By Amy Longsdorf
July 23, 2004 06:00 AM

Unlike his amnesiac assassin character Jason Bourne, Matt Damon isn’t quick to forget. After starring in 2002’s Bourne Identity, the 33-year-old star brought out his old “bag of tricks” for the sequel, The Bourne Supremacy – talents like being handy with a gun and being a professional stalker. Damon recently shared some of his new skills and talked about what’s it’s like to run with the “in” crowd – George Clooney and the Ocean’s Twelve gang.

You don’t really look like a tough guy. Why do you think you were picked for the job?
(Original director Doug Liman) thought that it was really daring to cast me as this guy because of the way that I look. I look so young. … So, Doug would come up with certain things. He watched boxing on television and he liked the way that boxers walked.

What did you do to mimic that?
I boxed for about six months before the movie and that really did help. … The sum total of a lot of those little subtleties add up into making something believable or not.

Why is Jason Bourne considered an anti-hero?
If you take responsibility for your own actions, the most important thing that you do to rejoin the human race is to start by atoning for the things that you’ve done. To take someone who we’ve established as an American, the ultimate American machine, weapon, whatever, that’s the realization that he comes to. In the end, it’s very powerful.

Are you and Good Will Hunting pal Ben Affleck working on anything new?
I saw him last night and (writing) is something that we talk about every time we see each other. We want to do it, but it’s just a matter of handling the logistics and figuring out a way to get us in the same place at the same time.

Have you seen the Off-Broadway play Matt & Ben?
I haven’t seen it. And I don’t know, some people have said it’s funny. Some people have said it’s kind of a knock or whatever. I just figure it’s an extension of Project Greenlight. It’s a chance to get people a job. (Laughs)

Will there be another Bourne?

If we can figure out a way to do it, but this one also has kind of a definite end to it. There’s an opening there, but to do what I don’t know. We’ll see.

How is it choosing projects now?
Right before The Bourne Identity, came out, I hadn’t been offered a movie in a year because The Legend of Bagger Vance had come out and bombed, and All The Pretty Horses had come out and bombed, and the word on The Bourne Identity was that it was going to tank also because we had pushed back the release date a couple of times. So I went and did a play in London. We closed on a Saturday night and Bourne had opened that Friday and by the time that I got back to New York on Sunday night, Monday morning there was something like 30 script offers.

What’s it like coming back to a familiar character?
Well, having done all the preparation on the last one, I could really just phone it in. That was the best part. No. There are new little skills that I had to learn for this one and I had the time to do them because I already kind of had my little bag of tricks.

There’s a rooftop stalking scene where you scope out your targets. As a celeb, life must feel like that sometimes.
People ask me if I trained with anyone in the CIA or anyone in the Special Forces. I actually trained with the paparazzi for this movie. I guess that recently doing Ocean’s Twelve and being in such close proximity to some really big stars like George (Clooney) and Brad (Pitt), it’s been more of a consideration. When I first did Good Will Hunting, I think that the paparazzi started following me for a week and then realized that they weren’t going to get anything that exciting. So they kind of gave up.

How is Ocean’s Twelve coming along?
We’re about 75 percent of the way through. We just came back from Europe and we’re finishing it up at Warner Bros., and it’s been going great so far. Everyone is back for this one, and plus Catherine Zeta-Jones has a great role in this one. Then there are a few celebrity surprises.

Must’ve been a great reunion.
It’s been great. George goes out of his way to make sure that everyone is having a good time. I mean, a lot of it has made the papers, and it looks like a giant kind of vacation, and it is. It is a giant vacation. (Laughs)