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Matt Damon didn’t even try to grasp the science behind The Martian

Matt Damon is one of the biggest names in Hollywood, riding high after an awesome 2023. But one thing he definitely isn't, is a scienctist.

Matt Damon in The Martian

Some actors really go all in with their roles in an attempt to embody their character, living as their subject during the whole filming process. For others, it’s just like any other job and when the end of the day rolls around, their character is the last thing on their mind. So what approach did Matt Damon take when filming 2015’s sci-fi hit The Martian?

Thankfully for anyone wanting to know exactly how much scientific research Matt Damon did to play botanist Mark Watney, he was asked this question around the release of one of the best movies of its year (and among the best science fiction movies of the decade). “[None] at all. You can [do research] if you want to, but it’s acting. If it’s done right, the audience should believe it,” he explained, speaking with Collider.

Given that Damon’s character is forced to rely on his intelligence and determination alone to survive on Mars, the actor, who’s starred in a number of the best drama movies ever made, has to reel off scientific equations and jargon throughout the entire movie. And, despite Damon’s lack of research, he does so utterly convincingly.

The actor continued, elaborating on his thoughts on the topic: “I think it’s always good when an actor knows what they’re saying. You can see when you watch an actor who’s talking and he literally doesn’t have any idea what they’re talking about, that comes across. But if you know in general terms what it is and what the obstacles are, then you don’t have to know.”

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It seems to be a sensible, measured approach from Damon. Clearly, the actor took the time to gain a baseline understanding of The Martian’s subject matter, without engrossing himself in it too much. What will have undoubtedly helped Damon is that he read the novel the film is based on before the movie started filming, which seems like it was probably enough to give him that foundational knowledge.

Whether Damon knew the intricacies of the science or not, director Ridley Scott prioritized drama and entertainment over accuracy to create one of the best Matt Damon movies. For example, the Martian dust storms as seen in the movie are a physical impossibility, with windspeeds on Mars not reaching any more than a light breeze.

But, as with Scott’s new movie Napoleon, the focus was on telling the broad strokes of the story rather than worrying too much about the granular details. Unless you’re an astronaut or, in the case of Napolean, a historian, it’s unlikely that the occasional fabrication of the truth would be of any concern.

For more on Damon, read our Oppenheimer review to learn about his latest movie, and find out how he was rejected by Spielberg and Eastwood for the same reason. Or, see why his movie The Last Duel with Ben Affleck is still criminally underrated.