When you think of Alexander Payne, the first thing that springs to mind isn’t necessarily science fiction. The director is best known for his touching comedic dramas, or dramatic comedies depending on your point of view, like Nebraska, The Descendants, and Election. It appears, however, he’s bringing his unique sensibilities to a very sci-fi sounding project, and he’s dragging a big time movie star along for the ride.
Deadline reports that Matt Damon is joining Payne for his long-gestating geopolitical comedy Downsizing. Set in Norway in the not too distant future, humans now have the ability to shrink themselves, and being 1/8 of our normal size means that resources will last longer and the planet will be less crowded. When you do this, you become a “Small” and join special small, prefab societies protected by nets to keep bugs out.
We’re talking about a fleshed out, fully realized world—you’d expect nothing less from Payne. You can cash in your savings and retire—one big dollar is the equivalent of 500 small dollars, you live on less, produce less waste. While Americans can get small if they choose, in Europe, where space and resources are increasingly stretched, laws mandate that 40% of the population get shrunk, regardless of how they feel about the matter. This set up definitely sounds quirky enough for Payne, and you can rest assured that, however big the story, even if it is part dystopian nightmare, it will also resonate on a more personal level.
It’s easy to call this a passion project as well, since Downsizing has been in the works since the director finished Sideways in 2004. He put it on hold because the sprawling idea and the technical know how to pull it off were out of his grasp at the time, but it looks like he’s confident enough in his own abilities now to finally make an attempt.
There was even a cast in place way back when, including Paul Giamatti, Meryl Streep, Sacha Baron Cohen, Reese Witherspoon, and Gong Li. And the report doesn’t mention any of these actors, or if they’re still involved, but it appears that Damon will take over the lead from Giamatti. As much as I love Giamatti, that’s probably a wise decision. This sounds more ambitious, and thus more expensive, than anything Payne has done up to this point in his career, and having a marketable star like Damon at the forefront will go a long way to selling this and procuring backers. Damon even reportedly walked away from a role in Zhang Yimou’s epic The Great Wall for this part.
The film is set up at 20th Century Fox, but there is no word on when Downsizing will get rolling. Given that Payne has taken his sweet time about this, waiting until he is good and ready, you have to imagine that he’ll have to get everything just right before embarking on this journey.