Essential Matt Damon Facts For Every Fan

The 1988 film "Mystic Pizza" featured two actors on the verge of a huge breakthrough — Julia Roberts and in his movie debut, Matt Damon. Ten years later, he showed his range of talent by earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for "Good Will Hunting." 

That film was also the big breakthrough for Damon's famous Hollywood bromance with Ben Affleck. After eight films together plus other works like the HBO documentary series "Project Greenlight," this dynamic duo rekindled their on-screen collaboration with the 2023 film "Air." Affleck, both a star and director of the film, had only the highest praise for this long-time buddy. "First of all, he's a genius," Affleck told CBS about his pal and co-star, who he described as the anchor of the film. "... I loved coming to work every day. I love seeing Matt."

Even though Damon became one of Hollywood's biggest leading men, his time in the spotlight hasn't always been glamorous. From his humble beginnings to superstardom, the Oscar winner has navigated everything fame could throw at him. Whether it's family tragedies, famous ex-girlfriends, or connections with dishonored figures in entertainment, Damon seems to weather it all and continue to thrive. "We hit our 50s," he told CBS. "... You can see the end of the tunnel!" Regardless, this actor shows no signs of putting an end to his impressive career. These are the essential facts of Matt Damon.

He had an unusual upbringing

Matt Damon was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Kent Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige. Matt was only 2 years old when his parents divorced and went with Nancy to Newton, Massachusetts. By the time he was 9, Matt, his brother, and his mom had all moved to an alternative living house in Cambridge. "It was mother's idea," Matt told Parade about moving into a community home and living alongside five other families. "All the people involved were left-wing, and she's always talking loud about making the world a better place. She nags me about it."

While the living arrangement may have been atypical, it also allowed unique experiences for Matt as a child. For example, one of his babysitters was famous historian and playwright Howard Zinn. The move was also difficult for the young man. "I really wanted to go back to my old school and see my friends," Matt confessed to Time. His mom suggested he make the trip to see his old friends but his former principal rejected the idea. "I couldn't understand it, Matt recalled. "The feeling of rejection was so deep." 

Around this age, Matt also started to dream about his future career. According to Carlsson-Paige, her 8-year-old son told her he wanted to be an actor when he grew up, "I said 'That's nice. Now go out and play.' And in some ways, that's exactly what he still does," she said, per Time.

He is a true Bay Stater

Originally, Matt Damon wanted to move to New York City to attend Columbia University but decided instead to stay in his hometown and enrolled at Harvard University as an English major. In 1991, Damon dropped out of Harvard, 12 credits short of a degree. Although he never graduated, the actor later received the Harvard Arts Medal in 2013 for his influential career in entertainment. "I am really proud to come from here," he told the crowd on hand at Harvard during the award presentation. "... Hold onto that, and that feeling of what we are really about here."

At the other famous university in town, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Damon gave the commencement speech for the class of 2016. "For the second time in my life, I am fake graduating from a college in my hometown," he joked to the graduates. During the speech, he also explained how beyond filming "Good Will Hunting" in Boston, some of the most iconic scenes in the movie were inspired by his real-life experiences. Like, when his younger brother visited M.I.T. and felt unexpectedly inspired by the blackboards lining the halls. "So, my brother, who is an artist, picked up some chalk and wrote an incredibly elaborate, totally fake version of an equation," Damon explained. "It was so cool and completely insane that no one erased it for months. This is a true story."

How Matt Damon became an actor

Growing up, Matt Damon's brother Kyle picked up on hints that his younger brother wanted to be a star. "Matt was a big Michael Jackson fan. He would go into his room, put on a white glove, and spin around," Kyle told Artworks. Damon went to high school at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, where he took theater classes all four years. He also participated in the school's stage productions, sometimes with underclassman Ben Affleck. He credited the program's excellent teacher for nurturing their budding talent, telling Harvard Magazine, "[We] just came out with a real love of theater and acting."

When Damon landed at Harvard for college, he continued to take theater classes. His former teacher, David Wheeler, told Daily News, that he was stunned by the student's performance in a scene from Sam Shephard's "Fool For Love." "It was extremely mature and powerful and a total surprise," he said. "What was immediately clear was that he was very, very talented."

Yet, even with all this talent, Damon still struggled to land roles early in his career. "There are times I've been rejected that would spin your head around," Damon confessed to Time. Even after landing a few parts, he still felt it was impossible to compete with other elite Hollywood actors. "I was so low on the pecking order that if Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio and every other guy passed on a script, maybe I'd get an audition," Damon told the Independent.

He physically transformed for roles

Hollywood is full of examples of actors who go through extreme transformations for roles, like Christian Bale and his incredible weight transformations. Matt Damon also slimmed down and bulked up when the role called for it. Appearing in the war drama "Courage Under Fire," Damon was around 25 years old and dropped 51 pounds for his performance. To lose all this weight, the actor only ate chicken breasts and would run an average of 13 miles a day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this regime was incredibly bad for his health. "I got an anorexia-like digestive condition that took me a long time to recover from," he told the Independent. "I'll never do that again. No career or dream is worth paying for with your health."

For his role in "The Informant," Damon enjoyed the process of gaining 30 pounds far more than trying to lose weight. "It was very, very fun, probably the funnest time I had working because I didn't have to go to the gym after work," he told the Daily Mail. "I started eating like crazy and drinking dark beer ... Between meals on set, I'd eat a No. 1 Value Meal at McDonald's and then Doritos on top of it. It was absolute heaven." Damon later needed to lose his doughy physique and get in shape once again to play Jason Bourne. Admittedly, the actor said it was much harder to get in shape in his 40s.

Matt Damon has a talented brother

Matt Damon has always been connected to his older brother Kyle Damon. "We didn't grow up with anything, but we didn't know any better. We were happy," Kyle told Artworks. Sadly, Matt's brother faced an unthinkable tragedy when his best friend was murdered in Massachusetts. Speaking to the Mirror, Matt recalled, "I remember going through the whole trial afterward. The night the killers got convicted I had this moment of elation and called my brother to say, 'We got them.'"

While his brother never became an actor, he became a different kind of artist by creating various sculptures and other pieces of art. While seemingly unrelated, Kyle's oeuvre became connected to Matt's career when the actor lent his voice to the children's animated cartoon Arthur. "We realized that Matt's brother, Kyle Damon, is a wonderful sculptor and painter, so our animation artists used his artwork as a basis for all the backgrounds that Matt appears in," executive producer Pierre Valette told Animation Magazine. "So there's that nice collaboration with his brother," Valette added.

The two stayed close even after Matt moved away to pursue his acting career. For example, Kyle visited Matt when he was in South Africa filming "Invictus." Before filming started, the brothers went on a bike ride together — an impressive 109-kilometer course that is part of an annual one-day cycling event. Despite the extreme challenge, Matt crossed the finish line smiling. "He'd seen the dark side of the sport and never quit," Kyle told Bicycling about his brother. 

He had a high-profile breakup

While at college, Matt Damon dated a medical student named Skylar Satenstein. The two broke up but she later married Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica. When writing the romantic interest, Skylar, for "Good Will Hunting," Damon was said to have based the character on Satenstein. On-screen, Minnie Driver played the role, and she told The Telegraph that sparks flew between them during filming. "I was completely in love with Matt," she gushed. "I was blown away by his commitment to me as an actor, he was cute and intelligent and altogether a really charming package. I was young and I fell for him." 

The film debuted in 1998 and the two stars were one of the hottest couples in Hollywood until breaking up a few months after the release. Driver admitted the breakup was difficult for her, especially since the two actors didn't stay friends after parting ways. Even worse, Driver claimed she only found out when Damon appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and announced they were over. "Which I found fantastically inappropriate," she confessed to the Los Angeles Times. "Of course, he was busy declaring his love for me on David Letterman a month previously."

According to Damon, he had a good reason for why they didn't remain friends afterward. "Partly because I was disappointed in the attempt to make a story out of something I don't think was a story," he told Playboy. "It didn't make me angry; it just bummed me out."

Matt Damon's big breakout

In a lesson on why it's good to do your homework, Matt Damon devised the story of "Good Will Hunting" for a school assignment. In his final year at Harvard, Damon found himself inspired to go bigger during a playwriting class. "The culmination of it was to write a one-act play, and I just started writing a movie," Boston Magazine. "So I handed the professor at the end of the semester a 40-some-odd-page document, and said, 'Look, I might have failed your class, but it is the first act of something longer.'" 

The move worked for Damon and his professor was impressed by the script. A few months before graduating, he landed a part in the 1993 Western film, "Geronimo: An American Legend," and brought the first act of the script with him to Los Angeles. While in town, he stayed with his buddy Ben Affleck and the two began working on the script together. Producer Chris Moore knew the two guys and agreed to help them produce their story.

One of Damon's classmates from Harvard, Michael Montoya, claimed that Damon may have incorporated previous ideas into the script too. As a junior in an "Intro to Directing" class, the star brought along an original script he'd been developing. "It involved a scene in a shrink's office and centered on a very bright kid turning the tables on his therapist by means of analyzing a painting hanging on his wall," Montoya wrote on Quora.

The history of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Long before they were leading Hollywood men, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were just two young boys growing up together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "We obsessed over acting," Damon told Parade about his earliest days with his bestie. "I know it's odd. But Ben was my best friend. We shared this dream. We enabled each other. Without Ben, I wouldn't have known where to start." With a mutual love of baseball and acting while living only two blocks apart, the two became close friends after meeting for the first time when Damon was 10 years old. Though Affleck is two years younger than his BFF, he was never scared to hang with him and even got in a fight to defend his friend. "I remember that was a big moment going like, 'This guy, he will put himself in a really bad spot for me. This is a good friend,'" Damon recounted on "Conan."

Both took drama classes as students of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and started to audition together. "Matt was 16 and I was 14, we'd go together down to New York City," Affleck told Parade about pursuing roles in entertainment. While he first appeared in the PBS TV series "The Voyage of the Mimi," later Damon started getting movie roles like "Geronimo: An American Legend." Amazingly, both men shared a bank account in the early part of their careers to make sure neither was a starving artist.

How Matt Damon met his wife

After reportedly dating fellow actor Claire Danes and a very public separation from Minnie Driver, Matt Damon found himself single in Miami while filming "Stuck on You" in 2003. In his downtime from shooting, Damon went to a bar with some of the crewmembers, not expecting who he would meet. "I literally saw her across a crowded room, literally," Damon explained about Luciana Barroso on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." He added, "Eight years and four kids later, that's my life. I don't know how else our paths would have crossed if that didn't happen."

Barroso was a bartender at the South Beach establishment the night she met Damon but her memory of the meet was a little different. "Matt's story is that he saw me across the room and there was a light on me. And I'm like, 'Yeah, it was a nightclub — there were lights everywhere," she told Vogue. As she remembers, Damon came over to her behind the bar and said, "Oh, I saw you and I really wanted to talk to you."

Two years later, the couple married in New York City while Damon was in town filming "The Good Shepherd." The very next day, Damon and the three-month-pregnant Barroso flew to London so he could continue filming the movie. Then, in 2020, Damon and Barroso renewed their wedding vows in St. Lucia. This time, Damon invited some big-name friends like the Affleck brothers and Don Cheadle.

He's a proud family man

When Matt Damon married Luciana Barroso, he grew his family by two people, becoming the stepdad of her daughter Alexia. "I jumped into the deep end with Lucy. I mean, Alexia was already 4. I was an extra dad," he told Parade. Even with his initial inexperience with fatherhood, Damon said he grew to love his role in the family. "The only way I can describe it — it sounds stupid, but — at the end of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas,' you know how his heart grows, like, five times its size? Everything is full, it's just full all the time," Damon said of having children. Apart from his stepdaughter, Damon and Barroso also share other three daughters together — the eldest, Isabella, then Gia, and finally Stella.

As for what it's like to have a famous actor as a dad, Alexia found out when she was around 10 years old and went to her first concert — not only did she see Prince play live, but she also got to meet him. As he explained on "The Tonight Show," the experience was so extraordinary that Damon joked to his wife, "We've completely ruined this child." 

By the time Isabella was a teenager, she had developed a specific set of criteria for watching his films. "If the reviews come out and they're terrible, then she'll watch it," Damon told E! News. "She's looking for ammunition all the time. She's like one of the funniest people I've ever met."

The charitable side of Matt Damon

Throughout his career, Matt Damon has been extremely generous with his time and supported multiple charities. For example, he worked with the Save the Children Fund and received an honor from the organization. Per Newstimes, at the Save the Children's Celebration of Hope benefit, he explained how lending his celebrity status to boost charities brought him joy. "[It's]where I can help the most ... I'm hoping that it can be effective in raising awareness." 

In 2010, Damon's father was diagnosed with cancer. To help fight the deadly disease, the actor attended fundraisers like the yearly Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center event. He spoke about his dad at the 2011 fundraiser and later hosted his own event for the center in Los Angeles. Damon was also featured as one of the many celebrities participating in the live Stand Up to Cancer telecast in 2018 and the first to speak on stage.

Damon even went on to start his own organizations. He was one of the founders of the Not On Our Watch organization alongside fellow actors George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and producer Jerry Weintraub. Focused on global human rights, it later merged with The Sentry organization. Damon is also the co-founder of, a charity with the aim to provide safe drinking water to everyone. "The actual impact [of access to water] is incalculable," Damon said on the World Economic Forum podcast, "Radio Davos."

A tragic day for Matt Damon

At the 2017 Britannia Awards by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Matt Damon was the guest of honor for the evening as the recipient of the Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film. However, actor Kate Mara accepted the award in his absence. Guests on hand then saw a recorded video of Damon explain, "I was really looking forward to tonight. Unfortunately, I had to go back to Boston for a family emergency," per E! News

While promoting his movie "Downsizing" a little over a month after the awards, the actor revealed the reason he had to suddenly fly to the East Coast. "It's been a slow unfolding. My dad's sick, so that's been a process we're going through," Damon explained to "Extra." "We will take any prayers you got, so yeah, throw 'em up there." Before the end of the year, Kent Damon died at the age of 74 as a result of multiple myeloma.

During the 2018 holiday season, Matt hosted "Saturday Night Live" and shared a touching story about his childhood watching the late-night sketch comedy series with Kent. "I probably didn't get all the jokes but I laughed at everything that my dad laughed at. And although it was way past our bedtime, my dad knew there was nothing more important in the world than to laugh with the people that you love," he said during his opening monologue.

His tattoos are full of love

One day in 2013, Matt Damon's wife Lucy said they should both get tattoos. They went to Brooklyn and Damon received the name of each of his four daughters, Alexia, Isabella, Gia, and Stella inked on one arm. 

In addition to these names, Damon also has a matching tattoo with the late actor, Heath Ledger — his beloved co-star from the 2005 movie, "The Brothers Grimm." On the day that the actor received the tattoos of his daughters, he saw a collection of other work by the tattoo artist Scott Campbell and asked about a particularly odd one. "I think that's just some s*** that Heath squiggled," Damon recalled to GQ about Campbell's response. "[Ledger] was really special. I just wanted to get something that Heath had," Damon explained. Both he and his wife Lucy got the same squiggle. "It's like a little creative little blessing. It's like an angel that looks over all these names that are on the arm," he said.

After losing his dad, Damon added a tattoo to his memory. Daniel Winter, a popular tattoo artist for many celebrities who goes by Winter Stone, posted a video of him inking Damon's arm. "The tattoo has great meaning! For his late father, we tattooed NOMAD which was his father's boat, and [it] also says DAMON backward! Pretty rad tattoo with so much meaning," Winter wrote on Instagram. It was his first time working on the actor and Winter even let Damon give him a tattoo — "A small universe ... aka a dot."

Matt Damon's mouth got him in trouble

Growing up in Massachusetts led to Matt Damon picking up a rather harsh set of vocabulary. When proposing that he try to make "Good Will Hunting" PG-13, producers revealed that he would have to reduce using the f-word in nearly 150 instances in the script. Later in life, Damon told his family a joke featuring a homophobic slur — and one of his daughters was appalled by her dad's language. "She left the table. I said, 'Come on, that's a joke! I say it in the movie 'Stuck on You!' She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous," Damon told The Times. After realizing his mistake, Damon explained, "'I retire the f-slur!' I understood."

While the tale was a heartwarming story of a young girl sticking up for what she believes is right — and a father willing to be open about his flaws — it also upset many fans who believed Damon admitted that he had freely used this derogatory term up until the incident. As a result of the backlash, the actor issued a statement to address the controversy. "I understand why my statement led many to assume the worst. To be as clear as I can be, I stand with the LGBTQ+ community," he told Variety. "I have never called anyone 'f***ot' in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind."

What Matt Damon has said about Harvey Weinstein

Disgraced former Hollywood executive, Harvey Weinstein, was an instrumental figure in "Good Will Hunting." Castle Rock Entertainment was the first production company to grab the script from the newcomer writing duo of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Soon after, there was a creative disagreement, especially with Castle Rock wanting to put bigger names like Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead roles. "Believe me, they really wanted to take it away from us,'" Damon said at the National Board of Review Gala (via Vanity Fair). Castle Rock let Damon and Affleck shop the script around. But ultimately, it was actor and director Kevin Smith who saved the day. "Kevin went in personally to Harvey Weinstein's office at Miramax and handed him the script, and basically said, 'Drop everything you're doing right now and read this,'" Damon told Boston magazine. Weinstein paid over $1 million for the script and kept the two future stars in the leading roles.

After accusations started to grow for Weinstein, Damon addressed the man who essentially started his career. "I did five or six movies with Harvey. I never saw this," Damon told Deadline. The actor rejected the idea that Weinstein's behavior was obvious and explained, "This type of predation happens behind closed doors, and out of public view. If there was ever an event that I was at and Harvey was doing this kind of thing and I didn't see it, then I am so deeply sorry because I would have stopped it," he added.