Matt Damon is an actor with a baby face and a genius brain for arts. He had won his first Oscar by the time he was twenty-seven, for scriptwriting on the film 'Good Will Hunting', together with Ben Affleck his inseparable friend and colleague. Keeping away from scandals and working hard to be the best version of himself is how he stays grateful for his A-list life.
Matthew Paige Damon, as is his full name, was born in Massachusetts. His father, Kent, was a stockbroker and his mother Nancy was an early childhood education professor at a university. He also has an older brother Kyle, who is a sculptor and they are of English, Scottish, Finnish and Swedish ancestry. When Matt was only two years old, his parents divorced and him and his brother continued to live with their mother in a six-family communal house.
As it so often is with artistic people, Damon was a shy and a lonely teenager feeling that he didn’t belong anywhere, but he was still a good student. He took part in numerous high school theater productions, together with his friend Ben Affleck. The two of them have remained inseparable friends throughout their whole life. Gerry Speca, their drama teacher, gave them the advice they will never forget, saying this – according to Matt: ‘Just do your own work, kid. And he repeated that so many times to me and that is what I can always retreat to, that’s my touch stone – when in doubt, just focus on the work, if everything on the movie is going wrong, I’ll just make sure my work is tight and done.’
Matt managed to get into Harvard University where he wrote one of the first drafts of the screenplay Good Will Hunting – it was meant to be an exercise for an English class. And although he never received his degree, he got awarded the Harvard Arts Medal. During his time there, he continued to appear in student theater plays and he appeared on film for the first time when he was eighteen, playing a tiny role in Mystic Pizza in 1988.
‘When I was younger, everybody told me not to be an actor and to this day I say that to people who come up to me and say I’m thinking about going into acting, what’d you think? I say – absolutely not. It’s a terrible idea, don’t do it, because that’s what everyone said to me and I think if you’re going to make it in this business that is full of rejection and hardship, you need to believe in yourself despite what everybody you love and trust tells you.’, he said about his ambition to make it in the profession he loved the most.
In 1992, Matt moved to Los Angeles, choosing to leave Harvard and his English studies to shoot Geronimo: An American Legend. The next film he shot was Courage Under Fire in 1996, for which he got noticed by critics, who gave him positive reviews. During that time, he and Affleck were perfecting the screenplay for the Good Will Hunting. Luckily, the screenplay got made into a movie due to the boys’ connections. Both Matt and Affleck appeared in it, alongside Robin Williams. The film got nine Academy Award nominations and won the Best Screenplay. Needless to say, this can be marked as the breakthrough of Matt’s career. He was only twenty-seven years old at the time.
Parallel to working on the Good Will Hunting, Matt played a role in a film drama The Rainmaker. Then, after the success of both films and his critical acclaim, he was cast by Steven Spielberg to play the title character in the film Saving Private Ryan, which has become a classic of the war film genre.
In 1998, he starred in Rounders. In 1999, he played the lead role in the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, which brought him an even wider attention from audiences, and proved his talent to be very valuable. That same year, he appeared in a satirical comedy Dogma alongside Ben Affleck. In 2000, he shot romantic dramas All the Pretty Horses and The Legend of Bagger Vance, but those films were not thought of as successful.
2001 proved to be a more significant year for Matt, since he shot the first film in the series of three, Ocean’s Eleven. He also appeared in its sequels, Ocean’s Twelve in 2004, and Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007. In 2001, he also got the title role of the first of the action thriller films – The Bourne Identity. He repeated his role in The Bourne Supremacy in 2004, The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007 and in Jason Bourne in 2016.
In 2003, Matt appeared in Stuck on You. In 2005, he shot The Brothers Grimm and Syriana, which brought an Oscar for his co-star, George Clooney. In 2006, Matt appeared in The Good Shepherd, then in movie The Departed, which got an Oscar for the Best Featured Film as well as three other Academy Awards. In 2009, he shot The Informant!, directed by Steven Soderbergh. That same year he shot Invictus which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 2010, he shot Green Zone and appeared in a few episodes of the 30 Rock’s fifth season. He also appeared in Hereafter and True Grit that year.
In 2011, he appeared in The Adjustment Bureau, Contagion and We Bought A Zoo. In 2012, it were the films Promised Land and Behind the Candelabra. In 2013, he appeared in the film Elysium and The Zero Theorem. In 2014, he starred in The Monuments Men and Interstellar, as well as Years of Living Dangerously.
In 2015, he played the lead role in The Martian, which got him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and another nomination for the Academy Award for the Best Actor category. In 2017, he appeared in The Great Wall.
Matt often gives his voice animated characters and voice-overs, like the film Ponyo of 2009, followed by the documentary American Teacher in 2011, Titan A.E., Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Happy Feet Two. He also shot Ameritrade advertisements, as well as the ones for Nespresso – everything he earns by doing commercials he gives to charity.
Matt is also a producer. Together with Ben Affleck, he created the LivePlanet production company, which made the documentary series Project Greenlight, nominated for the Emmy awards. They also created Push, Nevada. In 2010, Matt and Affleck created another company called Pearl Street Films.
Currently, Matt is awaiting the release of the film Downsizing and is working on numerous other projects, both as a producer and an actor.
Matt Damon is thought to be a celebrity worthy of a lot of respect; he is willing to work hard to prepare for his role, and is not afraid to even change his appearance for it. He both gained and lost a lot of weight to fit the image of some of his characters, shaved his head, changed his accent, and even learned to play piano for The Talented Mr. Ripley.
‘I don’t hold myself to some higher standard of behavior. You don’t have to do a lot to be seen as nice. I guess some of these people must be such rampant pricks that people are amazed when you say hello. I don’t know why people like me, and I don’t want to know. That might be the kiss of death. I’d rather people not know a lot about me and go see the movies’, he says. He is often cast to play highly intellectual characters.
When it comes to charity work, Matt is quite active. He is the founder of H20 Africa Foundation, as well as one of the founders of Not On Our Watch Project which focuses on bringing the global attention and resources to prevent mass atrocities. He is also a supporter of the ONE Campaign, aiming to fight AIDS and poverty, an ambassador for ONEXONE which works on improving the lives of children around the world, a spokesperson for Feeding America and a member of Tonic Mailstopper.
Matt also has a strong sense of humour. When Jimmy Kimmel had a running gag at the end of his show, never being able to have enough time to interview Matt and interrupting him in the beginning of each interview attempt, Matt shot a music video with Kimmel’s then-girlfriend Sarah Silvermann, telling him they’re sleeping together – as a joke, of course.
When it comes to politics, Matt is a Democrat, and he does discuss his views in public when asked about them.
‘If anybody wanted to photograph my life, they’d get bored in a day. Here’s Matt at home learning his lines. Here’s Matt researching in aisle six of his local library. A few hours of that and they’d go home’, Matt says about his private life. And he is right, since he was never involved in any major scandal, apart from his unconfirmed short fling with Penelope Cruz, which was more of an interesting rumour instead of a controversy.
Today, and for the past twelve years, Matt has been married to Luciana Bozán Barroso, whom he met when he was shooting Stuck on You in Miami in 2003. She was working as a bartender at the bar where Matt came to have drink with his colleagues. After two years of dating, they got engaged in 2005, and married two months later. Matt is the step-father of her daughter from her first marriage, who lives with them, and they have a great relationship with her biological father. The couple also have three more daughters. Matt says she keeps him grounded, and they respect a two-week rule, meaning that they don’t allow themselves to be apart from each other for more than two weeks.
Matt has an interesting family member – his uncle, George Brunstad, was the one to swim the English Channel at the age of seventy, becoming the oldest person to complete the swim.
When it comes to his hobbies, Matt is a fan of the Boston Red Sox and has competed in several World Series of Poker events. He also used to be a smoker, but managed to quit after visiting a hypnotist.
And when it comes to his life, Matt is more than aware and grateful for what he has. ‘When I turned forty, I had my whole family and some friends together’, she said. ‘I realized I had to make a toast and hadn’t thought of anything to say. I stood up, and what came to me seemed incredibly true in the moment and even more so as time has gone by. I said – I think I might actually be the luckiest guy on earth. I really might be him – And nobody in the room reflexively said bullshit, because I am so lucky to have Lucy, my kids, my friends and this job. It’s been an unbelievable life. So I’m just looking for health and to stay in this groove as long as I can.’
Written by: Tamara Djordjevic