Damon, Matt(hew Paige) 1970-
DAMON, Matt(hew Paige) 1970-
PERSONAL: Born October 8, 1970, in Boston, MA; son of Kent Damon (a tax expert) and Nancy Carlsson-Paige (a professor). Education: Attended Harvard University.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
CAREER: Screenwriter. Actor in films: The Good Mother, Buena Vista, 1988; Mystic Pizza, Samuel Goldwyn, 1988; Rising Son, Turner Pictures, 1990; School Ties, Paramount, 1992; Geronimo: An American Legend, Columbia, 1993; The Good Old Boys, Turner Pictures, 1995; Glory Daze, Seventh Art, 1996; Courage under Fire, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1996; Chasing Amy, Miramax, 1997; Good Will Hunting, Miramax, 1997; The Rainmaker, Paramount, 1997; Rounders, Miramax, 1998; Saving Private Ryan, Paramount, 1998; Dogma, Miramax, 1999; The Talented Mr. Ripley, Miramax/Paramount, 1999; All the Pretty Horses, Columbia/Miramax, 1999; Planet Ice, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999; Legend of Bagger Vance, Dream Works, 2000; Titan A.E. (voice), Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000; Finding Forrester, Columbia Pictures, 2000; Ocean's Eleven, Warner Brothers, 2001; The Majestic (voice), Warner Brothers, 2001; Gerry, Thinkfilm, 2002; The Bourne Identity, Universal, 2002; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Miramax, 2002; Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (voice), Dream Works, 2002; Jersey Girl, Miramax, 2003; Stuck on You, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2003; The Third Wheel, Miramax, 2003; The Brothers
Grimm, MGM, 2004; Bourne Supremacy, Universal, 2004; and Ocean's Twelve, Warner Brothers, 2004. Actor on stage, including This Is Our Youth, Garrick Theatre, London, England, 2002. Television credits include: executive producer, Push, Nevada (series), ABC, 2002; producer with Ben Affleck and Chris Moore, Project Greenlight (series), 2001—.
AWARDS, HONORS: (With Ben Affleck) Third place Boston Society of Film Critics award, National Board of Review award for special achievement in filmmaking, and Academy Award for best original screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, all 1997, and Golden Globe Award for best motion picture screenplay, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Newcomers of the Year, Florida Film Critics Circle Award, Golden Satellite Award for best motion picture original screenplay, Writers Guild of America Screen Award nomination for best screenplay written directly for the screen, and MTV Movie Award nomination, best on-screen duo, all 1998, all for Good Will Hunting; Golden Globe Award nomination for best performance by an actor in a motion picture-drama, Academy Award nomination for best actor, Silver Berlin Bear, outstanding single achievement, Broadcast Film Critics Association Breakout Artist award, Golden Satellite Award nomination for best actor, Screen Actor's Guild nomination for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role, MTV Movie Award nomination for best male performance, all 1998, all for Good Will Hunting; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination for favorite actor in a drama, for The Rainmaker; ShoWest Award for male star of tomorrow, 1998; (with cast) Screen Actor's Guild Award nomination for outstanding performance by a cast, 1998, for Saving Private Ryan; Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actor in a motion picture-drama, 1999, and Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination for favorite actor-suspense, 2000, both for The Talented Mr. Ripley; Sierra Award nomination for best actor, 2000, and Blockbuster Entertainment Award for favorite actor-drama/romance, 2001, both for All the Pretty Horses; (with cast) Emmy nomination for outstanding nonfiction program (reality), 2002, and PGA Gold Laurel Award for television producer of the year in reality/game/informational series, 2003, both for Project Greenlight; Blimp Award nomination for favorite voice from an animated movie, 2003, for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron; (with cast) Bronze Wranger for best theatrical motion picture, 2003, for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron; (with cast) DVD Premiere Award nomination for best audio commentary, new release, 2003, for Ocean's Eleven.
(With Casey Affleck and Gus Van Sant) Gerry, Think-Film, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Matt Damon is the epitome of a Hollywood success story. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Damon was a childhood friend of writer/actor Ben Affleck. He and Affleck collaborated on the screenplay of their film Good Will Hunting, in which they both had roles. Damon told Entertainment Weekly, "We're pretty inseparable, in terms of our experiences. We look at things in exactly the same way. It wasn't like someone was good at structure and someone at dialogue. The only difference between us is Ben can type." The film earned them an Academy Award for best original screenplay. Damon later wrote the screenplay for the film Gerry with Ben Affleck's brother Casey and director Gus Van Sant. While praised by critics for his writing, Damon is best known for his acting and has been referred to as "Hollywood's Golden Boy."
Damon had only one line in his first film, Mystic Pizza, in 1988. Another early film was Rising Son, in which he played the son of a factory worker (Brian Dennehy). The father's plant closes and the son announces that he is dropping out of his premed program, shattering the father's dreams for his future. Damon played an acquaintance of David Greene (Brendan Fraser) in School Ties, a story about anti-Semitism in an elite prep school. In Geronimo: An American Legend, Damon portrayed a young West Point graduate and greenhorn soldier in the campaign to capture the famous Apache leader. The Good Old Boys is set in West Texas in 1906, with Damon playing the nephew of Tommy Lee Jones.
In the 1996 Gulf War film Courage under Fire, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) investigates the death of Medevac helicopter pilot Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan). The movie has a dual plot: Lou Diamond Phillips, as a sergeant, claims Walden was a coward, and Damon's character, a medical orderly, recalls her actions as heroic. For Courage Damon was required to lose forty pounds; he succeeded in doing so but contracted a medical condition that lasted beyond the making of the film. In reviewing Courage in the New Yorker, David Denby called Damon "a gifted and affecting young actor."
In The Rainmaker, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the novel by John Grisham, Damon stars as Rudy, a young Memphis lawyer who works his way through law school, then takes his first job with an attorney known as Bruiser, played by Mickey Rourke. "Enter the comic sidekick, Deck (Danny DeVito), who in a bustling sequence introduces Rudy to the art of invading hospital rooms and getting signatures from patients in traction," wrote Stuart Klawans in the Nation. Rudy's love interest is Kelly, played by Claire Danes, a young woman being abused by her husband. Klawans questioned whether the film was a courtroom drama or a legal thriller. "No matter. You'll be too busy remembering those tender close-ups . . . ; the setting when the lawyers spill out of the poor family's house . . . to hold a deposition in the yard; . . . the sense of loss as Deck bumbles down a stair at the end and exits Rudy's life. Pow." Stanley Kauffmann wrote in the New Republic that "everything about the film is smoothly done, with good work from Matt Damon as the young lawyer." Coppola told Time magazine that Damon "has got the gift—and he's a writer in his own right. That gives him something special."
Damon's Academy Award-winning screenplay Good Will Hunting began as a one-act play Damon had written while at Harvard. He and Affleck rewrote it as a thriller in 1993. When the bidding on the script began, Damon was living with a high school buddy, and Affleck was sleeping on his sofa. When Castle Rock bought the script, Rob Reiner told the writers to make it into a character story. They reduced the script to sixty-three pages and undertook a year of rewriting. Castle Rock assigned the project to director Andrew Scheinman in 1995, and creative issues resulted in an impasse. Castle Rock gave Damon and Affleck a short time to find another studio and reimburse Castle Rock for their costs; then Miramax bought the project for nearly one million dollars. Commitments by Robin Williams and director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Gerry) cinched the deal for the Miramax buy.
In the film, Damon plays Will, a math genius who works as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). Affleck is his friend Chuckie, a construction worker. The two boys live in Irish working-class South Boston, where the pair is prone to brawling. While cleaning at M.I.T., Will solves nearly impossible mathematical problems left on the blackboards. Professor Lambeau, played by Stellan Skarsgard, recognizes Will's gift and keeps him out of jail and in therapy with Sean McGuire, played by Robin Williams, "a bit of a screw-up himself, a damaged man, grief-stricken and defensive, but perhaps the one shrink in Boston who can understand Will," according to David Denby in New York. Denby said, "The boy doesn't want to be saved. He wants to be left alone." Denby said Damon's Will was "halfway between beauty and ugliness, and there's something disturbing about him, stirrings of consciousness and pain beneath the working-class boy's cocky facade." The professor, the therapist, and Will's girlfriend Skylar, played by Minnie Driver, try to encourage him, but he rejects their efforts, even attacking weaknesses in those who try to help. Denby said that the film "starts out brilliantly" and that Affleck, Damon, and Van Sant "don't condescend to the Southies, but they don't sentimentalize them, either." He felt that the two characters were hemmed in by their social environment, Will believing that success is somehow "corrupting." Denby concluded that the film deftly explored ambiguous conflicts within intelligent people and that it had "wit and temperament to burn."
Writing in Maclean's, Brian D. Johnson said, "There are shades of the Dead Poets Society in the father-son bond that develops between Williams and the boy. But Good Will Hunting feels richer and more authentic." According to an article for Boston Uncommon, Robin Williams said, "There's an emotional core to Good Will Hunting that came from Ben and Matt. . . . They have this unspoken twins thing. They care for each other, yet they bust on each other. And that was a great baseline to work with. I'm very proud of this movie. It has a resonance."
Damon received a stream of movie offers following Good Will Hunting. He played the title role in the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan, based on the true story of the Ryan family, who lost three of their four sons in a single day during World War II. In this film, noted for its graphic depiction of war violence, a platoon led by Tom Hanks goes behind enemy lines in an attempt to rescue the surviving Ryan son, played by Damon. Damon had the leading role in his next film, Rounders. In the John Dahl-directed Rounders, he plays a reformed gambler who returns to the underground poker scene of New York to help a newly paroled friend, played by Edward Norton, pay off loan sharks. The cast also includes John Turturro, John Malkovich, Martin Landau, and Gretchen Mol. Damon was also the voice of Cole, a jaded blue-collar worker on a salvage station in the science-fiction movie Titan A.E. and he starred in Dogma, a comic religious satire. The Legend of Bagger Vance is a movie about a talented, broken-spirited golfer (Damon) who has lost his "authentic swing." "There's plenty of great photography and a lot of action golfers will like, but the story is so slow and predictable that it's hard to sit through," remarked John Barton in Golf World.
Damon acted under the direction of Billy Bob Thornton in All the Pretty Horses, in which he played John Grady Cole, who along with a friend, leaves home in 1949 West Texas. While crossing the border into Mexico, they work as rangers on a ranch owned by a wealthy man. Cole falls in love with the rancher's daughter, played by Penelope Cruz. Damon's performance in this film did not receive its usual critical acclaim. Writing in Variety, reviewer Todd McCarthy remarked that "there was more chemistry between Matt Damon and his golf balls (in Legend of Bagger Vance) than there is between the star and Cruz."
In the remake of the 1960 film Ocean's Eleven, Damon played Linus Caldwell, a young, brilliant pickpocket with a renowned criminal father. The film features Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a paroled bank robber who plans to rob a Vegas casino and win back his ex-wife (Julia Roberts), currently the girlfriend of the casino owner (Andy Garcia). Ocean's Eleven was mainly scorned by critics. Writing for Variety, Todd McCarthy called the film a "visually lustrous but dialogue-deprived picture." Yet, the film has its fans. Newsweek's David Ansen concluded that Ocean's Eleven delivers "what it promises: a gaggle of movie stars breezing their way through a brisk, glossy Hollywood entertainment."
Commenting on the unsympathetic serial killer he played in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote in Entertainment Weekly, "Damon is at once an obvious choice for the part and a hard sell to audiences soothed by his amiable boyishness. The actor's personality, that of well-adjusted Private Ryan unwilling to leave the battlefield without his buddies, doesn't suggest a fellow who can convincingly go postal. But the facade works surprisingly well when Damon holds that gleaming smile just a few seconds too long, his Eagle Scout eyes fixed just a blink more than the calm gaze of any non-murdering young man. And in that opacity we see horror." Damon was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the film.
Damon wrote the screenplay for Gerry with Casey Affleck (Ben's brother) and Gus Van Sant, who also directed the film. Gerry was praised by critics for venturing off the beaten Hollywood track. The film features two characters who both call each other Gerry (Damon and Affleck). When they leave their car to search for a desert landmark, they are swallowed up in the Valley of Death. As they battle for survival, the "Gerrys" discover much about themselves and each other. Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman described the film as "very slow and beautiful." He noted that "the movie is on some level a stunt, but it has the fervent, sun-dazed feel of an authentic experience unfolding in real time, with the glints of drama, comedy, and terror mixed into the almost-but-not-quite tedium." "The film is a rush of visceral sensations," explained reviewer Brian Hu in America's Intelligence Wire. "We're keenly aware of cinematic distance, both between the film and the audience, and between the character." Hu described the film as "cinematically exciting and daring." In an interview with Back Stage West's Jamie Painter Young, Damon and Affleck explained that the movie was more than something to do in between jobs; they felt a calling to make such a risky film.
Damon later starred in the action thriller The Bourne Identity, in which he played an assassin stricken with amnesia who flees across Europe to escape from other assassins trying to kill him. In Entertainment Weekly, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh noted that Damon was an unlikely choice for an action hero. "Which is what appealed to the actor," she explained, "who says he took the role of an amnesia CIA hit man on the run because he wanted 'to try an action movie . . . exactly the way I'd love to do it, with someone who was thinking outside the box.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Altman, Sheryl, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck: On and off Screen: An Unauthorized Biography, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Bego, Mark, Matt Damon: Chasing a Dream, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.
Busch, Kristen, Golden Boy: The Matt Damon Story, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Diamond, Maxine, Matt Damon: A Biography, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Durant, Philippe, Matt Damon, Favre (Lausanne, France), 1999.
Girod, Christina M., Matt Damon, Lucent Books (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Greene, Meg, Matt Damon, Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2001.
Marcello, Patricia Cronin, Matt Damon, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.
Nickson, Chris, Matt Damon: An Unauthorized Biography, Renaissance Books (Los Angeles, CA), 1999.
Scott, Kieran, Matt Damon, Aladdin Paperbacks (New York, NY), 1998.
Tracy, Kathleen, Matt Damon, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Advocate, January 18, 2000, Brendon Lemon, "Going to the Matt," p. 66; February 18, 2003, Jan Stuart, "Gary Van Sant's Gerry Invites Us to Watch Hunky Young Stars Do Mystifying Things," p. 51.
America's Intelligence Wire, February 26, 2003, "Film Review: Damon, Affleck, Van Sant Remain Adrift in America."
Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, September 15, 2002, Ricky Yap, "Bond Wanabee"; September 7, 2002, "Bourne"; September 7, 2002, "Uncovering Matt Damon's Identity"; August 4, 2002, "Rave Reviews for Project Greenlights' Winning Script."
Back Stage West, February 6, 2003, Jamie Painter Young, "Off the Beaten Path: For Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, Acting Is about the Journey, Not the Destination," pp. 1-3.
Boston Magazine, September, 1999, p. 98-103.
Christianity Today, January 10, 2000, Douglas LeBlanc, "Dogmatically Anti-Dogma," p. 80.
Cineaste, summer, 2000, Michael Bronski, review of The Talented Mr. Ripley, p. 41.
Daily Variety, June 10, 2002, Todd McCarthy, review of The Bourne Identity, pp. 4-6.
Entertainment Weekly, January 22, 1999, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of The Talented Mr. Ripley, p. 46; November 12, 1999, Owen Gleiberman, "Loose Canon: Reports of Kevin Smith's Heresy Are Hearsay: His Sinfully Funny Dogma Mocks a World Fallen from Grace," p. 47; December 17, 1999, Chris Nashawaty, "Ripley Believe It or Not," p. 28; January 7, 2000, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of The Talented Mr. Ripley, p, 40; November 10, 2000, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "Caddy Quack: Will Smith Is a Golf Course Guru Who Helps Matt Damon Find His Stroke in the Legend of Bagger Vance," p. 55; January 5, 2001, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "Equestrian Show: Moviegoers May Say Nay to Director Billy Bob Thornton's Random Shooting of All the Pretty Horses," p. 47; January 12, 2001, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "Write Minded: Student and Teacher Both Get an Education in Finding Forrester, Another Life Lesson from Gus Van Sant," p. 51; April 6, 2001, Ty Burr, "Holy in One: A Spiritual Will Smith Pulls His Caddy Up to Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger Vance," p. 95; August 3, 2001, Josh Young, "Good Will Games," p. 16; June 21, 2002, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, "The Hitman Cometh: A Star Aiming for a Change of Pace," p. 32; June 21, 2002, Owen Gleiberman, "Memory Blank," p. 47; May 31, 2002, Owen Gleiberman, "Full Steed: A Born-Free Horse Fights to Stay Wild in the Stirring Fairy Tale Spirit," p. 79; January 24, 2003, Michael Sauter, "Milk of Amnesia: Matt Damon's Forgetful Spy Rises to the Top in The Bourne Identity," p. 80.
Esquire, December, 1999, Rom Carson, "Defending the Faith," p. 52.
Europe Intelligence Wire, October 13, 2002, "You've Been Framed: Matt Damon: A Real Swinger."
Golf World, November 10, 2000, "It's No Caddyshack:The Legend of Bagger Vance Rates a Slow-Play Penalty," p. 8.
Interview, December, 1997, p. 118.
Maclean's, December 20, 1993, pp. 51-52; July 15, 1996, p. 58; November 24, 1997, p. 133; December 29, 1997, p. 103.
Nation, November 29, 1999, Stuart Klawans, "Innocents Abroad," p. 51; May 22, 2000, David Corn, "Fox Nixes Zinn Flick: A Radical Retelling of U.S. History Has Proved a Tough Sell in Hollywood," p. 22.
National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 1998, p. 14.
New Republic, July 8, 2002, p.24.
New Statesman, June 19, 2000, Bee Wilson, "Ripley's Appetite," p. 48; February 18, 2002, "Drop in the Ocean: Philip Kerr on How a Laptop Caper Falls Short of Nuclear Physics," pp. 42-46.
Newsweek, December 17, 2001, "Boys Just Want to Have Fun: For Danny Ocean and His Swell Pallies, Nice and Easy Does It," p. 66; June 10, 2002, David Ansen, "Spy vs. Spy," p. 50.
Newsweek International, January 10, 2000, David Ansen, "A Blue Season," p. 68.
New York, November 22, 1999, Peter Rainer, review of Dogma, p. 88; January 3, 2000, Peter Rainer, "Invisible Man," pp. 84-86; June 26, 2000, Peter Rainer, review of Titan A.E., p. 130; December 3, 2001, John Leonard, "Project Greenlight," p. 70; November 13, 2000, Peter Rainer, review of The Legend of Bagger Vance, pp. 76-78.
New Yorker, December 27, 1999, Anthony Lane, "Killing Time," pp. 28-31; November 6, 2000, David Denby, review of Courage under Fire, p. 111.
Orlando Business Journal, May 19, 2000, "Starring Golf," p. 32.
People, June 3, 2002, Leah Rozen and Rom Gliatto, "Screen," p. 33.
Premiere, January, 2000, Christine Spines, "Fear of Flying," p. 62; September, 2000, Peter McQuaid, "How the West Is Won," p. 23; Glenn Kenny, review of The Talented Mr. Ripley, p. 26; August, 2000, Christopher Kelly, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," p. 86; January, 2001, Alex Lewin, "Wild Horses," p. 70.
Rolling Stone, December 27, 2001, Peter Travers, review of Ocean's Eleven, p. 138; December 9, 1999, Peter Travers, review of Dogma, p. 89-91.
Sight and Sound, March, 2001, Edward Buscombe, review of All the Pretty Horses, p. 38; The Legend of Bagger Vance, p. 53.
Spectator, June 1, 2002, Toby Young, "No Star of Stage," pp. 48-50.
Time, December 27, 1999, "Matt Damon Acts Out," p. 152; June 17, 2002, Richard Schickel, "Just Call Him the Anti-007," p. 78; November 6, 2000, "Buddy, Caddie, Guru: Fairway of Dreams? Nah, Golf Drama The Legend of Bagger Vance Is Stuck in a Sand Trap of Mystic," p. 112.
Us Weekly, December 31, 2000, Andrew Johnston, review of All the Pretty Horses, p. 38; November 26, 2001, Tom Conroy, "Project Greenlight," p. 79; December 17, 2001, Andrew Johnston, review of Ocean's Eleven, p. 58; June 24, 2002, Lew Harris, "The Big-Flick Buddies," pp. 42-4; June 24, 2002, Andrew Johnston, "Bourne to Run," p. 62.
Variety, December 13, 1999, Todd McCarthy, review of The Talented Mr. Ripley, p. 105; December 18, 2000, Todd McCarthy, review of All the Pretty Horses p. 26; June 12, 2000, Robert Koehler, review of Titan A.E., p. 13; April 15, 2002, "Damon to Make West End Bow," p. 4; January 21, 2002, Todd McCarthy, review of Gerry, p. 36; May 20, 2002, Todd McCarthy, "Spirit Rides on a Lyrical Landscape," pp. 25-27; June 10, 2002, "Spy Genre Re-Bourne for a New Generation," pp. 28-30.
Vogue, November 1999, John Powers, review of Dogma, pp. 243-287.
Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1998, p. A16; January 9, 1998, p. A14.
Boston Uncommon,http://members.aol.com/SunsetTea/BostonUncommon.Html (May 13, 2004).*