Greenlight executive producer and Adaptive Studios co-founder Marc Joubert says Mann was “light-years beyond what we had in seasons 1, 2 and 3.”
Affleck adds, “Jason was, by far, the best, and we were really, really impressed by him and we really feel confident that he’s going to do something special for us and HBO.”
The show, which premieres in spring 2015 after a 10-year hiatus, will capture the entire process of Mann directing a feature-length film. Mann was chosen via Facebook and a panel of judges, including producers Joubert, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, President of Pearl Street Films Jennifer Todd, and Effie Brown.
Though the A-listers were expected to announce the winner, technically Affleck and Damon were beaten to the punch. Mann explains, “There was this moment where the projector showed ‘the winner,’ and I assumed it might be a mistake, or there were options [laughs], and that was maybe one that was being projected at the time.”
Affleck jokes, “Technology is not up to the point where the projector would wait for us to announce the winner before they projected the winner.”
Project Greenlight, which first premiered in 2001, follows the winner through the entire filmmaking process, from pre-production to casting to post-production. The documentary series launched the career of well-known filmmakers, such as Pete Jones (Hall Pass) and Patrick Melton (the Saw franchise).
The show was cancelled in 2005, but Affleck and Damon saw the opportunity to revive it now that technology has advanced. “It was ahead of its time in the sense that the technological demands that we placed on our company when we did it the first time proved to be a little bit much. When we thought about bringing it back, we thought that the world has come to a place where it’s going to be much easier for us to do this,” the director of the 2013 Oscar Best Picture winner, Argo, told PEOPLE.
“Jason should be doing this, this is what he is meant to do, and he’s really, really good at it,” Damon says, applauding Mann. “I think he’s somebody who, in 25 years, we’ll look back and he’ll have made a lot of wonderful movies, all kinds of different movies, and we’ll say, ‘Of course this is the guy that got that job!’ ”
• With reporting by REAGAN ALEXANDER