Monday, 30th October 2017

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Matt breaks silence on Irish lockdown

Actor praises people of Dalkey who have adopted him

By New York Times News Service in New York
  • Published 15.05.20, 3:07 AM
  • Updated 15.05.20, 4:26 PM
  • 3 mins read
Matt Damon File picture

Matt Damon has broken his silence about riding out the coronavirus lockdown in a seaside town in Ireland, dishing to a Dublin radio station about his newest FaceTime buddy (Bono) and what he was carrying in a SuperValu bag (beach towels) when he was spotted by locals.

Wearing a baseball cap and a beard, Damon, 49, told Graham O’Toole and Nathan O’Reilly of Spin 1038 radio on Wednesday about his life in Dalkey, southeast of Dublin, where he has become a familiar presence since he arrived there in March with his wife and three youngest daughters.

The radio hosts had been pleading on the air for Damon to agree to an interview, and he surprised them by calling in to their show. O’Reilly, who had led the push, could barely contain himself. “Look, Matt, I honestly feel like I’m about to throw up,” he said, adding, “This was a long journey in trying to track you down.”

Damon said he had been listening to the duo in his car.

“Every time I’ve been in the car, I’ve been listening for the number and it’s never come up again,” Damon told the hosts.

He said his wife, Luciana Barroso, suggested that he reach out to the station. “She’s like, ‘You’re such an idiot, just, like, look up their number; you don’t have to wait for them to say it,’” he said.

Damon arrived in Dalkey in mid-March to shoot scenes for The Last Duel, a medieval drama directed by Ridley Scott. “Kind of right when we arrived in Ireland, the movie was shut down,” he said.

The residents of Dalkey have become fiercely protective of Damon, a phenomenon that the hosts asked him about.

“The Dalkey people have protected you like a glorious gem,” O’Reilly said, owning up to joining, and being swiftly booted from, a Dalkey Facebook group to learn more about Damon’s whereabouts.

“I laughed so hard when I heard that,” Damon said. “That’s when I realised how great this place was and how protective everybody here is. I had no idea that all this was happening kind of behind the scenes.”

O’Toole noted that “a New York Times journalist also tried to infiltrate Dalkey”, and that residents “said, ‘No way. We are giving you no information on our prized possession, Matt Damon.’”

“Leave him be!” was a common theme, presented around 100 different ways. (Cornelius Hibernis O’Flaherty’s comment was the most poetic: “Dalkey is surrounded by the sea and in these bright and sunny lockdown days with the air fresh and the birdsong everywhere, Matt and his family should be left alone to enjoy time out amidst the natural Spring splendour.”)

“Love love the fact that everybody is looking to protect him like our own,” Cjhelle Griffiths wrote. Sally Kirwan agreed, “We really are the greatest of all nations.”

Asked if he had hung out with Bono, a Dalkey resident, Damon said he had communicated with the U2 frontman over FaceTime.

“He said to me last week, ‘You know there is a local radio station that’s looking for you,’” Damon recalled with a laugh.

“I was like, ‘I really got to track those guys down, I got to call into that show. It’s gone on too long.’”

Damon also revealed that his oldest daughter, Alexia (Barroso’s child from a previous relationship), a college student in New York City, had Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic. He said she “got through it fine”.

Because of the coronavirus, the hosts naturally turned to the topic of Contagion, Damon’s 2011 film about the spread of a deadly virus and the rush to find a cure.

“Anybody who says you couldn’t predict this, just look at Contagion,” Damon said. “Ten years ago we made a movie just by talking to experts and asking them how would this look and how kind of would it go down. The whole thing is tragic and sad.”

Damon answered a question about whether he would buy “a cheeky little holiday home in Dalkey” by saying he planned to return to finish the aborted film shoot.

“Who knows what the world is going to look like,” he said. “This would not be a bad place to wind up, though. I mean, we are really loving it.”

Unlike Americans, many commenters explained, the Irish respect everyone’s privacy. That’s why “stars like it here”, wrote Mick Mullen, taking care not to name-drop two of his other neighbours, Bono and Enya.

“Us Irish don’t get star struck.”

One woman was brave enough to say that was not exactly true.

“Suddenly none of you care that Matt Damon is around and you’re all above it and yet there is constant chatter on here of people seeing him and pics put up with him with Dalkey residents,” Paula Burns wrote.

In private messages, at least one resident confessed to wanting a Matt Damon encounter. Deirdre Fitzgerald, an administrator of the forum, also outlined a plan to orchestrate one.

Two months ago, her family’s restaurants and catering company had 50 employees. Layoffs tied to the outbreak have since shrunk that to five. Her brother now prepares all takeout orders, and she is the delivery woman, marketing agent and “washer-upper”.

“We’re trying to keep ourselves alive and kicking,” she said.

She lives near Damon, and so she planned to drop off a Burger Box, a DIY hamburger kit offered by her restaurant, and a note asking him to send back a photo.

She was optimistic.

“He’s very friendly,” she’d heard.