Matt Damon and Marisa Tomei promote History's The People Speak - TCA Report
by Joel Keller, posted Jul 30th 2009 2:01AM
You never know when the most innocuous-sounding panel is going to bring out the A-listers here at the TCAs. But when a big name is behind a project and he or she is passionate about it, that person will brave the room of critics to promote it.
To say Matt Damon is "dedicated" to the new History documentary The People Speak would be an understatement. The family of the Oscar winner lived next door to Professor Howard Zinn, on whose book, A People's History of the United States, is based. He and his Project Greenlight partner Chris Moore have been trying to bring the book to TV for a decade. "I have one of first copies (of Zinn's book) in hardback. It had a huge impact on my life so that's why I stayed with it. The moment we had iany influecne in this town we tried to get thids project off the ground."
The project went from FOX to HBO and finally settled with History. In the film, various actors will do dramatic readings of letters and writings from ordinary Americans throughout the country's history, showing how citizens over the years have spoken out to defend their rights. Also, musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and others will sing songs either they wrote or others wrote that reflect the same mindset.
When asked if anyone other than the two I named above were going to be on the special, Damon got a laugh when he said, "What, Springsteen and Dylan aren't enough for you?"
Prof. Zinn stole the panel, mainly because he was funny and willing to admit that without the presence of the actors, the message might not have gotten as far as it did (over two million copies of his book have been sold and the readings get capacity audiences). "Are people going to be interested in someone reading historical documents? As i describe it right now I'm getting bored," he joked. "When we did our first reading years ago at the 92nd Street Y (in New York), the reaction was fantastic."
Marisa Tomei, who has done dramatic readings from the book for most of the last decade, liked that it got the discussion going. "It's not just a conversation afterwords, but it creates a swell. It sounds corny but that's what happens; people feel empowered."
After the panel, Tomei was only willing to talk about the documentary to the scrum of reporters, though she giggled when a reporter asked her if she still likes short, bald, stocky men (a reference to her long-ago appearance on Seinfeld). Damon, on the other hand, talked about his environmental efforts and how condescending Yankee fans like me were to Red Sox fans like him right before the Yanks' 2004 playoff collapse. I decided to ask him about the project, but also wanted to know if he's visited the Yanks' new billion-dollar home:
Matt Damon on The People Speak (1:10)