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July 18, 2021 2:12 pm

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Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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July 18, 2021 2:12 pm

In our cover story, Ben Tracy examines how the American West is suffering from a catastrophic megadrought. Plus: Erin Moriarty explores why two men wrongfully-imprisoned for decades in Missouri are not being allowed to go free; Seth Doane talks with actor Matt Damon about his new film, "Stillwater"; Mo Rocca sits down with 93-year-old jazz singer Marilyn Maye; Conor Knighton explores UNESCO's World Heritage Sites; filmmaker Josh Seftel's mom prepares for an in-person reunion after a year of quarantine; and Lee Cowan visits a spectacular light show put on by synchronous fireflies. Lee Cowan hosts this week's "CBS Sunday Morning."

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Jane Polly is off this weekend. I'm Lee Cowan, and this is Sunday Morning. We begin out West talking about water. It's always been a precious commodity, but these days, the West's water woes are more severe than ever. As Ben Tracy will tell us, the drought that's drying up reservoirs and farms is changing lives and livelihoods.

The American West was once a symbol of endless possibility. Now it's facing its limitations in the grips of a devastating drought and deadly heat waves fueled by climate change. This drought is really bad. It's one of the worst handful of years since the year 800 AD. So that's really bad. Yeah, it's really bad in any context. There is so little water, some farmers have simply stopped planting their fields.

The historic mega drought in the West coming up on Sunday Morning. Matt Damon's movies are box office gold. His roles are as varied as a troubled young patient in Good Will Hunting to a former CIA agent in The Bourne Identity.

But the role he relishes most is one surprisingly close to home, as he'll explain to Seth Doan. Over the last two weeks, much of Hollywood's attention has turned overseas to the Cannes Film Festival, where Matt Damon's newest film got a five-minute standing ovation. You got choked up. Man, I just was overwhelmed.

Later on Sunday Morning. So this is the old port where we are. We stroll on France's southern coast with Matt Damon. You're on the Mediterranean, you know what I mean? It's a pretty awesome city. Yeah, it's a good spot to be stuck. Aaron Moriarty will tell us about the search for justice for two wrongfully imprisoned men.

Mo Rocca catches up with singer Marilyn May, still hitting the high notes. Connor Knighton explains what's behind that increasingly familiar designation, World Heritage Site. Joseph Tell's mom is back, along with Steve Hartman and more.

On this Sunday morning for the 18th of July 2021, we'll be back in a minute. It has been another week of terrible wildfires in the nation's West, with the worst of those fires in southeast Oregon, covering an area about the size of New York City. One more consequence of the worst drought in a thousand years. Then Tracy looks at what's behind what some are now calling the mega drought. The American West was once seen as a place of endless possibilities.

Grand vistas, bountiful resources, and cities that somehow grew out of deserts. Now manifest destiny has become a manifest emergency. A scorching drought made worse by climate change is draining reservoirs at an alarming pace, fueling massive wildfires and deadly heat waves, and withering one of the most important agricultural economies in the country.

I'm really concerned, really worried. Joe Del Bosque has been growing melons and other crops in California's Central Valley since 1985. These are melons right here, cantaloupes and honeydews. He's weathered droughts before, but nothing quite like this. Well-watered field, it's been watered very efficiently.

And this looks like a completely different world over here. This is a fallow field. He showed us this field of dirt. There's not enough water to plant a crop here this summer. How much of your land have you left unplanted this year? About a third. A third?

Yes. That's significant. If that water doesn't get here, we will start to lose our crops. Some of our crops will probably die. Del Bosque's water comes from the San Luis Reservoir, which is at just 30% of its capacity. The state has now cut water deliveries to many of its farmers, who supply much of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Del Bosque paid for water he now can't get. I'm sure you talk to your neighbors. I'm sure you talk to farmers up and down the valley. What are people saying?

Well, a lot of them are worried and a lot of them are mad. If we have no water, we can't farm. If we get no water next year, these trees won't get water.

They're going to die. This devastating drought is not confined to California. It's impacting nearly all of the West. This drought is really bad. It's one of the worst handful of years since the year 800 A.D. So that's really bad.

Yeah, it's really bad in any context. Park Williams is a hydroclimatologist at UCLA. He says this is not just one long, hot, dry summer, but instead it's what scientists call a megadrought. This is really the 22nd year of a long drought that began in the year 2000.

There are some rings that are thick and some rings that are thin. Williams and his colleagues know this from studying the rings on trees, which show how much they grow in any given year. So you can literally look at how close the rings are and say there was a two-year drought or a 20-year drought.

In the West, we can't actually do this with our eyeballs. The last 22 years actually rank as the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years based on tree ring records. And so humans now are contending with a water limitation crisis in the West that modern society in this region has not yet had to contend with. We've long known the limitations of the arid West. In the mid-1800s, the U.S. government sent geologist John Wesley Powell to survey the Western U.S. water supply and bring back recommendations.

He warned that the West did not have enough water for a really widespread population. And we kind of bent the rules along the way when we started figuring out how to dam up the Colorado River and divvy it up to the Western states. The 726-foot dam towering from the canyon bed of the Colorado is the eighth wonder of the world. Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel, was thought to be a concrete solution. It harnessed the mighty Colorado River and created Nevada's Lake Mead, still the nation's largest reservoir. This water supply is what made Western cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas possible, and allowed us to create some of the richest farmland in the country. But the predicted water supply from the Colorado River was based on 20 abnormally wet years at the beginning of the last century. Now 40 million people in seven states depend on it. We did it, we built it, we've become reliant on it.

So we have to deal with what we have. Pat Mulroy is the former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. We met her on the shores of Lake Mead, which has sunk to its lowest level ever. In the year 2000, the water came right up to the top of Hoover Dam. During the mega drought, the lake has dropped more than 140 feet. So when it loses this much water, to me, that is an enormous wake-up call. Next month, the federal government is expected to make an unprecedented decision, declaring a first-ever shortage on the river, triggering cuts to the water supply in Arizona and Nevada that will cost some farmers 25 percent of their water.

So it's a tipping point. It's an existential issue for Arizona, for California, for Nevada. It is a river system and a water supply that cannot fail. And so without this, are places like Phoenix and Las Vegas and Los Angeles possible? No, absolutely not.

They're not possible. At the end of the day, this is gone, and those cities and that economic base economic base is in dire jeopardy. What the West needs more than anything is snow. Snowpack in the mountains melts throughout the summer and flows into reservoirs. In the West, snow is like our battery. It's where we store water.

J.T. Rieger is a water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Now we're getting less snow. The snow season is markedly shorter. Is this something that is caused by climate change or something that's just made worse by climate change? I think it's something that's definitely made worse by climate change. Climate change is making the West hotter and drier, which means more rain than snow is falling, and much of that is evaporating. Over the long term, what we're seeing with our satellite data is a picture of continual drying. A NASA satellite is documenting the loss of water stored in the mountains, reservoirs and underground aquifers. And is that what we're seeing here? Are we seeing that progression?

That's exactly right. So these are some images that we've taken from April 2010, 2015 and 2021 showing this steady drying progression of water in the West. Given how severe this drought is and how long term, how long would it take to recover from something like this? We would need a solid decade of really wet years, which is probably just not going to happen. Joe Del Bosque has already let 70 of his farm workers go and has ensured how long his farm will survive if the drought drags on. If you were starting all over knowing what you know about this climate now, would you do this?

I don't know. It was like a dream for me to be able to do this because I was I was the son of farm workers. I have a lot of people that depend on me. There's hundreds of people working in the fields, picking melons that are people just like my ancestors that came here, work hard to try to to make a living for their kids so their kids could go to college like I did.

And this is going to end their dream too. It's hard to get your arms around the responsibility of protecting all the world's treasures. But be they natural destinations or the work of humans, Connor Knighton reports there's an agency trying to do just that. In Icelandic, Vatnajokull means the water glacier. At over 3,000 square miles, this massive ice cap covers more than 8% of Iceland. I remember the first time I seen a glacier, it moved my heart. I couldn't imagine this massive ice existing.

Vatnajokull is one of the largest glaciers in all of Europe. And as my guide pointed out when I visited pre-pandemic, it has another noteworthy distinction. Being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of those things that sure sounds impressive, but what does it actually mean? What do a coral reef in Australia, a cave in Kentucky, and an entire city in Peru have in common?

I headed to an office where I was able to see the world's largest ice cap, and I was able to see the world's largest ice cap, and I was able to see the world's largest ice cap, and I headed to an office building in Paris to get some answers. The idea of the convention is to protect the most outstanding places, those which have outstanding universal value, for all of humanity for future generations. Mactild Rosler is the director of UNESCO's World Heritage Center, located in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, which yes is part of another World Heritage Site.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, adopted the World Heritage Convention in 1972. Their first list of outstanding places included 12 spots, ranging from Ethiopia's rock-hewn churches to Yellowstone National Park. Today, there are more than 1,100 World Heritage Sites. There are culturally significant locations like India's Taj Mahal in Illinois' prehistoric Cahokia Mounds, and naturally impressive locations like England's Jurassic Coast and Botswana's Okavango Delta.

This week, the committee is meeting virtually, reviewing dozens of possible additions to the list. I get many letters every day, people write, why is this church or this city or this park not protected by UNESCO? For starters, World Heritage Sites must be nominated by their home country and meet at least one of 10 defined criteria. It can be a masterpiece of human creative genius, or it can be the most important habitat for a specific animal. Iceland's Vatnjokull was deemed geologically significant. It's a combination of the great forces of nature, ice, and fire, and the different landform that creates. So I've seen the ice, where's the fire?

It's underneath the ice. Helga Arnadottir is a park manager for Vatnjokull, which sits on top of an active volcano. Icelandic officials spent years preparing a 362-page submission to win UNESCO's approval in 2019. 2020 was the first year UNESCO didn't name any new sites.

The pandemic preempted the annual committee meeting. It seems in a way that it's a brand name. Is it more than that? Is it more than just a brand? It is much more than a brand. The brand is very important, but it's really an international system for protection. While UNESCO monitors the sites, it generally doesn't fund them. The organization's power is largely tied to its prestige.

Because it has this recognition. Also, the tourism industry is investing around these sites because these are, of course, key attractions. So you see, the World Heritage status helps. But what UNESCO giveth, it can also taketh away. In 2009, Germany's Dresden Elbe Valley was taken off the World Heritage list after a modern bridge was built across the landscape.

I think it was a wake-up call that you cannot just do what you want. You cannot do a development which may be threatening the reasons why the site was listed in the first place. There are currently 53 sites on what's known as the World Heritage danger list. More than a quarter million people killed, more than 11 million have lost their homes. But the greatest treasure lost was the ancient city of Palmyra, a World Heritage site. Some, like Palmyra in Syria, are threatened because they're in conflict zones.

Others, like the tropical rainforest of Sumatra, are threatened due to ongoing poaching and agricultural exploitation. The U.S. State Department confirming the U.S. is withdrawing from the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO. The U.S. is currently not a part of UNESCO. It officially left at the beginning of 2019, thanks to a conflict that dates back to this 2011 vote. To admit Palestine as member of UNESCO.

That triggered a law that prevents the U.S. from funding any U.N. agency which recognizes an independent Palestine. The Rossler's hopeful the U.S. will return to the organization that, once upon a time, it helped establish. Not only the sites in the U.S. benefit a lot from the World Heritage status, but many American tourists around the world benefit from visiting the World Heritage sites and from their preservation and presentation. In fact, the U.S. recently received another designation. The 20th century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright was added to the list in 2019. Eight buildings, from Fallingwater in Pennsylvania to Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, have been deemed World Heritage worthy. Back here at Vatneokul National Park, as with all sites, a listing alone doesn't really change a lot in the short term. Except, perhaps, for perceptions. It makes you actually really proud.

It was of great value for Icelanders, but now it is of great value for the whole world. She first began entertaining audiences at the age of three. And, as Mo Rocca tells us, Marilyn May, nine decades later, is still at it. You're gonna love me like nobody's loved me Come rain, oh, come shine When we first met singer Marilyn May back in 2018, she was a singer and singer. When we first met singer Marilyn May back in 2018, she was, hard to believe, on the cusp of 90. It seemed as if nothing could stop her.

But then COVID happened. Hey, I love all kinds of weather, as long as we're together. I love to hear you yell my name.

And, well, it turns out nothing can stop her. I'm so glad to be out and singing, you know. I lost a very valuable year for me. I missed my whole 92nd birthday.

But who's counting? Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. We were there as May turned 93 in April. Celebrating how else? With a sold-out show.

Because there is nowhere else on earth that I would rather be. At Boca Raton's WIC Theater. But as Billy Stritch, her longtime accompanist, can attest. Marilyn May's age is beside the point. She sings pretty good for 93. She sings pretty good for 23. She sings rings around almost everybody. And she's still the greatest to me. And there's a few tricks I could teach the son in the blue above.

Stritch, a cabaret headliner in his own right, met May some 40 years ago, when he was just 17. She's always kind of been like my Auntie Mame, in a way. You coax the blues right out of the horn.

May, you charm the husk right off of the corn. There are moments when I'm just watching her in profile. And I just have these out-of-body kind of moments where it's like, Jesus, look at what she's doing. What she's been doing for nearly eight decades now is singing. On vinyl. On variety shows. And in a car commercial. They don't even make those cars anymore. That's still a crowd favorite. Everyone here kindly step to the rear as Lincoln Mercury leads the way.

But May's home has always been the road. And 2020 was shaping up to be a big year for her. I was booked a lot, more than even usual.

I think they thought the old girl was going to kick off any minute, so we better hire her. But as COVID spread, so did the cancellations. It was pretty dramatic for me and traumatic for me.

Traumatic? Yeah. This is what I do. You know, this is kind of my whole being is to entertain and sing that great American songbook. This is what I was put on this earth to do.

I can't cook. And Marilyn May wasn't about to let a pesky pandemic stop her. So she sang wherever she could. On a driveway in her hometown of Kansas City.

I needn't tell you, without a live audience on public television. And then last summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts. They always smile and applaud a lot and stand up and cheer and laugh a lot. But this year they cried. I did what the world needs now. They cried, you know, sat at the tables and cried.

So the performance took on a whole other meaning for them. Absolutely. And for me, where do you see Marilyn May in five years? Still doing kicks at the end of its today. If someone would have asked me, you know, I wouldn't even think of this when she turned 80. Will we still be doing this at 93?

And now it's just past the point where it's like, well, why not go to 100? Good times and bum times. I've seen them all and my dear, I'm still here. Was there ever a moment in this past year where you thought, you know what, it's a global pandemic.

Maybe I should think about retiring. Never. I got through all of last year and I'm here. Yes, I'm here. I got through all of last year and I'm here.

Yes, I'm here. Never. You know that, Mo.

Never. You know what? I do know that. You do know that. It's not in my vocabulary. The word retirement has never been in my vocabulary. Oh, no.

I'm still here. This is The Takeout with Major Garrett. This week, Steven Law, ally of Mitch McConnell and one of Washington's biggest midterm money men. List for me the two Senate races where you think Republicans have the best chance of taking a Democratic seat away. Nevada, New Hampshire. Not Georgia. Well, Georgia's right up there, but New Hampshire is a surprise.

In New Hampshire, people really just kind of don't like Maggie Hassan. For more from this week's conversation, follow The Takeout with Major Garrett on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Imagine serving decades behind bars for a crime you didn't commit. It's become an almost familiar story. But as Erin Moriarty explains, innocence doesn't always mean freedom. My job is to apologize. Last May, something extraordinary happened in a Missouri courthouse. It is important to recognize when the system has made wrongs. And what we did in this case was wrong.

Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County prosecutor, issued a public apology to a man she believes was wrongfully convicted. So to Mr. Strickland, I am profoundly sorry. What's going through your mind? Oh, today is going to be the day.

And they're going to call me and tell me, uh, packing stuff up and going home. Kevin Strickland, sentenced to life without parole in 1979 for a triple murder, has waited a lifetime to hear those words. How old was your daughter when you came in here? About seven, seven weeks old. Seven weeks old. So you've missed watching her grow up? Every bit of it. How old is she now?

She just turned 43. But an apology, even from the prosecutor, is all he gets. Strickland is still in prison. It's a great deal of pain in here of knowing what I done missed out on, my opportunities in life and, you know, family. And I'm trying to pick my words because I don't want to offend anybody, but I'm hurt. I'm really hurt.

And shockingly, his situation is not unique in Missouri. What have you lost over the last 26 years? Time.

There's a closeness between, especially with a father and his daughters. And I missed that. I missed being able to be a part of their life. For more than two decades, 47-year-old Lamar Johnson has insisted he was wrongfully convicted of the murder of Marcus Boyd in 1994. Did you kill Marcus Boyd? I did not kill Marcus. He was like a friend of me.

He was one of my best friends and I loved him. Two years ago, the top prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, Kim Gardner, agreed with him and filed a motion for Johnson's release based on what she called overwhelming evidence of innocence. Yet Johnson, too, remains behind bars. We have a long-standing so-called innocence problem here in Missouri. It doesn't stop and start with Lamar Johnson and Kevin Strickland.

It's decades old and administrations old. Lindsey Runnels, Johnson's attorney, and Tricia Rojo Bushnell, Strickland's lawyer, point out that in both cases, the real killers pleaded guilty and have already served their time for the murders. How unusual is it in these cases that you, as defense attorneys, are in complete agreement with the prosecutors that your clients are innocent? In Missouri, it's absolutely unusual. I can't think of another instance in which we've experienced that. And in most states when the prosecutor and defense attorney are in agreement, the inmate is released.

So what's going on in the state of Missouri? I thought that when a prosecutor finds this overwhelming evidence of Lamar Johnson's innocence, that good people would react and do the right thing. But unfortunately, that was not done in this case.

These are the introduction of cases that we have to look at. Gardner's office created a conviction integrity unit five years ago to investigate cases like Johnson's. And what we uncovered was devastating, not only to myself, but to the criminal justice system. Lamar Johnson was accused of being one of two men who shot Marcus Boyd on this porch.

Both were wearing ski masks like this on a dark night. There was an eyewitness who initially told investigators that he couldn't see the faces of the shooters, but then he later identified Johnson as one of them. I didn't believe it.

He told me that I had been identified and I just didn't believe it. Is there any evidence, physical evidence, that ties you to the death of Marcus Boyd? No physical evidence. There's not even a motive. At my trial, they did not even present a motive.

They never explained why I supposedly did this. In her June 2019 motion asking for Johnson's release, Gardner said that the only eyewitness who tied Johnson to the murder had recanted and admitted he had been pressured to lie by investigators. What's more, Gardner's office said it uncovered proof that the eyewitness had been paid thousands of dollars by detectives, a fact kept from Johnson's attorneys.

Gardner concluded that much of the evidence presented at Johnson's 1995 trial was false and perjured. This man lost 25 years of his life. We all lost. We have victims who lost.

We let everyone down. And that's what it's about. It's about justice and trust in a system, a system of fairness for all. But the attorney general of Missouri, Eric Schmidt, successfully fought the motion, arguing that because Johnson's verdict was final and he had run out of appeals, prosecutors like Gardner don't have the power to ask for his release. It's not the merits that's ever challenged.

It's the procedure that's challenged. They're too late, the attorney general argues. Lindsey, are you saying that a completely innocent human being could stay in prison because he or she missed a deadline?

Yes, and it happens frequently. I do know that the attorney general's office for a long time has had a practice of opposing every case regardless of its merit. They think that their duty is to defend every judgment, no matter the justice of it.

Sean O'Brien is a law professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Even with new evidence, it shows that the wrong person was convicted. Even with new evidence. Gardner appealed, but this past March, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against her, stating that, quote, this case is not about whether Johnson is innocent. This case presents only the issue of whether there's any authority to appeal.

No such authority exists. It was disappointing and devastating. We're talking about a life here. You know, somebody who's been in prison for 26 years. They refused to acknowledge the truth, the real truth.

I wasn't there. As for Kevin Strickland, the attorney general is fighting his release as well, and just this week filed a new brief insisting Strickland got a fair trial. We have a system that cares so much about finality over fairness that we have an innocent person that we have known for decades is innocent and is still sitting there tonight.

Attorney General Schmidt declined our request for an interview. For now, both men say they are trapped in a baffling legal limbo. It sounds like you've lost that hope that got you through this so far.

The problem is I don't know what else to do. I mean, what else is needed? The only thing that I haven't been able to present is DNA. And God, I wish there was some DNA. I'm sorry. Please do not apologize. The Missouri governor, Mike Parson, has the power to pardon both men, but has so far declined to do so.

And then there's this. State legislators just passed a law that will soon allow prosecutors like Kim Gardner to request a hearing for innocent inmates, but it's still no guarantee of freedom. In every exoneration I've been involved in, I come away with the same impression. It was way too easy to convict and way harder than it should have been to correct that conviction. If and when Johnson and Strickland are released, neither will receive any compensation. Is there any way that the state of Missouri can make you whole?

Nothing they could do. If they gave me the state of Missouri and evicted everybody, that wouldn't make me whole. I need 43 years back. I just want to be free, to have the ability to enjoy the small things. What is the first thing you'd want to do? Hug my mother. I'd like for her to know that truth finally prevailed and she doesn't have to know that I had to spend the rest of my life in prison for something I didn't do. Listen up.

Here's Steve Hartman. In St. Petersburg, Florida, when the state of Missouri was I just want to be free, to have the ability to enjoy the small things. What is the first thing you'd want to do? Hug my mother.

I'd like for her to know that truth finally prevailed and she doesn't have to know that I had to spend the rest of my life in prison for something I didn't do. Listen up. Here's Steve Hartman.

In St. Petersburg, Florida, when the sun rises, Al Nixon sets for his impromptu therapy sessions. How have you been? Are you surprised at what people tell you? Not anymore. Al isn't a trained therapist. I've been concerned. He actually works for the city water department.

He's dismissing you. But in these early morning hours, he's a trusted confidant and counselor to whoever passes by. And I wrote to him and I said... Renee Rutstein is a regular. He knows everything about me. Did you feel weird sharing all your secrets to a guy on a bench? No, because he'll never judge me and he always shoots me straight. He's not judgmental and he takes you for who you are. Bernadette Dorsett Mills says she has never met a wiser man. He's like the guiding force. At the same time, I don't hear you talking a lot.

No. I just see a lot of nodding, like you're doing now. Listening is the number one skill all mankind needs to know how to do very well. A skill he has clearly mastered. When Al started coming here seven years ago, the therapy was for him. He needed a quiet place to clear his head. And the last thing he wanted was to hear other people's problems. But then a woman he'd never met told him something he'll never forget. She said, every day I see you, I know everything is going to be OK. And that made me realize that when you speak to someone or you smile, you let them know I value you. And people pick that up.

When I walk by sometimes, you know, I don't even get a chance to chat with him because there are other people waiting in line. In appreciation for always being there, not long ago, Al's faithful put a plaque on his bench. To a loving and loyal friend and a confidant to many, forever and always. I teared up. That was powerful.

How can such a simple plaque be that powerful? When you express to someone, you matter to me. They gave you back what you gave them. Everyone needs an Al. Good morning, sweetie. Even Al. Have a great day.

You too. It's Sunday morning on CBS. Here again is Lee Cowan. Oscar winner Matt Damon may be best known for that role in Good Will Hunting. His latest movie, though, has him playing a dad from Oklahoma. And it turns out playing the dad is a role he knows well. Our Seth Doan is In Conversation with Matt Damon.

The red carpets were out of storage and back on sidewalks in the French Riviera city of Cannes this month after remaining rolled up last year due to Covid. The delay did not dampen the glitz and only added to the anticipation of this month's Cannes Film Festival, where at the premiere for the movie Stillwater, Matt Damon and his team received a five minute standing ovation. I watched that video of you at Cannes at the premiere. You got choked up. Man, I just was overwhelmed. We've been sitting on this movie for so long. And the idea that I was back in a theater with like a thousand people. Were you surprised that it touched you so much?

I don't know. I'm getting old, man. I think I get choked up easier now than ever since I had kids. It's like my job has become a lot easier because I don't have to try.

I don't have to reach for any emotions, whether it's joy or whether it's pain or whether it's because it's all just nearby because the stakes are so much higher when you have kids. He's famous as a leading man and action hero, but we learned the role this actor prioritizes most now is dad to four girls. And in the film Stillwater, set to be released in the U.S. later this month, he plays a father who travels to France to free his daughter from prison. She's portrayed by Abigail Breslin.

The mission is all the more complex because Damon's character, Bill Baker, an oil rig worker from Oklahoma, does not speak a word of French. You're locked out. What? Key.

You got a key? Action. The movie had all the elements you'd probably expect Damon would consider, including one that has nothing to do with any studio. We kind of had a family meeting about it and my kids let me do the movie. I really wanted to do it. I've been dying to work with Tom McCarthy, the director, and I just thought it was such a beautiful story and such a great role.

So I went for it. Tell me about that family meeting. You sit down with your wife and your girls and say, what do you think? Yeah, I mean, they I like that they know that I love my job.

They know it's time consuming and that it's a lot of work and that it fills me up, you know? And and actually, this movie is the first time we have a two week rule in our family that we're not apart for more than two weeks. And this was the first movie where we violated it. So that was really tough, tough and and really actually helped.

I think the performance because it was very easy to kind of, you know, access, you know, what I needed to access because I was really missing my kids. Are you going to keep the two week rule reinstated? No, it's been it's firmly reestablished. And yeah, it's off the table.

We're never breaking it again. The work was intense even before they started shooting. Damon took a road trip with director Tom McCarthy through Oklahoma to uncover the details he says are key to making a film believable. That's where they met an oil rig worker named Kenny Baker.

He's one of the guys who took us around and he's just a great guy. And we'd call him throughout the shoot to just get, you know, maybe tweak a little line of dialogue or ask him a question about. There's one moment where I my co-lead Camille is an actress and she invites me to go to the theater. Tom's like, theater or theater? And Kenny just goes, theater, man. You know, and like so stuff like that. It's just very, very helpful to have an expert, you know, in your corner. The studious actor who went to Harvard appeared just as at ease during our time together quoting ancient Greek authors.

It's that great that that Aeschylus quote. We're discussing his beloved Boston Red Sox. Ben would like take him to Red Sox games. It's that same range we see on screen as Tom in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I gotta figure out a way to grow three years worth of food here. A stranded astronaut in The Martian or as the title character in Saving Private Ryan. It doesn't make any sense, sir. Why?

Why do I deserve to go? He's earned five Oscar nominations with one win over the course of making more than 70 films. But he's not afraid to hit pause on his career. Like when his father died in 2017 and his wife Luciana guided a sort of plot twist for the family. A temporary move to Australia. You know, when my dad passed, I had so many vivid memories of like, you know, little camping trips or little things like silly things. Like we went for two days and got rained on somewhere.

And like, but but all of this stuff was flooding back to me. And so I was talking to my wife about it and she said, well, let's why don't we go do that? We went down there and we we traveled all over Australia. We camped, we we just we just had an adventure for for a few months.

The 50-year-old actor told us he'll not work again this fall as the family gets settled in New York. The kids in new schools. Look, they're growing up with a lot more stuff than their mom or I ever had. So we keep an eye on that. Do you worry about that?

Yeah, I worry. But, you know, I I think when I got to Harvard, I met a lot of kids who very wealthy. Some of them were in a lot of pain. Their parents weren't there for them, you know, like at all. And I remember thinking, oh, I get it.

Like that's money doesn't solve anything. He left Harvard and would go on to finish that screenplay, which made him famous with co-writer and childhood friend Ben Affleck. It would win them the Oscar. Do a lot of people still connect you with Good Will Hunting? Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Fewer and fewer. You know, younger people don't know it as much. You know, my 15-year-old refuses to see it. She doesn't want to see any movies that I'm in that she thinks might be good.

What do you mean? She just likes to give me shit. My daughter was said, yeah, remember that movie you did The Wall?

I said, it was called The Great Wall. She goes, Dad, there's nothing great about that movie. So she keeps you down to earth humble.

She keeps me right, my feet firmly on the ground. We found the superstar unfussy, happy to clap to synchronize our cameras. And self-deprecating during our stroll through Marseille, where they shot the film. I mean, normally I'd be wearing like a t-shirt and a baseball hat and like, you know, this I'm dressed like a waiter.

Like a waiter. But maybe that's helping me blend in. Damon told us he blends in so much that he remembers when he was single and shooting Bourne Identity in Prague and he could not strike up a conversation with women in a nightclub.

Prague was not your city. My friend turns to me and goes, oh my god, your movies didn't come out here. You're not famous here. And he goes, and you got no moves. You're a Maddie, no moves.

And so literally that became my name, Maddie, no moves. He'd come to Marseille to thank the local crew with a special screening. This is one of the best experiences I have ever had in a movie.

The pandemic may have delayed Stillwater's original 2020 release date but that delay only deepened Matt Damon's appreciation for being in and at the movies. I've been watching stuff on my television like everybody else for a year and a half and to go back into a theater and be reminded that turning the lights out with hundreds or a thousand, you know, strangers and taking in something together is really wonderful. Throughout this pandemic, we've been checking in with contributor Josh Seftel and his mom. This morning, the moment they've been waiting for, along with the rest of us. Hello? Have you started packing yet?

I did do my pills. Hello? It's hard to believe you haven't met Madeline and she's already 10 months old. Are you excited to meet her? I can't wait.

I really waited a long time. What are you doing to get ready physically for this trip and for meeting the baby? My trainer Penelope brought this great big weight.

Wow. And I've been exercising with that. Do you think of it as a little baby? If I'm cradling it, I might, but when I'm swinging it, I don't. About five months ago, I said, well, you're going to hold that baby. Why don't we start training for the baby?

And she just that big smile and she was so excited. The baby is 19 pounds. I don't want to drop her. Maybe we should do a push-up. Are you getting stronger? My arms are. You know, the baby is actually getting in shape too. Pushing on things and lifting herself up. That's right. Do you feel like you know her?

Yes. She's happy. She loves her food. She takes after me.

Oh, wait a minute. I think she's here. What's your relationship like with my mom? I adore her. All through COVID, I've traveled to her once a week and I just, I love her. Why did you do that for my mom? After two weeks, you could tell she was overwhelmed. She was scared. She cried on the phone and it just broke my heart. What did you think when the pandemic first started?

It was unbelievable. When I realized that it was no end in sight, it really started bothering me. What do you think it's been like for her? But in the beginning, I think she felt a little bit abandoned. She's been more alone than she's ever been in her entire life. I remember mom being really present and important when people in the family had babies. She would come in and be like this very knowing and confident guide. It's almost like her job as a grandma.

She hasn't been able to do it for the last year. Right. How's the training going? It's going okay.

Now take a break. Do you ever feel like, rocky? You mean when he was running up the steps?

That music was pretty good, wasn't it? Going all the way up. Fast, fast. Are you feeling strong? Are you feeling ready? I mean, I can lift. It's just that I don't know if I can lift 20 pounds.

I think she might have gained a pound. Oh, no. Are you done with the training for now?

Yes. Do you feel like you're ready? We'll see. When is mom coming? At 1205 p.m. How do you think she's feeling about meeting the baby? I think she can't wait to hold her. I think she's going to be kind of speechless. What do you think this means to her?

I think it's kind of like all she wants, really, to make the world right. Here, I'll come in. There she is. Oh, my God. There she is. It's okay.

You should get out. There's mom. Hi. Hi.

How are you? What was it like to meet the baby? It was a beautiful, sunny day, and all of a sudden, you guys brought the baby over to me. Hello, Madeline. Hello, my sweetie baby.

Hi, Dad. Oh, my God, she's so cute. I was so happy. Do you think the workouts paid off?

Oh, absolutely. I lifted her up. Whoa. What did she feel like? Heavy. From behind, there was a similarity in your arms. She's a Zostik baby.

That's Yiddish for chubby. Was there much eating going on? Oh, my God. Didn't you think there was a lot of food?

I think it's kind of all we did was eat. You called me. You're calling. You're calling up. You know, I keep reliving those few days.

It's like a dream came true. Bye-bye. Are you looking forward to seeing the baby again soon? Yes, I am.

We're going to see each other in Cape Cod. So are you going to keep training? Of course. My trainer's coming Thursday.

Because she's only going to get heavier. I know. We leave you this Sunday at Cottah Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border, home to a flooded forest of cypress trees. I'm Lee Cowan. Thanks for listening. And please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Just playing reflects the spirit of what we're seeing and what we kind of know analytically and empirically is our strategic situation or military situation is not being matched up with what we're doing. Follow Intelligence Matters, wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-29 06:22:33 / 2023-01-29 06:41:28 / 19

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