With two Oscar nominations and Winona Ryder on his arm, life is sweet for MATT DAMON. The young star of Good Will Hunting is taking overnight success in his stride. Words: Hannah Fries
IF YOU HAVEN’T heard of Matt Damon yet. you soon will. The brilliant young star of Good Will Hunting is what the New York Times refers to as a ‘supernova’. From virtually out of nowhere, Damon ﬁnds himself up for an Oscar double: nominated for Best Actor and, in what is a unique achievement. Best Original Screenplay.
Good Will Hunting is based on a 40-page short story he wrote f’or a class at Harvard. then developed over four years with his friend and fellow actor Ben Afﬂeck. It’s a script of great emotional insight that makes it hard to believe Damon is only 27 and Afﬂeck 25.
‘We’d take a tape recorder. put it down and just start improvising,’ Damon says of their writing technique. ‘Eventually we might come up
with a half-hour improv out of which we might have
fifteen seconds that were good. And maybe a scene would start from that line.’ Damon is nice-looking. in a beefed—up Leonardo DiCaprio sort of way. and is already enjoying the glamorous side of Hollywood life. He’s in a high profile relationship with Winona Ryder, while Affleck sees Gwyneth Paltrow — perhaps confirmation to both that they are in the big league now. Damon’s previous girlfriend was Good Will Hunting co- star Minnie Driver, who he rejected on television in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. It seems unlikely, however, that Damon is going to be mere gossip fodder because, like DiCaprio, he has the emotional range that makes a good actor. He is also totally determined.
‘You just do whatever it takes to get to the truth of the character,’ he explains, and he puts his money where his mouth is. During the ﬁlming of Courage Under Fire — l996’s post-Gulf War drama with
Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan —
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Damon went on a dramatic diet in order to portray the physical effects of heroin on his character, and destroyed his health in the process.
‘The person who outlined the diet for me didn’t think I was going to be able to stick to it — it was too difficult.’ he says. ‘When I stuck to it, people got worried. At the end of the movie I started eating chocolate cake. That’s how I got sick. Literally. the day after I shot the scene with Denzel Washington walking on the lake. I started eating four or five chocolate cakes, twelve beers. four steaks. tons of pasta. And my stomach expanded. I had to go on medication for dizziness, lightheadedness, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder . . .
‘l’ve been off the medication for a couple of weeks now — after two years. That taught
'At the end of the movie I started eating four or five chocolate cakes, twelve beers, four steaks, tons of pasta. And my stomach expanded. I had to go on medication.’
me a lot about what I can and can’t do, what I should and shouldn’t do. But I liked the role and I worked for the role. It cost a lot to get there, and I’m glad that I stuck with it.’
Career-wise. it has paid off. Regardless of where the Oscars go later this month, Damon has two other big movies lined up for release this year — Francis Coppola’s John Grisham adaptation The Rainmaker and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, opposite Tom Hanks.
Needless to say. Damon is getting his first taste of another side of acting. Fame. ‘1 like it,’ he said before the Oscar thing happened and he could still walk down the street unrecognised. ‘I don’t think I’m addicted to what is involved with it.’
If anyone can keep his feet on the ground, perhaps it is his left-wing mother. ‘Here is an anist,’ she remarked on the subject of her son’s stardom, ‘and he’s just a cog in the capitalist system.’
One that looks likely to turn out several hits in the years to come.
Good Will Hunting opens on Fri 6 Mar. See review, page 30.
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