Details matter to Matt Damon, who has put together his quietly impressive résumé with a curatorial eye, working his way to the top of the Hollywood heap while avoiding the traps of a typical A-list career. "The leading-man stuff doesn't come easily to me," he said. "I've always felt like a character actor.”
This may sound like false modesty from someone who, at 39, has yet to lose the golden-boy aura of his breakout role in "Good Will Hunting" (1997), a vehicle he wrote for himself with his boyhood friend Ben Affleck. But the increasing variety of Mr. Damon’s roles and the almost perversely self-effacing ease with which he sinks into them suggest the thoughtful, restless sensibility of an actor who, as his frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh put it, "is thinking about expanding himself as opposed to presenting himself as a movie star."
The hallmark of Mr. Damon’s screen presence is his intelligent physicality, his ability to convey plot points and character psychology through subtle, precise shifts in facial expressions and body language, whether playing the tightly coiled Jason Bourne or the schlumpy Mark Whitacre in "The Informant!"
Morgan Freeman, who plays Mr. Mandela in "Invictus," said that Mr. Damon is, "like myself, a journeyman," meaning it as a compliment. "He always gets the job done," Mr. Freeman said. "There's no strain in his work."
But understatement is often overlooked, as Mr. Damon is well aware. "There's a style of acting that tends to get rewarded,"Mr. Damon said. After a pause, he added, "It's not what I do." (His one acting Oscar nomination was for "Good Will Hunting.")
That has never stopped big-name directors from snapping him up, and Mr. Damon is solidly booked for much of the next year. After "The Adjustment Bureau" he'll work with Mr. Eastwood again in the supernatural thriller "Hereafter." He'll also be in the Coen brothers' adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel "True Grit," opposite Jeff Bridges; George Clooney's "Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld," about the United States government's case against Osama bin Laden's driver; and Mr. Soderbergh's film about Liberace, with Michael Douglas as the kitschy pianist and Mr. Damon as his bodyguard and lover.
Mr. Damon lives with his wife of four years, Luciana, who is not involved in the film industry, and their three daughters in New York. "Barring me getting up on a bar and dancing or leaving my wife for Lindsay Lohan, there’s no story to update," he said. "Every six months someone comes and squeezes off a picture of me and, yup, I'm still married."
His oddly low-key brand of stardom allows Mr. Damon, craftsmanlike actor that he is, simply to get on with the job. He is both ambitious enough to mention, more than once, "my list," an inventory of filmmakers he still wants to work with, and modest enough to note that the list has already exceeded his wildest expectations.
For a guy who's handsome, smart, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Matt Damon is charmingly humble. When I first met him to talk about charitable causes, he explained that he didn't want to lecture anyone. He cares about the big problems in the world--like extreme poverty and access to clean water--and all he wanted to do was encourage others to learn about the issues.
In the cover story he wrote for PARADE, he urged everyone to give time or attention to a cause they cared about. To get involved on any level. And to make a contribution of any size to America's Giving Challenge, because together, we can move mountains.
I'm happy to report that the mountains are moving.
Three weeks into PARADE's Giving Challenge, more than 50,000 people have donated to 7,000 charities--giving well over a million dollars. Just days after Matt's article appeared, the donations to one of his organizations, water.org, were enough to supply some 800 people water for a lifetime.
"He’s the sweetest guy. I can’t imagine anybody would’ve bought that whole thing. He’s a great actor, but he’s a nice guy. Anybody that knows better would quickly see right through the joke."