How Matt Damon Prepared To Play A Trump Supporter From Stillwater, Oklahoma

Stillwater is the new Matt Damon film-- and the title refers to the county seat of Payne County, in north-central Oklahoma (pop- 49,939). The county has voted Republican in all but two presidential races since it went for Truman in 1940, once for Truman (1948) and once for LBJ (1964). Trump beat Hillary 60.0% to 31.7% and then beat Biden 60.1% to 36.8%. Perhaps worth noting the results of the 2016 primary:

  • Bernie- 3,829

  • Rubio- 2,869

  • Ted Cruz- 2,693

  • Hillary- 2,622

  • Señor Trumpanzee- 2,389

That was early on... now Payne County is all in for Trump, so much so that only 35%-- basically the same percentage of people who voted for Biden-- are vaccinated against COVID.

Variety reporter Matt Donnelly reported on the Cannes press conference for Stillwater on Friday. Part of it was Damon explaining how he prepared to play Bill Baker, a Trump-supporting oil field water. "Damon," he wrote, "went deep into red state identity politics to build his character... to portray Oklahoma oil rig worker Bill Baker-- a father who sacrifices everything to help free his daughter from a French prison, after she is convicted of murdering her roommate while studying abroad... Damon spent an 'absolutely critical' time doing research in the state... One of the biggest laughs at the movie’s Thursday night premiere came when Damon’s character is asked by a French woman if he voted for Donald Trump. He did not, he responds, but only because a prior felony kept him from voting at all."

On Friday, Damon said Baker absolutely would’ve supported Trump.
“These guys don’t apologize for who they are,” Damon said, referring affectionately to his character as a “roughneck.” The actor and his director McCarthy road tripped through Oklahoma prior to shooting, where they were invited into the break rooms and backyard barbecues of the real men who inspired the character.
“They’re in the oil business, of course he voted for Trump,” Damon said. “These people were wonderful to us, they really helped us. It was eye-opening for me.”
The actor said he came to appreciate the smallest details-- from wearing a specific kind of blue jeans treated with fire retardant, which “changes the way these guys walk,” Damon said. “They all have goatees, the sunglasses. They’re not six-pack ab guys, but they’re strong. You go to their barbecues and a guitar comes out and they start singing Church songs.”
Damon, an outspoken Democrat, had been critical of Trump throughout his presidency. In 2017, Damon called the former president’s response to Charlottesville “absolutely abhorrent.”

Reuters reported that "Oscar-winning director Tom McCarthy, of “Spotlight” fame, said he was working on the film against the backdrop of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which also influenced his approach to Baker’s character and how he is viewed overseas... [Damon] spent time driving around and living with the so-called roughnecks in the Republican state to grasp his character’s mindset in Stillwater. 'Being invited into their homes, into a backyard barbecue, a guitar comes out and they start singing church songs. It’s a very specific place... and very different to where I grew up... It was really eye-opening for me.'"