It is typically a solitary experience for actors filming phone call sequences in movies. Rarely, the actor portraying the character they’re speaking to may be on the other end of the line, but typically, it’s a crew member such as the script supervisor.
Ben Affleck and his cast took a different approach with their critically acclaimed new comedy Air, which may explain why the explosive, profanity-laced phone conversation between Matt Damon and Chris Messina is the film’s most memorable (and hilarious) scene.
In the scene, Messina’s sports agent David Falk has caught wind that Damon’s Nike talent scout Sonny Vaccaro has skirted protocol by approaching his client Michael Jordan’s family directly in an attempt to lure the NBA draft pick into an endorsement, and Falk rips Vaccaro to shreds in saliva-spraying temper tantrum that would make Tropic Thunder’s Les Grossman proud.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Damon says of his director, co-star, and longstanding friend: “One of the coolest things that Ben did in the movie, which I’d never done before, was to film all the phone calls simultaneously.” “Typically, when filming a scene involving a phone call, one actor is present, while the other actor is at home and dials in; however, the quality of the connection is typically poor. Or you might find yourself reading with the script supervisor… It seldom succeeds.”
Messina explains, “As a result, Matt and I were in the same hallway.” Thus, Ben could go back and forth to each of our chambers and give us direction, allowing us to overlap, scream, and play.
Affleck brought three additional cameras to simultaneously capture the scene. “We filmed at the exact same time,” Damon explains. Consequently, the reason why these situations feel so vibrant is because we are both present in them.”
There’s also the heated nature of the call. Falk blows a gasket on Vaccaro, seemingly melting down in the process. He lashes out about and by the end of the call is screaming, “I will eat your nuts!”
Damon reveals that line in particular was improvised by Messina.
“That was one of my favorite ad-libs because, because he’s trying to insult me, and it’s not in the script. So he’s realizing it doesn’t sound as insulting as he wants, so he keeps trying to make it worse. It’s like, ‘I’m gonna eat your… I’m gonna chew, I’m gonna nibble it. I will eat your nuts!'” Damon says.
The actors promise they made up with each other afterwards.
“We laughed a bunch,” Messina says. “You know, it was just fun… the whole energy on set was just fun. And certainly those scenes were a lot of fun to do.”
“Yeah, we hugged it out at the end,” laughs Damon.
Air is now playing in theaters.