He’s smarter than I was expecting.
The interviewer asked him what it had been like working on the film ‘The Good Shepherd’.
Matt Damon said he’d learned a lot from Robert De Niro.
The interviewer asked how.
Matt Damon said it was because De Niro was an actor, but also the director.
This meant he had two totally different jobs, each with a totally different focus.
The job of a director was to explain what was going on to the audience.
But that wasn’t the actor’s job.
The actor’s job was to give a great performance, and leave any explaining to the director.
Matt Damon said that advice had been great for him because it had jarred him out the rut he was getting into.
Matt Damon is an award winning screenwriter, as well as an actor.
He said he‘d never had the difference explained to him before.
As a screenwriter he’d be thinking about post-production.
Explaining the story.
Making sure the audience knew what was going on.
The problem was, he began doing that as an actor.
Trying to use his performance to explain what was happening.
And that isn’t an actor’s job.
When an actor begins to explain what’s happening, he modifies his performance to telegraph what he wants the audience to feel.
And that doesn’t look like real life.
It looks like hamming it up.
In real life, people often disguise what’s going on inside them.
The actor’s job is just to be the character.
To give a great and accurate performance.
The director’s (or screenwriter’s) job is to explain what’s happening to the audience.
They don’t need the actor to do their job for them.
When Matt Damon heard this, it freed him up to concentrate on giving the best performance.
Let the director and screenwriter worry about telling the story.
He should just worry about his performance.
Previously no one had told him there was a difference in the roles.
That they were totally different jobs.
But once De Niro explained it to him, it was obvious.
That’s how any great team works.
Everyone does a different job.
That’s how any great team wins.
In football, you don’t get all 11 players running everywhere together all over the pitch, constantly following the ball.
Everyone looks after their own job.
Everyone stays in position.
And the ball gets passed between them.
And everyone is where they’re expected to be, doing their own job.
That’s how a team works.
No one person does it all.
That’s why we all work better with people we trust.
We don’t try to do their job.
We concentrate on our job.
Matt Damon could concentrate on doing a better job of acting if he let Robert De Niro concentrate on directing.
That’s why it seems critical to me to realise there are different kinds of thinking.
And different jobs require different thinking.
The lesson for me, is that we need to appreciate the differences.
We don’t want to end up with people who think it’s their job to do everyone’s job.
We need people who know what their own job is.
And do it brilliantly.
And instead of doing two jobs at 50%, or four jobs at 25%, just do one job at 100%.