Before all the Matt and Ben cover stories, before winning an Oscar, and before dating and dumping Minnie Driver, Matt Damon was an aspiring actor, wearing out his welcome on couches all over LA. Then came Good Will Hunting, the film he and best mate Ben Affleck wrote and starred in. "The suits were going: 'Boys, we were thinking half a mil'. And Ben and I, who weren't sure if we could afford McDonald's that night, were sitting there going, 'Half a mil? Hmmm'," he says.
Suddenly, Matt was 'It'. But with all his success why does the golden boy sometimes seem decidedly less than upbeat?
Matthew Paige Damon was born on October 8, 1970, in suburban Massachusetts to Nancy Paige, an author and educator, and Kent Damon, an investment banker. His parents split when he was two years old, and his mum raised him and his brother in an area of Cambridge similar to that portrayed in Good Will Hunting.
Matt dropped out of Harvard University just shy of graduation after scoring a pivotal role in Geronimo: An American Legend and relocating to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it would be a few years before Tinseltown took notice. So rather than wait for the prize roles, Matt and Ben sold Good Will Hunting, a script the two completed from a short piece Damon had begun at university, and cast themselves in the lead roles. The film was nominated for a string of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and the pair walked off with a pair of Best Screenplay Oscars. Then the floodgates opened.
High-profile roles with acclaimed directors including Steven Spielberg, Anthony Minghella and Steven Spielberg, Anthony Minghella and Robert Redford followed, and Matt just couldn't seem to say no. "You don't want to feel like you're taking anything for granted, especially when you know how hard it is to get a job in the first place," he says. "So it's really this kind of sense of owing it to another actor, owing it to the actor I was five years ago."
Some of the films were successful – Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr Ripley among them – while others, like All The Pretty Horses, tanked. But Matt saw a challenge in each role and earned a reputation for his uncompromising work ethic. He cracked a rib learning to play golf for The Legend Of Bagger Vance, he dropped three stone for a supporting role in Courage Under Fire, and he learned to play cards with Las Vegas aficionados for Rounders. "I like that mentality when you have to go to great lengths as an actor to make sure the show really does go on," he says.
He is perhaps most famous for his role as Jason Bourne in the films The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, all three of which enjoyed huge global success and established the actor as a fully-fledged action star.
The success he found in Hollywood, however, did not extend to his love life. For a long time he was unlucky in matters of the heart, famously splitting with Minnie Driver live on The Oprah Winfrey Show, before stepping out with Minnie Driver live on The Oprah Winfrey Show, before stepping out with Winona Ryder and, reportedly, Penelope Cruz. A nearly three-year relationship with pal Ben's former personal assistant, Odessa Whitmire, sparked rumours of marriage. However, the two split in 2003.
His luck seems to have changed since meeting Luciana Bozan, a former bartender who now works as an interior designer. The two tied the knot in New York City in December 2005 and daughter Isabella was born on June 11, 2006, with Matt relishing his new role as father.
"[Fatherhood] defies description, actually. I don't really know how to talk about it because I don't really know – I feel like I got made a member of a club that I didn't know existed," he said. Second child Gia Zavala came along in August 2008.