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Matt Damon in no hurry to follow movie characters into space

Published 19/08/2015

Matt Damon will next be seen as a botanist left for dead on Mars in director Ridley Scott's new film The Martian
Matt Damon will next be seen as a botanist left for dead on Mars in director Ridley Scott's new film The Martian

Matt Damon has said he is in no hurry to travel into space, despite portraying astronauts in two movies in quick succession.

The Hollywood star played an astronaut left on an ice planet in Interstellar last year and will next be seen as a botanist left for dead on Mars in director Ridley Scott's new film The Martian.

Damon, 44, plays Mark Watney, an astronaut abandoned on the planet after his crewmates think he has been killed in an accident. The film, an adaptation of the hit novel of the same name, follows his battle for survival and the attempts to bring him home.

However, Damon says all the time spent in a spacesuit has not given him any desire to venture into the skies.

"I have done a lot of space travel in the last couple of years on screen and you have to be a certain type of person, like the pioneers were, who crossed Death Valley in a wagon. It takes a special type of person who wants to push the envelope, to find where the very edge is and go there, and that is how we evolve and that is why we are here on the west coast," he said.

"I'm glad there are those types of people already but I think it would be tough for me to do. I will let Space X and those guys get out there for maybe 20 years or so before I go on a flight."

Speaking at an event to unveil the latest trailer for the film, Damon said the sense of humour his character shows in the face of such a terrifying predicament was crucial to the part.

"The humour and the way that us mere mortals are captivated by the way people can do this and seem calm when they are in these incredible high-stress situations, that was what so attractive about the character, how he kept his sense of humour and this practical, logical, solve-one-problem-at-a-time type of thinking that these guys can actually do."

The film also stars Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor, but Damon spends much of the movie alone and he said he was comforted by the presence of British director Scott, who is responsible for space epics such as Alien, Blade Runner and Prometheus.

"It's an illusion that I carry the movie, it's actually all down to Ridley. I will get a lot of the credit for what he did, because he has to keep the audience with just one actor up there, he has to keep them involved and keep the story going and was really the reason I wanted to do it."

He added: "It was a challenge, just me in all these scenes, but it was me and Ridley Scott and that is a very easy decision to make."

The actor hopes some children will be inspired by the idea of space travel after watching the film.

"Drew Goddard adapted the screenplay and the first thing he said was, 'I want this to be a love letter to science', and that is a really wonderful thing to put out into the world. I don't have any lofty expectations but I hope some kids see it and geek out on the science and enjoy it and it might be one thing of many in their life that pushes them in that direction."

Scott collaborated closely with American space agency Nasa to make the film as accurate as possible and Jim Green, director of the planetary science division, believes it will have an inspirational effect.

"I really think that will happen, we are talking about the Mars generation. When we landed Curiosity on Mars we had the world's attention and that is the inspiration that will propel our economy forward by bringing in the scientists and the engineers," he said.

Dr Green added that the film gives a tantalising glimpse of what could soon be a reality.

"Science fiction is extremely important in our culture, it is engrained in what we do and it really projects a vision of the future and something we aspire to, and what I really enjoyed about the book and the movie is how close to reality it can be, it's just around the corner for us."

However, for astronaut Drew Feustel, the astronauts in the movie look a little smoother than his contemporaries. He said: "What I think is special about the book, for myself, and is probably true for a lot of astronauts, is the relevant topics in there, things that are very real for us.

"We all have visions of exploring space and of actually getting to Mars so what was great about the book and the movie is it brings those things to life."

Addressing Scott, Damon and the book's author Andy Weir, he said: "I want to thank you guys for making us look good. We aren't as smooth and cool as what you see on the screen but you gave us the chance to look good in public."

He added: "It's really a matter of when we have our spacecraft ready and that is going to take some time, we still have some technological hurdles to get over but the intent is for us to continue to develop and explore and every year that passes we get closer to our Orion spacecraft being completed for deeper space exploration. That just enables us to look at initial technologies and figure out what it is going to take to go a bit further to Mars. We have been to Mars robotically and obviously humans are next and we just continue on that journey."

The Martian will be released in UK cinemas on September 30.

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