EXCLUSIVE: Yet another filmmaker is benefiting from Matt Damon’s relentless schedule. Gavin O’Connor has been set to replace Damon behind the camera, directing Father Daughter Time: A Tale Of Armed Robbery And Eskimo Kisses. That is the Matthew Aldrich spec that Warner Bros bought several years ago in heated bidding for Damon to direct and produce through Pearl Street with Ben Affleck, Chris Moore and Drew Vinton. The script focuses on a man who goes on the lam with his daughter, his accomplice on a three-state crime spree.
Damon was also originally set to direct Manchester By The Sea, but after Kenneth Lonergan turned in a superb script he was ready to direct right away, Damon backed out and set his sights on playing the role that last night won Casey Affleck the Best Actor Drama Golden Globe. Affleck, now a front-runner in the Oscar race, thanked Damon for the role of his career in last night’s speech, suggesting he doubted that Damon would give up such a strong part again to him. Damon, whose schedule clashed with his work on the Ridley Scott-directed The Martian and prompted him to exit, was still an active producer on Manchester By The Sea and was very effective promoting the film in TV spots. O’Connor confirmed Damon’s largesse on Father Daughter Time, and said this time, Damon needed a break from his pace, and again didn’t want to hold up the picture.
O’Connor, who is prepping to direct for Fox 21 the series pilot Seven Seconds (hatched by The Killing’s Veena Sud) for Fox 21, said Damon has “been shooting back-to-back films for a few years and wanted to break — a breath — to catch up on his life — his family — so he was generous enough to allow me to take the reins directorially and he would produce it. We know his track record as a writer-actor- producer — his taste and sensibility in material — his guidance on Manchester By The Sea was brilliant, so I’m grateful; it feels like a great partnership.” O’Connor just worked with Damon’s partner Affleck, directing him in The Accountant for Warner Bros.
“As a subject I’ve always wanted to explore the father daughter relationship,” O’Connor told Deadline. “I was a single dad for many years. And being a good father — a good example to my daughter — was deeply important to me. But as fathers we’re human, flawed, we make mistakes, and maybe we didn’t have good examples growing up — no strong female role models. So a daughter can be like a Martian to us. Yet you’re a part of each other. You will always be a part of them and they will always be a part of you. We form each other. And I wanted to explore that. How do you live inside that? How do you become a great dad to a daughter when no one taught you how?
“For me, personally, I knew that how my daughter related to me, how she saw me, as a man, would inform the relationships she had with men. I’m the first male relationship she’s going to have so that example would be the foundation for the rest of her life when it came to how she related to men – how she saw men – how she wanted to be treated by men – and that’s a great responsibility. So all these things – and most importantly love – is why I responded to the script – what I saw could be excavated inside the story. Children are the source of our most powerful feelings. They make us happier – or sadder – than anyone else on earth. Because all the emotions within it depend upon love. And the emotional life is fluid because of all the different stages children go through as they evolve. So the relationship is always changing. But love is the prime mover. Love is the biggest part of the emotional equation. And I always wanted to explore the turbulence of that, inside a father daughter relationship. There’s a reason I had a daughter,” he said. “God knew I had a lot to learn. As much as I hope I’ve taught her…she’s unknowingly taught me more. That’s the beauty and depth of the relationship. Because if you’re open to the lessons our children become our greatest teachers.”
Father Daughter Time gives O’Connor another plum project; he is also developing to direct The Green Hornet for Paramount and Chernin Entertainment, and is on a fast track with Atlantic Wall, the Zach Dean-scripted WWII thriller for Imperative Entertainment that will star Bradley Cooper as an American soldier trapped behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day.
O’Connor is repped by WME and Morris Yorn. Aldrich is with WME and manger Jewerl Ross.