‘Adjustment Bureau’ stars ponder fate versus free will
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – While neither Emily Blunt nor Matt Damon profess to be New Age-y advocates of either free will or fate, each star of the cosmic-romantic thriller “The Adjustment Bureau” can relate a personal story in which the hand of providence appears to have steered them on a path that profoundly shaped their current lives and careers.
Amid much furrow-browed contemplation over the movie’s philosophical quandary – do we control our own destiny, or is our fate preordained in the Big Book of Life? – the two stars sat down recently for a Universal Pictures press conference at the sky-high Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
“The Adjustment Bureau,” inspired by an intriguing Philip K. Dick short story titled “Adjustment Team,” casts Damon as David Norris, a Kennedy-esque New York politician on the brink of winning a U.S. Senate seat. Blunt plays Elise Sellas, a free-spirited ballet dancer whose bohemian allure spells love at first sight for the straight-arrow politician. But their unconventional love affair threatens to upset the ledgers of destiny, and so the dour men of the Adjustment Bureau work behind the scenes to keep David and Elise apart.
The stars were asked if either had experienced the hand of fate intervening in their own lives.
“I remember I didn’t get into this very amazing school that my sister went to, and I wanted to be just like my sister,” said Blunt (“The Devil Wears Prada”). “It’s a school called Westminster in London and it’s fiercely competitive. She gets in because she’s a brainiac, and I don’t because I’m obviously not. I remember at 16 just being devastated. I felt so inferior that I hadn’t gotten in.
“So I went to my second-choice school, which had a good drama department,” she said. “I previously hadn’t considered acting, but I did a play through my school that went to the Edinburgh Festival. I got an agent; he’s still my agent. And now I’m here with you nice people. And if I’d gone to Westminster I wouldn’t be doing this job. Guaranteed. So that was weird. At the time it seemed devastating and so sad, but really it was meant to happen.”
Damon (most recently seen in “True Grit” and “Hereafter”) initially joked about the question.
“Well, clearly for me, passing up the chance to be in ‘Avatar’ to do ‘Green Zone’ was one of those moments,” he said. “Because ‘Avatar’ didn’t do well and the DVD for ‘Green Zone’ is going to go right through the roof.”
Then, he considered it more seriously. “I do end up thinking about jobs. There are so many roads not taken. There’s a Garth Brooks song, it’s called something like ‘Thank God for Unanswered Prayers,’ and I think of all those movies I auditioned for and jobs I was desperate to get that I didn’t get that really turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“And looking back on my life and my career I feel like I tried to control as much as I could, but a lot of it is down to luck,” he said. “There was a Werner Herzog movie called ‘Rescue Dawn’ that Christian Bale did, and Werner and I were talking about that – this is eight years ago – about me possibly playing that role and I was really strongly considering it.
“But instead I met with the Farrelly brothers, and I remember talking to my mother and she said, ‘you know, you don’t always have to go into a jungle and lose a bunch of weight. You’re allowed to have a little fun,’” he recalled. “And I did the Farrelly brothers movie (conjoined twins comedy ‘Stuck on You’) and that was where I met my wife (Luciana). Four kids later, and I guess that was a pretty fateful decision.”
Passing on “Avatar?” Damon was asked if that was a dicey choice or a dire trick of fate.
“It wasn’t anything against ‘Avatar.’ I talked to (James) Cameron, I read the script, I knew the movie was going to be a very big hit, you could see,” he said with a sheepish grin. “And I really wanted to do ‘Avatar’ to work with Cameron and watch him direct, because I was going to learn a lot. It was just that we were finishing ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ and I couldn’t leave.
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