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Damon remaking history

The actor is a driving force behind 'The People Speak,' adapted from

July 30, 2009|Scott Collins and Maria Elena Fernandez

Jason Bourne is getting historical.

Matt Damon, star of the "The Bourne Identity" and its sequels, dropped by the semiannual gathering of the Television Critics Assn. on Wednesday to promote a longtime passion project, one without chases or high-tech gizmos.

Damon is an executive producer of "The People Speak," an unusual History channel documentary premiering later this year that features Damon, Marisa Tomei and other celebrities performing selections from diaries, speeches and other primary sources related to American history.

The show is adapted from Howard Zinn's controversial "A People's History of the United States," which narrated Americans' struggle for social justice through the eyes of ordinary people. The book has sold an estimated 2 million copies.

Even so, Damon told the television journalists meeting at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, he and his partners struggled for a decade to get the project produced for the small screen. "From the moment we had any influence in this town, we've been trying to get this project off the ground," said Damon, who grew up near Zinn in Boston. "It demonstrates how everyday citizens have changed the course of history."

Fox was initially interested. Later, HBO proposed a series of dramatized films based on the book, but eventually "ran out of gas for us," Damon said.

The show will focus on dramatic readings of archival material. "This was just the most sensible way to do it," said Damon, who also kicked in financial backing for the project.

Marion Jones talks to ESPN

It would be tough to find a world-class athlete who's suffered a steeper fall from grace than Marion Jones. On Wednesday, the former track star -- who was stripped of her Olympic medals and spent six months in jail after admitting she lied about taking performance-enhancing drugs -- did some explaining. At least, explaining why she agreed to appear in an ESPN documentary about her travails.

"I was a bit hesitant to want to have to open the door again to so much drama and pain," Jones told reporters.

But after talking with director John Singleton about his plans, she concluded that it "was an opportunity for me to have my say and for people to understand . . . certain choices and decisions that I made."

"Marion Jones: Press Pause" is part of "30 for 30," an upcoming series of documentaries from filmmakers to celebrate the sports network's 30th anniversary. The actor and rap star Ice Cube, for instance, delivers "Straight Outta L.A.," a look at the cultural impact of the Raiders NFL franchise.

Singleton promised the film would not be "candy-coated." But he admitted that he has strong views of Jones' case.

"This is a subject that really got under my skin," Singleton said. "I remember being emotionally shaken by what she was going through." He said Jones was paying a steeper price than other athletes who'd lied about doping. "This story is still happening and evolving," he said. "Marion is still on a certain journey."

DJ AM makes most out of life

You may not know that DJ AM was a drug addict for a long time and once weighed about 300 pounds. But soon, America will know that and more, through MTV's "Gone Too Far," in which DJ AM, also known as Adam Goldstein, pays forward the fact that his life has been spared twice.

Eleven years ago a gun jammed as Goldstein, then a crack addict, tried to kill himself. Last year, he was one of two survivors of an airplane crash in South Carolina.

On "Gone Too Far," Goldstein helps loved ones of addicts stage interventions.

"There's no reason why I should have lived or why I lived and they didn't," Goldstein said. "But . . . I'm here and I have to do something better with my life now." The eight-episode series premieres Oct. 5.

The TCA press tour continues through Aug. 8.

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scott.collins@latimes.com

maria.elena.fernandez@latimes.com

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