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Matt Damon Schmoozes About Directors

Actor Tony Sirico, center, who plays Paulie Walnuts, catches some rays outside the fictional Satriale's Pork Store in Kearny, N.J., in a scene from the HBO drama "The Sopranos" on March 21, 2007. Even though "The Sopranos" have been regulars in the neighborhood, filming at Satriale's for years, residents who came out to watch the filming said they are still excited when the show returns.
AP Photo/Mike Derer
He hasn't been making movies a long time, but Oscar winner Matt Damon has worked with some of the finest film directors in the world. He spoke with CBS News Entertainment Correspondent Mark McEwen about what it was like to work with Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and the Coen brothers.

Damon says the Coen brothers' Fargo is one of his favorite movies from the 1990s (along with Goodfellas, Sling Blade, The Ice Storm and To Die For.

"With every one of their movies…they take you to a different place," said Damon. "Fargo is different from anything else."

He says Fargo's script and direction are "brilliant" and the acting is "fantastic."

Damon worked with Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan, and says the director is a "genius."

"He's a prodigy now who has years and years of experience," said Damon. "The thing that always stuck with me about working with him is he didn't storyboard Saving Private Ryan."

Storyboarding is the process where the director plans a detailed road map for the shooting he'll do that day, drawing shots and scenes similar to a comic strip, but much larger in format.

"I asked him one day where the storyboards were, and he just looked at me like, and said, 'I don't use storyboards. I'm just doing this off the top of my head.' And the shots, I mean, they go on for minutes at a time. There are tanks, and explosions and people running, this incredible tension in all these shots," recalled Damon. "I said, I mean, 'How are you doing that without storyboards?' And he looked at me and said, 'That's the rush. That's the rush.' I couldn't believe it."

Damon worked with director Francis Ford Coppola on the film Rainmaker, and said it's Coppola's ability to get his actors to bond with one another that makes his films so special.

"Francis, he'll run improvisations that go on for two weeks. The first thing he wants you to do is make a fool of yourself. He gets everybody in a group and just kind of starts playing these games where, you know, you're making these weird sounds and stuff and you feel like a total jackass but you see he's doing it too. When you see him doing it, all these walls break down and it creates this kind of freedom, this environment of total freedom," said Damon.

Last year Damon worked with Robert Redford on The Legend of Bagger Vance.

"Being an actor, he's really easy to talk to. He gives his direction fairly simple and very helpful. And he's really in tune to what everyone's going through," said Damon. "The atmosphere on the set is very calm, very relaxed. He doesn't raise his voice. He's very quiet. You almost have to lean in to hear him talk. Even if you're sitting this close to him, you're straining to hear him. And that kind of serenity…infuses itself in all of his movies, I think."

Recently amon began production on the eagerly anticipated remake Oceans Eleven, along with Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Steven Soderbergh, the man behind Erin Brockovich and Traffic, is directing.

Damon was born on Oct. 8, 1970 and grew up in a privileged home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He lived down the block from his friend and frequent collaborator Ben Affleck. They met when Damon was 10 (and Affleck was eight), according to Hollywood.com.

Damon attended Harvard for three years and then quit to become an actor. He had a small part in Mystic Pizza and a bigger part in School Ties, but his biggest break he created along with Affleck: they rewrote a screenplay Damon had begun in an English class at Harvard – Good Will Hunting. Miramax agreed to do the film with Gus Van Sant directing, and Robin Williams, Damon and Affleck co-starring. Damon and Affleck won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Since then, Damon has worked steadily.

Matt Damon's filmography:
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Titan A.E. (2000)
Dogma (1999)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Rounders (1998)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Rainmaker (1997)
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Glory Daze (1996)
The Good Old Boys (1995)
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
School Ties (1992)
Rising Son (1990)
Mystic Pizza (1988)

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