BY DONNA FREYDKIN
His film, "The Martian," has to date brought home $225.9 million domestically. Nice work, for a film about an astronaut stranded on the red planet. And it's got Matt Damon's name being bandied about as an Oscar front-runner.
But ask Damon about the whole horse race, which has prognosticators who border on the obsessive, and he has two words for you: Ridley Scott.
The director of "The Martian" has released a slew of iconic films -- "Gladiator," "Thelma and Louise" and "Alien" -- but hasn't yet taken home a best director statuette. Damon is crossing his fingers that on Feb. 28, that will change.
"The assumption was that he had one because of 'Gladiator' winning best picture. It diminishes the award that he doesn't have one. The Oscars don't always get it right. Kubrick didn't have one. But this is Ridley's year," says Damon.
The actor, who's shooting the next installment of the Jason Bourne franchise, took a one-day break from filming to gladhand in Manhattan and promote "The Martian." Given that he won an Oscar as a fresh-faced newbie for writing 1997's "Good Will Hunting," surely he's a pro at this stuff? Not quite.
"It's all so different now than it was 18 years ago. There was none of this stuff. It seems much more like a political campaign now. It's a little unseemly. Someone described it to me as, people get crazy eyes. It's just that thing, like 'Lord of the Rings,' people get a little precious. Awards do that to people," says Damon.
Which is why, he laughs, "I was lucky that I got the monkey off my back so young."
And he's the one most surprised that his movie became one of 2015's biggest blockbusters. The father of four never saw it coming.
"No way. No way. That's why there's no pressure. This has done so much for us already. I don't think I've ever had a movie this successful. You want every movie to find an audience. We've made enough that didn't work that we're smelling the roses," he says.
So Mr. Damon, do you have your awards season ensembles picked out yet?
"A tuxedo. If I get nominated! If I don't get nominated, I'll be in my PJs."