The search for life on Mars continues with the discovery of first-ever definitive signs of water on the Red Planet. And Hollywood star Matt Damon, who plays an astronaut in Ridley Scott’s The Martian, says the idea of man setting foot in Mars is well within human reach and could soon be a reality.
In the forthcoming space drama, Damon’s character Mark Watney, when on a mission to Mars, is presumed dead and has to survive until rescue arrives. “When Andy Weir wrote the novel, he wanted it to be firmly based on science, the idea that this is not so far away for us. The ways my character survives in the film are actually what one would have to do to survive in that situation. Contrary to the notion that this is all science fiction, I believe this really is right around the corner,” Damon said in an email interview from Los Angeles.
More than the story, it was the character of Watney that drew The Good Shepherd star to the film. “The sense of humour of the lead character is intact even when he’s in this horrible situation. This lightness makes the film really entertaining and funny,” he said, and added that the film would’ve been so different without that lightness.
Based on the award-winning eponymous novel by Andy Weir, The Martian also stars Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover in important roles. Unlike Chastain, who met astronauts at NASA in preparation for her role, Damon focussed on staying fit to play his part.
“I think all the actors got really physically fit, because astronauts are very fit; so that was a big part of our day in pre-production,” said Damon, who is popular for his work in films such as the Bourne series, the Ocean’s trilogy, The Departed and Invictus.
For most part of the film, Damon is on his own and he believes the theme of rescuing and getting someone home is very powerful. “What’s powerful is the importance of one life and the idea that this type of exploration could be greater than one life, perhaps. The idea that people are willing to sacrifice things for ideas those are bigger than them. I thought all of that stuff was really powerful,” he added.
Talking about the shooting experience, the Academy Award-winning actor recalled that there were days when it all looked quite challenging and thanked his director for making everything easy. “There were days where there was a little discomfort here and there. I got a little hot when we got to Jordan and we were outside in the desert. But we had cooling suits underneath that could mitigate some of that. I think this movie would have been unbearable with a different director, with someone who’s not really sure of himself.”
“It would have taken about three times as long and would have been a much harder shoot, but with someone like Ridley, you know, he’s got four cameras going at once and he is just charging forwards with an absolute definitive vision of what he wants, and is communicating that to all his department heads. It’s just fun, it really is fun,” he recalled.
The actor also talked about his best friend and fellow actor Ben Affleck. “There’s nobody who’s more misunderstood. Ten years ago, the public image of him could not have been farther apart from who he actually is,” he said. “It was like he was being cast in a role, that he was a talentless kind of meathead, with his whole relationship with Jennifer Lopez. He just got cast as this person that he wasn’t.”
Damon, 44, added that 43-year-old Affleck’s career, which included a 2013 Best Picture Oscar for Argo, might just be more impressive than his own. “Through his work, he climbed from the bottom of the mountain all the way back up to the top. And past where either of us had ever been.”
The actor said watching his childhood friend suffer was hard. “It was just really painful. It was painful to be his friend, because it wasn’t fair, you know? To my mind, nobody really got him at all.”
The Martian releases in cinemas on Friday and will be dubbed in three languages -- Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.