Matt Damon

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Matt Damon
Matt Damon 2014.jpg
Damon at the Paris premiere of The Monuments Men in February 2014
Born Matthew Paige Damon
(1970-10-08) October 8, 1970 (age 43)[1]
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard College[2]
Occupation
  • Actor
  • voice actor
  • producer
  • screenwriter
  • philanthropist
Years active 1988–present
Spouse(s) Luciana Bozán Barroso (m. 2005)
Children 3
Academy Awards
Best Original Screenplay
1998: Good Will Hunting
Golden Globe Awards
Best Screenplay
1998: Good Will Hunting
from the BBC programme The Film Programme, August 17, 2007.[3]

Matthew Paige "Matt" Damon (/ˈdmən/; born October 8, 1970) is an American actor, voice actor, screenwriter, producer, and philanthropist whose career was launched following the success of the drama film Good Will Hunting (1997) from a screenplay he co-wrote with friend and actor Ben Affleck. The pair won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay for their work. For his performance in the film, Damon received nominations for the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Satellite Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.

Damon has since starred in commercially successful films such as Saving Private Ryan (1998), the Ocean's trilogy, and the first three films in the Bourne series, while also gaining critical acclaim for his performances in dramas such as Syriana (2005), The Good Shepherd (2006), and The Departed (2006). He garnered a Golden Globe nomination for portraying the title character in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Francois Pienaar in Invictus (2009). He is one of the top-40 highest-grossing actors of all time. In 2007, Damon received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Damon has been actively involved in charitable work, including the ONE Campaign, H2O Africa Foundation, and Water.org.

Early life

Matt Damon was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Kent Telfer Damon, a stockbroker, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education professor at Lesley University.[4][5] His father is of Scottish and English ancestry, while his mother is of Finnish and Swedish descent.[6] His brother Kyle is an accomplished sculptor and artist.[5][7]

Damon and his family moved to Newton and lived there for two years. After his parents divorced, Damon and his brother moved with their mother back to Cambridge,[5][8] where they lived in a six-family communal house.[9][10]

Damon grew up near actor Ben Affleck, a close friend since childhood and collaborator on several films. He is Affleck's tenth cousin, once removed, through a common New England ancestor.[11][12] Another neighbor of Damon's was historian and author Howard Zinn,[13] whose biographical film You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train and audio version of A People's History of the United States Damon later narrated.[10]

Damon took to role-playing as a child partly because his mother raised him "by the book",[9] which made him feel as though "you couldn't define yourself, because you already had been defined by her".[9] He attended Cambridge Alternative School (now Graham and Parks) and then Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where he was a disciplined student[14] and schoolmates with Affleck but had a "terrifying" first two years due to his short height at the time.[15] As a lonely adolescent, Damon has described feeling "such pain in wanting to belong somewhere and not belonging".[9] Damon performed as an actor in several high school theater productions;[5] he has credited his drama teacher at Rindge and Latin, Gerry Speca, as an important artistic influence, even though Damon recalls that, "Mr. Speca always seemed to trust Ben [Affleck] with the biggest roles and longest speeches".[14]

Damon attended Harvard University from 1988 to 1992, but did not graduate.[16] He lived in Matthews Hall and then Lowell House,[17] leaving the university 12 credits shy of completion of his Bachelor of Arts in English to feature in Geronimo.[18][19] While at Harvard, he took part in student theater,[19] appearing in plays such as Burn This in Winthrop House and A... My Name is Alice (in one of the three male roles usually performed by women).[20] Damon dropped out of the university to pursue his acting career in Los Angeles because he mistakenly expected Geronimo: An American Legend to become a big success.[21] "By the time I figured out I had made the wrong decision, it was too late. I was living out here with a bunch of actors, and we were all scrambling to make ends meet", Damon has said.[22]

Acting career

Early years

Damon made his acting debut in 1988 at the age of 18, with a single line of dialogue in the romantic comedy Mystic Pizza.[23] As a student at Harvard University, he continued to pursue acting and performed small roles in projects such as the TNT original film Rising Son and the ensemble prep-school drama School Ties.[24] In 1992, he landed a big part in Geronimo: An American Legend with Gene Hackman and Jason Patric.[24] In 1996, he auditioned for a small role in Cutthroat Island, but was turned away.[25] Damon next appeared as an opiate-addicted soldier in 1996's Courage Under Fire. He was required to lose 40 pounds (18 kg) in 100 days (for only two days of filming).[26][27] After following a self-prescribed diet and fitness regimen to lose the weight, Damon was told after filming that he was fortunate his heart did not shrink. He took medication for a year and a half afterwards to correct the stress inflicted on his adrenal gland. Courage Under Fire gained him some critical notice, as The Washington Post labeled his performance "impressive";[28] Damon has stated that it was worthwhile to risk his health in order to properly portray his character and show the industry how committed he was to his work as an actor.[23][27]

Breakthrough

Matt Damon in Rome
with paparazzo Rino Barillari (1999)

During the early 1990s, Damon and Affleck wrote a screenplay about a young math genius, which they then pitched around Hollywood for a long time. Receiving advice from director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman, and their friend writer/director Kevin Smith, the two made changes to the script.[21] It eventually became Good Will Hunting (1997) and received nine Academy Awards nominations, earning Damon and Affleck Oscars for Best Original Screenplay.[29][30] Damon was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for the same film, which also netted an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for co-star Robin Williams.[29] He and Affleck were each paid salaries of $600,000, while the film grossed over $225 million at the worldwide box office.[31][32] The two later parodied their roles from the film in Kevin Smith's 2001 movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Also in 1997, Damon was the lead in the critically acclaimed drama The Rainmaker, where he was recognized by the Los Angeles Times as "a talented young actor on the brink of stardom."[33] After meeting Damon on the set of Good Will Hunting, director Steven Spielberg cast Damon as the titular character in the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan.[21]

Hollywood star

Six actors, all but one wearing a leather jacket, are photographed on a stage with a blue curtain as a backdrop.
Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Damon, Andy García, Julia Roberts (the cast of Ocean's Eleven), with director Steven Soderbergh in December 2001

Damon has become known for choosing a wide variety of film roles,[34] from his portrayal of Patricia Highsmith's anti-hero Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)[23] to a fallen angel who discusses pop culture as intellectual subject matter with Affleck in Dogma (1999); from a conjoined twin in Stuck on You (2003), which got a mixed critical reception,[35] to the low-budget experimental film Gerry (2002), which he co-wrote with Casey Affleck and Gus Van Sant. Damon garnered generally positive critical reaction for his Golden Globe-nominated[36] portrayal of Ripley, with Variety stating, "Damon outstandingly conveys his character's slide from innocent enthusiasm into cold calculation".[37]

Damon's attempts at essaying leading characters in romantic dramas such as 2000's All the Pretty Horses and The Legend of Bagger Vance were commercially and critically unsuccessful.[31] Variety said of his work in All the Pretty Horses: "[Damon] just doesn't quite seem like a young man who's spent his life amidst the dust and dung of a Texas cattle ranch. Nor does he strike any sparks with [Penelope] Cruz."[38] He was similarly deemed "uncomfortable being the center" of Robert Redford's The Legend of Bagger Vance.[39]

From 2001 to 2007, Damon gained wider international recognition as part of two major film franchises. He co-starred as thief Linus Caldwell, alongside George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts, in Steven Soderbergh's 2001 film Ocean's Eleven, a remake of the Rat Pack's 1960 caper film of the same name; the successful crime dramedy spawned two sequels, Ocean's Twelve (2004) and Ocean's Thirteen (2007).[23] He played amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne in the hit action thrillers The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).[23] Entertainment Weekly placed Damon as an "action star" on its end-of-the-decade "best-of" list, saying, "When he first signed on as the ass-kicking amnesiac Jason Bourne in 2002, no one would've predicted that Damon would become the decade's best mixer of brawn and brains. Shows what we know."[40] In August 2007, financial magazine Forbes created a list of actors who generated the best box-office performance related to their salaries; the list placed Damon as the most bankable star of the actors reviewed, revealing that Damon had averaged 29 US dollars at the box office for every dollar he earned for his last three films.[41][42]

 Photo of Damon and De Niro, each wearing a tuxedo jacket and a dark blue shirt.
Damon and Robert De Niro at Berlin in February 2007 for the premiere of The Good Shepherd

Damon played a fictionalized version of Wilhelm Grimm in Terry Gilliam's fantasy adventure The Brothers Grimm (2005), which was a critically panned commercial failure;[31] The Washington Post concluded, "Damon, constantly flashing his newscaster's teeth and flaunting a fake, 'Masterpiece Theatre' dialect, comes across like someone who got lost on the way to an audition for a high school production of 'The Pirates of Penzance.'"[43] Later that year, he appeared as an energy analyst in Syriana.[44] In 2006, Damon joined Robert De Niro in The Good Shepherd as a career CIA officer, and played an undercover mobster working for the Massachusetts State Police in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong police thriller Infernal Affairs.[23] Assessing his work in the two films, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote that Damon "does what few stars with his kind of billing do: he disappears".[34] The Departed was a success amongst critics and audiences alike.[31][45]

Damon had an uncredited cameo in Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth (2007) and another cameo in the 2008 Che Guevara biopic Che. He lent his voice to the English version of the animated film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which was released in the United States in August 2009.[46] He also made a guest appearance in 2009 on the sixth season finale of Entourage as himself, where he tries to pressure Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) into donating to his charity OneXOne—a real foundation for which Damon is an ambassador—and gets increasingly irritated when Chase does not seem to comply.[47][48]

Damon next appeared in Steven Soderbergh's dark comedy The Informant! (2009),[49] in which his Golden Globe-nominated work was described by Entertainment Weekly as such: "The star – who has quietly and steadily turned into a great Everyman actor – is in nimble control as he reveals his character's deep crazies."[50] Also in 2009, Damon portrayed South Africa national rugby union team captain François Pienaar in the Clint Eastwood-directed film Invictus, which is based on the 2008 John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation and features Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela.[51] Invictus earned Damon an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The New Republic observed, "It is not a demanding role, but the ever-more-actorly Damon brings it off with low-key charm and integrity."[52]

Hand and foot prints in cement dated of June 6, 2007
Handprints and footprints of Damon in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre

In 2010, he reteamed with director Paul Greengrass, who directed him in the Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum, for the action thriller Green Zone, which flopped commercially[53] and received ambivalent reception from critics.[54] In motion pictures that feature him either as a leading actor or as a supporting co-star, his films have grossed a total of $1.94[55] to $2.42 billion[56] (based on counting his roles as strictly lead or including supporting roles, respectively) at the North American box office, placing him in the top forty grossing actors of all time.

He has appeared as a guest star in an episode of Arthur, titled "The Making of Arthur", as himself.[57] During Season 5 of 30 Rock, he appeared as guest star in the role of Liz Lemon's boyfriend in the episodes "I Do Do", "The Fabian Strategy", "Live Show", and "Double Edged Sword". Damon's 2010 projects included Clint Eastwood's Hereafter and the Coen Brothers' remake of the 1969 John Wayne-starring Western True Grit; the latter movie started filming in March 2010 and was released in December of that year.[58]

In 2011, he starred in The Adjustment Bureau, Contagion, We Bought a Zoo, and voiced a krill in Happy Feet Two. In April 2012, Damon filmed Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant, which he co-wrote with John Krasinski.[59][60][61] Damon's next film with frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh is Behind the Candelabra, a drama about the life of pianist/entertainer Liberace (played by Michael Douglas) with Damon playing Liberace's longtime partner Scott Thorson. The film premiered on HBO on May 26, 2013.[62]

Damon starred alongside Jodie Foster in the science fiction film Elysium, where he played former car-thief-turned-factory-worker Max DeCosta. The movie was written, co-produced and directed by Neill Blomkamp of District 9, and was released on August 9, 2013.[63] He also appeared in the science fiction movie The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam in 2013.

In 2014, he starred in George Clooney's The Monuments Men.

Upcoming films

On January 18, 2012, Damon and Affleck confirmed interest in an untitled film project related to the Boston crime figure "Whitey" Bulger recently convicted in August 2013.[64] The untitled film project by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon related to "Whitey" Bulger was described in a 2012 GQ article about Affleck.[65][66] The character played by Jack Nicholson in The Departed (2006), in which Damon was a co-star, was also based in part upon the Boston crime figure "Whitey" Bulger.[67]

Producing career

Along with Affleck and producers Chris Moore and Sean Bailey, Damon founded the production company LivePlanet, through which the four created the documentary series Project Greenlight to find and fund worthwhile film projects from novice filmmakers.[68] The company produced and founded the short-lived mystery-hybrid series Push, Nevada as well as other projects. Project Greenlight was nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Reality Program in 2002, 2004, and 2005.[21]

In March 2010, Damon and Affleck teamed up again to sign a first-look production deal with Warner Bros.[69] The new company is called Pearl Street Films.

Humanitarian work

Damon volunteering in Haiti as part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission

Damon was the founder of H2O Africa Foundation, the charitable arm of the Running the Sahara expedition,[21][70] which merged with WaterPartners to create Water.org in July 2009.[71] He, along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, David Pressman, and Jerry Weintraub, is one of the founders of Not On Our Watch Project, an organization that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur.[72] Damon supports the ONE Campaign, which is aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries. He has appeared in their print and television advertising. Damon is also an ambassador for OneXOne, a non-profit foundation committed to supporting, preserving and improving the lives of children at home in Canada, the United States, and around the world.[73] Damon is also a spokesperson for Feeding America, the largest USA-focused hunger-relief organization, and a member of their Entertainment Council, participating in their Ad Council PSAs.

Damon is a board member of Tonic Mailstopper (formerly GreenDimes), a company that attempts to halt junk mail delivered to American homes each day.[74] Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 20, 2007, Damon promoted the organization's efforts to prevent the trees used for junk mail letters and envelopes from being chopped down. Damon stated: "For an estimated dime a day they can stop 70 percent of the junk mail that comes to your house. It's very simple, easy to do, great gift to give, I've actually signed up my entire family. It was a gift given to me this past holiday season and I was so impressed that I'm now on the board of the company."[75]

In 2011, the documentary which he narrated, American Teacher, opened in New York prior to national screening.[76]

In the media

Damon at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, September 7, 2009

Kimmel and Damon

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel at some point started stating near the end of his ABC television show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, "My apologies to Matt Damon; we ran out of time", a line lampooning instances where shows cannot feature their last guest due to time constraints. On September 12, 2006, after a segment highlighting the running gag and a lengthy introduction by Kimmel, Damon finally appeared on the show, only for Kimmel to apologetically cut his interview and head to credits, leading Damon to curse him extensively before storming off. This encounter was entirely planned by Kimmel and Damon.[77]

Kimmel's girlfriend at the time, comedian Sarah Silverman, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live on January 31, 2008, and aired a clip where she is singing a song entitled "I'm Fucking Matt Damon". Damon appeared in the song with Silverman.[78] Kimmel responded by airing his own music video in which he announced, through song, that he is "fucking Ben Affleck". The video aired on February 24, 2008, and featured Affleck along with a host of celebrities, including Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, and Robin Williams.

Later on, Kimmel's sidekick, Guillermo, appeared in a spoof of The Bourne Ultimatum, which starred Damon. He was then chased down by Damon as he cursed about Kimmel being behind all this.

The next encounter was titled "The Handsome Men's Club" which featured Kimmel, along with other "Handsome Men" including Matthew McConaughey, John Krasinski, Patrick Dempsey, Sting, Gilles Marini, Ted Danson, Rob Lowe, Keith Urban, Tony Romo, Taye Diggs, Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck and Lenny Kravitz. At the end of the skit Kimmel has a door slammed in his face by Damon stating that they had run out of time and then Damon continues with a sinister laugh.[79]

On January 24, 2013, Damon finally got his revenge on Jimmy Kimmel by taking over his entire show. He not only referenced the long-running feud by mentioning that he has been bumped for 1,205 shows, but involved numerous celebrities who were previously involved in the feud, including Robin Williams. The monologue was hijacked in part by Ben Affleck altering cue cards, and the show culminated with an interview with Kimmel's former fiance, Sarah Silverman.

Political views

Damon appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews in December 2006 and, while discussing the ongoing war in Iraq, he stated: "It seems like we have a fighting class in our country that's comprised of people who have to go for financial reasons... I don't think that that is fair. If you're gonna send people to war... then that needs to be shared by everybody, you know, and if the president has daughters who are of age then maybe they should go too."[80]

Damon is a supporter of the Democratic Party, and has made several critical comments on Republican Party figures, and expressed his disillusionment with the policies of President Barack Obama.[81][82] In 2012 Damon, Ben Affleck, and John Krasinski hosted a fundraiser for Democratic Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren.[83]

Advertising

In January 2012, it was announced that Damon had signed a multi-year deal to be the voice of TD Ameritrade advertisements, replacing Sam Waterston as the discount brokerage's spokesman. Damon donates all fees from the advertisements to charity.[84]

Personal life

Damon in a tuxedo and bow-tie, with his wife wearing a low-cut, silver gown.
Damon with wife Luciana Bozán Barroso at the 66th Venice International Film Festival

Damon dated his Good Will Hunting co-star Minnie Driver.[85] He later had a two-year relationship with actress Winona Ryder.[23] From 2001 to 2003, he dated Odessa Whitmire, a former personal assistant of Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck.[23]

Damon met Argentine-born bartender Luciana Bozán Barroso (born 1976) in April 2003 while filming Stuck on You in Miami.[86][87] They became engaged in September 2005 and married in a private civil ceremony on December 9, 2005, at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau.[88][87] In 2013, they renewed their wedding vows in front of family and friends in St Lucia.[89][90] Damon is stepfather to Bozán Barroso's daughter, Alexia, from her previous marriage. The couple also have three daughters together; Isabella (b. June 2006),[91] Gia Zavala (b. August 2008)[92] and Stella Zavala (b. October 2010).[93] They moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2013,[94] having previously lived in both Miami and New York.[95]

Damon is a fan of the Boston Red Sox.[96] After the team won the 2007 World Series, he narrated the commemorative DVD release of the event.[97]

He enjoys playing poker and has competed in several World Series of Poker (WSOP) events[98][99] including the 2010 World Series of Poker main event.[100] He dropped $25,000 at the WSOP while researching his role as a professional poker player in Rounders (1998)[101] and after filming the movie Damon was busted out of the 1998 WSOP by poker professional Doyle Brunson.[102]

Awards and honors

Pink granite star on a black granite side-walk.
Matt Damon's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Filmography

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Further reading

  • Altman, Sheryl and Berk, Sheryl. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck: On and Off Screen. HarperCollins Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0-06-107145-5.
  • Bego, Mark. Matt Damon: Chasing a Dream. Andrews Mcmeel Pub, 1998. ISBN 0-8362-7131-9.
  • Diamond, Maxine and Hemmings, Harriet. Matt Damon a Biography. Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 1998. ISBN 0-671-02649-6.
  • Nickson, Chris. Matt Damon: An Unauthorized Biography. Renaissance Books, 1999. ISBN 1-58063-072-3.

External links

Preceded by
George Clooney
People's Sexiest Man Alive
2007
Succeeded by
Hugh Jackman