‘Stillwater’ Star Matt Damon Says Hollywood Studios Have a ‘Secret List’ That Determines Who Gets Roles in Movies

Matt Damon is one of the most successful actors of his generation. The 50-year-old actor has starred in tons of box office behemoths, and the films he has starred in have collectively grossed nearly $4 billion at the box office.

Because Damon is a reliable actor who is known for bringing fans out to theaters in droves, he’s often one of the first names considered when studios are trying to figure out who they want to star in their movies. 

It’s long been rumored that studio executives have a secret list of A-list actors that they rely on when casting their films, and Damon recently all but confirmed that the rumor is true. 

Matt Damon says making Hollywood movies is always a gamble

Matt Damon attends the Project Greenlight Season 4 Winning Film premiere "The Leisure Class" at The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Matt Damon attends the Project Greenlight Season 4 Winning Film premiere “The Leisure Class” at The Theatre at Ace Hotel | Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Damon described the film production process during a recent interview with Hot Ones, where he admitted that all studios really care about is reducing risk and maximizing their profits.  

“Yeah, well that’s the keyword, is gamble, because it’s always a gamble, right? … It’s always a risk,” Damon said. “They try to mitigate the risk by putting somebody who they think is bankable, quote-unquote bankable in [their movies].” 

The ‘Stillwater’ star says there’s a secret list Hollywood studios use to cast actors

Damon also acknowledged that there is indeed a list that the five major studios rely on when they’re trying to figure out who to put in their movies. However, even he’s not fully aware of who’s on it. 

“The kind of Inside Baseball of it is they have a list, from what I understand,” Damon said. “I don’t know that it’s like, they meet like the heads of the five families in The Godfather and talk about it, or there’s some secret list, but it does seem like you don’t know if you’re on the list or not. You just know, kind of, based on how many you’re getting. … ‘I don’t think I’m on the list right now.’ 

Damon noted that even though everyone knows there’s a list, it’s constantly subject to change, and actors’ names are frequently moved up, down, and off of it based on how their films perform. 

“I think you kind of—it’s like the Premier League. You get relegated, and you get promoted, and you kind of go back and forth. But it does seem like if you’re on the list in one place, you’re on the list in all five.” 

Matt Damon says filming is the hardest part of making movies

In the same interview, Damon was asked which aspect of filmmaking was most difficult. In his opinion, the moments when everybody’s on set trying to get the movie filmed are when things become the most stressful. 

“You can have a solid script, and you can be adjusting it as you go along,” Damon said. “The most hectic and high pressure is in production because that’s when you’re lighting money on fire.”

When working on set, there’s never a moment when money isn’t being spent. However, in the pre-production stage, there’s more time and less of a rush to get things done. 

“You’ve got everybody out there, you’re on location somewhere, it’s just really expensive. Pre-production you can kind of pump the brakes a little bit, you can slow down. You can work regular person work hours”

Damon’s latest film, Stillwater, is now playing in theaters. 

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