Nationality: American. Born: New Rochelle, New York, 18 February 1964; brother of actor Kevin Dillon. Education: Attended high school in New Rochelle; studied acting at the Lee Strasberg School. Career: Made his film debut in Over the Edge after being spotted by casting director Vic Ramos, 1979. Awards: Best Male Lead Independent Spirit Award, for Drugstore Cowboy , 1989; Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor-Comedy, for There's Something About Mary , 1999. Agent: Ed Limato, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
Films as Actor:
Over the Edge (Kaplan) (as Richie)
Little Darlings (Maxwell) (as Randy); My Bodyguard (Bill) (as Moody)
Liar's Moon (Fisher) (as Jack Duncan); Tex (Hunter) (as Tex McCormick); The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters (Bartlett—for TV)
The Outsiders (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Dallas Winston); Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Rusty James)
The Flamingo Kid (Garry Marshall) (as Jeffrey Willis)
Rebel (Jenkins) (title role); Target (Arthur Penn) (as Chris Lloyd)
Native Son (Freedland) (as Jan)
The Big Town (Bolt) (as J. C. Cullen); Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (Couturie—doc)
Kansas (David Stevens) (as Doyle Kennedy)
Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant) (as Bob Hughes); Bloodhounds of Broadway (Brookner) (as Regret); When He's Not a Stranger (John Gray—for TV)
A Kiss before Dying (Dearden) (as Jonathan Corliss); "Return to Kansas City" ep. of Women & Men II ( Women & Men:
Singles (Crowe) (as Cliff Poncier); Malcolm X (Spike Lee) (as DJ at the Harlem "Y" Dance)
The Saint of Fort Washington (Hunter) (as Matthew); Mr. Wonderful (Minghella) (as Gus DeMarco)
Golden Gate (Madden) (as Kevin Walker)
To Die For (Van Sant) (as Larry Maretto); Frankie Starlight (Lindsay-Hogg) (as Terry Klout)
Beautiful Girls (Ted Demme) (as Tommy "Birdman" Rowland); Albino Alligator (Spacey) (as Dova); Grace of My Heart (Anders) (as Jay Phillips)
In & Out (Oz) (as Cameron Drake); Pitch (Hotz, Rice) (doc) (as himself)
Wild Things (McNaughton) (as Sam Lombardo); There's Something About Mary (Peter & Bobby Farrelly) (as Pat Healy)
One Night at McCools (Zwart) (as Randy)
City of Ghosts (d, co-sc)
By DILLON: articles—
Interview in Interview (New York), December 1983.
Interviews in Ciné Revue (Paris), 29 March 1984 and 28 May 1987.
Interview in Time Out (London), 27 October 1985 and 22 November 1989.
Interview with Brendan Lemon, in Interview (New York), April 1991.
"You Cannot Be Serious," interview with David Eimer, in Empire (London), October 1998.
On DILLON: book—
Mead, Cheryl L., The Matt Dillon Scrapbook , New York, 1984.
On DILLON: articles—
Seale, Jim, "Marshaling Dillon Tex," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1982.
Scott, Jay, "Susie Loves Matt," in American Film (New York), April 1983.
Hibbin, S., "Matt Dillon," in Films and Filming (London), October 1984.
Current Biography 1985 , New York, 1985.
Yakir, Dan, "Rebels with a Cause," in Horizon (New York), July/August 1985.
Arrington, Carl Wayne, "Mighty Matt," Rolling Stone (New York), 30 November 1989.
Ellis, Bret Easton, "The Dillon Papers," in American Film , February 1991.
Brantley, Ben, "Strange Love," in Vanity Fair (New York), April 1991.
Hoban, Phoebe, "Rough Boy," in Premiere (New York), May 1991.
Fuller, Graham & Trevor Johnston, "Sitting Pretty/Romantic Leads," in Time Out (London), 13 October 1993.
Hoffman, J., "Matt Dillon May Look Tough, but Don't Get Him Wrong," in New York Times, 31 October 1993
Linson, A., "Three Actors, 3 Tales," in New York Times, 31 October 1993.
Mundy, C., "A Fine Romance," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), August 1998.
Dougherty, M., "King of Heart," in Los Angeles, August 1998.
"The Man Time Forgot," in Premiere (New York), August 1998.
Thomson, David, "Sex Symbols of the 21st century," in Movieline (Los Angeles), February 1999.
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Early in his career, Matt Dillon came to personify the alienated celluloid teen, adept at conveying adolescent angst (if not outright menace). Sometimes, his characters were thoroughly amoral and antisocial, such as Richie, the nihilistic young punk, in his debut feature, Jonathan Kaplan's much-underrated Over the Edge . As a depiction of disarray among suburban (as opposed to urban) teenagers, Over the Edge may be linked to the classic of the genre, Rebel Without a Cause . Dillon's presence in the film served as a solid launching pad to screen stardom.
From Over the Edge , he segued into secondary roles as the stereotypical teen bully in Little Darlings and My Bodyguard . In what were his most highly publicized early films, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish (both directed by Francis Coppola, and based on the writings of S. E. Hinton), Dillon played troubled teens who were more complexly drawn. Unfortunately, both films were far from the definitive views of youthful angst intended by the director. Dillon earlier had played a variation of his Outsiders / Rumble Fish characters in Tim Hunter's Tex , a far more cohesive adaptation of an S. E. Hinton story, in which he effectively conveys his character's insecurity and vulnerability. But easily the most congenial of his early performances came in The Flamingo Kid . Here, Dillon winningly plays a young man who is an outsider because of class, and who is anything but surly and antisocial. He is the child of a Brooklyn blue-collar family whose upwardly mobile instincts take root when he hires on as a cabana boy at a country club.
The Flamingo Kid might have been a career breakthrough. But what followed for Dillon was a spate of roles in films that were essentially minor in nature ( Rebel , The Big Town , and Kansas ), or those with higher pedigrees which were outright misfires ( Target ). During the second half of the 1980s it appeared as if Dillon's career was in the process of self-destructing; furthermore, he already had entered his twenties, and could not forever play troubled or rebellious (or even likable) young antiheroes.
His celluloid salvation came when he was cast as Bob Hughes, the junkie-thief, in Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy . The film is a vivid depiction of life and survival within a drug subculture, and for Dillon it was a transitional role. Upon its release, many critics expressed surprise at the excellence of his performance. But he always had been a fine actor. This misconception regarding his talent was fostered by the fact that too many of his films had been undistinguished, and were quickly forgotten. His films with Coppola were disappointments; Over the Edge was barely seen. So Tex and The Flamingo Kid seemed to be deviations in a lackluster career. Additionally, Dillon may have suffered, in terms of the critical estimate of his acting ability, from having such a handsome face. He was victimized by the widespread prejudice that if you are beautiful you cannot act, and if you can act you cannot be beautiful.
In Drugstore Cowboy , however, Dillon proved that he indeed knew how to act. He followed up by doing nicely as the ill-fated homeless camera buff befriended by Danny Glover in the unfortunately overlooked The Saint of Fort Washington ; the ex-husband who tries to avoid paying alimony by marrying off former wife Annabella Sciorra in Mr. Wonderful ; and the ill-fated husband of Nicole Kidman in To Die For . The latter role is especially interesting, given the roots of Dillon's screen persona. His Larry Maretto, a loving and well-adjusted nice guy who is satisfied with his small-town American life and only wants to start a family with his wife, is the antithesis of his early roles. Rather than being the cause of (or conduit for) chaos, Larry is the victim, as his murder is instigated by his wife—and he is bumped off by the type of characters he might have played a decade earlier.
By the mid-1990s, the careers of quite a few of the previous decade's young celluloid hopefuls had evaporated. C. Thomas Howell, Jim Metzler, Chris Makepeace, Leif Garrett, Vincent Spano, Ralph Macchio, and even Oscar-winner Tatum O'Neal are among Dillon's early 1980s co-stars who no longer were promising personalities or hot properties; such is the fleeting nature of stardom. Dillon, happily, was an exception. And he insured his industry foothold by offering a nice array of performances in the second half of the decade: a small-town Romeo who cheats on his longtime girlfriend with his old, now-married high school flame ( Beautiful Girls ); a crazed genius rock musician, a character loosely based on the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson ( Grace of My Heart ); an Oscar-winning actor who outs his high school English teacher ( In & Out ); a thief who is a combination charmer-devil ( Albino Alligator ); a high school guidance counselor accused of raping two sexpot students ( Wild Things) ; and, most hilariously, an oily private investigator who comes complete with a pencil-thin moustache ( There's Something About Mary ).
Unlike Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, his fellow survivors of the 1980s, Matt Dillon has not become a mega-watt star who commands a multimillion-dollar salary. Instead, he is a working actor and all-purpose performer whose solidly reliable on-screen presence has portended his professional staying power.