301 - Yes, We Bought a Zoo

The movie We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, is based on a book by Benjamin Mee and it tells the true story of a young family that decides to leave the city and move to the countryside, where they take over a dilapidated zoo. As often happens in Hollywood, changes have been made: in the book the zoo was part of Dartmoor National Park in the English county of Devon: in the film it is in California.
In both stories Benjamin Mee’s wife dies of cancer and, as Matt Damon explains, this has a devastating effect on the rest of the family:

Matt Damon
(Standard American accent)
They’re kind of drowning a little bit. They’re still reeling from this loss and the son is 14 years old and starting to act out a little bit and gets expelled from school. And so the father, who I play, Benjamin, does this kind of radical thing, which is he decides to move the family to a new place, to a new school district, just to some place new and, in the course of looking for a home, finds their dream home, but it turns out that there’s a zoo on the property.

And he thinks that it is a story that audiences can relate to:

Matt Damon
The through line is this story of this guy who takes on this huge project that seems a little bit kind of unwieldy and crazy and I think, you know, hopefully, people will be able to relate to times in their life when they’ve felt a little overwhelmed, and have done something… have had a chance to kind of make a leap like this and, whether they have or not, they’ll understand that moment and... and want to go on that journey with us.

In recent years Scarlett Johansson has tended to play sexy young women, but one of her earliest roles was in Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer, as a teenage girl who was fond of her horse. So it isn’t surprising that she is a member of the zoo’s staff in this film. As the story unfolds she becomes romantically involved with Matt Damon’s character:

Scarlett Johansson
(Standard American accent)
It’s been incredible, I’ve been a huge fan of his since I was a kid, since he was a kid, and I just think that he’s an incredibly generous actor and is unbelievably professional and unbelievably kind and so much fun to work with just because he’s a lot of laughs when it’s that time and when it’s down to the work he’s just present and focused and... he’s just a gem.

The film is directed by Cameron Crowe, who began his professional career as a teenage reporter for Rolling Stone magazine:

Cameron Crowe
(Standard American accent)
Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee as a straight up guy trying to save his family and be the best father he can be. He’s a journalist, so he’s wide open to life and he’s always kind of liked adventure, he’s written about adventure, but it’s a funny thing that happens sometimes as a journalist, you’re ushered into an adventurous situation, but you’re still an outsider, you’re going to leave and write that story. This is Benjamin Mee’s first human adventure, where he’s part of it: he is the adventure.