Getting to the PROMISED LAND

When John Krasinski told Matt Damon about his idea for a movie several years ago, neither had any idea it was the beginning of a remarkable writing collaboration - and beautiful friendship.

PROMISED LAND actors and screenwriters Matt Damon and John Krasinski had met through the latter's wife, actress Emily Blunt, with whom the former had starred in

The Adjustment Bureau

. When Krasinski mentioned the script over dinner one night, Damon became interested and soon began working on it with him. "It was a blast," remembers Krasinski. "We got along so well from the beginning. We were becoming friends and collaborators."

"John has got this incredibly fast brain," marvels Damon. "So the writing would come quickly and we would laugh together. It reminded me of writing with Ben Affleck, a very similar feeling and above all else a lot of fun - I'd forgotten just how much."

Moore joined the duo in producing the movie, as he was drawn to "the characters, first of all; I think audiences will be able to see parts of themselves in more than one of the roles. Also interesting to me was the concept of how someone in corporate America would wrestle with what his company is doing versus what his own job is - or might be.

"To me, this script had the potential to become an interesting movie like ones that you would see in the 1970s. It's harder to get those made now, but like on Good Will Hunting we wanted to try. Like that movie, there's definitely humor in PROMISED LAND as well."

As Damon and Krasinski scouted towns in upstate New York, they encountered a setback. Moore notes, "From that and their research, they realized that way the windmill business really functions wouldn't work for the movie, dramatically speaking."

Damon remembers their having to accept the fact that "we had built this story on something that wasn't quite true. It was a tough moment in the life of this project."

Moore reflects, "We wanted to move the project forward, but this became a hill to get it up and over."

Krasinski and Damon spoke about transposing the story to a different setting with another issue as a backdrop while exploring the same themes and character studies. Coal mining, oil drilling, and salmon harvesting in Alaska were all considered. While Damon was away working on another movie, Krasinski came upon a natural gas drilling story and began a fresh round of research. He remarks, "It was the perfect contemporary lens through which to examine our questions of community and integrity.

"I wanted to establish an authentic foundation for those examinations." Accordingly, researching the relatively new chapter in energy exploration meant that Krasinski logged hours watching video accounts of whole towns and individual neighbors debating the issue, as well as reading voluminous reportage.

Before long, a new draft was underway. "John took it in his teeth and ran with it. Through this path, it became a better movie. The story remained basically intact," says Damon. "There were all these characters we'd grown to care about and could now further explore."

For nine months, work on screenplay drafts continued. Moore marvels, "Matt and John have a very strong work ethic; they would make time to get together and refine the script, whether it was in Mexico City, Vancouver, or New York City. These two guys are very secure in being able to tell each other when an idea is bad - which I think is the most important thing in a partnership - and are truly supportive when an idea is good."

Closest to home on the West Coast, the writing partners convened "every weekend while Matt was shooting We Bought a Zoo," recalls Krasinski. "We'd write all day Saturday and all day Sunday with his kids and our wives all around. It could get chaotic."

Damon says, "During the week, John and I would go back to our jobs and pore over what we'd written during our downtimes, scribbling notes and ideas before reconvening on the weekend to revise and revise and revise.

"My wife said to me, 'You had such a great time that even if it never gets made, it was worth it because you remembered how much you love writing and you had this incredible creative experience with John.'"

The scenario of the movie not getting made again nearly came to pass. Damon had intended to direct the feature, but when other movies that he was also committed to as an actor changed schedules, he realized that he would be unable to helm PROMISED LAND. "This wasn't an enjoyable phone call I had to make to John," he remembers.

Krasinski reflects, "That was a hard night for us all. Matt looked at his schedule and realized there was no way he could do everything he was planning. He takes his work quite seriously, and so he didn't want his opportunity to direct to be compromised."

The morning after he spoke with Krasinski, Damon set out with his family for holiday travel. While they were all sitting in the plane on the runway, he e-mailed one of the directors he has collaborated with extensively, Gus Van Sant, and told Van Sant about his dilemma. Within moments, recalls Damon, "Before they told us to turn off our phones, Gus wrote back, 'I'd love to read what you're writing.'"

Van Sant reveals, "I was on the lookout for that script before Matt checked in with me that morning; I knew he had a project in the works. When I heard from him, I figured they needed my help."

Damon marvels, "I sent him the whole document while we were still on the runway, and turned off my phone. When we landed a couple hours later, I had a message from Gus saying he wanted to direct the movie.

"I e-mailed John, 'We have a director, and not just any director - we have the best!'"

Unbeknownst even to Damon, Van Sant was Krasinski's favorite director "by far." When Damon's e-mail came through, Krasinski reports, "I was thrilled. I think I threw up and passed out. Being from Massachusetts, I think Good Will Hunting is tattooed on me somewhere..."

Van Sant reflects, "In reading the script, I noticed how it resembled other things that Matt had worked on as a writer, and I felt that he and John had turned out something so good together. It was very easy for me to say 'Yes.'"