From Good Will Hunting (1997) to his spot as a running gag on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003-), Matt Damon has secured himself as one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time.
Matthew Paige Damon was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1970. His family almost immediately moved to a town in Middlesex County called Newton. At 2 years old his parents divorced, and he moved with his mother back to Cambridge, where he lived until his early adulthood years.
Having found massive success in the show biz world, let’s delve into the early years of Damon’s life that made him the man he is today.
Acting From a Young Age
Although he never came from a background of actors, Damon knew that he wanted to be an actor since he was a young boy.
He was raised primarily by his mother, Nancy Paige, who was an author and professor at Lesley University. His father, Kent Telfer Damon, was a stockbroker.
After his parent’s divorce in ‘72, his mother took him and his brother Kyle back to his birthplace, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Before that they had been living in Newton, which is located west of the downtown Boston area.
Damon describes his mother’s approach to parenting as “by the book”. In a 2003 interview with Parade magazine he said, “It was an annoying way to be raised. You couldn’t define yourself, because you already had been defined by her.”
In that same interview, he described his love for role-playing as a child, which led to his decision to pursue a career in the entertainment world.
At 10 years old, he became friends with Ben Affleck, who also eventually became a huge movie star. Damon realized that he wanted to become an actor when he was just 13 years old.
Ben was also keen on the idea, and they both gained the motivation to chase their dreams.
“We were going to New York together when he was 14, and I was 16, and we were auditioning for stuff, you know, going to New York by ourselves.”
Watch Damon share more of his story growing up with Ben and their acting endeavors at a young age:
Damon and Affleck bonded over their passion for acting, taking drama classes at the same high school – Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
He often talks about his drama teacher, Gerry Speca, who became a large influence on his artistic career.
“He was just a huge part of why Ben [Affleck] and I pursued [acting] with such discipline, and always took our work so seriously. He was a great teacher in that way.”
An Overnight Success
Following high school, Damon remained in Cambridge to study at Harvard University. He was a part of the class of 1992, but dropped out before gaining his degree to star in the leading role in Geronimo: An American Legend.
He had appeared in small roles before, including his first appearance on the big screen in Mystic Pizza where he only said one line.
Geronimo: An American Legend came out in 1993, but Damon didn’t receive the accolades he was expecting considering how he had overworked himself.
“I went on this really unhealthy diet. For four months I ate basically chicken, egg whites and lettuce. I ran 13 miles a day. I went from 200 pounds down to 140. When there was no fat left to lose, my body started eating into muscle. It was very dangerous.”
After his disappointment with the film, Damon went on to act in several flicks, but it wasn’t until Good Will Hunting that he became one to watch on the Hollywood scene. He had even written the script with Ben Affleck, and won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.
Saving Private Ryan was released a year later, truly grounding him as a breakout star.