Cambridge, Massachusetts, 8 October 1970.
Studied English at Harvard University for three years.
Academy Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen,
National Board of Review Award for Special Achievement in Filmmaking,
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay and
Breakout Artist, Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay—Motion
Picture, Silver Bear Award for Outstanding Single Achievement (for acting
and screenwriting), Berlin International Film Festival, and Golden
Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay—Original, all
Good Will Hunting
, 1997; ShoWest Award for Male Star of Tomorrow, 1998.
PMK, 955 S. Carillo Dr., Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90048, U.S.A.
The Good Mother (Nimoy) (uncredited); Mystic Pizza (Petrie) (as Steamer)
Rising Son (Coles—for TV) (as Charlie Robinson)
School Ties (Mandel) (as Charlie Dillon)
Geronimo: An American Legend (Hill) (as Lieutenant Britton Davis)
The Good Old Boys (Tommy Lee Jones—for TV) (as Cotton Calloway)
Courage Under Fire (Zwick) (as Specialist Ilario); Glory Daze (Wilkes) (as Edgar Pudwhacker)
Good Will Hunting (Van Sant) (as Will Hunting, + sc with Ben Affleck); Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith) (as Exec #2); The Rainmaker (Coppola) (as Rudy Baylor)
Rounders (Dahl) (as Mike McDermott); Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg) (as Private James Francis Ryan)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella) (as Tom Ripley); Dogma (Kevin Smith) (as Loki/Larry)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (Redford) (as Rannulph Junuh); Titan A.E. ( Titan: After Earth ) (Bluth, Goldman, Vitello) (as Cale [voice]); All the Pretty Horses (Thornton) (as John Grady Cole)
A People's History of the United States (doc—for TV)
Diamond, Maxine, and Harriet Hemmings, Matt Damon: A Biography , New York, 1998.
Sischy, Ingrid, "The Sands Are Shifting," in Interview (New York), vol. 27, no. 12, December 1997.
Kamp, David, "Meet Matt Damon," in Vanity Fair (New York), no. 448, December 1997.
Blum, David, "Reign Man," in Time (New York), vol. 150, no. 23, 1 December 1997.
Brodie, John, "Boston Uncommon," in Premiere (New York), vol. 11, no. 5, January 1998.
Chambers, L., "Matt Damon: Good Word Hunting," in Written By (Los Angeles), vol. 2, February 1998.
Rich, Frank, "American Pseudo," in New York Times Magazine , 12 December 1999.
Corliss, Richard, "Can Matt Play Ripley's Game?" in Time (New York), vol. 154, no. 26, 27 December 1999.
Luscombe, Belinda, "Matt Damon Acts Out," in Time (New York), vol. 154, no. 26, 27 December 1999.
Sansom, Ian, "Matt's Giant Goes to Mongibello," in Times Literary Supplement (London), no. 5058, 10 March 2000.
Lochte, Dick, "Ears to You," in Playboy (Chicago), vol. 47, April 2000.
* * *
On the third of April 1998, 27-year-old Matt Damon and his childhood friend, 25-year-old Ben Affleck, won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. Amid much levity about the youth of the recipients, two stars were born that night. In their personal lives and their careers, Damon and Affleck have often seemed inseparable. In addition to winning the Oscar for their screenplay, the pair acted together in Good Will Hunting , Dogma , and School Ties. But following the 1998 Oscars, it was the affable, sandy-haired Damon who emerged as Hollywood's millennial Golden Boy, on the heels of a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of a troubled mathematical genius in the film that he also co-wrote.
Much has been made of Damon's unusual upbringing in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, commune and his decision to drop out of Harvard University one semester shy of graduation to pursue a career as an actor. In fact, the determined Damon knew he wanted to act from the time he was ten years old, and while still in high school, he landed a bit part in 1988's Mystic Pizza. But it was a minor role in the 1992 prep school drama, School Ties —the film that launched the careers of Brendan Fraser and Chris O'Donnell—that allowed Damon to believe he had what it took to make it. After dropping out of Harvard and moving to Hollywood, however, Damon's all-American teen idol good looks brought him little more than bit parts in such little-seen movies as Geronimo: An American Legend. Four years passed before he landed his breakthrough role in the underrated 1996 Gulf War film, Courage Under Fire. Determined to make an impression, Damon lost 40 pounds to play the part of Specialist Ilario, a heroine-addicted Gulf War veteran. Damon's evocative portrayal of a junkie haunted by his traumatic experience in combat stood out in a film featuring such star players as Meg Ryan, Denzel Washington, and Lou Diamond Phillips. It even attracted the attention of Francis Ford Coppola. The legendary director cast Damon as the lead in John Grisham's courtroom drama, The Rainmaker. Damon's solid performance as a crusading, young Southern lawyer caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, who tapped the actor for the title role of Saving Private Ryan. In Spielberg's World War II epic, Damon's disarming and understated depiction of a soldier who has lost three of his brothers in combat was the lynchpin that held the Oscar-winning film together. It put Damon on the map. Suddenly studios were clamoring for more of the 26-year-old all-American boy. The savvy Damon used this opportunity to revive interest in a screenplay that he and Affleck had written, and Miramax offered the pair a cool million for Good Will Hunting. Within months, Gus van Sant had signed on to direct.
Good Will Hunting transformed Damon from just another up-andcoming young actor into Hollywood wunderkind. As the South Boston genius delinquent, Damon managed to craft a sympathetic portrayal that ran the gamut of emotions from rough-edge cynicism to youthful sex appeal to heartbreaking optimism. Buoyed by a strong supporting cast that included Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, and Affleck, the independent film earned nine Oscar nominations, including Best Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.
With a writing Oscar and an acting nomination under his belt, Damon was one of Hollywood's hottest young male stars with first choice on all of the best projects. Damon began carefully constructing a career that would earn the respect of the acting community. He starred as a reformed gambler and law student in Rounders , with some of acting's hot young turks, including Edward Norton, John Turturro, and John Malkovich. Next came The Talented Mr. Ripley , a project that Damon had signed on to do prior to Good Will Hunting. This time the young actor chose to play a difficult role, and a potentially unlikable one. As the talented but troubled Tom Ripley, a young man who so desperately wants to be accepted and loved by the beautiful people that he becomes a killer, Damon managed to imbue his character with an unlikely pathos, allowing the audience to empathize with him instead of revile him. His ability to completely throw himself into a role surfaced once again, as he turned his affable, all-American good looks into a detriment instead of an asset. Damon's Ripley was good-looking but never handsome, personable but never charming.
Damon's next roles, a cowboy in All the Pretty Horses and war hero turned golfer in The Legend of Bagger Vance , are both star turns in epic films with big name directors—Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Redford. For all of his success, Damon is still unsure of himself as an actor. He knows he has been lucky, and he certainly has been savvy. But intelligence is sometimes the bailiwick of the actor, and Damon will continue to try to prove to himself and to others that he is, indeed, a good actor.