'Downsizing' star Matt Damon talks his role in the small world

Damon appears on "Popcorn With Peter Travers" and talks about why he wanted to work with director Alexander Payne on the new movie "Downsizing."
16:44 | 12/18/17

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Transcript for 'Downsizing' star Matt Damon talks his role in the small world
Please state your full legal names. IG lost six chronic. Paul Norris so chronic. And do you understand that of your own free will you will undergo the permanent and irreversible medical procedure commonly known as downsizing. And that following the procedure your bodies will be approximately eight point 0364%. Of their current mass tonight. I'm sorry I need he returned home. Yes. Youth and do you understands that there exists and approximately one in 225000. Chance that the procedure could result. In injury permanent disability art. Yes yes. Yes. Hi everybody I am Peter Travers and welcome to popcorn where we tell you what's happening at the movies and there's a movie now quote downsizing. Starring my guest Matt Damon who is a big star but he shrunk down to below life size in this what do you five inches. Highlands is thought I'd insist law does feel left. Let it live when I first and Alexander Payne who's one of my absolute favorite directors this summit my bucket list forever and and when he came to me in that I have something we could do together I got really excited many pits this idea and at first but but it was okay he actually thinks so absurd. But it is it's a satire and it's about. You know if you just go with the premise that you know these Norwegian scientists have perfected this method of shrinking a Stan. As a way of offsetting climate change then you know as is as dumb as that sounds than the rest of the movie. Ultimately some of them in the movie isn't talents with the trump still president while you which rock right what we've made it and we made it before the election out so it wasn't that would have anything it doesn't have any politics like that you know and and in any partisan. But set up a little besides this fronted thing is that you Kristen Wiig married. And write a whole thing happening in the world where we can make the personal choice. Yeah and and a lot of you know it's like 3% of the global population starts to do this because. Based they realize you know forget about the climate change things like we could actually consume more if we're small right to you can have like. The equivalent of of a 7000 square foot mansion and and and it acres upon acres for the for you know effort for the size of this rug. You know you can you can live like thing in you can kind of have here your real American dream that you can't quite attain in the big world that you could have and in the little world and if you just make this choice that outside. It's funny because I was completely sold when I was watching it too I thought well Hong. This makes cents you know. I mean it's just people have any cell phones that are still attached. Known it was him in the art department and and you know the credited the production design everybody did a really beautiful job creating you know they did like though the wood on the wall when your in the small world. The grain in the woods you know of the union of the stand by appears to be used you know they'd come in and do it means beautiful like. You can see the grain and you could really feel like you're in the small world. You know it's it's it's. And it the way he pitched it to me. Was. And you'll appreciate this he said I want to make how Aspin as massive special effects. Disappear and and that really is what he what he did it because we don't see it. We're not watching it like it's this giant epic and we're going to do it right like these real people rather have kind of a crappy mid level. Job yeah home where leaving is probably not such a big thing right rank and and and I've I'm kind of a source of disappointment I guess from my wife slightly know that kind of goes on mentioned that we can't really live in the house that we want to live and I we just can't. Kind of make our American dream work and so we we make the tough decisions. To go small so than a thousand boxes worth. Right well I mean they've there's a whole scene where we're we're kind of pitched on the small life and and are kind of our life savings you know. Which is kind of a sixth in a hundred grand turns and to you know. Twelve million dollars and you can live on for the rescue alive it is the equivalent you know is in in the small world with. I mean it but it also says in a very Alexander Payne wet which means there's no sermon say Brett goes on it. It just comes out of the character it's what I love about his movie of about all of his movies that's why I was chasing them so long as the director mean his movies have that beautiful did you have to fight to to get in the this are you telling me that well is chasing Alexander Payne and saying it's that he did he never had a role for me I'm in her role that. He didn't have some you know it's like. You never know when when when the right thing will come along you know that your right force so so yeah you what you do kind of chase these people you do let them know. You kind of put your for your flag up and say hey I'm here if you. You know I really would love the work with the which is what I told them in 1999 when I met him we were in a Sherry Lansing was running Paramount at the time and she had a kind of an end of the year party for. The films that they'd done and he had done election and I'd done Townes mr. Ripley that your and so we were both that this. Kind of affair and and and it was the one time Edmonton and and I just atlas and I. Really hope to work with someday. I mean and it's totally shameless when it comes to getting a job. I think that great that you do that I'm sorry to be eighteen years I would that we could you know. Eight you know that's what it it. Really but now I can do it and you want to shrink to five in Washington apartment just body might be pumping me when he was telling me if the premise that you get it in. Character to play that because basically you're you. Except what's great and many things are great about this ruby but especially is the adjustment. What impact the yeah hair grows everything they it will go through that machine there's that great sequence it's. And it feels like a Stanley Kubrick sequence from the militant it's just so dehumanizing Mike is that kind of shave the hair off her body. You have to go get your fillings removed so your head doesn't explode when you get through this. So it's it's very you know it's like every studies night median of its just this. Your unconscious and all these things are happening to human. It's it's a kind of a lovely sequence that mean he he's such a great shot maker he so meticulous about. What I loved about working with him was was. You know their directors who don't know what they're doing to a lot of coverage right in and you're just spinning your wheels and but the great directors will cutting camera you know so every shot that you're making is this you know 90% of homer in the movie and so on. And right end and so if you have to do fifty Tate's of this shot that you're trying to make in China debt that's fine. You know because it's going to be in the movie it's when you're doing fifty takes of a shot that the director isn't sure. Oh well let's just get this just in case you're going like you do enough of those and you're going you you're just gonna figures this. Theater you have no idea what you're doing and the kind of spinning everybody's wheels here and and what was so fun about we're going to Alexander's he does do a lot of takes mean but he does the kind of the exact number of shots that are required freed scenes everybody's really involved and every single shot and and every single taken when you get it you have this real sense of accomplishment as you know you just made something that's going to be in the final product. Do you still would've watch it as it's going along with do you watch what they used to call rushes but now that you could see in in a monitor yet now you can see it and yes like the human some people take it to a completely different yet Soderbergh. When we did behind a candelabra. Everybody got an iPad. And and you could go onto the this website called picks and with Stephen would do he would shoot. And and cut the film. So I would literally go home and with Soderbergh he finished at 5 o'clock I would go home I would have dinner with my family I would you know put the kids to bed. And I would come that act answers by the time I was downstairs. I would have a new you know new you know you have a delivery on the Texas and I go look at and it would be that day's work. Completely cut together with music with as a hear them I mean so he's he's nuts but he can do that. But what that doesn't actors it gives you this incredible. Advantage which is that if you're doing like that movie was about this kind of tiered deterioration of this relationship between this couple and you could look at. You know exactly the scene before this is where we're gonna come out of him. So you can really you can calibrate your performance so you know where you will know exactly where you what I did they are you saying. Steve what. Yeah well we you'd think that exactly I don't wanna do this you know really and notes to Michael Douglas and say you know come on you're over the top here riots that rocked. By a but you could see how exactly how he was because an actor's one excuse is I didn't know what move videos. But while you were really bigger you really you really underplayed that you really over Clinton got in you know he's in the leaders she didn't really let me know what movie I was you know. And Stephen just removes all that guesswork because he's he calls it opening the kimono egos you know this is owed a movie it. At seven and Alexander's like that he so meticulous that you know he'd spent. He works you know he puts at a movie every probably three or four years because he writes it in you know he's vary vary. Meticulous with with every single detail and and all of his actors know where they are all the time. And he's really great at communicating and that's why the performances in his movies are great you meticulous can sometimes mean. So discipline that you lose the human it was better that that's a great went meticulous can mean over controlling and he's not that either very available opened kind of what happens and opened it. Whatever great idea might occur that day. But he's but he's got a plan day and very thoughtful about that. Will win this movie takes to turn and I don't want to get into spoiler territory too much but. It does where and child comes into the that is a Vietnamese dissident yet and you meet up with her and she's got small initiatives. Ya gotta melt. Yesterday's seized figured this is bigger than anybody he really does but basically we're seeing with in this small world. This same things we see in the world that we live in now including Third World. Right well that's you know it's did did. You know it's you we downsize but -- we bring our problems with us me bring the same class structure with us we bring all of our humanity where that's the good and the bad and and and so the movie really follows this character that I play Paulson from it is he. You know it's Christoph Waltz plays this wonderful colorful character and he's this Serbian guy he's my neighbor and he does he doesn't like you foe alike he in his says you're a nice guy a little bit pathetic guy you know. Which is kind of what Paul is he's he's very nigh eve about the world that he lives and an about his place and it in the movie really kind of is this journey that he goes on the Odyssey that he goes on. Where he and and and Kong's characters is kind of the biggest part of that she opens his eyes to the what the real world news and and what and what has purposes in the real world. And in the fact that poverty will exist that fact classes and will exist that we go to do that but what about you what is what if you had that chants and somebody said to you. No watt you know we can help the environment. Everything would work. Would you shrink yourself down well. The answer is enough. I don't think anybody would go forward and incidents things a little ludicrous but. But look at your wife and daughters with day how you've got to do it that they were not go and we're not go no I mean but -- ultimately it's a metaphor for you know why we let people treat a small island and and and on that I mean I just I just I love I just love the movie I wouldn't I wouldn't change a frame of it you know and indeed and as you know you don't always feel that way. You their scenes that you wish you could have packed their things that don't quite co here. Happens when that happens it happens to react yeah especially happens to somebody like you who takes risks. There are certain ways you can do as an actor and a movie star which she well. We're people saying will just do work before why don't you just do Good Will Hunting for amber Graham will be really happy with. That yeah I mean that's another that's this kind of I I think. I lived in fear of getting put into a box of being told to this again because I'd seen early in my career actors who were not excited to go to work because they were gonna have to do that thing again. And kind of made a pact with myself that I would always try to. Pushing go in different directions and and tipped it to not get put into monks like that because that that's just as bad to me is not working in. You know but but but when you try. It it doesn't work it doesn't connect with an audience in some way I how does it hurt does at her of horrible. It's terrible it's painful and I actually think the real mark of a professional actor. Is. Knowing that what you're doing is not working right that the movie is not working and I'm not gonna name any of the movies that done that but I have been in the situation. Where. I have them I had I become immediately aware this is not this isn't going to be good and you still have four months ago. To shoot it and and to show up every day. And bitterly give it everything in it's always harder to do those movies than it is the Good Will Hunting that are just flicking and you know. Mom. And to show up every day and and and not bail emotionally on the movie years you know or or or are you know or let. The morale around you crumble you know it's like to keep kind of wing people on and on a sinking ship is really to me the market but what a professional. Like that. That that's the half. It's think that we you have to keep it Alexander Payne always refers to you in this movie as the captain of the ship. As other than himself that you have to basically be there. For everybody else right through other actors everybody. In and and B and come with the good spirit you know I. Robin Williams was it was an unbelievable. Kind of teacher in that way like I mean. He did what what nobody I've ever seen has ever been able to do which he would just do standup comedy he would see the crew flagging he would see everybody's. Energy start to weighing in he it was like he would just pick up the entire crew and put in put him on his back and just he just do ten minutes of like off the top of this had stuff. That was side splitting and everyone would be on the floor and then impede the correct OK let's get back to work and everybody would come back energized than. I mean that he can meet that trends he was the only one I've ever seen him into that you know then they're the Tom Hanks of the world who just you know. Who just you just look at him you're like I wanna be at work Smith faculty of the fifth it out. And and and a lot of the great professional actors that I've worked with their like that. And and that's that's a good model OK so let's be optimistic in the years coming November what do you want for your new year. You wish for besides I don't Jimmy Kimmel for real. Yeah because that's like that hotline at leaders who have seen. When I saw you actually wheeled on what religion the Clooney's twins I we're does this man if you about a weekend that that was as close as you actually got read other than being in bin half acts of body thing I've tried numerous ways to get to get on 21 day will be achieved through video clip I hope free. That's my dream that's my goal is that's when he eighteen is really that's going to be my focus. I said to him. When I saw you in acts because this show always dance and song. That I would ask him I said I would ask met his biggest phone for you that was only for you Jimmy and I think there must be when in your head. That's everything you feel about it. God on there Haston. That does have to be I wish that bought a one you've got a friend. Something that would he doesn't he doesn't doesn't get friend. Netanyahu. What's the kind of the most vicious anger kind of attacks on who think I have to be wrapped software and if you have to. It we have to be something. Of the clos. Yeah I was and then and it but. Do you know that. He changed it to forget you evict the reds the original 100 no explicit version restless. You and and to you didn't hear that. That that's the image that for you that happy holiday. Thanks Peter did this if at.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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