SPOILER WARNING: In case the headline wasn’t enough of a clue, this article contains some pretty massive spoilers about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. If you haven’t seen the film yet and wish to save all of the big secrets for the big screen, please click away to one of the other fantastic articles on the site!
Christopher Nolan completely packed the cast of Interstellar with truly fantastic actors. Matthew McConaughey leads the pack, but’s he’s backed by a list that includes names like Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo and more. As great as all of those actors are, however, it was the arrival of a surprise guest that wound up helping create the best sequence in the film: Matt Damon.
For those who didn’t know about Damon’s role going into Interstellar, seeing him revealed as Dr. Mann, emerging from hypersleep in his lab on the ice planet, was a fun little surprise worthy of at least a smile. More than just being a fun cameo, however, the truth is that his arrival on the scene has an interesting impact on both the audience’s perception of the narrative, and also how they view his character. Nolan needed a great actor for the part, and his selection of Matt Damon worked on many levels.
While cameos can be used to serve many purposes in a narrative, Damon’s introduction in Interstellar by itself creates its own level of strange suspense. Because of Damon’s star power (generated by his acting prowess), audiences instinctively know that Christopher Nolan isn’t going to put him in the movie unless he has some kind of vital role – and the reality is that they have no idea what to expect. It’s the kind of appearance that puts the movie-goer on the edge of their chair anticipating the drama that is to come.
More than just a recognizable face, though, Matt Damon is s most accurately familiar as not just a leading man, but often a hero. Filmmakers have spent decades putting the Bourne franchise star at center stage and getting audiences to cheer him on and support his character. Having the actor play Dr. Mann, Nolan essentially used the star’s charisma reputation as a guise: if he tells you that there is hope of life on an ammonia-covered ice rock, you believe it because you’ve spent years trusting Matt Damon characters.
Of course, it turns out that Dr. Mann is just straight-up lying to our heroes in the hope of getting himself back to Earth - but that’s where Matt Damon’s pure skills come into play. Not only does the film need a performer who can lure the audience in and then believably perform his bait and switch, they also need an actor whom the audience can still empathize with and understand. There is no excusing his actions – which involve both attempted murder and murder – but you also can feel and understand the character’s extremely loneliness and fear.
On the whole, Interstellar did leave me wanting, and there are elements of the ice planet sequence that don’t sit 100% right (making him the representation for mankind’s fears and faults and calling him Dr. Mann just a tad bit on the nose), but one of the best calls that Christopher Nolan made in the making of the film was enlisting Matt Damon for such a crucial role. Taking advantage of both who Damon is and what he can do resulted in the best that the movie had to offer.