Contagion is the critically acclaimed thriller which tells the story of the infectious paranoia and fear that accompany the spread of a lethal virus. Directed by Steven Soderbergh from an original screenplay by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum), Contagion brings together a stellar cast featuring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Inception), Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet.
We caught up with Matt Damon, who plays Mitch Emhoff in the movie, to chat about all things infection, viruses and blockbuster movies.
Entertainmentwise: Tell us about your character, Mitch Emhoff.
Matt Damon: He's a husband and a father who in very, very short order loses his wife and stepson and is left only with his daughter. He's immune to this super virus that has appeared on the scene, but he doesn't know if his daughter is and he basically spends the entire movie trying to protect his daughter.
EW: If this situation were to really happen, most of the audience would relate to your character because we'd all be in that situation.
Matt Damon: Yeah, exactly. He's very much the human hook for the movie because I think people will be able to identify with a guy who just gets broadsided by this virus but who still has his daughter and so is just fighting to keep her safe and healthy.
EW: Did you do any research for your role?
Matt Damon: No. Unlike all the people playing scientists, I didn't have to. My story is devoid of the science. It was all about the scene by scene execution with Anna –Jacoby-Heron], the girl who played my daughter and Gwyneth [Paltrow], who played my wife, who's terrific as always. That's the thing about working with [Steven] Soderbergh, it's just the best. We always try to find ways to do these scenes in unique but honest, truthful ways, like the scene in the hospital finding out that my wife is dead. It's a scene that's been done a thousand times and we really put our heads together to try to figure out how to do it in a way that had never been done but was still authentic and came up with something that I'm really, really proud of that's based on talking to these doctors who have this conversation all the time.
We started asking what the trends are and it turns out there was this reaction that I'd never seen in a movie before when somebody dies and people aren't expecting them to die. They literally can't take the information in, it's just too much and they're listening and “All right, uh-huh, yeah, all right. Okay; okay, yup. I understand.” and, and then they go, “But can I go talk to my wife?”
And we were like, “Really? That happens?” He goes, “Absolutely. It happens just as much as people bursting into tears.” That kind of stuff was really interesting and that's why I love working with Steven, he doesn't just settle for the patent way of doing something. He really wants to find a new way to do it that's interesting but that's also honest and not kind of a complete fabrication.
EW: This is a little bit of a reunion because you've worked with Steven five times?
Matt Damon: Yeah. Well including Che, six times now.
EW: So six times; and then you worked with Gwyneth before?
Matt Damon: Yeah, and Jude [Law]. But I didn't get any scenes with him, which was too bad. Steven just went after the whole cast in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
EW: Does that make it easier when you already have a familiarity with somebody?
Matt Damon: Yeah. I was more excited for Gwyneth to experience working with Steven Soderbergh because the first day she was like, “Are you kidding me?” It's very easy to work for him. He's very decisive, he's very open to collaboration, and he's very, very fast. So you end up doing work that you're really happy with and you're usually wrapped by lunch time. So it's just this weird thing where you get back to the hotel and you're like, “Did I do just do a 3-page scene? Wait, what happened?”
Its mind blowing the first time you work with him. I think Gwyneth’s head was spinning around a little bit. Everyone that works with Steven just tries to get on his next movie. It's a really rewarding experience creatively and personally it's a lot of fun. He's just a funny guy and he's a good guy and he's a fun person to spend time with.
Contagion is out on Blu-ray Triple Play, DVD and Digital Download on March 5th 2012. Check out the film's official trailer below.