Matt Damon on the Sports Icon He’d Like to Chat Up Over Beer, Working on ‘Oppenheimer’ and More
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Matt Damon is inviting beer lovers to join him and a few starry friends for dinner in New York as part of a new Stella Artois campaign.
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The Air actor and Water.org co-founder stars alongside Zoe Saldaña, Ludacris and Jeremy Allen White in a commercial for the beer company’s “Let’s Do Dinner” contest, which will fly 15 lucky (and 21 and over) winners and their plus-ones to the Big Apple for a star-studded event featuring fare from renowned chefs, live performances and a guest list of some of the world’s most fascinating people.
The epic dinner party will also support Water.org, the nonprofit that Damon co-founded in 2009 with Gary White that works to bring safe water and sanitation to people living in poverty across Asia, Latin America and Africa. The organization partners with local financial institutions to help provide affordable microloans that allow people to buy their own water taps and toilets, eliminating the need to borrow from loan sharks and accrue debilitating debt.
Of Water.org’s partnership since 2015 with Stella Artois, Damon exclusively tells The Hollywood Reporter that the Anheuser-Busch company “has been really great at working Water.org into their PR and marketing and raising awareness of the mission.” The brewery has helped Water.org provide safe, clean water to over 4.5 million people overseas and earn 11 billion impressions around the world through Super Bowl ads, limited-edition charitable chalices, celebrity collaborations and more.
“There is a huge ripple effect for this issue because it absolutely transforms lives,” the 52-year-old actor explains to THR over a Zoom interview. “That’s why I like to go every year and meet people [around the world.] The difference between having access and not having access is incalculable. It’s the difference between a girl being in school or being consigned to trying to find water for her family.”
The Jason Bourne star recalls one 13-year-old girl in Haiti who still stands out in his memory. “My oldest happened to be 13 at the time, so I feel this unbelievable connection to this kid. Of course, she should be thinking about going and playing, rather than spending three or four hours of her day trying to find water for her family. So that was powerful on a personal level. But the scale of it and how many people we’ve been able to reach has been really exciting, both intellectually and spiritually.”
Since merging with White’s WaterPartners (which was founded in 1990 to help communities in Latin America), Water.org has helped to break down financial barriers to clean water for over 52 million people in Kenya, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and elsewhere. The organization also works across governmental, social and business sectors to support policy changes.
In the spirit of Stella Artois’ September soirée (the rest of the starry guest list is still under wraps), Damon reveals who he wishes he could catch up with over a frosty glass of beer.
“So many people come to mind. I just finished shooting last Friday, so I feel out of touch with all of my friends, so even a dinner with friends sounds pretty great too,” says the Cambridge-bred filmmaker. “But I can think of one Boston sports figure — you know how recently passed away? [Celtics great] Bill Russell, who I never got to meet. He was a great basketball player, but a really incredible person. I wish I had a chance to have a beer with Bill Russell.
There are these iconic stories about him. He was a really important figure in the Civil Rights Movement, and he was just a really brave guy, especially living in Boston at that time. He was an iconoclast, he’s just a legend there. People like autographs in Boston. Bill Russell would never give an autograph, what he would do is he would say, ‘I won’t sign that, but I’ll shake your hand.’ He would shake somebody’s hand and look them in the eye, the whole idea being [about] connection, and that became a real connection. He wanted to have a real connection with the person and not scribble something on a piece of paper that would probably get lost.”
Following his starring role in Air (streaming now on Prime Video), Damon next appears on the big screen as Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves Jr. in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, the biopic that stars Cillian Murphy as the physicist “and father of the atomic bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer. Out in theaters July 21 (tickets available online at Fandango), the film also features Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman, Jack Quaid and Rami Malek.
“Cillian is just flat-out incredible in this movie, the whole thing really rests on his shoulders. It’s a remarkable performance, I can’t wait for people to just see that,” says Damon. “But the truth is as important as the subject matter is, it’s really fun working with Chris! He’s so good at what he does that it just a really enjoyable experience and for me as a lifelong filmmaker, just to be able to watch him make decisions under pressure is really, it’s about as fun as it gets for me at work. I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to the movie, I had a chance to see it recently and I was really blown away, I’m excited for everyone to see it.”
The film also clocks in at about three hours — which may be among Nolan’s and Damon’s longest movies to date. Damon’s The Bourne Legacy was 135 minutes, and the director’s Interstellar, in which the actor also appears, was 169 minutes.
“It’s funny, [Nolan] plays with time so much, it’s almost like he plays with our time in the movie, especially with the pace. It did not feel like the movie was three hours,” he says.
Stella Artois is available to buy online through Drizly, Gopuff, DoorDash, Instacart and other on-demand and traditional retailers and grocers. Watch Damon and his Hollywood co-stars in the brand’s new spot below, and learn more about the Let’s Do Dinner campaign online here.
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