On this day in 1970, Matt Damon, the future star of a long list of hit movies, including Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Bourne Identity, is born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Damon, who attended Harvard University but left before graduating to pursue an acting career, made his big-screen debut with a small role in 1988’s Mystic Pizza, which featured a then-up-and-coming Julia Roberts. Damon went on to appear in films such as School Ties (1992), with Brendan Fraser, Chris O’Donnell and Ben Affleck; Courage Under Fire (1996), in which he lost some 40 pounds to portray a heroin-addicted former soldier; and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker (1997) which was based on a John Grisham novel and released shortly before the young actor’s breakout performance in Good Will Hunting, which opened in theaters across the United States in January 1998.
Written by Damon and his childhood friend Ben Affleck, Good Will Hunting featured Damon in the title role of a troubled math genius from South Boston. Directed by Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho), the film co-starred Robin Williams as Will’s psychologist and Minnie Driver as Will’s girlfriend; Affleck played his best friend, Chuckie. A big box-office success, Good Will Hunting received nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Damon) and Best Supporting Actress (Driver), and won gold statues for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Damon and Affleck.
With the success of Good Will Hunting, Hollywood took notice of Damon, and he went on to appear in such critically and commercially acclaimed movies as Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), with Tom Hanks; The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), in which he played a bisexual murderer opposite Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow; Syriana (2005), with George Clooney; and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006), with Leonardo DiCaprio. Damon also co-starred along with Clooney and Brad Pitt in the popular caper film Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its two sequels, Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007). In 2002, Damon took on the role of the amnesiac spy Jason Bourne in the hit action-thriller The Bourne Identity (2002), which spawned two popular sequels, The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
Damon, who was named People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2007, has been married to Luciana Bozan Barroso since 2005. The couple has three daughters, including one from Barroso’s first marriage.