How Matt Damon Was Involved in the Legal Battles Surrounding Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘Margaret’

Margaret, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, was made in 2006 and originally scheduled to release the following year. But Lonergan spent years struggling with Fox Searchlight Pictures over the final cut, which resulted in several lawsuits. A friend of Lonergan and an adamant champion of his work, Matt Damon played a small role in the film, a teacher named Mr. Aaron. In an interview with Bright Wall/Dark Room, Damon went into how he was caught up in Margaret‘s legal battles.

Actor Matt Damon poses in the press room at the 68th annual Directors Guild of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Matt Damon | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Matt Damon was in constant talks with Fox Searchlight

Though Damon played a small role in Margaret, he was very involved in the legal situation. He was close with Lonergan. So he did a good amount of supporting his friend during that time. But he also addressed the issue head-on by speaking with Fox.

“I knew it was in trouble and I was talking to him a lot through all of that,” he told Bright Wall/Dark Room. “And I was definitely involved in the whole thing—I mean, it was a real mess. I just remember back in 2008 spending hours and hours on the phone with Fox Searchlight and a lot of email exchanges back and forth and all that. And then the whole regime at Searchlight changed and a whole new regime came on—and this all went on for years.”

Eventually, Damon attempted to “go around Searchlight” by speaking to Tom Rothman, who was running Fox, directly. In those conversations, it was decided to bring Martin Scorsese on to edit the film in an effort to move things along.

Matt Damon was deposed in the ‘Margaret’ lawsuit

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Damon recalled his conversations with Rothman, how specific they were in an effort to avoid more legal trouble.

“I remember Tom calling me back and saying to me ‘This is the second conversation I’m having about this. I’ve already spoken to Marty and now I’m talking to you, because I’m going to be deposed and I want to be very clear about what I’ve said and who I’ve said it to. I’m having precisely two conversations about this and then I’m not talking about it again.’ Which all wound up being true, we all were deposed eventually and it was a big ugly lawsuit,” said Damon.

As reported by The New Yorker, when it came out that Scorsese, Damon, Scott Rudin, Mark Ruffalo, and other high-profile figures were slated to testify, the case was dropped.

On the other side

Though Lonergan and many others involved will never get the time back they spent circling the Margaret drain, everybody’s back at work all these years later.

“Here’s a great story,” said Damon, “At Sundance this year, right before the screening of Manchester by the Sea, I’m sitting with my wife and I’m suddenly aware of this figure looming over me. I look up and it’s Matt Rosengart, Kenny’s lawyer, who I haven’t seen since he had to depose me for the lawsuit with Kenny. He looks at me and says ‘It is really good to see you here.’ And I look back and I go ‘Man, it is really good to see you here. This is more of how we should be meeting up!'”

The extended cut of Margaret was released on DVD in 2012. Lonergan says he’s 75% happy with the result.