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Weighty matters for multi-talented Damon; Shereen Low chats to Hollywood star Matt Damon about his latest role.

THE last time Matt Damon had to change the way he looked for a movie role, he lost 40 pounds in 100 days and ended up on medication.

This time the star of the Bourne trilogy says that gaining around 30 pounds to play whistle-blower Mark Whitacre in The Informant! was slightly more enjoyable.

"I felt terrific, I really did love it," the 39-year-old reveals, before adding: "The gaining weight was alarmingly easy - just drinking beer, a lot of beer, and eating pizza and burgers, all the stuff you would normally tell yourself not to eat.

"If I wasn't eating a normal meal, I was eating Doritos and junk food, to pack it on."

In The Informant, the Boston native - who now shows no sign of that extra weight - moves away from his traditional 'Bourne Identity' and joins the more sedentary figures behind the world of American business.

Surprisingly, his wife of three years, Luciana, gave the thumbs up to his new chubbier look.

"There was just more of me to love," he laughs. "She was a good sport about it, and we had fun. I love parading around with my belly, and my stepdaughter thought it was really funny too."

Not only did the father-of-three put on weight for the Steven Soderbergh-directed movie, he also donned a dodgy barnet and moustache.

And he had to pad his cheeks to make his face rounder.

"Every day, people would come and watch us shoot, and invariably, somebody would say, 'Wow, you are so much better-looking in person'. I would say, 'Thank you' but would wonder if it was the wig, the moustache, the 30 pounds, the fake nose or the wardrobe. I don't know what this says about the mid-west but the people are extraordinarily polite."

The dark comedy, which is based on a true story, is set in Illinois, home to the original informant in the mid-Nineties.

Matt, who won an Academy Award for his joint screenplay of Good Will Hunting with best mate Ben Affleck, jokes that the reason behind him saying 'Yes' to playing Mark is to nab himself further Oscar glory.

The multi-talented actor, who has branched out into producing, hasn't always been on a winning streak. When director Steven Soderbergh rang him almost 10 years ago, about Ocean's Eleven, Damon initially thought that he was being offered a writing job.

"I had just done two movies, which really tanked.

"I was thinking that I was going to have to go back to writing because nobody had offered me a job in about nine months."

The offer of a starring role "was the most unlikely phone call I felt like I could get."

The Informant! marks his fifth reunion with the renowned director.

After 1997's Good Will Hunting made him a household name, Damon has taken on a wide range of roles, from the eponymous murderer in The Talented Mr Ripley to amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne.

Next up is the Clint Eastwooddirected Invictus with Morgan Freeman, which already has Oscar buzz, and thriller Green Zone.

Away from Hollywood blockbusters, Matt is known for his ongoing playful relationship with US comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman, and is also featured on Team America: World Police as a puppet voiced by South Park's Trey Parker. * The Informant! is out in cinemas next Friday. Read a review in next week's Culture pages.


NEW LOOK Matt Damon, centre right, as Mark Whitacre and Rick Overton as Terry Wilson in the Informant.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 13, 2009
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