Matt Damon on His Career and Why He’s Usually Not a Director’s First Choice

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Actor Matt Damon

“You need those roles to develop as an actor and build your career, and those are gone.” – Matt Damon on the Lack of Mid-Budget Dramas

Actor Matt Damon has appeared in at least a dozen critically-acclaimed roles since his career breakthrough role in Good Will Hunting (which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay). To promote his latest critically acclaimed role in the film Stillwater, Damon was interviewed for a profile in The New York Times Magazine in which he reflects on his  career, including how he missed the mid-budget movies that were his bread-and-butter and why he knows he isn’t the first choice of most directors when they offering him a role in their film.

Though he made cameo appearances in Thor: Ragnarok and Deadpool 2, Damon laments how big-budget superhero movies have squeezed out the mid-budget dramas that helped him become a star. “You need those roles to develop as an actor and build your career, and those are gone. Courtroom dramas, all that stuff, they can’t get made. You’re looking for a home run that can play in all these different territories to all these different ages. You want the most accessible thing you can make, in terms of language and culture. And what is that? A superhero movie.”

One aspect of Damon’s persona that he has benefited from in his career is that he’s generally portrayed likeable characters, which makes him able to approach his less-savory roles in an interesting way. He explains, “Whatever those wholesome associations are that people say I have, having them allowed me a chance to work with clever directors who want to subvert that.”

It comes back to something Damon learned early in his career when he worked with Tom Hanks on the modern classic Saving Private Ryan. Damon recalls, “All us young actors were sitting there with Tom in between takes and he said: ‘You are all one movie away from being the biggest movie star in the world. That’s the good news. The bad news is your mailman is one movie away from being the biggest movie star in the world.’”

And yet as popular and recognizable as Damon is, he points out that he’s not typically the first actor approached for the roles he is offered. He reveals, “Most scripts I get have the fingerprints of another actor on them. Brad [Pitt] probably wouldn’t even remember how many of the movies that I’m in that he was offered first, including The Departed. I’m sure [Tom Cruise has] been offered everything before me. Definitely Leo [DiCaprio] as well. But as long as I can hang on that list, I might get a crack, which is all you can hope for.”

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