It’s a preposterous thing to wish for, of course, but then there’s something about Damon’s real-life persona—the physical adroitness, the brainy incorruptibility, the evident sense of duty—that blurs the line between truth (actor) and fiction (hero).
When Damon arrives at a Vancouver restaurant on a crystalline October morning, he seems to take up more space than his technical 5'10" allotment. The preppy School Ties prettiness of his youth is tempered now by a few well-placed creases around the eyes and a certain comfortable-in-his-skin masculinity. If Damon weren’t Hollywood’s most all-American male—those teeth! that patriotism!—or the Cambridge-raised, Harvard-schooled poster boy of East Coast liberalism, he would have made a model Canadian: educated, funny, laid-back, allergic to pretense, fond of fleece. Today he radiates a particularly Pacific-Northwestern vigor, having spent the summer getting fit Mountie-style, racing up a vertiginous local hike known as the Grouse Grind with his wife of six years, Luciana. Damon is known for his work ethic; when he says he treated getting in shape “like a job,” it means something. But today, “I’ve shot the scene where I don’t have my shirt on,” he says, hoisting his latte. “I can have milk in my coffee again.”
If he lacks Pitt’s raw sex appeal or Clooney’s debonair charm—and some would argue he surpasses them both—Damon does have a niche. Nice. The word clings to him with the persistence of cigarette smoke. Scarlett Johansson, his costar in this month’s We Bought a Zoo, calls him “a sweetheart, loved by everybody.” Joan Allen says he’s “above and beyond.” Greengrass echoes, “The truth is, all those stories about him being the nicest guy? That’s all true.” And his friend (and potential rival for the niche in question) John Krasinski: “I’d nominate him as one of the people who makes his parents the most proud.”
Damon is fiercely loyal to his wife—a “real,” non-Hollywood, Argentina-born former bartender from Miami—and their adamantly off-the-radar domesticity. At home in New York, he is happily outnumbered in a household of women: Alexia, his wife’s daughter from a previous relationship, 13; Isabella, 5; Gia, 3; and Stella, 1. “Lucy,” he laughs, “has pretty much been pregnant for five years. We thought we were done, but Stella had other ideas.” When the baby cries at night, he goes into his middle daughters’ bedroom. “They wake up, and they’re confused,” he says. “So I say, ‘Daddy’s right here,’ and they go back to sleep. And then that way we can let Stella cry for two minutes, and she’s out.”
There’s no telling whether Damon will start taking credit for his work once he joins the directorial ranks himself this spring. His behind-the-camera debut, which he and Krasinski are co¬writing, is about an upstate New York town torn over whether to drill for natural gas. “It raises interesting issues about the identity of the country,” Damon says. Still, both writers insist the film is about relationships—not an “issue movie.”
Anderson talks with Oscar-winning actor Matt Damon about the challenges of raising four daughters, the “tag team” parenting system he and his wife Luciana have set up in their home, and his relationship with his best friend, Ben Affleck.