* Hollywood actor
* Great admirer of the late Marxist historan Howard Zinn
* Co-founder of Artists United to Win Without War
* Strong supporter of Democratic political candidates and causes
Matthew Paige Damon was born October 8, 1970 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents divorced when the boy was two. At age ten, Damon met his eight-year-old neighbor Ben Affleck, and the two went on to become lifelong friends. Damon also grew up next-door to the Marxist historian Howard Zinn and formed a close bond with him that lasted until Zinn’s death in 2010. One of Damon’s favorite books is Zinn’s famous A People’s History of the United States, which excoriates America as a racist, oppressive, militaristic nation. The boy first began reading it in 1980.
Damon studied English at Harvard University but dropped out to pursue a career in acting. He achieved great fame in 1997 when Good Will Hunting, a film that he and Ben Affleck co-wrote and co-starred in, won critical acclaim. In this movie, the genius character portrayed by Damon sneers at his psychiatrist for “surrounding yourself with all the wrong fu**in’ books. You wanna read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That book’ll fu**in’ knock you on your ass.” Further, Damon’s character invokes Professor Noam Chomsky as a man of keen political insight.
The sudden financial success that Good Will Hunting brought to Damon did not please his mother, a leftist devotee of The Nation. Appalled when she saw her son featured in a glossy magazine ad, she lamented: “My beautiful boy is being used to sell products. He is just a cog in the capitalist system.”
Damon subsequently went on to appear in such movies as Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Bourne Identity (2002) and its two sequels (2004 and 2007), Promised Land (2012), Behind the Candelabra (2013), and Elysium (2013).
As was the case with Good Will Hunting, a number of Damon’s other films likewise promote political messages consistent with the actor’s left-wing orientation:
On May 6, 2000, Damon joined Ben Affleck and Howard Zinn in speaking at a “Rally for a Living Wage” at Harvard University, on behalf of all workers on the Harvard campus.
In December 2002, Damon and nearly 100 fellow actors organized Artists United to Win Without War, to oppose any pre-emptive military strike by the U.S. against Saddam Hussein‘s regime in Iraq.
In February 2006, Damon served on the Host Committee for a fundraiser on behalf of Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey. Others on the Committee included Ben Affleck, Ed Asner, Barbara Boxer, Jodie Evans, Tom Hayden, Norman Lear, Hilda Solis, Maxine Waters, and Diane Watson.
In the 2008 election season, Damon was highly supportive of Barack Obama‘s presidential bid. He attended a number of Obama fundraisers and campaign rallies, and promoted the senator’s candidacy through a MoveOn.org video contest.
By 2011, however, Damon lamented that Obama had “squandered” his opportunity to enact truly transformative legislation. The actor complained, for instance, that Obama had: “doubled down on a lot of things” like “tying teachers’ salaries to how kids are performing on tests”; “rolled over to Wall Street completely” in his handling of the economic crisis; and created an environment where banks were “bigger and making more money than ever.” “You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better,” said Damon.
But in the 2012 election, Damon again supported Obama at the ballot box. Following Obama’s victory, the actor said he was optimistic that the president’s second term would be a “great one” and declared: “I voted for him. Absolutely, I voted for him.”
Perhaps Damon’s favorite political figure by this time was Elizabeth Warren, on whose behalf the actor had co-hosted a May 2012 fundraiser along with Ben Affleck and John Krasinski.
On January 31, 2012 in Chicago, Damon lent his name and voice to “The People Speak, Live!” — an event that featured songs and dramatic readings based on the actual words of what the organizers called “rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from America’s past.” The show’s purpose was to promote Howard Zinn’s work and ideas.
In a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Damon spoke about his resurgent admiration for Barack Obama. Describing the president as “somebody who thinks so deeply about everything he does,” Damon said: “I don’t ever question that it’s coming from the right place with him [Obama]. He’s a remarkable human being and shockingly easy to be around. He’s incredibly approachable and doesn’t beat you up with his station, though he could.”
Over the years, Damon has been very outspoken on a number of political issues. In 2011, for example, he called for tax hikes on high earners: “The wealthy are paying less than they paid at any time else, certainly in my lifetime, and probably in the last century…. It’s criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I don’t mind paying more. I’d rather pay for taxes than cut ‘Reading is Fundamental’ or Head Start or some of these programs that are really helping kids…. [I]s it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes?”
While Damon has earned many millions of dollars portraying the gun-wielding assassin Jason Bourne in his violence-filled Bourne movie series, the actor opposes private citizens’ right to carry a concealed weapon:
Regarding education, Damon is a vocal supporter of teacher’s unions and taxpayer-funded public schools. Moreover, he contends that student performance on standardized tests should not affect teacher evaluations, tenure status, or pay.
But when the actor was asked in a 2013 interview why he was sending his own children to a private school rather than to the Los Angeles public schools, he explained that he really did not “have a choice” vis-a-vis this “major moral dilemma” because the public schools simply were not “progressive” enough for his taste.
In August 2017, Damon stated that he found President Donald Trump’s response to a recent incident in Charlottesville, Virginia — where one person was killed and more than a dozen were injured when white nationalist protesters fought with Antifa counter-protesters — “absolutely abhorrent.” In Damon’s view, Trump’s assertion that there were some good people on both sides of that conflict was tantamount to an endorsement of neo-Nazis. “A lot of people, myself included, are really waking up to the extent of the existing racism, and it’s so much worse than I naively thought,” said Damon. “I just feel naïve at this point.”
In 2017 as well, Damon starred in the movie Suburbicon, which was directed by George Clooney and debuted at the Venice International Film Festival on September 2. The film is set in 1959. Damon’s character, a man named Gardner Lodge, lives in Suburbicon, an all-white town “built with the promise of prosperity for all.” Then a black family moves into the neighborhood and instantly faces racist backlash from the townspeople. Gardner later commissions two white men, Sloan and Louis, to kill his paraplegic wife in an insurance-fraud scheme. When Gardner is called into the police station to identify Sloan and Louis, he falsely tells the police that they have apprehended the wrong men. Moreover, Gardner leads the way in scapegoating the black family for his wife’s death, and in fomenting racial tensions in Suburbicon. Eventually, a white riot erupts outside the black family’s home. In an interview about the film, Damon said: “It’s kind of the definition of white privilege when you’re riding around your neighborhood on a bicycle covered in blood murdering people and the African American family is getting blamed for it. We couldn’t have predicted obviously when we were filming these race riots, that we would have something like Charlottesville [where white supremacists clashed violently with Antifa-allied anarchists at an August 12, 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia]. It does speak to the fact that these issues have not and are not going away until there’s an honest reckoning in our country.”
In a December 2017 appearance on ABC’s “Popcorn,” Damon spoke about the many allegations of sexual harassment and assault that had recently been brought against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Asserting that “there’s a spectrum of behavior,” Damon said: “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?” After his comments drew criticism from a number of fellow Hollywood celebrities, Damon said in January 2018: “I really wish I’d listened a lot more before I weighed in on this I don’t want to further anybody’s pain with anything that I do or say. So for that I’m really sorry.”
In July 2020, Damon moved into a $16.5 million, 6,000-plus-square-foot penthouse that occupied the 11th floor, 12th floor, and roof of a luxury building in Brooklyn Heights, New York. On the day of his move, Damon arranged to have an entire city block closed off to traffic, so as to allow the movers to use a huge crane to lift his furniture and trees onto the terrace.
On February 14, 2021, Damon and fellow actor Chris Hemsworth, his co-star in the upcoming film Thor: Love and Thunder, shared a private jet that flew them from Byron Bay to Sydney, Australia, where they planned to shoot scenes for the movie at Fox Studios Australia. Damon’s use of private jets, which are well known for the large amount of carbon emissions they create, is inconsistent with his 2014 admonition that “[h]ow we behave will have a very serious impact on the world that these next generations are going to inherit.”
In July 2022, Damon purchased an $8.5 million, 7,190-square-foot colonial home which was set on more than 13 acres of land in upscale Bedford Hills, New York.
As of June 2020, Damon’s net worth was approximately $170 million.
Further Reading: “Matt Damon” (Biography.com, Keywiki.org); “Matt Damon: Where Did It All Go Right for the Leftwing Activist, Devoted Dad and Intelligent Action Star?” (The Guardian, 8-2-2013).