Matt Damon Wasn't Very Interested In The Science Behind The Martian

A lot of Hollywood's greatest actors are willing to do almost anything to get into character. From method thespians like Daniel Day-Lewis willing to alienate everyone they work with, to folks like Christian Bale going through dangerous body transformations, some actors are willing to go to some wild lengths for the sake of their craft.

It's interesting to imagine the reality where someone like Day-Lewis had accepted the lead role in Ridley Scott's "The Martian." Based on the 2011 Andy Weir novel, the film follows astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes stranded alone on the planet Mars after a severe dust storm forces his team to blast off of the planet without him. This forced Watney to scramble to survive on his own with only his wits and his will to live. In the universe where Day-Lewis is our Mark Watney, you can imagine him spending his time on set starving himself to better reflect the character's struggle to make enough food for himself on Mars. Day-Lewis would also have become an overnight expert on botany, the field Watney specializes in, as well as the basics of space travel and other scientific fields. It would have been insufferable to work with him, but the results would have been another marvelous performance by one of the greatest actors in the world.

Matt Damon, who played the lead role in our reality, did not do these things. Damon is a much more normal guy than the actors I've already named, and he did not starve himself for the role; they can fake that effect nowadays anyway. And according to a Collider interview, Damon also had no interest in learning any science in preparation for the part.

'Why don't you just try acting?'

Most of us fall into one of two categories: You're either a science person or a humanities person. It makes sense that most professional actors would lean towards the humanities there, and it seems Matt Damon is no exception. Damon was not worried about learning the science behind his role in "The Martian," according to a 2015 Collider interview.

When asked if he did research for the role, Damon was pretty flippant about the idea.

"Not at all. You can if you want to, but it's acting. If it's done right, the audience should believe it. I think it's always good when an actor knows what they're saying. You can see when you watch an actor who's talking and he literally doesn't have any idea what they're talking about, that comes across. But if you know in general terms what it is and what the obstacles are, then you don't have to know."

In this quote, Damon reveals a knowledge of something many modern actors seem to forget: Acting is about pretending! You can do as much method preparation as you like, but ultimately, you can usually get by if you read and understand the script well. Damon's casual attitude toward his life's work is probably why he and Ridley Scott were able to tear through filming "The Martian," whereas productions with method actors can be drawn out and difficult.

Method acting clearly has its place and can be effective. There's a reason Daniel Day-Lewis is held in such high esteem. But sometimes it's important to remember the words of the legendary Lawrence Olivier, who was frustrated on the set of "Marathon Man" by co-star Dustin Hoffman's methods: "My dear boy, why don't you just try acting?"