Why Matt Dillon Doesn't Get Many Movie Offers Anymore

In the 1980s, Matt Dillon made a name for himself playing the bad boy who made it all look good, and there's a reason he was good at it: that's what he was. A 14-year-old Dillon was discovered when he was cutting class, and for the next 10 years, The Telegraph says he was worth a salary more than twice his contemporaries, many of whom are on today's A-list.

While other '80s heartthrobs like Tom Cruise have held onto their fame over the decades, Matt Dillon's career has been a little more up-and-down. He's still out there, he's still talented, and he's still acting, so why do we not see him on the big screen much?

He's not a fan of Hollywood

Hollywood might be the place countless hopefuls aspire to get to, but Dillon's 2015 interview with The Telegraph makes it very clear just how he feels about what goes on there.

"I look at Hollywood and it seems very sad," he said. "What I see is really pathetic, crazy. There are more opportunities out there than ever to have contact with reality and the majority of what is made is rubbish."

Yikes! Why don't you tell us how you really feel? Dillon went on to say that making movies absolutely isn't straightforward, and that in his experience it often ended up as a battle of wills and egos that would eventually lead to compromise, for better or worse. He also says that sometimes, there's just no good opportunities out there, and he's not happy with the idea that sometimes he's forced to take something he's just not too keen on. That's led him to be extraordinarily critical of material when he's cast, and he says he's the first to step up and argue various points about script and character. The Telegraph suggests that makes him difficult on set, and that's not going to win you points with anyone.

He's iffy as a box office draw

Dillon's track record at the box office is less than consistent, and consistency is what keeps the offers rolling in. After being hugely popular in the 1980s — and doing his share of B-movies, too — Rolling Stone's overview of his career points out that it was almost ten years after Drugstore Cowboy that he had his next hits with There's Something About Mary and Wild Things.

His appearance in Herbie: Fully Loaded was another credit in a money-making film, but that didn't happen until 2006. In between is a whole lot of small-time films, as far as the machine that is Hollywood is concerned he may have gotten an Oscar nomination for Crash and a whole lot of popularity along the way, but money talks.

He's been doing indie films

One of those flops that Rolling Stone cites as an iffy step in his up-and-down career was 2003's City of Ghosts, which they say only made around $300,000 at the box office. That's not a lot for Hollywood at all, and Dillon was invested in it. Not only did he star, but it was his first foray into directing. It was a hugely ambitious project, set in Cambodia and staring the country as much as it starred any of its actors. Filmmaker called it "an intriguing neo-noir that can be lived in as much as watched and experienced," and that's some serious praise.

By the time the movie was released, he was making headlines as a director, but as The Independent pointed out, there were still questions on whether or not the 38-year-old actor would be able shake his persistent image. With mainstream media labeling him things like "Teencake Agonistes," it's no wonder he's gone off to the indie world to do the kind of character-driven storytelling he says he prefers.

The LA Times had nothing but praise for both Dillon and Naomi Watts when they went indie with 2013's Sunlight Jr., and it's no wonder he likes the freedom. He's been recognized for it, too, and the same year the Provincetown Film Society honored him with their Excellence in Acting Award.

He's more concerned about longevity than fame

Dillon's motivations for breaking into a career in entertainment might be seen as a little unconventional, and he told The Telegraph it was never, ever about the fame. He says he'd rather be out living his life than patrolling his career to make sure he gets every single opportunity, and if that means missing some phone calls and missing some roles, he's all right with that.

"I used to joke that every time I was hanging out in an East Village bar with my friends or traipsing across Italy, I lost a job. But you can't sit by the phone, man. Life's not a dress rehearsal."

At the same time, he's also not afraid to spend years working on something to get it completely right. For more than a decade, he's been working on a script for a crime drama grounded in realism, and part of his hesitation in doing more with it isn't just getting everything exactly right, but distilling it into a length that's suitable for filming. He's leaning more toward television here, too, where he might have a dozen hours to tell a story instead of two. He's happy to sit on the project for as long as it takes to get it right, and that's admirable. The ability to wait is rare, and he adds, "Longevity's what it's about."

He doesn't like taking a leading role

Making it onto the A-list means taking some leading roles, and Dillon told The Telegraph that's something he's just not comfortable with.

"I didn't become an actor to become famous, and I've never felt comfortable as a leading man or a teen idol," he says. "Hey, no one ever comes to your funeral and says, 'He was really famous' or 'He made lots of money', right?"

He's missed out on some career-changing roles, too. Offered the part of Pulp Fiction's infamous boxer, Dillon's need to debate whether or not he wanted to commit to the part led to Quentin Tarantino withdrawing the offer and giving it to Bruce Willis instead. While every actor undoubtedly has those moments they look back on and regret, there are no real signs of Dillon truly regretting missing out on this undeniably infamous part.

He's had to shake being typecast as an adolescent

Dillon started out his 2006 interview with Rolling Stone by saying he wasn't interested in the past, and it's no wonder. After being discovered and rising to fame as a teenage rebel, Dillon says his teen idol status was something he always loathed.

"As far as the hype and the fame thing, the novelty wears off pretty quick. And I hated the perceived lack of respect. Heartthrob? Teen idol? Nobody wants to be called that [...]."

As much as he likes to talk about his early days in fame — the women, the drinking, and more women — he also says it was a long time ago, and he's moved on. "I mean, I definitely needed help," he adds. "But that was then. That was another time." While he's always recognized for his work as an adolescent, he's still gravitating toward the same types of roles. "I like playing unlikable characters. [...] playing an unlikable character can be very interesting sometimes. We all have these character defects and flaws. We're all human."

He may be torn between marriage and career

Dillon famously spent three years as the other half of Cameron Diaz, and when the couple split in 1998 after There's Something About Mary, Dillon talked to Parade about relationships in general and his specifically (via CBS News). He said until her, he hadn't experienced a truly emotional relationship, and called her his muse.

"I was dissatisfied with where I was as a man, with my relationships, with my career," he said in the 2006 interview. "Like a lot of guys, I was driven by my work. I thought my career was who I was. It wasn't until later that I discovered I was more than that."

He went on to say his long string of not-so-serious relationships mostly happened because he was lonely, and that he needed "[...] something to fill the emptiness." He also admitted that he'd developed the urge to raise a child, likening it to a creative urge.

In 2015, he talked to Details (via the Belfast Telegraph) and gave a little more insight on what was going on with him, his personal life, and his career. "[...] obviously, this business isn't conducive to getting married and starting families. I usually like better odds." Career versus family is an age-old debate that pretty much everyone, famous or not, can relate to, and given that he also said he was in a relationship that was going well, finding that balance might have something to do with his career choices, too.

He's been branching out into the off-beat

When Dillon appeared on Fox's Wayward Pines, it was a bit of a departure for him. When he spoke to Fox News about the new series in 2015, he admitted that while he didn't really watch much television, he didn't question whether or not he was going to take the role of Ethan Burke.

"I liked this guy here on the left [M. Night Shyamalan] and the fact that he committed to it, and I liked the script," he said. "This show was particularly tricky because you have different levels of reality. My character stumbles into this town early on, and it's kind of a subjective piece of storytelling... He is kind of with the audience, discovering things."

There's plenty to discover, too, with all the twists, turns, and secrets everyone has come to expect with Shyamalan's work. It's a mystery, a very human story, and the humans? They're not all shiny and good, and that makes it exactly the sort of thing Dillon has been gravitating toward... and it's not something that could be easily condensed for the big screen.

He's been working on a labor-of-love project

When Dillon told The Telegraph he was more than happy to spend a decade working on his crime drama to get it just right, he didn't mention that's not the only project he's sunk a huge amount of time into. When The Hollywood Reporter caught up with him at the 2016 Alice in the City sidebar to the Rome Film Fest, they talked to him not only about what was going on at the festival (he was on the panel judging some of the festival's film entries), but also about what else he was up to. He was putting the finishing touches on another project he was in the director's chair for, a documentary on the Cuban musician Francisco Fellove. It's a project that was more than a decade in the making.

"This documentary holds two of my passions: jazz and cinema. What's great about shooting a documentary is having the chance to work on it and then leave it for a while and then again coming back to the project. It's more than 11 years since I first started working on it, and now the movie is in post-production."

The Luxury Channel talked to him a little more about the project, and it was clear that it was something near and dear to him. "He was a great artist and he left a great musical legacy. It was a privilege for me to be able to work and spend time with him." Dillon might say that the projects are more important to him than the fame, and it's an ideal he's been living, too.