The Continued Appreciation of Matt Damon
Yesterday, July 29th, was a remarkable day – not because Hillary Clinton ended her decade-long thirst to be a presidential nominee, or because the Oakland apple festival is officially back, or even because Gigi Hadid became the first person to go biking without pants (?). It was the return of an American icon who represents just about everything regular people want celebrities to be – philanthropic (he founded water.org, which has a 96.33/100 score from Charity Navigator) and humble (I searched for five minutes before I even found Damon’s name printed on his website). He likes teachers and he’s well-spoken. He looks hot in a really tight t-shirt. Yet there are still some – even after the return of Jason Bourne to the big screen – who refuse to acknowledge his greatness.
What about his controversy, they say? Surely he’s had some offhand ‘sugar-tits’ Mel Gibson incident, or at least the shades of a Charlie Sheen-esque meltdown. His most very-slightly-offensive words to date have been “whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play” – a statement that’s less homophobic than Apple’s Russian version of Siri. He got some flack from Constance Wu for being white in a movie about the Great Wall, which serves to prove that Wu’s playing her ‘Fresh off the Boat’ character in real life.
And what say you about his longevity? Naturally, we tend to only write homages about those whose time has passed. Romanticizing only happens after they’ve died or a decade after they’ve pissed on someone. But this man who continues to succeed in a career that isn’t really kind to those who stick around for too long – remember Michael Keaton? They specifically had to make a movie that was all about the fact that he was washed up. Have you heard any indication that Eddie Murphy is even alive? (His last movie, ‘A Thousand Words’ was released in 2012, but filmed in 2008, and has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.) Chris Tucker was once the highest paid actor in Hollywood. A few decades later, Damon is still churning out hits (see: ‘The Martian’) and doesn’t even know whether he wants to continue his most successful franchise because he doesn’t want to do action movies (in Hollywood circles, a phenomenon known as the anti-Jason Statham). He’s been teased as Green Arrow after he did a reading of a few superhero character lines.
He even wants to make a character-driven x-rated film with an actually good plot, the name of which has likely been predestined as ‘The Porn Ultimatum’.
What about his name, they say – is ‘Damon’ akin to ‘Brando’ or ‘Denzel’? He’s so good that Mark Wahlberg doesn’t even correct fans when they think that he’s Damon (which may be because they’re afraid that a real Mark Wahlberg would try to punch them in the eye). He managed to break through in the industry with an appearance in the film Mystic Pizza, which would likely be a box office success if you re-made it today with Damon and M. Night Shyamalan directing. He got bored enough during the filming of Supremacy that he created a bowling league in Berlin. He probably has the record for the number of movies which have the protagonist’s name in the title – Will Hunting, Private Ryan, Mr. Ripley, Gerry, Spirit, Grimm, and the Bourne franchise – a record which is probably a little more meaningful than Academy Awards. He took Jimmy Kimmel hostage in a performance that makes you think that he could either play a Bond villain or run the Comedy Cellar. He lost 40 pounds to play a part in Courage Under Fire, so he literally almost died for a role, and for our sins.