Matt Damon Learned a Heartbreaking Lesson from Francis Ford Coppola Making ‘The Rainmaker’

The Rainmaker was Matt Damon’s first lead role in a movie. It came out a month before Good Will Hunting changed everything for Damon. Damon would become a Hollywood leading man, heading the Bourne franchise and starring in more acclaimed films. Francis Ford Coppola directed The Rainmaker and taught Damon a bittersweet lesson about the movie business. 

The Rainmaker: Matt Damon addresses the jury
Matt Damon | Paramount/Getty Images

Damon was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast on July 26 to discuss his latest movie, Stillwater. Maron and Damon commiserated on the phenomenon of movie casts and crews becoming so close temporarily, only to have to separate and usually never see each other again. Damon said Coppola made him realize this. 

Not even Francis Ford Coppola can make Matt Damon any guarantees

Coppola tried his hand at the John Grisham phenomenon with The Rainmaker. Damon played an ambitious lawyer going up against an insurance corporation. It was an experience Damon wished he could repeat, and never could in exactly the same way.

“I remember saying that to Coppola at the end of The Rainmaker,” Damon told Maron. “I sat down with him and I said, ‘I’ve had the best time.’ It was this unbelievable experience. It was so great and I said, ‘I really hope we can do this again.’ And he looked at me and completley earnestly said, ‘So do I.’”

Matt Damon understands you can’t go home again

24 years later, Damon understands the paths a career takes. In 1997, he was astonished that Coppola didn’t have the clout to recreate the experience. This was the director of The Godfather, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wait, but you’re Francis Ford Coppola. Can’t you just make it happen?’” Damon recalled. “It kind of hit me like oh no, we’re all reacting. We’ve got to go where the material takes us.”

Francis Ford Coppola arrives at the premiere of the Rainmaker
Francis Ford Coppola | Steve Granitz/WireImage

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Damon confirmed that he’s had many such experience in the subsequent decades and a half.

“It is a business that you come together and have these intense working relationships with people for four months,” Damon said. “You have a life that requires nurturing and care.”

The Francis Ford Coppola effect in action

Almost 10 years after The Rainmaker, Damon saw another example of what Coppola meant. Damon himself inadvertently organized a reunion on the set of the film The Good Shepherd with Robert De Niro.

Matt Damon stands in his office in 'The Rainmaker'
Matt Damon | Paramount/Getty Images

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“As we were in London, we were shooting at night and Terry Gilliam came down because I had worked with him a few years earlier on The Brothers Grimm,” Damon said. “When we broke for lunch which was dinner, because we were shooting at night, we all went to Chez Jay which is this little place in the West End, and sat down. Terry and Bob looked at each other and they realized it had been 20 years since they did Brazil. They both kinda nodded like wow.”

Source: WTF with Marc Maron podcast