We usually don't spill the beans about upcoming covers of Conde Nast Traveler. But there's nothing "usual" about the man gracing September's Power of Travel issue. Matt "Jason Bourne" Damon's work with charities such as OneXOne and DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) has established him as a serious activist -- and one of our favorite celebrities.
As you can see, Damon has his hands full. But even though he and his A-list friends rule the Hollywood roost, Damon maintains a down-to-earth humility that's pretty much unheard of among his peers. Now you understand why we're so fond of Matt?
Matt Damon's Good Work Hunting
An encounter in Africa changed Matt Damon, he tells Dorinda Elliott, who finds that modesty becomes the superstar
Damon is as self-deprecating as you might expect from the soft-spoken roles he has played—from the troubled kid in Good Will Hunting, to the nerdy member of the Ocean's Eleven team, to the amnesiac being chased down by the CIA in the Bourne films. Celebrity, he says, is "a tricky thing to navigate. There's no real pretty way to do it." He is also acutely aware of the power—and the pitfalls—of fame when it comes to shining light on international issues.
The travel was rugged but fantastic, Damon says—moving from school to clinic, from one remote village to another. Damon's brother, Kyle, a sculptor who traveled with him on that first trip, has told me that the two were determined to downplay the star's fame, to be tough travelers and good students. But even the best of travelers can sometimes be undone by creepy crawlers in the night. Once, in a Zambian village, Kyle said, he and his brother "were outed as complete wusses." Confronted by giant bugs—prehistoric is the word Kyle used—the two of them hid under their mosquito nets and yelled for the bodyguard to come save them. "It was hard to view ourselves as tough guys, cowering under the net and clutching our malaria meds," Kyle says, with a typical Damon laugh.
Contrary to what you might expect from a celebrity, Damon comes across as a regular—albeit very thoughtful—guy, grappling with the values of our fame-obsessed culture and asking soul-searching questions about how to raise his children. We talk about kids, and he tells me that he wants his to see the world. He describes how Cheadle took his own daughters to Johannesburg's Soweto slum while he was filming Hotel Rwanda. "He didn’t even have to say, 'This is why you’re lucky.' He just let them take it in," Damon says. Being such a successful actor, he knows that his own children "will have incredible advantages that I can't even imagine and that I worry about sometimes." Seeing the world, he adds, "is the way they will remain grounded".