Everybody knows Matt Damon. Everybody knows he has universal appeal; the cliche ‘Women want him and men want to be him’ was possibly invented to describe Matt Damon. And most everybody identifies him by the roles of Jason Bourne, Private Ryan or the Talented Mr. Ripley. Even people unimpressed with pop culture generally admire this down-to-earth, hardworking Boston boy as someone they wouldn’t mind hanging out with in a sports bar.
But since most of us can’t exactly visit Cheers with Matt Damon, here are some interesting facts you can drop the next time he comes up in conversation.
1. Long-cited as Matt Damon’s breakthrough film, Good Will Hunting was written by Damon and his childhood friend, Ben Affleck, when they couldn’t land any jobs as fledgling actors. In it, Damon plays an undiscovered math genius from South Boston. Matt Damon, however, is certainly not a dumb actor playing a smart guy, as he attended Harvard University himself to study English.
2. If you watch the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, then you have probably wondered what the deal is with his “feud” regarding Matt Damon. Here’s how Jimmy Kimmel explained it, in an interview with NPR earlier this year:
"We had a bad show. ... The guests were bad, and I was feeling pretty bad about myself at the end of the program. And I decided to say, for the amusement of one of our producers who was standing next to me ... 'I want to apologize to Matt Damon. We ran out of time.' ... And he got a kick out of it, the producer, so I just started doing it every night to amuse him.
"Matt Damon was just the first name that popped into my head. I was trying to think of an A-list star, and somebody we absolutely would not bump if he was on the show. ... The legs on this bit are unbelievable to me. I mean, people laugh every time I say it. ... Repeating the same joke every single night, you'd think eventually people would get tired of it, but they don't."
The fictional Kimmel vs. Damon feud has escalated with various pranks and antics over the years, but was somewhat resolved on January 24, 2013, when Matt Damon “kidnapped” Jimmy Kimmel and sought his revenge of being constantly bumped (1,205 times, to be exact) by hosting Kimmel’s entire talk show that night.
3. Arguably his most controversial role ever, Matt Damon’s portrayal of Scott Thorson, Liberace’s longtime partner, in the HBO film, Behind the Candelabra was also his first non-fiction role ever. (Saving Private Ryan, as realistic as it may be, is fictional.) Behind the Candelabra generated buzz in the media for stunning performances from Damon and Michael Douglas, who played famed pianist Liberace as a very gifted, yet manipulative person.
4. Forget lasting marriages; in Hollywood, you’re lucky if you can find a true friend that’s been with you through thick and thin. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck can consider themselves very lucky on that count. Close friends since childhood, Damon and Affleck grew up in houses just two blocks away from each other in Boston and are, in fact, family. Well, they’re technically tenth cousins, once removed, but who’s counting?
5. A prolific humanitarian, Matt Damon is heavily involved in several charities, one of which is Tonic Mailstopper, an organization that stops junk mail from being delivered to your mailbox, which, in turn, saves hundreds of trees. As a well-known advocate of international and domestic non-profits, Damon even satirized his commitment in an episode of Entourage.
6. In Forbes’ first-ever list of ‘Ultimate Stars Payback’ in 2007, Matt Damon was ranked as the most bankable actor in Hollywood. Damon averages earning $29 at the box office for every $1 that’s paid to him in his salary. An actor who's worth the outrageous paychecks? We can get on the board with that.
7. No list of Matt Damon should go without mentioning his brilliant guest appearances on the hit TV comedy 30 Rock, as the boyfriend of Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon. Damon played a hunky pilot named Carol Burnett (ha!), who frequently had emotional breakdowns. Matt Damon might not be widely considered as a comedic actor, but his small performance as Carol the pilot should prove that assumption wrong.