LOS ANGELES - Matt Damon is surrounded. There are lovely ladies all around him, but don't alert the tabloids - it has nothing to do with him being the star of Contagion, which currently reigns supreme at the box office. The estrogen squad actually surrounds the actor at home. More specifically, his wife, interior designer Luciana Barroso, and their four daughters: Alexia (Barroso's daughter from a previous union), Isabella, 4, Gia, 2, and a brand new infant daughter, Stella.
"I still think that I'm the guy who won the lottery," Damon says of his female-filled reality. But you could say that about his outstanding career as well. Contagion is just his latest in a long list of extremely successful films. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the plot revolves around Mother Nature taking further wrath on humans when a bat and pig interact and produce a killer virus. Damon plays Mitch, a husband who is so grief-stricken after losing his wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) to the virus that he goes overboard protecting his teen daughter as the disease sweeps Minneapolis, Chicago, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.
In real life, Damon chills out from all this cinematic stress at home. I caught up with him recently to find out more about his movie, as well as his romantic and comforting life with his girls:
First of all, congrats on turning 40 last year. Or is that just a misprint. You look like you're 30.
I wish it was a misprint. I'm on the other side of the hill now. I'm more puzzled by it. I don't feel like 40. But then again, I've been working consistently for 15 years and I have four kids. How did all this happen? It's all wonderful.
Tell us a little bit about Contagion. You have a tough scene where you find out your wife has passed away. Was that tough to do?
Very hard. At first, I said, "How do I do this scene? It's five minutes into the movie. Who cares if she dies? The audience isn't invested yet." I said to Steven, "Should I do…." Steven just said, "Should you do, the slump?" We talked to doctors who deliver death news and they told us that many men just slump a little and nothing registers when they hear this kind of news. They hear their wife is dead, slump a little and say, "OK, can I talk to her?" It just doesn't register.
When I look back, meeting my wife was one of the most incredible things that has ever happened to me. I can't imagine life without her. Then I think about everything else that happened to us, like having four kids, and I feel very blessed. I think you just have to be open to what happens in your life. You can't always plan everything, especially in your personal life. All that stuff happens by some series of coincidences. You just have to be open.
Now, you're a daddy to four gorgeous girls. Are you a protective father?
My wife's nickname for me is "Red Alert." I think I'm probably more protective after making this movie than I ever have been with the kids. I sometimes just check to see if the kids are breathing. I don't want to be a helicopter parent hovering over them. But I did have a flashlight near our bed for awhile. After the last earthquake, I put it there, but I'm not sure where it is now.
Were you a romantic guy when your wife was pregnant?
First of all, we weren't planning another one. Once we got over the initial shock, we got into the pregnancy groove again. I think as the guy you do what your wife says to do. I can tell you that the great thing about living in New York City is you can order anything online at any hour of the day. Whatever she is craving, they deliver. You can even enjoy some late night Ben & Jerry's together, which is romantic.
What is it really like being in a household of all women?
I just don't get a lot of time in the bathroom, but that's okay. I'm surrounded by beautiful girls. I'm a lucky guy.
Let's talk about "bros" for a moment. Any chance you'll work with Ben Affleck again?
We're always completely looking for a way to hook up. Ben has gone on to become so successful as a director and an actor now. It gives us a way to work together in different ways now. (He laughs). I guess 40 is not so bad.
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