The lecture hall and performance space was jammed with members of the Harvard community who turned out to hear Damon and watch as Harvard President Drew Faust gave him the Harvard Arts Medal.
In her remarks, Faust praised Damon for both his acting ability and his humanitarian efforts. “He is, as director Gus Van Sant recently put it, ‘a local kid risen to become a global star, an everyman who is also exceptional, a person we all relate to, even as we aspire to emulate him.’ ”
Like most people, Damon said he struggles with failure, admitting that he suffers when a project he has put his heart into doesn’t strike a chord with either audiences or critics. But he tries to understand how “something didn’t work here.” He also turns to his wife for support, he said, and for her total honesty.
Another audience member asked why the arts are important. Damon referenced his work on a current movie project about a group of soldiers tasked with saving works of art in Europe during the Nazis’ reign. Art, said Damon, “is a celebration of our common humanity.”
“As we launch our annual celebration of the arts at Harvard,” said Faust, “as we feel inspired by the people of Boston and the power of the arts to heal and renew us, we are especially grateful for the wonder of our ongoing dialogue with Matt Damon, on and off the screen.”
Earlier, Damon, looking well-scrubbed in a blue suit and white shirt, had an entertaining sitdown with fellow actor — and actual Harvard grad — John Lithgow. Damon was relaxed and without pretense as he talked about his enormous success — and occasional failure.
Looking out at the college students filling Sanders Theatre, Damon made one request. “Please hold onto your humanity as you go out into the world.”
Matt, who came to Cambridge with his wife, Luciana, just a little over a week after the two renewed their vows in a lavish celebration on the island of St. Lucia, described, at a student’s request, how he first proposed to her. He said they had been together a while, owned a home together and Luciana was pregnant with their now 6-year-old daughter.
“We were walking on Second Avenue (in Manhattan), and I turned to her and said, ‘You know, we really ought to get married,’” he said.
Then Damon turned to the student and added, “I’m sorry if you were expecting more than that.”
Out: We see that with the plastic surgery Scott undergoes.
Steven Soderbergh: I managed to get a hold of the depositions, some of which are in the film, and Scott and Lee tell completely different stories about how Scott’s surgery came to be. So somebody is not telling the truth. We went with Scott’s version because I love the image of Lee bringing the painting over and saying, “I want him to look like this.”
Charley Soderbergh: I thought about it as a gay man: What it would be like to step into Scott’s shoes, someone who doesn’t have much stability, and all of a sudden, you’re sitting in this wealthy man’s house, and he’s just made a big meal for you. You’re eating it, and he’s looking at you adorably and goes, “Come here, you.” I thought, Oh shit. Here we go—what a wild ride. I texted Steven after I saw it: “Thank you for making this, I just loved it.” He called, and I told him, “Wow, what a great thing to go out on. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s beautiful to look at.”