The inside story of Matt Damon’s bold yet sane plan to use his celebrity and smarts to help attack one of the globe’s great crises.
Once upon a time, Matt Damon went for a long walk in rural Zambia. The devoted family man and method philanthropist was accompanying a 14-year-old Zambian girl who had no idea that her hiking companion was an Academy Award-winning international heartthrob.
The walk came toward the end of a 10-day African journey, a systematic primer on the complexities of the continent’s extreme poverty that had been organized for Damon by staffers from his friend Bono’s ONE campaign. Damon was on a quest to understand what it meant to be really, really poor. “It was like a mini course in college,” he says. Every day brought a different subject: urban AIDS, microfinance, education, and, finally, water. While walking with the young teen on her hour-long trudge to collect water for her family, something clicked. “We talked the whole time [through a translator]. When I asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up — ‘Do you want to stay here?’ ” he says, pointing to the memory of the dusty village — “she got shy all of a sudden.” As they returned, both toting 5-gallon jugs of water filled at the well, she finally confessed her dream: to go to the big city, Lusaka, and become a nurse. Damon recalled his dreams at the same age, when he and best friend Ben Affleck were plotting their way from Boston to casting agents in New York. That connection opened the door for Damon. “I remembered so well the feeling of being young, when that whole world of possibility was open to you.”
But while Damon’s dream was made possible by Amtrak, the girl’s was possible only because somebody drilled a borewell near her home — and, yes, an hour’s walk for water is good news in lots of places in the world. Nearly 1 billion souls lack access to clean water; three times that number lack access to proper sanitation. “This is not something that most 14-year-olds have to go through,” says Damon, 40. Without access to the water, his companion would have been unable to go to school and would likely have been forced into a precarious fight for life, spending her days scavenging for often-filthy water in unhealthy and unsafe environments. “Now she can hope to be a nurse and contribute to the economic engine of Zambia,” he says. “Of all the different things that keep people in this kind of death spiral of extreme poverty, water just seemed so huge.” He pauses. “And it doesn’t have to be.”
Damon tells me this story on a rainy spring day in Manhattan, after a full schedule of board meetings for Water.org, the charity he cofounded in 2009, three years after his Zambia trip, with longtime water expert, and now dear friend, Gary White. It has been a long day but a good one, and Damon has more news to share. He checks his watch. “I have to pick up my daughter from school. Come along and we’ll keep talking,” he tells me. As we make our way from a conference room at McKinsey in Midtown (a board member works there) to a car waiting on the street, I watch passersby light up in recognition and try to catch his eye. In spite of his attempt to blend in — Damon is wearing glasses, a splash of whiskers, and a Panavision baseball cap — he is unmistakable. And he never fails to return a smile. “Clearly my strong suit is and will be trying to get people to care about this issue,” he says of his primary role. “Our vision is clean water and sanitation for everyone, in our lifetime …” he trails off. “So we better get to work.”
For all his star power, though, Damon is more than just the pretty face of Water.org. He has turned himself into a development expert. This would seem like an obvious and necessary first step for someone embracing the global water crisis as a personal mission. But, in fact, it’s highly unusual for a celebrity to dive this deep into a problem this daunting. Whether talking microfinance strategy with rural bankers, giving detailed reports from the field at the annual Clinton Global Initiative, or personally thanking donors like PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Damon has quietly developed the cred of a program geek. “If you want to understand how this works,” he says, sounding more like an anthropologist than a celebrity spokesperson, “there is no substitute for going there and talking to people in their homes.” It’s an approach he comes by honestly. His mother, a professor of early childhood education, spent part of her summers living with local families in Guatemala and Mexico, attending language school in preparation for her field research. She brought her impressionable teenage son along. “She specialized in nonviolent conflict resolution,” Damon explains. In war-torn areas like El Salvador, she interviewed children, studied their artwork, and documented their trauma. “So I’d seen extreme poverty at an early age,” he says. “I knew what it was, and I always cared about it.” He has replicated her research process, immersing himself in the business of social enterprise until he found the cause that he felt passion for — water.
You can read the rest of the article on Fast Company website.
Last week Matt and Luciana attended the opening of “Spider-Man Turn off the Dark” on Broadway, here are some pictures:
Hey guys, I made some caps from this movie, which I can say is my probably my least favorite Matt movie. Oh well 😛
The movie will be released on DVD/BluRay next week, on June 21st, you can pre-order your copy on Amazon. I’ll have screencaps ready next week 😀
Do: Kill off a main character
The Bourne Supremacy begins with a gutsy twist: The surprise assassination of Franka Potente’s Marie, who gave the first film much of its emotional resonance. The gamble paid off: Supremacy and Ultimatum are both supercharged by the title character’s quest for vengeance.
See Also: Scream II, The Dark Knight, and The Godfather Part 2. Harrison Ford always felt that Han Solo should’ve died in Return of the Jedi, which in all fairness would have been totally awesome.
The Bourne movies are one of the few trilogies that gets better as it goes on.
Matt attended those 2 benefit events the past days:
Some events from this year, catching up on stuff I hadn’t added yet.
“My family is so grateful for the care you’ve given us,” the Adjustment Bureau star said at a fundraiser last night for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Care Center, where his father, Kent, has been undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood.
“It’s deeply humbling to see how many people here are committing their lives to helping others,” Matt said. “We’ve lost some close personal friends to cancer in recent years, but I never thought it would happen to my dad, the marathon runner…It sucked.”
Happily, Kent Damon is currently in remission—and, apparently, a great mood.
“We try not to take this celebrity deal too seriously,” he joked, referring to his A-lister son. He told the crowd a story about opening up the paper to read about Matt’s Academy Award nominations for Good Will Hunting in 1997, and “there was a picture of Robert Duvall, Peter Fonda, and Dustin Hoffman—then there was a picture of my 27-year-old son. He didn’t belong there with all these seasoned actors!”
Getting serious, however, Kent also said that his Boston-bred boy was “all you could ever for ask for in a son. It’s been a wonderful ride being his dad.”
Matt actually succeeded his pops onstage, wondering “How do you follow that? My dad’s biggest fear is public speaking, and I’m like, ‘You’ve got cancer man!’
“When people ask me, “What’s so great about Boston?’ I say, ‘Oh, the people, the sports teams—actually, I’d start with the sports teams—[and] the hospitals,” the actor continued, according to the Boston Herald.
“But if you had ever heard of Mass General, you were raised to believe it was the best hospital in the world. You were raised to believe that the Red Sox would break your heart and that MGH was the best hospital in the world.”
I wish him all the best and good luck on fighting this horrible disease.
DVDs: How Good Is Matt Damon? Damn Good
TRUE GRIT ($39.99 BluRay or $29.99 regular DVD; Paramount) — The Coen Brothers movie is solid fun that’s better than the original and more true to the terrific novel by Charles Portis. Hailee Steinfeld gives a funny but very particular performance that could be the sign of a singular talent or a one-off stunt. Josh Brolin is hissable as the villain. Jeff Bridges shamelessly chews the scenery in the hammy role made famous by John Wayne. But I want to talk about Matt Damon.
He gives the best performance of the film as the over-confident Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. The character is nominally comic relief, but Damon makes him the heart of the movie. The little girl is preternaturally calm and mature. Bounty hunter Cogburn is a caricature of the hard-drinking frontierman. Only LaBoeuf is a recognizable human being, a man who is a tad vain but at heart a decent person. Damon gets all the humor out of this easily offended young man but he also makes you care about LaBoeuf and consequently about the film as a whole. If anyone might die in this enterprise you fear it would be LaBoeuf, so all the suspense and drama centers on whether he’ll make it home alive or at least redeem himself as a brave and valued companion. With his accustomed ease, Damon steals the show by playing a supporting role that other movie stars might not deign to accept.
It’s just the latest achievement by one of the best actors working today. Damon’s looks always promise the square-jawed decency of a 1950s leading man. But his talent often lies in subverting our expectations. He broke through as the math whiz in Good Will Hunting of course. Then came Saving Private Ryan, with Damon as every mother’s son caught in the dangers of war. His career seemed set as a traditional hero. But Damon followed that immediately with one of his best and most underrated turns. He became almost invisible in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a mousy killer who subsumes the identity of the people he destroys. Look at the way Damon maintains the anonymous demeanor of a servant in the opening scenes and you’ll see a movie star choosing to become an actor.
He showed he had charisma to burn in the Ocean’s Eleven movies. But it’s the Bourne trilogy that has truly vaulted Damon to the top. If comedies get little respect, even they receive more critical attention than the performances in action films. Damon’s work in the Bourne movies constitutes one of the best action performances on film, equal to Harrison Ford’s work in the early Indiana Jones movies and easily one of the most complex achievements in the genre. Damon delivers the confusion and apprehension of a man who finds a terrified release in the violence he is so clearly capable of achieving, a violence that both thrills and disturbs him. With a minimum of dialogue and often through his face and body movements alone, Damon creates a man audiences live vicariously through but also pity in his desperate desire to know exactly who he is. Best of all, Damon showed the rare restraint of walking away from the franchise before it became repetitive and dumb.
The smart choices continued: the CIA agent in The Good Shepherd, the gangster turned cop in The Departed (proving again how good Damon is at internal conflict) and the hilariously inept stool pigeon in The Informant!. That’s a very funny movie but Damon’s gifts as a comic haven’t been fully exploited yet (despite his amusing work on 30 Rock), any more than his ability to be a romantic lead. Presumably that just doesn’t interest him since he’s barely assayed such a common, almost inevitable role. Politics interests him more, from the complex Syriana to The Green Zone to his work as the narrator of the best documentary of 2010, Inside Job.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Damon’s talent is that he’s only seemed to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of doing. The older he gets, the more interesting and varied the roles he should be able to tackle. Damon’s never been trapped by leading man status but growing more mature will only play into his natural instinct for the interesting and off-beat. Unquestionably, the best is yet to come.
The keen card player was spotted meeting Harvey Weinstein and Ocean’s 13 screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien at New York restaurant Cipriani Downtown to begin work on the script to Rounders 2, the New York Post reports.
Edward Norton, who appeared in the first movie, will reportedly reprise his role in the sequel.
In Rounders Matt played a law student who was lured back into gambling by his old friend, an ex-convict, played by Ed.
The 1998 film flopped at the box office but became a cult hit on DVD