Matt Damon: Lost in space

Matt Damon poses for photographers as he arrives for the European premiere of "The Martian" in London's Leicester square.

Stranded in space, left helpless on land.

The Martian star Matt Damon has certainly experienced the worst of both worlds.

In the Ridley Scott-directed space flick which opens tomorrow, he plays NASA astronaut and botanist Mark Watney, who is left to fend for himself alone on Mars after he's presumed dead in the wake of a storm.

In real life, the 44-year-old US actor knows all too well what it feels like to be left to his own devices.

Blame it on how he used to have a fear of flying.

"Happily, I've never lived through anything where people thought I was dead. But I've been stranded a lot when I used to drive across the country in my 20s.

"Statistically, this is more dangerous (than flying) but I didn't like to fly," a ponytail-sporting, buff-bodied Damon told M back in May at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Damon, who has made more than 10 interstate drives across the US when he was younger, said he used to experience car breakdowns in the middle of nowhere in his battered car.

"If I did it now, I'd make sure I drive a nicer car," he joked.

"(The fear of flying) probably had to do with my age then and the lack of control I would have. Perhaps it was an extension of the lack of control I had in my own life. I've since outgrown it," he said.

In The Martian, Damon finds himself stranded and helpless again.

With no one to depend on, limited food and water, his character struggles to stay alive as he awaits rescue in a mission steeped in challenges.

The movie also stars Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara and Michael Pena.

Incidentally, The Martian comes just a year after Damon's uncredited top-secret cameo in Christopher Nolan's 2014 sci-fi space epic Interstellar, which also featured him stranded in space as the scheming Dr Mann.

Damon was quick to shoot down the parallels between both roles.

"It's so funny the way things come together like that sometimes. I've never played a character in space before this and suddenly, I have two such roles back to back.


"When I told (Scott) that I just played a guy stranded on a planet, he told me not to worry because this role is different. It's true. The Martian is more about the celebration of that instinct in all of us to help each other," he explained.

There is no telling if there will be a third space-related movie in the pipeline but Damon is not ruling out the possibility.

"I choose my roles based on who the director is and what the script is like so I'm open to anything. I love movies that take place in space but never got offered a good one... and then I was offered two.

"For me, if Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott comes along with movies in space, in the desert, or in the ocean, I'll do it. It's an easy decision," said Damon, who is currently filming the fifth Bourne movie, which sees him reprise his role as assassin Jason Bourne.

But the next time he's trapped in space with no way out, he would like to have these three things with him - his Argentinian wife Luciana Barroso, his four daughters (aged between five and 17) and the entire discography of Irish rock act U2.

Yes, even the controversial album Songs Of Innocence, he said, which was forced upon half a billion iTunes customers for free in their accounts last year as part of a promotion strategy between Apple and the band.

"I would like my wife with me so I wouldn't be alone. We need music too so the entire collection of U2's albums would be nice for a 'lonely outer space' experience. I have to take my children as well... that is, assuming we have food and water," he said.

This article was first published on September 30, 2015.
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