Matt Damon dug into weighty Informant role

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      TORONTO—It’s not every day a movie star declares that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. However, that was one of the first issues Matt Damon addressed at a news conference for the premiere of his new movie, The Informant!, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

      Watch the trailer for The Informant!.

      People magazine’s 2007 “sexiest man alive” explained that an Internet rumour about his demise had gained enough currency that he phoned his parents to reassure them he was still alive, but he seemed more concerned about how the rumour spread than who started it. Despite the story’s dubious and possibly satirical origin, Damon said his publicist received calls from such mainstream-media outlets as CNN and the Boston Globe. “The misinformation, it can get around quickly because you motherfuckers are lazy,” Damon said. As the reporters burst out laughing, Damon added, “That’s how these things spread like wildfire.”

      Damon was sharing the podium with director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Scott Burns, and costars Scott Bakula and Melanie Lynskey.

      The issue of truth and rumours seemed appropriate for a movie that blurs the lines between the two. Back in 2000, Soderbergh released Erin Brockovich, his Oscar-winning movie about a heroic real-life whistle blower. The Informant! is a fun-house-mirror version of Brockovich, with Damon playing a much less heroic real-life whistle blower who imagines himself as James Bond while coming across as a less groovy version of Austin Powers. Informant! tells the true story of Mark Whitacre, an executive at the megacorporation Archer Daniels Midland who became an overly enthusiastic FBI mole, caught up in an elaborate sting against the corn industry for price-fixing.

      Where Julia Roberts glammed up and broke out the pushup bras as a woman who came off as too sexy and low-class to be taken seriously, Damon schlubbed down and put on 30 pounds, a fake nose, and a variety of wigs for the role of the smartest guy in the room. Roberts scored an Academy Award for her transformation, and Damon joked, “The only reason I did this movie was for an Oscar nomination.”

      Although Damon didn’t die, he did manage to rack up his cholesterol count for the role by packing on the pounds. He said that was because when he asked Soderbergh for thoughts on how he saw Whitacre, the director’s response was “doughy”.

      “I talked to [Robert] De Niro, and he had obviously piled on the pounds really famously for Raging Bull, putting on 60 pounds. And I asked him about it and he said, ”˜Well, the first 15 pounds are really fun and then you have to go to work after that.’ And it’s true—almost—because I found 30 pounds to be really fun,” Damon said. “I’ve never had that much fun making a movie.” His secret weight-gain diet? “I just ate whatever I wanted to.”