Matt Damon on women’s rights
The goal is “equal opportunities for all people”
“The Last Duel” is about a rape that leads to a duel. Matt Damon explains why he wanted to tell this story.
“The Last Duel” is set in France in the 14th century, but in view of the debates about women’s rights and equality it seems topical: in the historical epic (theatrical release: October 14th) by director Ridley Scott (83), the last one comes from a French court arranged duel. Opposite each other are a knight (Matt Damon, 51) and a squire (Adam Driver, 37). The trigger for the fight: The knight’s wife (Jodie Comer, 28) accuses her husband’s boyfriend of raping her. The script comes from Damon himself and his buddy Ben Affleck (49).
In an interview with the news agency spot on news, Damon explains why he and Affleck wanted to tell the exciting story from all perspectives of the main characters and what reaction the duo is hoping for from the audience. The Oscar winner also reveals what it was like to work with his boyfriend again and how he celebrated his birthday last week.
“The Last Duel” is based on a book by Eric Jager. What attracted you to the story set in medieval France?
Matt Damon: It’s about these very violent men who were born in the middle of the Hundred Years War. So they know nothing but violence. They die and the war still goes on. While reading the book, I didn’t know what it was about at first, and then suddenly I noticed this female figure. She is an incredibly heroic person and has the courage to speak the truth – despite the great pressure of her time and the risk and peril. I thought, “Wow, this is something to make a movie about!”
This woman, played by Jodie Comer, accuses Adam Driver’s character of raping her.
Damon: Exactly. I was drawn to your courage at this point in the story. And then I thought about the aspect of each person’s unique perspective. Ben and I started getting excited about the idea of telling the story from three different perspectives – that of myself, Adam Drivers and Jodie Comer’s characters. However, she is the only one who seems to understand that as a woman she is also a human being.
… and not a man’s property.
Damon: Yeah. So your perspective is immensely different from that of the others and we found that very interesting. It was the whole culture of the time that abused this woman. Not just one person. The system into which she was born did not even see her as a human being, but purely as a possession. And she should accept this system. She stepped out there with true courage and expressed her humanity.
And that is still a very topical issue with regard to the #MeToo debate in recent years.
Damon: Exactly. Today we live in a world that is very different from then, but there are also many similarities. Hopefully today we will make progress on that.
You are the father of four daughters. Do you think that today we live in a time that is good for women?
Damon: There is still room for improvement. The goal is that there are equal opportunities and opportunities for all people. It doesn’t matter whether I have daughters or sons. I’ve always been of that opinion. Hopefully everyone sees it that way.
Are there other parallels between then and now?
Damon: That’s what the film tries to investigate. This was the previous culture from which ours developed. What are their holdovers today? But the audience has to think about it and find answers for itself. That’s a great compliment. Hopefully the film will stimulate discussion and people will reflect on their own lives.
What message do you want to convey to the audience?
Damon: Look at the story of Adam Driver’s character: He thinks he’s in love. He has adapted to this system that he lives in and he does not understand what he is doing. We as an audience would say, “You did something terrible!” But he is not aware of that. Perhaps the film makes people think about their own actions as well and ask themselves, “Was there a time when I did something too and didn’t understand what my actions were doing to someone else?”
You mentioned your buddy Ben Affleck earlier. You worked together again on this film. How was it?
Damon: (laughs) Terrible, terrible …
Are you hoping for a similar success to “Good Will Hunting” in 1997, when you won an Oscar together?
Damon: I don’t know. You can’t control this part. A lot depends on what is happening in the world and less on what you have created. For us the film production was enriching in itself. I would like to do something like that more often in my life. I’m over 50 now, so …
51, to be precise, since last week!
Damon: Yeah, exactly!
Did you have big plans for your birthday?
Damon: No. My family was from Boston, so we just had dinner at my house. That was pretty much it.