Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Matt Damon – Movies Spotlight – March 2010

Matt Damon has become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood over the past two decades. He is in this month’s action thriller Green Zone, marking his third collaboration with director Paul Greengrass. Damon has been able to grow his career balancing dramatic, action and fun roles in both independent and Hollywood movies, which has now firmly established him as an “A List” actor – and a great one at that.

Early Career:

In 1988 Damon got his first film role in Mystic Pizza (which was Julia Roberts breakout film), though he only had one line. From there, he continued to take small roles in the television movie Rising Son and School Ties (which also features Ben Affleck). In 1993 he finally got a decent sized role in Geronimo: An American Legend, however he would continue to toil away in small roles in Glory Daze (a college-comedy which stars young Affleck, Sam Rockwell and French Stewart) and Courage Under Fire until his breakthrough finally came in 1997.


1996 was a good year for Damon. He began work on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker and his breakout film Good Will Hunting. Damon and best friend Affleck wrote the screenplay for Good Will Hunting and pitched it around Hollywood. They even wanted another of their friends, Kevin Smith, to make the film, as he broke into the industry as a director on the success of his film Clerks. But Smith thought they should get someone who could do justice to their film. It turned out to be good advice as they were able to attach Gus Van Sant to the film. In 1997, Good Will Hunting was met with critical and commercial success garnering Damon and Affleck each an Oscar for best original screenplay and bolstering both of their acting careers tremendously. The film was also nominated for best picture and won Robin Williams a supporting actor Oscar as well. On the set of Good Will Hunting, Damon met Steven Spielberg who then cast him in Saving Private Ryan. There is a rumor that famed screenwriter William Goldman did extensive rewrites on the script, but they have been disavowed by all parties. Goldman did however offer notes on how to make the film more marketable to Hollywood, as did Rob Reiner. With the success of the film, Damon took roles in Rounders, Smith’s Dogma and The Talented Mr. Ripley. In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Damon solidified himself as not only a fine actor but a bankable and marketable rising star. The film proved to Hollywood that his success in Good Will Hunting was not a fluke.

The Hollywood Game:

Now having established himself in the film industry, Damon began receiving many offers and many roles. Thus, the Hollywood Game had begun. Picking the right projects to build a career is delicate with some luck sprinkled in. Coming off The Talented Mr. Ripley, Damon took a voice-acting role in Titan A.E., co-stared with Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance (which is a little underrated) and the lead in All the Pretty Horses. All three were considered failures. But, as luck would have it, Damon had a role in the first of two franchises that would propel him to the top: Ocean’s Eleven. It is in Ocean’s Eleven that he would meet, now good friends, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who would also get Damon involved in charitable work, which he is a strong proprietor of at present. It is also in this film were Damon would establish a long working relationship with Steven Soderbergh. In 2001, Damon would also start the first of three Project Greenlights with Ben Affleck, giving new filmmakers a chance to break into the industry, and he took another voice role in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron as well as appearing in Van Sant’s indie Gerry, which he co-wrote. Then came his next big franchise and hit: The Bourne Identity. Again, maybe some luck, or just good foresight by director Doug Liman as Damon did not fit what people typically thought of as an action star. But Damon was and is fantastic in the role. From there Damon took roles in Stuck On You and The Brothers Grimm (a frenetically strange film, which also stars Heath Ledger and Lena Headey), working with The Farrelly Brothers and Terry Gilliam, respectively. He also made Ocean’s Twelve and his first with Paul Greengrass The Bourne Supremacy, which took the series to a new high critically.

Elite Actor:

Starting in 2005, Damon started to take on more serious dramatic roles. Elevated by the success of the Bourne films, he was able to have more control over his career and who he would work with. He first took a role in the Clooney Soderbergh produced political thriller Syriana, then Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award winning The Departed and Robert De Niro’s underrated The Good Shepherd. Those three films, staring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie in the later two, cemented Damon into the Hollywood elite as not only an actor capable of receiving acclaim for his performances but also an actor to bring audiences to the cinema. Now fully established, Damon capped off his two series with Ocean’s Thirteen and The Bourne Ultimatum. Damon then took some time off, only doing a few cameos and a voice role for the English dubbing of Ponyo. He was back in 2009 with two award nominated performances a golden globe nod for Soderbergh’s The Informant! and his second acting Oscar nod for Invictus (the first acting Oscar nod was for leading actor in Good Will Hunting).


Damon has made a number of memorable cameo appearances throughout his career. For director Kevin Smith, Damon appears as an executive in Chasing Amy and later mimics the role in Jersey Girl. He also pokes fun of Good Will Hunting in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forester harkens back to Good Will Hunting in its story nature, and Damon has a timely cameo near the end. Damon does a small voice role in The Majestic, plays one of the bachelors on the game show in George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and has a humorous role in Euro Trip. More recently, he has short appearances in Coppola’s Youth Without Youth and Soderbergh’s Che: Part Two.

Future and Upcoming Films:

Along with Green Zone, coming this month, Damon also has a small role in Margaret, The Adjustment Bureau, Hereafter, and likely True Grit coming this year. Margaret is a drama staring Anna Paquin about a girl who witnesses an accident and gets wrapped up in the aftermath. The Adjustment Bureau is a sci-fi romance co-staring Emily Blunt about a couple that is affected by mysterious forces keeping them apart. It is from the screenwriter of The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve, George Nolfi, and is based on a Philip K. Dick short-story. Next is Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter; written by Peter Morgan, it is a supernatural thriller centered on three people who are touched by death in different ways. True Grit from the Coen Brothers is a western based on the Charles Portis novel about a tough U.S. Marshall who helps a young women track down her mother’s murderer. It also stars Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin. John Wayne also stared in an adaptation of the same novel in 1969 also called True Grit, but the Coen Brothers have not based their script on the film, rather on the novel. Farther in the future, Damon has been linked to two Soderbergh projects: Liberace and the ensemble piece Contagion. Damon is also attached to play Robert Kennedy in Gary Ross’s film. And finally, Damon wants to work with Affleck on a film about members on the Yankees in the 70s who wife swapped. Damon also wants to start directing his own films.

Matt Damon Box Set (Selected Filmography/Career Highlights):

1.)          Good Will Hunting (1997) – leading actor, writer [Blu-ray/DVD]
2.)          Saving Private Ryan (1998) – supporting actor* [Blu-ray/DVD]
3.)          Rounders (1999) – leading actor* [Blu-ray/DVD]
4.)          The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) – leading actor [DVD]
5.)          Dogma (1999) – supporting actor* [Blu-ray/DVD]
6.)          Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – supporting actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
7.)          The Bourne Identity (2002) – leading actor [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
8.)          The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – leading actor* [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
9.)          The Departed (2006) – leading actor* [Blu-ray/DVD]
10.)      The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – leading actor [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
11.)      Invictus (2009) – supporting actor [not yet released]

* Editor’s picks

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