The coronavirus lockdown has made life strange for many in Ireland, but the residents of a Dublin seaside suburb are getting used to a particularly surreal sight: Hollywood actor Matt Damon.
Damon, his wife, Luciana Barroso, and their three youngest children arrived in Ireland in March, before lockdown restrictions took effect, so he could continue shooting on the now-suspended Ridley Scott film "The Last Duel."
Since then, Damon — who starred in "Contagion," about a fictional deadly pandemic — has been isolating in the village of Dalkey. After multiple sightings by locals and attempts to track him down, Damon broke his silence in an interview Wednesday with Dublin radio station Spin 1038.
"I arrived before lockdown. I'm in the middle of a movie. We shot the first half in France and the rest in Ireland, but the movie was shut down in early March," Damon said.
"Dalkey is incredible. It's one of the most beautiful places we've ever been. We feel guilty that we have this incredible setup in this place. It's absolutely gorgeous."
Sightings of Damon had been reported since the announcement of the lockdown restrictions, with reports of him in local pubs, cafés and restaurants, as well as a widely circulated image showing him carrying a shopping bag of beach towels on his way to take a dip in the notoriously cold Irish Sea.
Damon said he was persuaded by his friend Bono to appear on the radio station after hosts Graham O'Toole and Nathan O'Reilly launched a public campaign to get him on the air.
O'Reilly told Damon that the Dalkey community had become so protective of him that in his attempts to track the star down he had been kicked out of a Facebook group run by residents. "I heard this story. That's when I realized how great this place was and how protective everybody here is," Damon said.
Damon said he was looking forward to reuniting with his eldest daughter when the family eventually leaves Ireland to return to Los Angeles. He revealed that she had contracted COVID-19 along with her roommates while at college in New York City but had "got through it fine."
During the Zoom interview, Damon had a surprise for a super fan nurse, Anaise, who called into the program. "Hopefully, people are starting to understand how awesome you health care workers are," he told her. Damon also praised Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, calling him "a badass" after he re-registered as a doctor in March to work for the Irish Health Services one session a week.
Damon said he had some worries about a surge in cases in the U.S. and about the availability of adequate testing. Referring to the similarities between pandemics on film and the coronavirus crisis, Damon said: "Anyone who says you couldn't predict this, look at 'Contagion.' Ten years ago we made a movie just by talking to experts."