Matt Damon On Life, Acting and Harvard


Matt Damon is glowing. Clad in black, he walks in the room smiling radiantly and just exuding star quality. And why shouldn't he be? Hollywood's newest Golden Boy, Matt Damon, is the "big discovery" of 1998.

Following in the footsteps of his friend Matthew McConaughey, Damon landed the lead in The Rainmaker--a Francis Ford Coppola film. Then, the script which he and his best friend Ben Affleck wrote together, Good Will Hunting, was finally picked up by Mira-max--the brilliant Gus Van Sant signed on to direct soon after. And next summer, Damon will headline in Steven Spielberg's World War II epic Saving Private Ryan.

He has become the hottest actor in Hollywood, the guy whom everyone wants in their films even though a few months ago he was still bypassed for even minor roles. Damon deserves his fame--every single second of it.

Damon was in Boston on a cool Sunday morning to discuss Good Will Hunting. Affleck also costars in the movie, along with Robin Williams and Minnie Driver. Damon attended Harvard but never finished his senior year--he would have been class of 1992. We discussed his years at Harvard, his aspirations for the future, and his outlook on the current Hollywood scene...

Crimson: How do you and Ben Affleck go about writing a screenplay together?


MD: We act out the scene and use tape recorders--for like every hour that we improvise we get like 30 seconds of dialogue that we'll keep. [pauses] You guys are like the real writers. You take a blank page and impose a structure on something. I know I can't do that because I was an English major--I've written papers for years and I'm just not good at it. It drives me nuts--I pull my hair out in front of the computer watching the cursor blink.

C: Let's switch the subject to Harvard.

MD: Actually, I heard you guys panned my movie.

C: Which one? [I breathe nervously since it's true I panned The Rainmaker]

MD: Not sure [laughs softly]. Doesn't matter--I just do my best.

C: [anxiously moving on] Well, the hilarious quote in Good Will Hunting about Harvard is that "You're getting an education for $150,000 that you could be getting for $1.50 in overdue library fees." How do you really feel about Harvard and what did you take away from your experience?

MD: Let me tell you, I loved Harvard. It was a huge, huge part of my life. I still have time left and I want to go back when I get a chance. The line was just a way of showing the class dynamics in the film. It's interesting because I grew up in Central [Square] and we are proprietary about our city--we view Harvard students in a different light. I always had an underdog complex growing up, even on an unconscious level. But, my time at Harvard was amazing. I still keep in touch with all my college friends.

C: How did you actually come to the decision to drop out?

M: Actually, I got work--I started when I was 19. It was this thing for TNT called Rising Son. That was my second semester sophomore year so I left. Then School Ties came the second semester of my junior year and I left and then the movie suddenly got post-poned. So I lost that semester but did the movie the following fall of what would have been my senior year. And, a year later, in the spring I left to do Geronimo. What was happening is that I would keep coming back, and I would almost get done with the semester and then I would be yanked out. But I thought it was serving me well, and everyone at that point was saying Geronimo was going to be a big hit, so...[laughs].

C: Were you involved in the Harvard theater scene at all?