That he finds time to read is impressive. Damon just started filming the sci-fi romance The Adjustment Bureau, opposite Emily Blunt, has been cast as the lead in Eastwood's next movie, Hereafter, and will then play Liberace's lover opposite Michael Douglas as the sequin-loving performer.
"I know it's a cliché, but I really do feel lucky, and the work I'm getting the chance to do, it's great," says Damon. "I've just made the best choices I could. And that's it. There hasn't been a long-term strategy, other than I want to direct and I've chosen films based on directors. I have great support in my life, from my wife and my kids. And I don't take myself too seriously."
Just as quickly, Damon had to downsize to finish re-shoots on Green Zone. You see a very different Damon in the thriller, promises his co-star Amy Ryan.
"He's very buff in this movie. It was very impressive — really hot," says Ryan. "He's fiercely bright. He has such a passion for what he does. He's a great leader on set and just seems tireless. He's very thorough and a great storyteller and impersonator. He does everyone and anyone."
That talent came in handy when Damon spent six months perfecting a South African accent to play rugby champ Francois Pienaar in Eastwood's Invictus.
He brought his family, which includes daughters Gia, 13 months, Isabella, 3, and Alexia, 11, from Lucy's first marriage, along to the shoot in South Africa. There, they hung out by the pool while Dad worked.
"I was playing a real guy. He had me over to his house and cooked a big dinner. I looked up at him and said, 'I look much bigger on film!'" recalls Damon. "It was such a good experience. If we did a serviceable job of the script, which I think we did, then we'll be in good shape. I couldn't have worked any harder."
Size didn't matter to Eastwood and his longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz, who cast Damon despite the height difference between Damon and the much larger Pienaar.
Both men, says Lorenz, are "very athletic and charismatic, and they're both intellectuals. They can go on and on about a multitude of subjects. Matt is very focused. He sent us pictures during prep of his shoulders and back to show us how much he'd been working out. It was impressive. I can't find anything to complain about with him. Matt's charming personality comes through on screen."
Celebrity and charity work
Off-screen, as well. Damon has been known for years as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. He is, by all accounts, one of the very few actors about whom no one has anything negative to say. Damon doesn't agonize about the price of fame, or complain about the paparazzi attention his family sometimes gets.
"He seems to have worn his celebrity really well. I've been next to it, and I've seen what it's like to be that famous. It's a chore. You can't get out from under it once you've reached that kind of level," says Soderbergh. "I've never heard him complain or express any sort of anxiety about it."
Damon uses his fame to promote the charity umbrella organization OneXOne, and Water.org, which helps developing countries have access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Damon, who went to Harvard, reels off statistics and facts fluidly.
"Besides making movies and spending time with my family, it's basically all I do. It's interesting. Extreme poverty — I feel that so much of it is fixable," he says.
Moving to New York
The Damon family recently moved from Miami to New York, where he lived during his bachelor years. Now, he's living uptown, near Central Park. He's even toying with switching coasts, partly to be closer to his friend Ben Affleck.
"We each have two girls within six months of each other. It's a strong argument to buy a house there and be near Ben," says Damon, of his Good Will Hunting collaborator. "We'll see how the little kids do (in New York). If the winter is too tough, we might move to L.A. All my friends with kids live there."
"I met him through Billy Bob Thornton when they were working together and spent a little time with him and I have nothing but wonderful memories of the guy. He was a gentleman and just a lovely guy and it’s tragic."
Q: Where is the Oscar you won for Good Will Hunting?
A: "I just saw it actually. We’re renting an apartment in New York this year. We had some stuff moved out of storage. It is in the closet. I was looking for some shoes."
"I have the opposite of anorexia," Matt Damon joked to MTV News while at the Toronto International Film Festival. "I look in the mirror and I think I look great."
Case in point: Damon hadn't realized he'd earlier put on a bit of weight — "Not for this movie, it was just in my life," he said with a shrug — and suddenly found none of his suits fit. The only explanation seemed to be that his frequent co-star/ infamous practical jokester had played a prank on him, not that he'd taken down three too many Big Macs.
"I was like, 'What's going on?' I took another suit out and it didn't fit either," Damon said. "Honestly, what I thought was that somehow [George] Clooney had gotten in and paid somebody to slightly hem [the suits]. My wife said to me, 'Could it be that maybe you've put on some weight?' I'm like, 'That's absurd! I look fantastic!'"
Only later did Damon come to realize the truth. "And it was, of course, that I was a fat a--, because I got back in shape later and went and put the same suits on and they fit. It made more sense to me that George Clooney paid somebody to hem my suits than I actually didn't fit in my suits."