Birthdate: October 8, 1970
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Matt Damon (birthname: Matthew Paige Damon) has sustained a notably consistent and acclaimed career as an actor, producer, and writer for over thirty years, bursting into the spotlight with his triumphant drama (which he co-wrote and co-starred with childhood friend, Ben Affleck), Good Will Hunting (1997), for which he shared the Oscar for Best Screenplay as well as the Best Actor Oscar nomination.
The Gus Van Sant-directed movie was only Damon’s ninth screen credit, and only his second co-starring role, immediately following his top-line role in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997), with Danny DeVito. Damon’s screen debut was a small role in Mystic Pizza (1988), with Julia Roberts and Vincent D’Onofrio, followed by other small roles under the direction of Leonard Nimoy (1988’s The Good Mother) and Robert Mandel (1992’s School Ties, his first movie with Affleck).
Damon’s first significant role was in the Walter Hill-directed Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), with Wes Studi, Jason Patric, Robert Duvall, and Gene Hackman. After a minor role (again with Affleck, who here starred) in Glory Daze (1995), Damon earned a bigger role opposite Denzel Washington and Lou Diamond Phillips in Courage Under Fire (1996). Damon once again had a much smaller role than Affleck in a movie in which they were both casts--Kevin Smith’s comedy, Chasing Amy (1997)—but finally nabbed the top role in The Rainmaker.
Matt Damon, then, shot from relative obscurity into the triumph of Good Will Hunting, combining indie-film cred with the acclaimed Van Sant and Oscar glory with a rare double nomination for acting and writing. Damon’s career transformed, first marked by his role as Private Ryan in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), starring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, and Tom Sizemore, grossing $482 million globally, winning five Oscars and earning inclusion in the National Film Registry.
Damon’s next above-the-title role was opposite Edward Norton in the cult poker movie, Rounders (1998), followed by his second co-starring role with Affleck under Smith’s direction in Dogma (1999). Matt Damon scored one of his most stylish and memorable roles as Tom Ripley in writer-director Anthony Minghella’s Oscar-nominated hit ($129 million worldwide), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law.
Damon’s first starring voice role was in Fox Animation’s financially failed Titan A.E. (2000), and was then cast under Robert Redford’s direction in the baseball-themed The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), with Will Smith and Charlize Theron. Failing to click with critics or at the box office (only $18 million on a $57 million budget), director Billy Bob Thornton’s and screenwriter Ted Tally’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, All the Pretty Horses (2000), was another starring credit for Damon, opposite Henry Thomas and Penelope Cruz, with Damon lambasting Miramax’s theatrical version which badly reduced Thornton’s intended version.
Damon burnished his leading man status with George Clooney in director Steven Soderbergh’s hit heist movie, Ocean’s Eleven (2001), earning $450 million worldwide, the first of a trilogy, with Damon and Clooney leading the casts under Soderbergh’s direction in the equally successful Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007). Matt Damon reunited—as lead actor, co-screenwriter, and editor--with filmmaker Gus Van Sant for the most radical cinematic project, Gerry (2002), deeply influenced by Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr and made with a third artistic partner, co-star, co-screenwriter, and co-editor Casey Affleck, while premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
After a set of side projects (including producing Stolen Summer (2002), vocal performance in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), and executive producing The Third Wheel (2002)), Damon launched one of his most successful franchise characters with super-spy Jason Bourne in the megahit ($214 million globally), The Bourne Identity (2002), directed by Doug Liman and co-starring Franka Potente and Chris Cooper.
The series continued for Damon with the even more successful sequels, The Bourne Supremacy (2004), then The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and finally Jason Bourne (2016), all directed by Paul Greengrass, earning a combined $1.150 billion worldwide. Matt Damon jumped from thrills into comedy with his only movie with the Farrelly brothers, Stuck on You (2003), co-starring Greg Kinnear as a conjoined twin with Damon. At the same time, Damon’s and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight initiative for indie film production bore fruit with the films Speakeasy (2002) and The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003), both of which Damon executive produced.
Damon subsequently worked on two documentaries—as narrator on Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004) and as the voice of astronaut Alan Shepard on Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D (2005). The second Miramax movie in which Damon starred that pitted the filmmaker against Harvey Weinstein was Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm (2005), which suffered from delay after delay and underperformed despite Damon co-starring with Heath Ledger.
Matt Damon rejoined co-star George Clooney for writer-director Stephen Gaghan’s Oscar-nominated (Clooney for best actor) political thriller, Syriana (2005), with Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Alexander Siddig, and Tim Blake Nelson. One of Damon’s biggest roles arrived care of Martin Scorsese with the co-starring slot opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg in the crime epic, The Departed (2006), a remake of Andy Lau’s and Alan Mak’s 2002 Hong Kong classic, Infernal Affairs, and a loose retelling of the case of Boston’s notorious Winter Hill Gang and gangster Whitey Bulger, and winning Oscars for a picture, director (Scorsese’s only directing Oscar), screenplay (for William Monahan), and editing, while earning $291.5 million worldwide.
Damon then worked in another true-life drama with director-producer-co-star Robert De Niro in the spy thriller, The Good Shepherd (2006), with Angelina Jolie. Yet another true-life epic drama in which Damon appeared was Steven Soderbergh’s superb biopic, Che Part 2 (2008), which Soderbergh finished when Terrence Malick (taking a co-writing credit) bailed from the project as director-writer. Matt Damon played a voice role in the English-language version of Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed Ponyo (released in English in 2009).
Damon reunited with Soderbergh for the comic true-life biopic, The Informant! (2009) from Warner Bros., and with the same studio, another biopic (this one on Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman), director-producer Clint Eastwood’s Invictus (2009), earning Damon a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Damon rejoined director-producer Paul Greengrass in a non-Bourne project that was, once again, based on true events: Green Zone (2010), with Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, and Amy Ryan. Damon and Eastwood came together again for their second movie, the somewhat mystical Hereafter (2010), which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
Matt Damon nabbed one of his finest movies as an actor with his first work with filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen in their brilliant adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic novel, True Grit (2010), co-starring Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, and Hailee Steinfeld, grossing a huge $252.3 million, and nominated (though, shockingly, winless) for ten Oscars. Damon again narrated a topical documentary, in this case, Charles Ferguson’s well-received Inside Job (2010), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
Another successful venture for star Damon followed with writer-director George Nolfi’s Philip K. Dick adaptation, The Adjustment Bureau (2011), with Emily Blunt. Damon’s third Steven Soderbergh project was the thriller, Contagion (2011), co-starring Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet, and received renewed interest during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. Matt Damon took a rare supporting role, opposite star Anna Paquin, in one of his most special film credits: writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s magnificent, moving drama, Margaret (2011), which was revived from a poor opening release by film critics and now regarded as one of the best American movies of the 21st century.
Damon did another one of his occasional animated voice roles in George Miller’s superb but commercially disastrous ($150 million on a $135 million budget) Happy Feet Two (2011) and then starred in another family-oriented movie, writer-director Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo (2011), co-starring Scarlett Johansson. Damon’s third movie with director Gus Van Sant as star and writer was Promised Land (2012), with Damon and co-writer John Krasinski adapting a Dave Eggers’ short story, premiering at the Berlin Film Festival. Damon starred in a more commercially successful venture with writer-director Neill Blomkamp on his second sci-fi feature, the $286-million-grossing Elysium (2013), co-starring Jodie Foster.
After playing a supporting role in his second movie with adventurous director Terry Gilliam (the sci-fi film, The Zero Theorem (2013)), Matt Damon again worked as co-star with frequent collaborator George Clooney (as producer-writer-director-star) in the WWII-set The Monuments Men (2014). Damon was cast in a supporting role by writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan in the space-based drama, Interstellar (2014), starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain. Ellen Burstyn, and Michael Caine.
Damon followed this with another sci-fi adventure, the highly acclaimed commercial hit ($631 million globally), The Martian (2015), in which Damon played virtually solo for the running time under director-producer Ridley Scott’s direction and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Matt Damon had one of his most prestigious credits as a producer for his second project with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (winning the Best Screenplay Oscar), the magnificent family drama, Manchester by the Sea (2016), starring Casey Affleck (winning the Best Actor Oscar), Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges.
One of Damon’s oddest projects (made during the wave of U.S.-Chinese collaborations) was the period war movie, The Great Wall (2016), directed by Zhang Yimou and co-starring Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, and Jing Tian, which scored in Mainland China and grossed an unexpected $334.9 million worldwide. Damon and Ben Affleck co-produced Bending the Arc (2017), a documentary about humanitarian doctors worldwide, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
Working for the first time with writer-director Alexander Payne, Damon starred in the failed sci-fi comedy-drama, Downsizing (2017), with Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau, and premiering at the Venice Film Festival, where Damon also appeared as the star of another movie directed by Clooney, the widely lambasted black comedy, Suburbicon (2017), with Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac.
Matt Damon enacted one of his most colorful starring roles as race-car maestro Carroll Shelby (with a superb cast including Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, and Josh Lucas) in Ford v Ferrari (2019), directed by James Mangold and nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, grossing $225.5 million globally. Another filmmaker for whom Damon worked for the first time was writer-director Tom McCarthy for the crime drama, Stillwater (2021), premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by the wildly contrasting medieval drama, The Last Duel (2021), in which Damon reunited with both director Ridley Scott and co-star Ben Affleck (with whom he co-wrote the screenplay, with Nicole Holofcener as credited co-writer) as well as co-stars Adam Driver and Jodie Comer.
Again with Affleck—this time serving as director and co-star—Damon co-starred in another true-life drama, the sports drama, Air (2023), with Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis, and released in a rare move by Amazon Studios on theater screens before launching on streaming. Damon joined the large cast of producer-writer-director Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated nuclear drama, Oppenheimer (2023), co-starring Cillian Murphy (in the title role), Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Josh Hartnett, and Kenneth Branagh.
Matt Damon was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and raised for his first two years in Newton, Massachusetts by parents Kent Damon (stockbroker) and Nancy Carlsson-Paige (education professor) before they divorced. He and his brother Kyle were then raised by their mother in Cambridge, in a six-family communal house. Matt Damon was educated at Cambridge Alternative School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where he discovered acting and the theater thanks to influential drama teacher Gerry Speca, and where he made close friends with his longtime creative writing and acting collaborator, Ben Affleck.
Damon attended Harvard University, where he was a member of The Delphic Club and where he wrote a treatment story that was the basis of Good Will Hunting (1997) but left the university before graduating to be cast in a major role in Geronimo: An American Legend (1993). Matt Damon has been married to Luciana Barroso since 2005; the couple has four children, Stella, Gia, Isabella, and stepdaughter Alexia. Damon’s height is 5’ 10”. Damon’s estimated net worth is $170 million.
Global Citizen: Matt Damon has been involved in numerous global support initiatives, including founding H20 Africa Foundation (merging with WaterPartners to create Water.org in 2009); serving as spokesperson for the hunger relief group, Feeding America; member of the Entertainment Council; board member of Tonic Mailstoppers (preventing junk mail delivery); ambassador for childrens’ support non-profit ONEXONE; supporter of the anti-AIDS group, One Campaign; and the Darfur support group, Not On Our Watch Project.
Non-Movie Awards: In 2013, Matt Damon was awarded the Harvard Arts Medal from his alum university (from which, however, he didn’t complete his degree for graduation).
Company Man: With producing and writing partner Ben Affleck, Matt Damon formed the production company, Pearl Street Films, in 2012 and based their offices at Warner Bros. Studios. The company co-produced such features as Promised Land, The Leisure Class, Manchester by the Sea, Jason Bourne, Live by Night, and The Last Duel. The company adopted the inclusion-equity rider in production contracts in order to ensure casting and hiring diversity. Damon and Affleck closed Pearl Street and reorganized their production shingle as Artists Equity.
Kerfuffles: Damon has run into some controversies, including appearing to be defensive of Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein’s notorious trail of sexual abuse and harassment; of making widely lambasted commercials for the crypto-currency company, Crypto.com; and admitting to casually using the term “fag” as late as 2021, when his daughter strongly objected and wrote him an impassioned letter from which, he told the press, he drew admiration, pride, and lessons for future behavior.
Cameo Player: Damon has made something of a sub-career as an actor in cameo roles; he has no less than fourteen such roles, in Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester (2000), Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), The Majestic (2001), The Third Wheel (2002), George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), EuroTrip (2004), Smith’s Jersey Girl (2004), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Unsane (2018), Deadpool 2 (2018), 2018’s Ocean’s 8 (in a deleted scene), Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019), Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move (2021), and Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).