Matt Damon

Male star of the year

Why: 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy” and “Ocean’s Twelve” only added to the low-key star’s B.O. credibility. His upcoming output bears the hallmarks of his eclectic choices. He plays con artist Will Grimm opposite Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam’s fantastical “The Brothers Grimm.” Next month, he’ll begin Martin Scorsese’s Irish gangster pic “The Departed” alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. He’ll play a younger version of Robert De Niro in the De Niro-directed CIA drama “The Good Shepherd.” Damon’s also signed up for “The Bourne Ultimatum,” the franchise’s third turn.

Decision-making: Damon says there was one main attraction for “The Departed.” “That, uh, Scorsese was directing. I don’t even know what to call him — I’m still calling him ‘sir,’ ” Damon says.

Though the actor admits he was starstruck about working with Gilliam and Scorsese, each screenplay was stellar, too. He always looks for three elements: fabulous script, great director, hot part.

“(Steven) Soderbergh once said to me, ‘It never hurts to be in a good movie.’ That’s kind of a simple philosophy but it’s really true,” Damon says. “I’d rather be part of a really wonderful movie than doing a virtuoso turn twisting in the wind.”

What about the high-grossing Bourne movies? “I’m surprised in the sense that they’ve done better than anything I’ve ever been a part of,” he explains. “I have a theory about action movies. They’re kind of like porn movies where you’ll have these really bad scenes and kind of thinly drawn characters and then you’ll get some action that’s totally unrelated, and then you’ll go back to a really bad scene. I think the key in action and porn films is integrating, getting good characters and a good story.”

Lessons learned: “I think there’s a tendency as a young actor — at least there was for me — to think that the whole world revolves around you, your work, and the reality is you have so many different kinds of trades being practiced on a movie set and it all has to work, it all has to come together,” he says.

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