Alexander Payne had the distinction of opening this year’s Venice Film Festival with his new film Downsizing, which followed last year’s La La Land in a first-night slot that is often seen as a launching pad for awards season titles. Starring Matt Damon, the film takes place in a world where Norwegian scientists have found a way to shrink human beings down to just a few inches in size; Damon and Kristen Wiig play a married couple who decide to go for the process so they can enjoy a better quality of life—but things don’t quite go according to plan.
Payne came to the Deadline studio with stars Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau, who play two of the film’s very international cast—Waltz plays a Serbian black marketeer, Chau a one-legged Vietnamese dissident. The idea, Payne explained, was originally hatched by his co-writer Jim Taylor with his brother, who wondered “what life would be like if you were only so tall—you could have a large house in a very little space”. “[Jim] proposed it to me,” he continued, “and I didn’t know what to do with it, and then a couple of years later it occurred to me that it could be put in a very realistic and even somewhat political context.”
Originally considered as a vehicle for Sideways star Paul Giamatti, Payne finally settled on Matt Damon for his broad appeal, being “the closest thing among American stars at that level [to an actor] who can convincingly play an everyman.” Continuing a long tradition of refusing to discuss his characters, Waltz chose instead to praise the movie for its intelligence. “There are movies that are based on sensation,” he said, “which is fair enough, because that’s what they’re supposed to do. And then there are movies that are based on inspiration and insight. This is certainly—most certainly—an example for the latter.”
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