Last fall, he was hanging around Prague for Brothers Grimm. Since then, he has been to India and Berlin to film The Bourne Supremacy, the sequel to his 2002 hit The Bourne Identity. Parts of The Bourne Identity were filmed in Prague in 2001.
Though Damon and the rest of the cast and crew have been working mostly six days a week, he has managed to fit in time for sightseeing and family.
"My family came over during the summer months, so I had a steady stream of visitors. The location shooting is actually more fun for my family than for me because they actually get to see all the places."
Still, he admits to walking across the city's famous St. Charles Bridge 200 or 300 times and visiting the centuries-old Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. He recommends climbing to the top of the tower above the Old Town Square's Astronomical Clock.
Even though one of the artists selling celebrity portraits on the St. Charles Bridge has a pencil drawing of Damon prominently displayed, Damon says he has not been recognized.
"Not at all," he says. "All I pretty much do is work. We're out here every day, so I've been really normal for the past six months."
Making movies in Prague is nothing new, but Hollywood's growing interest in filming movies in the Czech Republic has some producers referring to Prague and its famous Barrandov Studios as the Hollywood of Europe.
"I think the studios come here because it's cheaper," says Damon. "This is an $80 million movie, which would probably cost $120 million to $140 million in America. Plus, so many movies are shooting here now and have been for the last few years that the crews never stop working. So the crews are as good as any crews anywhere in the world."
The Barrandov studios have an impressive history. Built in the early 1930s by Milos and Vaclav Havel (he's the father of the former Czech president), the studios were the embryonic hot spot for the then-booming Czech film industry. During the German occupation of Prague during World War II, the Nazis, prodded by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, built a studio here to develop propaganda films. It's a detail that Damon finds fascinating.
In addition to picking up on the local history, Damon has picked up a few local habits as well. "I gave up smoking for four months, but I'm smoking again. Everybody smokes here." He lights up as soon as the camera stops running.
Damon also has made new friends here, including Heath Ledger, who plays the other half of the Brothers Grimm. "It's been great," he says of teaming with Ledger.
Ledger is Jake, and Damon is Will, two folk-tale-collecting German brothers who are forced to confront evil and their own capacity for courage.
"You never quite know how things are going to work out when you get paired with someone. But the last two movies, I've had this central relationship as brothers, and I lucked out with Greg (Kinnear, who played Damon's conjoined twin in last year's Stuck on You) and Heath. They'll be friends forever."
"He inspires a kind of passion in everyone who works for him," says Damon. "I think we have a good one here. It's going to have a really unique tone because it has Terry's twist on it. It's very funny, but there all these elements of adventure, fantasy and fairy tale in it. Terry's one of the founding members of Monty Python, so it's also got some humor."
Damon's work with Brothers Grimm ended in late November. Then it was on to Berlin and India for Universal's The BourneSupremacy. He's very enthusiastic about this action-thriller even though back-to-back movie projects means he'll have no time off until next summer.
"Everyone's coming back for the sequel," he says. "I think even Chris Cooper, who was killed in The Bourne Identity, is coming back for some flashback scenes."