Matt Damon found it easy to persuade Steven Soderbergh to release him from his THE INFORMANT contract to make THE GOOD SHEPHERD - he told him Robert De Niro was the director. The Good Will Hunting star was all signed up to take the lead in Soderbergh's film when De Niro offered him the part he'd been dreaming about for years. The OCEAN'S 11 director knew how important The Good Shepard was for his pal and immediately released him from his contract. Damon says, "Bob (De Niro) offered me the part out of the blue and I was scheduled to do a movie with Soderbergh. I called him up and I told him what was going on and he instantly pushed for me. "He said, `If this had been a movie where you were getting an enormous amount of money for some goofy popcorn movie, I wouldn't do it,' but because he knew De Niro was trying to do it for a long time he wouldn't stop one of his friends from doing a great movie. "So he pushed The Informant back and we're gonna do that next October (07)." Damon admits he first read the script for De Niro's The Good Shepherd back in 1998, but never imagined he'd get the nod to star in the film. He adds, "Somebody else was promised the role at that point. I remember thinking, `Wow, this is terrific. I hope this gets made.'"