Matt Damon is an American actor and screenwriter who won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his screenwriting in Good Will Hunting (1997) and was nominated for his lead performance in the same film.
Growing steadily in popularity from the film, with many appearances alongside other A-list actors in mainstream films, today he is rated amongst the top actors in Hollywood.
Matt Damon was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Kent Telfer Damon, a stockbroker, realtor, and tax preparer, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education professor at Lesley University.
He has a brother, Kyle, who is an accomplished sculptor and artist.
Damon and his family lived in Newton for the first two years of his life, but after his parents divorced, Damon and his brother moved with his mother to Cambridge.
Damon grew up next door to actor Ben Affleck and historian and author Howard Zinn. Damon worked Zinn's popular book A People's History of the United States into his character's dialogue in the movie Good Will Hunting, saying: "That book will knock you on your ass."
Later he did the narration for Zinn's own biographical film You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train and an audio version of A People's History of the United States.
Damon attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, the only public high school in Cambridge, and performed in several theatre productions. He graduated from the school in 1988 and began attending Harvard University in the same year.
Damon could have graduated with the class of 1992, but kept leaving classes to pursue acting projects, including the TNT original film Rising Son and ensemble prep-school drama School Ties.
While at Harvard, he concentrated in English and lived in Lowell House. He did not take part in student theatre generally, but did appear in A... My Name is Alice (in one of the three male roles usually performed by women).
Damon dropped out of the university with twelve units left to graduate to pursue his acting career in Los Angeles after he expected (incorrectly) Geronimo: An American Legend to be a big success.
Damon's first film role came in 1988 when he was 16, with a single line of dialogue in the romantic comedy Mystic Pizza. He appeared in small roles before landing a big part in Geronimo: An American Legend with Gene Hackman and Jason Patric.
He next appeared as a heroin-addicted soldier in 1996's Courage Under Fire. He was required to lose 40 pounds (18 kg) in 100 days (for only two days of filming).
After following a self-prescribed diet and fitness regimen to lose the weight, Damon was told after filming that he was fortunate his heart did not shrink.
Damon took medication for several years afterwards to correct the stress inflicted on his adrenal gland, and has stated that it was worthwhile to properly portray his character and show the industry how committed he was to the role.
Damon and actor Ben Affleck, close personal friends as well as co-stars in several films, developed a thriller about a young math genius, which they pitched around Hollywood. Receiving advice from writer/director/actor Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman, and their friend writer/director Kevin Smith, the two changed the script around to focus on a young math genius trying to make his way in the world.
This script eventually became Good Will Hunting, and received nine Academy Awards nominations, earning Damon and Affleck Oscars for Best Original Screenplay.
Damon was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for the same film (which netted an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for co-star Robin Williams). Damon and Affleck were each paid salaries of $500,000, and the film grossed over $100-million at the box office.
Damon parodied his role in the film in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. After watching Good Will Hunting, director Steven Spielberg cast Damon in the World War II film Saving Private Ryan.
Damon founded Project Greenlight with Affleck and Chris Moore to find and fund worthwhile film projects from novice filmmakers. The televised documentary about the making of the film projects has been nominated for an Emmy three times.
Damon made a brief but memorable guest appearance on the sitcom Will & Grace in the February 2002 episode entitled "A Chorus Lie" (Season 4, Episode 15).
He played the role of Owen, a heterosexual rival to Jack who pretends to be gay in order to win a spot in the Manhattan Gay Men's Chorus, which is about to go on a summer trip to Europe, all-expenses paid.
Damon has been known to choose a wide variety of film roles, from his portrayal of bisexual murderer Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, to a fallen angel who discusses pop culture as intellectual subject matter in Dogma, in which he co-starred with Affleck (1999); from a conjoined twin in Stuck on You, to a film he co-wrote with friend Casey Affleck and Gus Van Sant with limited dialogue—the low budget experimental film Gerry.
Damon has been part of two major film franchises. He played amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne in the successful action movies The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum and starred as the youthful, optimistic thief, Linus Caldwell, opposite George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts in Steven Soderbergh's remake of the Rat Pack's 1960 caper classic Ocean's Eleven.
The successful crime dramedy spawned two sequels: Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen.
Among other high profile roles, Damon played a fictionalised version of Wilhelm Grimm in Terry Gilliam's fantasy adventure The Brothers Grimm and an energy analyst in Syriana.
He was in Robert DeNiro's The Good Shepherd as a career CIA agent, and played an undercover mobster working for the Massachusetts State Police in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong police thriller Infernal Affairs.
He also has a supporting role in Kenneth Lonergan's film Margaret and an uncredited cameo in Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth, both due in 2007.
In 2007, rumours stated that producer J.J. Abrams was trying to get Damon to play James T. Kirk in the eleventh Star Trek feature film. Damon told IGN on July 20, 2007 that he would not be in the film, as the director was casting someone significantly younger, and speculation about his casting had been solely based on Internet rumours.
Box Office Performance
In motion pictures that feature him as a leading actor or supporting co-star, his films have grossed a total of $1.92- to $2.28-billion (based on counting his roles as strictly lead or including supporting roles) at the North American box office, placing him in the top 25 grossing actors of all time.
In August 2007, financial magazine Forbes created a list of actors who generated the best box office performance related to their salaries. The list placed Damon as the most bankable star of the actors reviewed, revealing that Damon had averaged $29 at the box office for every dollar he earned for his last three films.
Damon's future projects include three films that will debut between 2007 and 2009. In 2007, he will portray Mr. Aaron in the drama Margaret. He also has signed on for The Informant, which currently does not have release date, but is scheduled to start filming on 15 April, 2008.
The film will have Damon rejoin Steven Soderbergh and is based on the true story of Mark Whitacre, a corporate whistleblower who wore a wire for two and a half years for the FBI. Whitacre was a high-level executive at a Fortune 500 company, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), in one of the largest price-fixing cases in history.
However, the script for the movie was written by Scott Z. Burns using Kurt Eichenwald’s book, The Informant. Kurt Eichenwald is the investigative reporter who lost his credibility and his career in journalism because of unethical payments, and possibly illegal, in a child pornography case.
The debate continues whether the filming will continue because of the Eichenwald child pornography controversy and his lack of credibility.
James Lieber, a lawyer who authored Rats in the Grain, painted a much different picture about Whitacre than Eichenwald, portraying Whitacre as an American hero who was overpowered by ADM’s vast political clout.
Dean Paisley, formerly 25 years with the FBI and supervisor of the ADM case, has supported a Whitacre Pardon for several years which is more in line with Lieber's conclusion than Eichenwald's.
Damon has had relationships with several actresses throughout his career, including a three-year relationship with actress Winona Ryder.
He also dated Odessa Whitmire, who has worked as a personal assistant for Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck, from 2001 to 2003.
His relationship with Good Will Hunting co-star Minnie Driver reportedly ended when Damon announced their break-up on The Oprah Winfrey Show, though both actors have repeatedly denied this. Damon later stated that he was "sick and tired" of hearing the story, saying it was false.
Driver's sister allegedly told Cosmo that the couple had broken up before the show was taped. Although the media often claimed Damon dated actress Eva Mendes, both have denied any relationship, with Mendes saying "it wasn't true."
Damon met Argentine-born Luciana Bozan Barroso in Miami, where she was working as a bartender. They married in a private civil ceremony on December 9, 2005, in New York City Hall.
Damon became stepfather to Barroso's young daughter, Alexia, from her previous marriage. The couple's first child together, daughter Isabella, was born on June 11, 2006.
Damon, along with frequent co-stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt, supports ONE, a campaign fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries. He has appeared in their print and television advertising.
Damon is a board member of GreenDimes.com, an organisation that attempts to halt the tons of junk mail delivered to American homes each day. Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 20, 2007, Damon promoted the organisation's efforts to prevent the trees used for junk mail letters and envelopes from being chopped down.
Damon stated: "For an estimated dime a day they can stop 70 per cent of the junk mail that comes to your house. It's very simple, easy to do, great gift to give, I've actually signed up my entire family. It was a gift given to me this past holiday season and I was so impressed that I'm now on the board of the company."
Damon is one of the founders of Not On Our Watch, an organisation that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur, along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, and Jerry Weintraub.
He is also the founder of H2O Africa Foundation, the charitable arm of the Running the Sahara expedition.