Birthdate: February 18, 1964
Birthplace: New Rochelle, New York, USA
Matt Dillon (birthname: Matthew Raymond Dillon) has always benefited from being under-estimated, playing off a misleading image as, in his own words, “a thug,” to reveal an actor with considerable layers and emotional temperatures. That underestimation has resulted, ironically, in a number of career achievement awards, including from the Orange Antalya and San Sebastian Film Festivals, and, in 2022, from the Locarno Film Festival.
Although Matt Dillon’s “tough” image was established from the start with his bracing debut performance in Jonathan Kaplan’s Over the Edge (1979), and in the hit comedy-drama My Bodyguard (1980), with Chris Makepeace and Adam Baldwin, he displayed more sensitive sides in the romantic working-class drama, Liar’s Moon (1982), and in three consecutive films adapted from the fiction of S.E. Hinton: Tim Hunter’s Tex (1982), with Meg Tilly and Ben Johnson; Francis Ford Coppola’s indie-feeling The Outsiders (1983), with Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Maccio; and Coppola’s follow-up Hinton drama, Rumble Fish (1983), with Lane, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, and Mickey Rourke.
The triple play firmly established Dillon as a significant face of American independent cinema, which made his move to a Garry Marshall studio comedy, The Flamingo Kid (1984) somewhat surprising, as much as his turn to a debut on the Broadway stage with The Boys of Winter. An important artistic move for Dillon was co-starring with Gene Hackman in Arthur Penn’s thriller, Target (1985); he has since cited his time working with Hackman and Penn as having a fundamental influence on his acting and work. Dillon then appeared in an underseen version of Richard Wright’s Native Son (1986), co-starring Victor Love, Carroll Baker, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth McGovern, and Geraldine Page; he then reunited with Lane for the noirish The Big Town (1987), with Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Dern, Lee Grant, and Tom Skerritt.
Matt Dillon’s indie cred catapulted in 1989 as the co-star with Kelly Lynch in Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough film, Drugstore Cowboy (1989), a vivid true-crime tale of drug addiction in the Portland area, with James LeGros, Heather Graham, Grave Zabriskie, and novelist William S. Burroughs. Dillon’s next major work was again with Van Sant in, To Die For (1995), with Nicole Kidman, followed by John McNaughton’s hit noir Wild Things (1998), with Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, and Bill Murray, and the Farrelly Brothers’ smash comedy hit, There’s Something About Mary (1998), with Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, and Chris Elliott, and earning an extraordinary (for an American comedy) $369 million worldwide box office.
Dillon secured his first project as writer-director-star (co-written with novelist Barry Gifford) with the crime thriller, City of Ghosts (2002), with James Caan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Gérard Depardieu, premiering at the Toronto Film Festival. In 2004, Matt Dillon received universal acclaim and many award nominations (including a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nom) for his role as a cop in Paul Haggis’ Best Picture-winning Crash (2004), with Sandra Bullock, Thandiwe Newton, Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Ryan Phillippe.
Dillon rejoined Bacon for Bacon’s own directed film, Loverboy (2005), with Kyra Sedgwick and Oliver Platt; acted in his first European film, Bent Hamer’s Factotum (2005), based on Charlies Bukowski’s writings; co-starred with Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson in the Russo Brothers’ comedy, You, Me and Dupree (2006); and joined the ensemble of Shari Spring Berman’s and Robert Pulcini’s comedy Girl Most Likely (2012), with Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, and Natasha Lyonne.
Matt Dillon continued to work in varied tempos and styles, as in the Tribeca-premiering marriage drama, Sunlight Jr. (2013), with Naomi Watts, Tess Harper, and Norman Reedus. Dillon made his boldest artistic move after a period of minor films with Lars von Trier’s stark, surreal serial killer tale, The House That Jack Built (2018), featuring Dillon in easily his darkest role, with Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Riley Keough, and Jeremy Davies. Dillon continued to work with European filmmakers, this time with French filmmaker Alice Winocour for the female astronaut drama, Proxima (2019), with the fine cast of Eva Green, Lars Eidinger, and Sandra Hüller.
Dillon played support in the Josh Trank true-crime portrait of the American gangster, Capone (2020), with Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, and Kyle MacLachlan. In a major departure, Dillon made his first documentary (as director and producer) on one of his personal obsessions—Cuban music—with El Gran Fellove (2020), a study of Cuban scat-singer Francisco Fellove. In another unusual gambit, Dillon joined fellow actors Sheila Vand, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Gunn, and Christopher McDonald for the Shoja Azri/Shirin Neshat comedy, Land of Dreams (2021), notable for being based on one of the final screenplays by Jean-Claude Carrière, who died the same year.
At the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, Dillon’s next indie film was Paul Doktor/Theodore Melfi’s black comedy, American Dreamer, with Peter Dinklage, Shirley MacLaine, and Danny Glover. For the first time, Dillon has joined the regular ensemble of writer-director Wes Anderson for Asteroid City (2022), with Anderson newbies Margot Robbie, Bryan Cranston, Fisher Stevens, Steve Carell, and Rita Wilson. Dillon tackled a rare project in which he portrays an actual figure, with An Ocean Apart (date to be announced), in which he played journalist Nelson Algren opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Simone de Beauvoir.
Matt Dillon was born in New Rochelle, New York, and raised in Mamaroneck, New York by his father Paul, and mother Mary Dillon in New Rochelle, New York. His father was a golf coach at Fordham University, a sales manager, a portrait painter, and a toy bear manufacturer. Matt Dillon has five siblings, including actors Kevin and Paul Dillon, as well as Katy, Timothy, and Brian. His grand-uncle is Alex Raymond, creator of Flash Gordon.
While attending (and ditching classes) at Hommocks Middle School near Mamaroneck, Dillon was scouted for the cast of Jonathan Kaplan’s acclaimed youth drama, Over the Edge (1979). Dillon was in a relationship with Cameron Diaz from 1996 to 1998. Dillon’s height is 5’ 10¾”. His net worth is $40 million.
Humanitarian: Matt Dillon has worked with Amani Global Works in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve health care.
Music Collector: Dillon claims a large vinyl collection, particularly Cuban music on 78rpm discs.