Based on more than two decades of starring in some of the most popular films in Hollywood, it’s clear that leading man Matt Damon is now one of the biggest film celebrities in the world. Not only has he won 1 Academy Award and 2 Golden Globe Awards – he’s also one of the most bankable film stars in Hollywood. He’s the face of the hugely popular “Bourne” franchise, and he was also a key member of the ensemble cast featured in the “Ocean’s” trilogy (2001-2007).
Matt Damon was born in 1970 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His Hollywood film career started off the way many acting careers do – with acting in high school theatrical productions. There’s just one difference here – one of his high school drama friends turned out to be Ben Affleck!
After high school, Matt Damon enrolled at the prestigious Ivy League university Harvard, where he continued to rack up some impressive theatrical acting gigs. For his work, he started getting noticed by big-time TV producers. For example, he had a role in the TNT original film “Rising Son.” In 1988, he also had a single line of conversation in the romantic comedy “Mystic Pizza” starring Julia Roberts. That was at age 18, but it was still a memorable start to his Hollywood career.
In 1992, in the final year at Harvard, he left school before graduating to appear in “Geronimo: An American Legend.” That film never turned out to be the hit he expected. In 1996, his next big role was the part of a drug-addicted soldier in “Courage Under Fire.” Although that part earned Matt Damon some critical acclaim, it never hinted at what was going to come next: several breakthrough Hollywood film roles that started to define Damon as a real A-list star.
To some extent, you could say that Matt Damon’s inability to find “instant success” was really the fault of the film roles for which he was originally cast. Sometimes the best scripts are those that you write yourself. What happened next was Damon writing the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting” – a film that really launched both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck on the road to fame.
What’s interesting is that “Good Will Hunting” (1997) actually started as a film project that Matt Damon had originally worked on as a classroom assignment at Harvard in the early 1990s, so it was obviously a subject that was near and dear to him. The film received an impressive nine Academy Award nominations, including a “Best Actor” nomination for Matt Damon and a “Best Supporting Actor” win for co-star Robin Williams. The film went on to make $225 million worldwide from the box office.
During the period from 1997-2000, Matt Damon landed a number of other important roles. In 1998, he appeared in both “Saving Private Ryan” and “Rounders.” In 1999, he played in the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” And he also appeared with Ben Affleck in “Dogma” (1999). And then came two attempts at casting Matt Damon as a male lead in a romantic drama – “All the Pretty Horses” (2000) and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (2000). But it turned out to be the case that the real talents of Matt Damon were not in romantic dramas, but in epic action dramas.
In the period from 2001-2007, Matt Damon appeared in two of Hollywood’s most famous film franchises – the “Bourne” franchise and the “Ocean’s” franchise. You could say that was when Matt Damon officially crossed over into Hollywood stardom. He was now the leading figure in summer blockbuster films and part of a mega-royalty Hollywood ensemble cast.
It is perhaps the “Bourne” franchise that was the bigger event, since Matt Damon eventually became the face of the franchise. Moreover, it ran from 2002-2016, a fifteen-year period. It started with “The Bourne Identity” (2002), then was followed by “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) and, a decade later, “Jason Bourne” (2016).
The “Ocean’s” trilogy was also very noteworthy. It started with the 2001 film remake from Steven Soderbergh “Ocean’s Eleven,” to be followed by “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007).
But that wasn’t all that Matt Damon was starring in at the time. He also played alongside Robert De Niro in “The Good Shepherd” (2006). And in 2006, he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.” By 2007, Matt Damon was officially one of the most bankable Hollywood stars, with the ability to pull in tens of millions of dollars simply by agreeing to a movie deal.
In hindsight, it looks like Matt Damon began to search out new types of roles after having established himself as a Hollywood leading man. In the period from 2009-2017, he has worked with many top-flight directors and appeared in many films with challenging subject material. It may all go back to his early theatrical experience – Matt Damon just wants to become the best actor possible and explore new roles rather than being typecast as only a certain type of actor.
In 2009, Matt Damon played in Steven Soderbergh’s dark comedy “The Informant,” for which Damon picked up a Golden Globe nomination. He also worked with famed actor and director Clint Eastwood on the film “Invictus,” which also starred Morgan Freeman. And then, in 2010, he teamed back up with his “Bourne” director, Paul Greengrass, on a new action-thriller, “Green Zone.” He also appeared in two other films – Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” and the Coen Brothers’ Western film “True Grit” (based on the original John Wayne film).
Then came a number of other interesting film and TV projects. For example, in 2011-2012, Matt Damon appeared in the following films: “The Adjustment Bureau,” “Contagion” and “We Bought a Zoo.” He then collaborated with Steven Soderbergh once again, this time as the gay lover and partner of the flamboyant pianist Liberace in the HBO special “Behind the Candelabra.” Talk about new roles for Matt Damon!
During the period from 2014-2017, Matt Damon explored a number of science fiction acting roles. For example, he starred in the 2013 science fiction film “Elysium.” And he starred in Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi film “The Zero Theorem” in 2013. And who can forget his 2014 role in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”? Other big movie roles for Damon during that time included George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” (2014) and the project “Years of Living Dangerously” (2014).
Then came yet another Hollywood blockbuster that people are still talking about – Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.” For his part in the 2015 film, Damon picked up an Academy Award nomination for “Best Actor” and a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actor.” That was followed up by Damon’s starring role in the film “Jason Bourne.” His big role of 2017 was “The Great Wall,” which did a lot better internationally than at the U.S. box office.
Looking ahead, there’s one more Matt Damon film project scheduled for 2017, and that’s Alexander Payne’s film “Downsizing,” which will appear during the holiday season.
And it looks like Matt Damon is going to be spending even more time and attention on being a film producer. He played a big part in helping Ben Affleck’s brother, Casey Affleck, get the role of a lifetime in “Manchester By The Sea.” And Damon has actually founded and launched his own film production company, known as LivePlanet. That company, formed with his lifelong friend Ben Affleck, has created a new documentary series called Project Greenlight.
And don’t forget about Matt Damon’s voiceover and voice acting talent! He’s voiced the role of several animated characters in films, and he’s also been the voice of several major TV commercials for famous brands like TD Ameritrade, Nespresso and United Airlines. And in 2010, Matt Damon narrated the documentary film “Inside Job.”
Sometimes, a celebrity actor becomes so famous that he (or she) forgets about the all the people who need their help. That’s not the case at all with Matt Damon, who has been active in charitable and humanitarian causes since the mid-2000s. He’s perhaps best known for his work with the ONE Campaign, H20 Africa Foundation, Feeding America and ONEXONE.
Matt Damon continues to find new artistic and creative projects that can use his talents. And, while he isn’t a fixture in the celebrity tabloids, he does guest-star and appear in TV shows all the time. In fact, there’s a long-running gag with late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel, in which Matt Damon and Jimmy Kimmel pretend to get into a feud, and now that “feud” has become a subject that others actively discuss online and via social media.
It’s easy to see that Matt Damon has become a tremendously famous Hollywood celebrity. Since 2007, he has had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and it’s clear why. He’s a hugely talented film star who has worked with some of the best actors, directors and actresses in the industry. And now it looks like Matt Damon’s career is going to take another amazing step forward.