How did Matt Damon get his start in acting?

Renowned for his roles in the ‘Jason Bourne’ films, ‘Behind the Candelabra,’ ‘The Martian,’ and ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ Matt Damon is an award-winning actor, as well as screenwriter and producer, that captured many hearts for his good looks, sheer talent, and incredible performances. Here, let’s know more about his life, how he got into acting, and his considerable success in the industry that seems to be destined for him early on.

Early Life

On the 8th of October 1970 in Boston, Massachusetts, Matthew Paige Damon was born to Kent Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige. His father was a realtor, tax preparer, and stockbroker, while his mother worked at Lesley University as a professor in childhood education. 

His family lived in Newton until his parents got divorced in 1973. Matt and his older brother, Kyle, lived with their mother in Cambridge, where he became childhood friends with another American actor, Ben Affleck.

Matt went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, taking drama classes and performing in various theater productions. As such, Damon developed his love and passion for acting. After high school, he went to Harvard University but dropped out only 12 credits short of graduation to pursue his acting career.

Matt Damon

The Debut

At the age of 18, he made his debut on the big screen in the movie ‘Mystic Pizza’ (1988), starring Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish, and Lili Taylor. It was followed by other projects: ‘Rising Son’ (1990), ‘School Ties’ (1992), and ‘Geronimo: An American Legend’ (1993). It was in the latter when Damon finally decided to leave the university.

In 1996, he became a part of ‘Courage Under Fire,’ an American war film where he played the role of the young soldier Andrew Ilario. The movie earned positive acclaim and grossed $100 million globally. It was in this portrayal where Damon got the interest of Francis Ford Coppola. A year later, Coppola cast Damon in ‘The Rainmaker,’ giving him the starring role as a novice lawyer in the legal drama film.

The Break

As his acting career started to progress, Damon also showcased his talent for screenwriting in the film ‘Good Will Hunting’ in 1997, where he also acted alongside his longtime friend, Ben Affleck. Damon earned massive accolades for both the screenplay and his portrayal in the successful film, which cemented his name in the industry.‘Good Will Hunting’ received nine (9) Oscars award nominations, eventually winning the ‘Best Original Screenplay for Damon and Affleck. 

Proving his worth, Damon became sought after, appearing in many more movies before the turn of the decade. In 1998, Damon appeared in ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ the blockbuster epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg, which became one of the most critically-acclaimed films in that year. Tom Hanks, Vin Diesel, and Edwards Burns were his co-stars in the movie.

Still, in 1988, Damon became a part of ‘Rounders,’ a drama film directed by John Dahl. The movie revolving around the underground realm of high-stakes poker only achieved moderate success at the box office. Yet, it became a cult classic when poker became more popular in the 2000s.

The next year, he made a reunion with Affleck in the fantasy comedy flick, ‘Dogma’. Directed and written by Kevin Smith, the movie also featured other stars, such as Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, and Linda Florentino. His next project came towards the end of 1999.

A complete turnaround from his last film, Damon played the role of Tom Ripley in the psychological thriller ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’. It was written and directed by Anthony Minghella, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law playing as some of his co-stars. Though the film received mixed reviews from audiences and critics, Damon’s performance was still applauded. 

In 2000, Damon became a voice actor for the animated movie ‘Titan A.E.’ and made other flicks, such as ‘All the Pretty Horses’ with Penelope Cruz, ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ with Will Smith and Charlize Theron, ‘Gerry’ with Ben Affleck and a cameo in ‘Finding Forrester’.

The following year, Damon became a part of ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ playing the role of one of the con men. He earned massive fame from the movie and he joined the movie’s sequels, ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ (2004) and ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ (2007).

Matt_ Damon

The Success

Yet, Damon’s biggest success was the Jason Bourne series, where he played as an amnesiac U.S.-trained assassin and crime operative attempting to discover his past. It started in ‘The Bourne Identity’ (2002), followed by ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ (2004), and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ (2007). He returned for ‘Jason Bourne’ (2016), after skipping the fourth installation of the film. Apart from achieving blockbuster success, the Bourne movie series d earned accolades for its incredible stunts, edge-of-the-seat storyline, brilliant acting, and kinetic pacing.  

Through the years, Damon proved his acting prowess, being part of other critically-praised movies like ‘The Brothers Grimm’ (2005), ‘Syriana’ (2005), ‘The Departed’ (2006), and ‘The Good Shepherd’ (2006). In 2009, he played as the captain of a South African rugby team in Clint Eastwood’s biographical sports film ‘Invictus,’ also starring Morgan Freeman. Prior to that, he starred in the crime-comedy flick ‘The Informant!’ directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Showing versatility, Damon played different roles in the 2010s. He played as a Texas ranger, an army officer, and as a Congressman in the movies ‘True Grit’ (2010), ‘Green Zone’ (2010), and ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ (2011). Other notable films he made include Contagion (2011), ‘Behind The Candelabra’ (2013), ‘The Monuments Men’ (2014), and the ‘The Martian’ (2015). The latter earned almost $600 million worldwide and gave Damon his third Oscars award nomination for acting.

Nearly three decades after his debut on the silver screen, Damon continued to amaze the audience in the dark comedy-crime film ‘Suburbicon’ (2017) and the science fiction comedy-drama film ‘‘Downsizing’ (2017).

In 2021, Damon starred in another crime drama Stillwater (2021), playing the role of a father trying to prove his daugther’s innocence after allegedly murdering her girlfriend. In the same year, he co-starred in epic historical drama flick ‘The Last Duel’ reuniting and co-writing the screenplay with Ben Affleck. Boasting many achievements and consistently providing his talent, there’s surely more Matt Damon has to showcase and offer in the years to come.

Interesting Facts About Matt Damon

1. Longtime best-friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck shared a bank account when they were still struggling in the industry.

2. To make his role realistic, Damon had to lose forty pounds for his role Courage Under Fire. However, he did it through food deprivation, placing his health in great peril.

3. Damon was considered for “Daredevil,” which was eventually played by Ben Affleck.

4. To earn money from tips, Damon used to breakdanced in Harvard Square.

5. In 2007, People magazine hailed him as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”

6. He took the job as a bartender in Tennessee to improve his Southern accent for his role as Memphis lawyer in Coppola’s ‘The Rainmaker’.

7. While he earned praises for his Southern accent, many weren’t pleased with his Boston accent in the movie, ‘The Departed’.

8. Damon was set to play as the assassin in ‘Milk’ (2008) but backed out due to scheduling conflicts with ‘Green Zone.

9. While ‘Good Will Hunting’ was a success, his next films: ‘All the Pretty Horses’, ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, and ‘Gerry’ were all flops.

10. Damon almost didn’t star in the Jason Bourne series as it was first offered to renowned actors Russell Crowe, Sylvester Stallone, and Brad Pitt.