Exclusive: How Jimmy Kimmel Live Pulled Off Its Matt Damon Episode
Matt Damon | Photo Credits: Randy Holmes/ABC
Viewers of Jimmy Kimmel Live tuned in Thursday night to see the late-night host bound and gagged at the corner of the stage. Matt Damon had hijacked the show, and proceeded to oversee what may have been one of the most star-studded episodes in talk show history.
The Damon episode, of course, was the culmination of a long-running joke by host Jimmy Kimmel. For a good chunk of Jimmy Kimmel Live's ten-year run, Kimmel had ended each episode by apologizing to Damon for bumping him from the show. Now it was time for Damon's revenge.
Damon even brought in Sheryl Crow to replace Kimmel's bandleader, Cleto Escobedo, while actor Andy Garcia took over the sidekick role normally handled by Guillermo Rodriguez. Robin Williams helped Damon deliver his monologue; Ben Affleck was (briefly) cue card man, and Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Demi Moore, Amy Adams and Gary Oldman shared an extremely tight couch.
In reality, of course, the Damon episode was the product of four years of heavy planning by Kimmel and his production team. Executive producer Jill Leiderman spoke with TV Guide Magazine about turning Damon into a talk show host, attracting so many A-list stars and even bringing Kimmel's ex Sarah Silverman back to the show.
TV Guide Magazine: When did you start plotting this episode out, and how did you get Matt Damon to get on board?
Leiderman: The relationship with Matt has been cultivated ever since the "I'm F***ing Matt Damon" video. As you know, Jimmy mentioned Matt and "bumped" him for the first time in 2005. So the relationship has been percolating, and we've been working with Matt and his publicist, Jen Allen, for all of these years constantly coming up with new and creative ideas and ways in which we can grow the relationship. Jimmy and Matt have become closer as well over the years.
TV Guide Magazine: How did the long-running apology-to-Damon gag come about in the first place?
Leiderman: In order to make our co-executive producer Jason Schrift laugh, Jimmy mentioned Matt as somebody who was still waiting in the green room to come on one night when our guest list wasn't all that illustrious. So what we continue to try and do is find creative ways to inject Matt into our show.
TV Guide Magazine: How long have you been hoping to do this episode, the culmination of that joke?
Leiderman: This was an idea that came about four years ago, and we've just been waiting for the right time. From the moment we discussed it, we always knew he would host the entire show but we didn't want it to get out there early because we wanted the surprise for our audience, that when they tuned in Matt had hijacked the show. It seemed like the right organic way to really once and for all put a fine point on the relationship, and have this epic archrival relationship come to a head. So for the past four years we've been trying to figure out with Matt's schedule when the right time would be.
We wanted the time to shoot field pieces with him, brief him, give him the experience to prep him to be able to drive his own late night show. The entire production team came together and rallied behind both Jimmy and Matt to create all the content that we put on the show last night.