Year
1970

Matt Damon born

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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First transcontinental air race

The first transcontinental air race in the United States begins, with 63 planes competing in the round-trip aerial derby between California and New York. As 15 planes departed the Presidio in San Francisco, California, 48 planes left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New ...read more

Massive earthquake hits Kashmir region

On this day in 2005, a massive 7.6-magnitude earthquake strikes the Kashmir border region between India and Pakistan. An estimated 70,000 people—nearly half of them children—were killed and 70,000 more were injured. More than 3 million were left homeless and without food and ...read more

Che Guevara defeated

A Bolivian guerrilla force led by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara is defeated in a skirmish with a special detachment of the Bolivian army. Guevara was wounded, captured, and executed the next day.Born in Argentina, Guevara believed that a man of action could revolutionize a ...read more

Great Chicago Fire begins

On this day in 1871, flames spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, igniting a two-day blaze that kills between 200 and 300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings, leaves 100,000 homeless and causes an estimated $200 million (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion in 2007 ...read more

Possible breakthrough at Paris peace talks

Rumors arise that there is a breakthrough in the secret talks that had been going on in a villa outside Paris since August 1969. Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor, and North Vietnamese negotiators conducted the peace talks. Le Duc Tho, who had ...read more

Communists reject Nixon’s peace proposal

The Communist delegation in Paris rejects President Richard Nixon’s October 7 proposal as “a maneuver to deceive world opinion.” Nixon had announced five-point proposal to end the war, based on a “standstill” cease-fire in place in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. He proposed ...read more

Don Larsen is perfect in World Series

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees right-hander Don Larsen pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game–that is, there were no runs, no hits and no errors, and no batter reached first base. Larsen’s performance anchored his ...read more

The Great Fire destroys much of Chicago

On this night in 1871, fire breaks out in a barn behind the Chicago cottage of Patrick O’Leary. Winds blowing off the prairie fed the flames, and the fire spread rapidly, eventually consuming a four-mile-long and two-third-mile-wide swath of Chicago. When the Great Fire was ...read more

Lord Peter Wimsey marries Harriet Vane

Fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey finally marries Harriet Vane, a prickly mystery writer he has pursued through several novels, on this day in 1937 in the novel Busman’s Honeymoon. The novel, by Dorothy Sayers, was one of the last featuring the two English sleuths.Sayers, ...read more

Fire rips through Chicago

The Great Chicago Fire begins on this day in 1871. It goes on to kill 250 people, leave 100,000 people homeless and destroy thousands of buildings. All told, the fire was responsible for an estimated $200 million in damages (more than $3 billion in today’s money), approximately ...read more

Battle of Perryville

The Confederate invasion of Kentucky stalls when Union General Don Carlos Buell stops General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Perryville. In August 1862, two Confederate forces, commanded by Bragg and General Edmund Kirby Smith, entered Kentucky. The Rebels hoped to raise troops ...read more