Matt Damon has said researching his film Stillwater taught him humans are connected, despite politicians “stoking the divides” in their own self-interest.
In Stillwater, the Hollywood star, 50, plays an Oklahoma oil rig worker who flies to France after his estranged daughter is arrested and falsely accused of murdering her girlfriend while studying in Marseille.
The film is loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, who earlier this week criticised the project as presenting “just the tabloid conspiracy guiltier version of me”.
Speaking to the Big Issue, Damon recalled how he developed “tremendous empathy” for his character Bill Baker, who he called a “roughneck” – a term describing someone working hard manual labour.
He said: “That’s a very specific thing and we were so lucky because these roughnecks gave us incredible access
“We went down there, drove in their trucks all over Oklahoma to different oil rigs, they showed us how they do their job, brought us to their houses, we had barbecues with their families.
“And you just soak up so much when you’re walking in someone else’s shoes – or at least walking next to them.
He added: “I always walked away from those research trips going, ‘God, the things that connect us are so much greater than the things that divide us’.
“The politicians will always stoke the divides because it’s in their self-interest.
“But when we can just get together? They live differently down there than I grew up, but how would I live if I lived in rural Oklahoma?
“They’ve chosen to organise their lives in a different way, but it makes total sense if that’s where you are. And then you start to make those connections.
“As an actor, I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t believe that. We’re all connected and your experience dictates the type of person you are. The big things are all the same.”
Damon also reflected on his career, saying: “I just want to keep doing it. This is all I wanted to do, and I’m happy to report that I’m still really having fun.
“And I’m getting better at it too, and that’s exciting.
“I always looked forward to being an experienced actor on top of everything else. And maybe a wiser one.”
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