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Matt Damon’s An A-Lister, But There Was A Time He Was Worried About His Acting Career

Matt Damon in trailer for The Bourne Identity
(Image credit: Universal)

Matt Damon’s done a lot of interviews over the last year, thanks to his passion for the film Stillwater and the press he did to promote The Last Duel, a movie he starred in but that also got him back into the writing game. He’s spoken this year about what actors know about being on the famed “A-list,” but he also talked about a time when he himself was struggling with fame and was worried about having to step out of the limelight and quit acting. 

Apparently, sometime between 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2002’s The Bourne Identity, there was a period where Matt Damon was legitimately worried his acting career was nearly over. He was looking for other Hollywood outlets where he could find work, including writing at that point, and he said on the Hot Ones series that it was actually Steven Soderbergh who gave him the confidence to continue. Here’s what happened: 

Well, Steven Soderbergh asked me [to do The Informant!] and incidentally asked me to do it at a time in my career when it looked like I was going that way [points down]. The Bourne Identity hadn’t come out, I’d had a bunch of bombs, Steven called me and I remember he told me about it and I didn’t realize he was offering me to star in it because nobody had offered me a job in a while. And I said, ‘Do you want me to write this? Because I’m a writer also.’ And he was like, ‘No, no Scott Burns is gonna write it, I want you to star in it.’ Like I couldn’t believe it.

At this point, Matt Damon did already have some writing chops, having famously created Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck, to general acclaim. If you look at Matt Damon’s acting resumé, it seems to seamlessly transition him from Good Will Hunting into Saving Private Ryan and from Saving Private Ryan into The Talented Mr. Ripley. From there, you bump ahead a couple of years and Damon goes on to appear in Ocean’s Eleven and then star in the big hit of his career, The Bourne Identity

There was that bump ahead period, however, just before the latter two movies came about, where Damon landed roles in largely forgotten films like The Legend of Bagger Vance (which flopped at the box office) and the critically panned All The Pretty Horses (Damon has said how the movie turned out still sticks with him). In that time, it seems Matt Damon was worried about what was next and it was ultimately Steven Soderbergh who helped get him excited about film work and back on track.  

The Informant! wouldn’t come out until 2009, after The Bourne Identity had already found success with viewers, spawning sequels and an entire franchise based around Jason Bourne and later a character played by Jeremy Renner. The Martian actor also recalled it’s “one of [his] favorite things [he’s] ever done,” and the project obviously was encouraging for him to keep moving forward with what he was doing when it fell into his lap.

We sat on it for a number of years until the timing worked out. We shot it in 2008. It’s one of my favorite things we’ve done. That case was just incredible. I’m proud of the movie we did.

Coming up, Matt Damon is expected to return to the MCU  in Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder movie, out in 2022. That’s not the end of his upcoming high-profile work, as he’s also set to star in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer with Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Rami Malek and Cillian Murphy.. He’s busy, he’s prolific and he does a lot of different things in the industry, producing a slew of projects and recently writing The Last Duel as well. To consider there was a time two decades ago that he was thinking his career would be over is a little hard to process, but it does show how sometimes a twist of fate can change a lot in Hollywood. 

Jessica Rawden

Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.