The poker cult classic Rounders recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary, a milestone that is sure to dampen the odds of there ever being a sequel with some of the same cast members.
The film, which was released in the United States on Sept. 11, 1998, is credited with helping ignite the poker boom of the early-to-mid 2000s. Matt Damon, who stared in the film as aspiring poker pro Mike McDermott, has given interviews on the making of the film over the years. Damon appeared on The Bill Simmons Podcast early this month and talked at length about the popular movie, but Damon’s comments could signal the final nail in the coffin for a follow-up flick.
Two years ago, Damon speculated on a plot for a sequel when appearing on the The Rich Eisen Show. These days, Damon apparently doesn’t believe the film industry would be receptive to a movie like Rounders. Just how poor has the quality of Hollywood’s content become? According to Damon, a sequel would probably need to include high-speed car chases and maybe a superhero or two. All of that would obviously be absurd in the Rounders universe.
In stark terms, Damon laid out on The Bill Simmons Podcast that there isn’t a market for a movie profiling the complex characters in the world of high-stakes, underground poker.
“There was a DVD market, and that evaporated. It’s gone,” Damon said of the era in which Rounders was released. “I asked a studio head recently when we were promoting The Martian, what was the real effect of that? He said 50 percent. Fifty percent of business has been cannibalized. It’s just technology. There are different ways to deliver this stuff.”
Damon explained that if a live streaming service like Netflix isn’t interested in a Rounders follow-up project then probably no company is. Even one of the writers of the original film said last year that he’s fed up answering questions about a potential sequel.
“In very real terms for us, that’s why the movies have changed,” Damon said. “That’s why they won’t make Rounders anymore, they won’t make Good Will Hunting, they can’t. What [the DVDmarket] has been kind of replaced with is the international box office. What you want are movies that are big and really understandable to people all around the world, across language and culture. That means talk less, make things more simple—white hat, black hat, superheroes. It makes total sense, right? Everybody knows who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. They spend $400 million and blow a lot of shit up. You can’t put Rounders into a movie theater up against that stuff. Everyone is wondering what is going to happen [to the film industry].”
It’s not clear what Damon would say about a project like Molly’s Game (2017), a film centered on underground poker organizer Molly Bloom. It’s worth noting that Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter and director of the film, was adamant that it was “not a poker movie” because it touched on other popular cinematic themes like organized crime and sports.
Rounders was unabashedly a poker movie.
Damon’s comments about the industry’s obsession with superheroes actually echo those made by now disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who said in 2013 that a Rounders sequel would need a “super villain to replace John Malkovich.” The film producer also said that the sequel would have to be “more international.”