Interview: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU actors Matt Damon and Emily Blunt
What would you do if you found out your entire life was planned for you? And what if the plan wasn't exactly what you wanted? In my case, I asked my good buddies Matt Damon and Emily Blunt for some assistance on the heavy subject matter.
Luckily, the duo just so happen to be starring in writer-director George Nolfi’s romance/thriller THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, which addresses the above questions directly. Based on the short story Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick, the film centers on the seemingly forbidden relationship between politician David Norris (Matt Damon) and dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). As the narrative continues, the two are kept apart by a mysterious team of adjusters (otherwise known as the adjustment bureau) who claim it’s in everyone’s best interest if they go their separate ways.
Was there ever a real-life moment where you felt fate was so strong that you could not ignore it?
Matt cunningly replied: "I think Emily's chance to work with me, must have been one of those moments..."
Emily shares: "I have one story which is pretty cool. I remember I didn't get into this very amazing school that my sister went to and I wanted to be just like my sister. It's this school called Westminster in London which is fiercely competitive. She gets in because she's a brainiac and I don't because I'm obviously not. So I remember at 16 just being completely devastated and my life was over and this was so sad. I ended up at my second choice school which had a good drama department - I previously hadn't considered acting. But, I did a play through my school that went to a festival, I got an agent, he's still my agent - and now I'm here with you. If I had gone to the other school I wouldn't be doing this job, guaranteed. Really, it was meant to happen that I never went there."
Matt: "Well clearly, for me, passing up the chance to be in AVATAR in order to do GREEN ZONE...no, just kidding. I do end up thinking about jobs, there are so many roads not taken. There is a Garth Brooks song, 'Thank God for Unanswered Prayers,' and I think of all those movies that I auditioned for and jobs I was desperate to get that I didn't get - that really turned out to be a blessing in disguise. And looking back at my life and my career and everything, as much as I tried to control as much as I could and worked as hard as I did, a lot of it really is down to luck. I would say one of the biggest ones is this Werner Herzog movie called RESCUE DAWN that Christian Bale did eight years ago. I was really strongly considering the role 8 years ago and instead, I met with the Farrelly brothers. My mother told me 'you don't always have to go into the jungle and loose a bunch of weight - you're allowed to have fun'. In the end I did the Farrelly brothers movie and that is where I met my wife. Four kids later...that was a pretty fateful decision."
Emily: "Well, my moment was actually better, just putting it out there. You went for the romance! You manipulated!"
Matt: "I went straight for AVATAR!"
In the film, your character really risks everything for love. What's the craziest thing you've done for love?
Matt: "Well, you build your life around someone, that's kind of crazy. But it's more incremental. There's no moment where I'm like Tom Cruise in BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY running down the street in the rain, that leaps to mind..."
Emily: "You should make that a moment."
Matt: "Oh, I will and just for no reason like... What the fuck are you doing?! I thought because it was raining..."
Matt: "Honestly, any minute I'm not working I go home - my wife and I have a two weeks rule. When I did TRUE GRIT, I asked Joel and Ethan to board the movie so I wasn't away for more than a week. I just took a big movie in LA so we are all there together. It's a pretty mundane life but we don't allow ourselves to be apart, so we don't really need those big dramatic moments. Running home, with flowers..."
If you were members of the Adjustment Bureau, what would you change?
Emily: "I'd want to mix it up with the hats I think. Maybe rock a baseball cap once in a while."
Matt: "You know, it's hard to answer that question without sounding like Miss America. Well, first of all, world peace. Secondly... "
Emily: "Which is another thing Matt turned down, aside from AVATAR!"
There's a very cool gimmick in the movie involving the doors that lead to all different places. You end up in a lot of iconic NYC locations and I'm wondering what that experience was like. Was it challenging, exhausting?
Emily: "I felt like a kid, it was so exciting to be able to shoot at the State of Liberty! The downfall, is that you have 400 random strangers watching you do a very emotional scene which is pretty embarrassing..."
Matt: "Yeah, we did this scene at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and obviously you can’t shut down the Statue of Liberty. So there are a bunch of people going to see the Statue of Liberty that see there is a movie being filmed and just sat there. We’re there yelling at each other like 'I LOVE YOU!' and then crew would go ‘cut!', there would be a pause and people would start clapping."
Emily: "There was one really bad moment were Matt finally managed to get it together. We were laughing because it was so mortifying the whole thing. Matt was there, he was really in it...and then some dickhead goes 'MATT DAMUUUN!' Matt looked at me said 'This is the worst day of my life!' So that was tough! Haha, but Yankee Stadium was cool."
Matt: "The magic trick aspect of it was cool. You had to build a little bit of the bathroom outside Yankee Stadium, outside of the door, so that the cut works. Matching exactly and making those transitions seamless was tricky, but it was just really fun stuff to work out with a group of people."
At the heart of the film is a very intimate relationship. How did you two build that chemistry when you're working with a subject matter that's so "out there"?
Emily: "For me, that was the tricky part. I think George encouraged to just submarine everything and be very naturalistic. The adjustment bureau aren't that MATRIX-esque, flying around on wires doing crazy stuff - they are pretty accessible, sci-fi characters. They wear hats and they go through doors, there is a simplicity of it. I always feel safer doing something natural, I think that it works for the movie, I think that it lends itself to the relationship. You really have to invest in the relationship, you have to really make that relationship authentic. We had a lot of fun with our scenes just because we wanted to find the right kind of chemistry for the characters in order for the audience to go on the journey with them and root for them. But I feel like I had the easier task because my character is not aware of this higher power throughout most of the movie. I think it was trickier for Matt to balance it."
Matt: "This is a love story with a whole other element in it. What really has to work and what we can control is the relationship between us. In terms of the tone, we are in different movies because she (Emily) is unaware of the adjustment bureau where this guy (myself) keeps disappearing on her and sees the bureau early on. I asked George, well what is the tone of this? Is it HEAVEN CAN WAIT? 'NO'! Is it the MATRIX? 'NO NO NO'! Then what the fuck is it?! Because it is weird - when you really start picking it apart - they are wearing fedoras and they going through doors. What it really works as, is the adjustment bureau is the obstacle to this love story and you really want these people to be together. It's kind of a simplistic version of the hand of fate. It's never going to be INCEPTION, it's never going to be that intricate and complicated - they walk through doors and wear hats. The bureau is in the way and you want this relationship to work."
Well, if there is one thing that's for certain, it is Matt and Emily's teamwork that truly makes the film work. Playing alongside the dynamic duo are Terence Stamp, John Slattery, and Anthony Mackie as the members of the Adjustment Bureau. For more, check out Kate's review of the film HERE.