Actor, screenwriter. Born October 8, 1970, in Boston, Massachusetts. After his parents divorced when he was a young child, Damon moved with his mother and older brother from the tony Boston suburb of Newton to a more modest neighborhood in Cambridge. He appeared in several local theater productions as an adolescent and worked as an extra on movies filming in or around Boston alongside his childhood friend and fellow aspiring actor Ben Affleck. At 16, Damon auditioned for a New York casting agent and later landed his first film role, a one-line appearance in 1988’s Mystic Pizza, starring Julia Roberts.
While a student at Harvard University, Damon appeared in a Turner Network Television (TNT) movie, Rising Son (1990), with Brian Dennehy. In 1992, he landed his first substantial role, as an obnoxious young WASP in School Ties, also featuring the up-and-coming young actors Brendan Fraser, Chris O’Donnell, and Affleck. Soon after, he dropped out of Harvard just shy of earning his degree in English and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting more seriously.
After landing an important supporting role in Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), starring heavy-hitters Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall, Damon made his first starring turn in the 1995 TNT movie The Good Old Boys, costarring Tommy Lee Jones, who also cowrote and directed. Damon’s breakthrough performance, however, came in the 1996 film Courage Under Fire, costarring Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan. Damon lost 40 pounds and reportedly became dangerously ill in preparation for his role as a strung-out Army medic in the Gulf War drama, for which he earned a good deal of critical praise.
The following year, Francis Ford Coppola cast Damon as the lead in his film adaptation of John Grisham’s best-selling novel The Rainmaker (1997), costarring Danny DeVito and Claire Danes. After the news that Damon snagged the high-profile role broke, he and Affleck were finally able to close the deal on the sale of their screenplay, Good Will Hunting. Originally conceived by Damon during a playwriting class at Harvard, the script had attracted offers from several interested studios, which Damon and Affleck had turned down, insisting that they be allowed to star. With advice from such luminaries as Rob Reiner and William Goldman, Damon and Affleck revised their script and subsequently sold the rights to Miramax.
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Matt Damon biography
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