TCA Day Two: Matt Damon Makes History

PASADENA, Calif.–Maybe its just because I’m sitting next to the constantly clicking still photographers, but the buzz level seems to have jumped a notch on Day Two of press tour. I’m in a session now for The History Network with Matt Damon and Marisa Tomei, both very involved with a program called The People Speak. This is a different kind of show for the Hitler Channel; hiring actors to get up and read historical documents and speeches, especially moments when ordinary citizen`s stood up and changed history.
Even the inspiration behind this deal joked that this could be a turn off for non-history buffs. “As I’m describing it now, I’m getting bored,” joked author Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States).
It helps tha the actors are all A-list–Damon, Tomei, Josh Brolin, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle and musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Eddie Vedder. Somebody asked Damon what other musicians were on the series. “What–Dylan and Springsteen aren`t enough for you?”`he quipped.
Damon says he’s spent 10 years trying to get this “locomotive up the mountain” and said Zinn’s book had a “huge impact on my life.” He pitched through meeting after meeting at Fox and HBO trying to get this documentary series off the ground. HBO wanted stand alone, scripted films depicting different moments in U.S. history. “It was such a big project and so unwieldy, HBO eventually just ran out of gas for us.” he said. Now he`s happy to be at History and sticking to “actual words” (the actors reads through everything from private letters from Confederate soldiers to John Steinbeck`s words from The Grapes of Wrath). How did he get over all those network turn downs? Said Damon: “I’m an actor, I’m used to being rejected.”

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