Pop Culture

Matt Damon talks 'Contagion,' dubs hairstyle 'The Lauer'

Sep. 7, 2011 at 9:55 AM ET

Now the truth can be told: Matt Damon's shaved no-hair style is called ... "The Lauer."

That was just one of the chuckles the Oscar winner infected the TODAY studio with this morning, as he sat down with Matt Lauer to discuss his new film, "Contagion," his lack of hair and the first day of the new school year for his kids (New York schools open for students on Thursday).

The shaved head is for a 2013 film Damon is working on called "Elysium," and when asked about it he gave it a name based on his close-cropped interviewer, who tossed back that "it's a little more (Al) Roker than Lauer."

Lauer started off the conversation in a lighthearted way, referring to his overuse of hand sanitizer throughout the day and wearing a surgeon's face mask, referring to "Contagion," a Steven Soderbergh-directed film about a pandemic, and starring Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet, among others. But the conversation quickly took on a serious tone, as Lauer wondered if Damon came away from the film feeling good about America's preparedness for such a disaster.

"I'm guardedly optimistic," said Damon. "One takeaway for us was the scientists at the (Center for Disease Control) ... they're really a competent, capable, dedicated group of people. ... I feel like there's a great group of minds that are constantly vigilant about protecting us. So that's the good part."

As for the not-so-good parts, Lauer wondered whether the media makes too much of potential disasters, such as SARS and Hurricane Irene, or if it should be criticized for not preparing people.

"That's the thing," said Damon. "You're under pressure to get people to tune in. Fear sells a lot better, but in a real situation like that, you'd have to resist the temptation to sell the panic, because that could be putting gasoline on the fire."

Eventually, the conversation segued toward Thursday's first day of school -- and Damon says he's thrilled to take the kids to the door personally. "I love it. I used to walk to school as a kid; I just love that part of it. We have a 7th grader starting a new school, and my kindergartener is really excited because she's going back to school and seeing her friends."

Of course, as for his 3-year-old, "She still doesn't know she's going to school!"

"Contagion" opens on September 9.

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