Who Is Matt Damon?
Matt Damon is an American actor whose career took off after starring in and writing 1997’s Good Will Hunting with friend Ben Affleck. The duo won an original screenplay Oscar for the project. Damon has since acted in a wide range of movies, including the popular Ocean’s Eleven series and the Jason Bourne thrillers. Other major projects on his roster have included The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Adjustment Bureau, Behind the Candelabra and the Golden Globe-winning blockbuster The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott.
Matthew Paige Damon was born on October 8, 1970, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father, Kent, worked in finance and real estate, while his mother, Nancy, was a professor in early childhood education. He has one brother, Kyle, who is three years his senior. Damon’s parents divorced when he was a toddler.
At 10 years old, Damon met a guy from two blocks down the road: Ben Affleck. The pair became fast friends. They played baseball (both are die-hard Boston Red Sox fans) and the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons, and enjoyed catching movie double-features together. They both attended the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, a public high school with many notable alumni, including poet E.E. Cummings, composer Leroy Anderson and basketball star Patrick Ewing. In high school, Damon developed a passion for acting.
‘Good Will Hunting’ and the ‘Jason Bourne’ Films
Damon studied English at Harvard University but left early to pursue his acting career. Having made his big-screen debut in 1988’s Mystic Pizza at 18 years old, he went on to gain starring roles in The Rainmaker (1997) and Good Will Hunting (1997), for which he shared an original screenplay Academy Award with co-star Affleck. The Gus Van Sant-directed film tells the story of an M.I.T. janitor, played by Damon, who is actually a gifted mathematician. The youngster receives guidance from a therapist played by Robin Williams, who earned his first Oscar for the role.
Damon continued making high-profile projects from the end of the decade into the new millennium, with films that included Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and The Bourne Identity (2002) along with its sequels The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). The $110 million Bourne Ultimatum had the largest August opening weekend in movie history, earning an estimated $70.2 million of business in the United States and Canada and it held that record until the release of 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2016, Damon starred in Jason Bourne, the fifth installment of the Bourne series. Although it received mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box office hit around the world.
In January 2008, Damon got a lot of media attention because of a humorous music video he appeared in with comedian Sarah Silverman. The then-girlfriend of late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, she created a raunchy song about having a sexual relationship with Damon. Damon appeared in the song’s video, which was shown on Kimmel’s show and later became a popular clip on the Internet. Kimmel and Damon have since engaged in a series of video gags, keeping the fires of their comedic rivalry alive.
Liberace Biopic and ‘The Martian’
Damon has continued to tackle an interesting mix of projects. He tried his hand at family-friendly fare with 2011’s We Bought a Zoo and co-starred with John Krasinski in the environmental drama Promised Land (2012). Damon then earned raves for his turn as Liberace‘s boyfriend Scott Thorson in the critically acclaimed HBO movie Behind the Candelabra (2013), starring Michael Douglas. Damon earned both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for the part, with Douglas winning both awards in the lead actor category.
Returning to science fiction, Damon starred in Elysium with Jodie Foster and The Zero Theorem, both in 2013. He went on to appear in the war drama The Monuments Men (2014) with George Clooney. That fall, Damon once again teamed up with longtime friend Affleck. The pair’s production company, Pearl Street Films, agreed to develop a new series, Incorporated, for the Syfy cable network. And in autumn 2015, Damon was part of the returning production team involved in the HBO filmmaking documentary series Project Greenlight.
Damon also had a major hit with the fall release of The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott and co-starring Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others. Based on the 2011 Andy Weir novel, the movie depicts the travails of an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars while chronicling efforts on Earth to facilitate his rescue. Receiving an avalanche of positive reviews, The Martian earned almost $600 million worldwide. Both the film and Damon received Golden Globes in early 2016, and Damon also earned an Oscar nomination.
Later that year, after headlining the fifth installment of Bourne, Damon starred in the action blockbuster The Great Wall and was involved in another Oscar favorite, serving as a producer for Manchester by the Sea. In 2017, Damon starred in the ambitious sci-fi feature Downsizing and the twisted comedy Suburbicon. Both were commercial disappointments, though he hit the mark with a surprise cameo in Thor: Ragnarok.
The following year, it was reported that Damon was in talks to star in The King of Oil as Marc Rich, the controversial businessman who fled the United States in the 1980s to avoid arrest for a slew of criminal charges. Additionally, he was tapped to headline a true-crime story about an ex-cop who helped rig McDonald’s annual Monopoly promotion, with Affleck on board to direct the feature.
Back on the big screen, Damon starred as automotive designer Carroll Shelby in Ford v Ferrari (2019), alongside Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles.
Sexual Harassment Controversy
In late 2017, Damon found himself mired in controversy over the onset of sexual harassment allegations that derailed many powerful men in the industry. First came the accusation that he had sought to kill a story about Harvey Weinstein‘s predatory actions back in 2004, which he denied.
The actor then drew fire for some of his views on the issue, revealing to Business Insider that he would consider working with an accused sexual predator “on a case-by-case basis,” and telling Peter Travers of ABC News, “We’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?”
As a result, an online petition began circling that demanded the removal of Damon’s cameo appearance from Ocean’s 8, the female-led spinoff of the earlier Ocean’s films.
In January 2018, Damon resurfaced to express regret for his earlier comments. “I really wish I’d listened a lot more before I weighed in on this,” he told Kathie Lee Gifford on Today. “I don’t want to further anybody’s pain with anything that I do or say. So for that I am really sorry. … I should get in the back seat and close my mouth for a while.”
Damon married longtime girlfriend, Argentine-born Luciana Bozán Barroso, in December 2005 in New York City Hall. They had met while he was filming Stuck On You in Miami, where she was working as a bartender.
The couple has three daughters: Isabella was born on June 11, 2006, in Miami, where they live when Damon’s not filming on location. Their second child, Gia Zavala, was born on August 20, 2008. The couple welcomed daughter Stella Zavala on October 20, 2010. Damon also has a stepdaughter, Alexa, from Barroso’s prior marriage.
In 2007, Damon was named the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine. A surprised Damon said “all the campaigning” by pals Clooney and Brad Pitt, who’d each won the honor twice, had finally paid off. “You gave an aging suburban dad the ego boost of a lifetime,” he said in a letter published in the magazine. “My 9-year-old stepdaughter now thinks I’m cool – well, cooler.”