Matt Damon

  1. Chris O’Donnell, Scent of a Woman, 1991.  Damon, the new James McArthur (with better roles), described his early years as “fighting for table scraps” with (as here) Ben Affleck, Randall Batinkoff, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stephen Dorff, Brendan Fraser, Cole Hauser, Anthony Rapp, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Serrone. “You’d go in and fight each other. And if you got hold of a role, you’d have to make enough of an impression to get another job.” Such as Charlie, the prep schooler babysitting Al Pacino’s eyes in the film that finally won Al his Oscar. Whoo-ah!

  2. Chris O’Donnell, Batman Forever, 1994.

  3. Leonardo DiCaprio , The Quick and the Dead, 1994.    “Yeah, I turned it down. Clearly [laugh], it really derailed Leonardo’s career.” The Western’s star and co-producer, Sharon Stone was full of good ideas. Like Russell Crowe as the gunslinger turned preacher – a youngster Damon or David Arquette for The (cocky) Kid. “Damn, I’m fast Is it possible to improve on perfection? ” Stone then switched to DiCaprio – and when the budget couldn’t afford him, she paid him, herself.
  4. Joaquin Phoenix, To Die For, 1995.       “I lost nearly 20 lbs to audition for [director] Gus Van Sant but ‘Wock’ got it.” Which is how director Gus Van Sant knew him (and Ben  Affleck visiting brother Casey on the set) and could reach them when he got hold of their Good Will Hunting  script. “I’m in!  I want to do this right away.” Damon and Affleck  won Oscars for  writing it.
  5. Edward Norton, Primal Fear, 1996.        A total of 2,100 actors auditioned for Aaron Stampler.  “We all knew there was an instant career changer for whoever got it.”  Norton, alone,  thought he should stutter. “It more or less came down to him and me,” recalls Matt,  “and he pretty much put a smokin’ on me.”
  6. Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, 1997.  .   Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s exploration of the 70s porno biz as a family unit  (Burt Reynolds’ film-maker and Julianne Moore’s porno star being “the parents”) needed a stud called Dirk Diggler, loosely based on hungalike John C Holmes. Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Matt Damon (!), Ethan Hawke, Jason Lee and Joachim Phoenix refused. Idem for, of all people, Vincent Gallo, seen in a hard-core fellatio scene in his Brown Bunnymovie in 2002. First choice was Leonardo DiCaprio. He loved the script but had a ticket for the Titanicand told PTA: “You should get Mark”… who kept his prosthetic penis. (Gallo plainly didn’t need one).
  7. Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon, 1998.  Hollywood’s possibles for the biopic of surrealist comic Andy Kaufman included  Hank Azaria, John Cusack, Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Edward  Norton, Kevin Spacey. Oh and Nicolas Cage. Not for long as  he refused to audition. Czech director Milos Forman could not decide between Carrey and Norton. He let Universal decide. Carrey was the bigger draw. And brilliant!  “During the shooting,” recalled Forman, “I met Jim Carrey only twice. “He was always in the role.  He was Andy Kaufman, Tony Clifton or Elvis Presley  24 hours a day!

  8. Vince Vaughn, Psycho, 1997. 
    By 1990, Anthony Perkins had played Norman Bates four times.  So why should anyone else play him?  It’s been (over)done. It’s a classic. And by The Master. Why re-make Hitchcock?  Ah, beg pardon, Gus Van Sant called it a reproduction. A bizarre (lazy!) notion of copying  –  the Psycho  script, word for word, action for action, move for move, shock for shock (except the shocks were too famous to  shock anymore). “Just shoot it in color and have, for instance, Jack Nicholson play the detective and Timothy Hutton play Norman Bates,” he suggested. “Universal wanted to rope me in, and I said:“Here’s the idea: don’t change anything! It’s never been done before. Isn’t that a great reason to try it?” Not really! What had he said about re-makes? The essence is missing. You might as well make an original movie. Right!  “One guy in particular has an extreme Tony Perkins quality – Robert Sean Leonard,” Van Sant  told Movieline’s Stephen Rebello. “ So do… Henry Thomas and  Jeremy Davies.  [Indeed, Thomas was the teenage Bates  in Psycho IV: The  Beginning, 1989].  I think of Matt Damon for everything I do… But he’s one of those under-30 guys who just didn’t get it. Leonardo would have been fantastic. I knew he knew that he could step into it. But I also knew he didn’t really want to do it. I seriously considered Joaquin Phoenix. He was interested… but busy. So, it was either wait or forge ahead and we forged ahead. Vince was not even in my imagination…  But he had a really interesting quality I wasn’t expecting.” The UK’  fast-rising Christian Bale  and DiCaprio pal, Tobey Maguire,  were also short-listed.

  9. Mark Wahlberg, Three Kings, 1998.   Damon and Matthew McConaughey rejected the role of Troy Barlow, thereby missing all the rows and punch-ups between director David O Russell and his star, George Clooney. They made up but Clooney still told Vanity Fair in 2003: “I would not stand for him humiliating and yelling and screaming at crew members [and extras]  who weren’t allowed to defend themselves… So my job was then to humiliate the people who were doing the humiliating.” That is to say., when Russell foolishly taunted Clooney – “Hit me!”  So,  Clooney obliged him. 
  10. Brendan Fraser, The Mummy, 1998.      A surprise winner, particularly as it starred Fraser instead of…  Ben Affleck or Matt Damon (they’d just won their Goodwill Hunting script Oscar), Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell (his first studio offer), Leonardo DiCaprio (keen but tied to The Beach), the unknown Stephen Dunham (instead, he debuted as Henderson), Matthew McConaughey, Chris O’Donnell, Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone and the star of the 2016 flop, Tom Cruise. Not as the titular Imhotep, of course,  but the heroic Indiana…er… Rick O’Connell.

  11. Tobeyh Maguire, Ride With The Devil, 1998.       Damon, himsedf,  was now smokin’ – in films for Francis Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Gus Van Sant. And on fire enough to quit this one to be UK director Anthony Minghella’s Talented Mr. Ripley.
  12. Ron Livingston, Office Space, 1998.  The poster yelled: Work sucks! The suits wanted Damon as Peter, one of bunch of programmer drones at Initech,  “But the role should not have star energy,” said auteur Mike Judge – father of  MTV’s  Beavis & Butthead  toons, just as Office Space fathered  Horrible Bosses, 2010. Jennifer Aniston midwifed both sharp satires.
  13. Edward Norton, Fight Club, 1999.      Leonardo DiCaprio told MartIn Scorsese that for his generation of actors, Fight  Club was their Citizen Kane… Matt Damon and Sean Penn were hot possibles for The  Narrator before director David Fincher fell for Norton’s work in Milos Forman’s The People vs  Larry Flynt, 1995. Norton was so keen, he jettisoned offers for The Talented Mr Ripley, Man on the Moon and The Runaway Jury.  Although anonymous on-screen, many fans, Norton included, insist The Narrator is called Jack… until  the second book finally named him as Sebastian. Brad Pitt was paid $17.5m, Norton, $2.5m.  And yet author Chuck Palahnuik was two-thirds through his novel before realising that the visceral Tyler and milquetoast Narrator  were one and the same guy.
  14. James Marsden, X-Men quartet, 1999-2013.    “Mutation: it is the key to our evolution.”  Producer James Cameron and his then wife, director Kathryn Bigelow, chose Michael Biehn  for Scott Summers/Cyclops in the early 90s – and never made the film! James Caviezel won this version before prefering to be Dennis Quaid’s son in Frequency. (Nobody’s perfect).  To be free for Cyclops, Marsden shut the door on  Soul Survivors and slipped  the key toCasey Affleck  – after director Bryan Singer looked at pals Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Thomas Jane (who became Marvel’s The Punisher, in 2003, and opposite Rebecca Romijn, X-Men’s Mystique), Edward Norton (already turned down as Logan/Wolverine), DB Sweeney (he cameoed as a Statue of Liberty guard), Luke Wilson… and Edward Burns, except the last thing a young and opinionated director wanted on his set was another young and opinionated director.
  15. Josh Harnett, Pearl Harbour, 2000. The dream scheme was: Ben Affleck, Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow for the three pretty leads. Affleck, alone, was available. “I’ve never taken a job for money,” Damon said in 2013.  “I’ve passed on a lot of huge-money jobs. Money doesn’t enter into the decision-making. If I do a big blockbuster, it’s about how big an audience you’ll get, and where you can take them.” (Damon found tiume for a machine gunner cameo).  
  16. Mark Wahlberg, Planet of the Apes, 2000.    Dial-a-hero time at Fox as, Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Patrick Swayze were contacted for the Charlton Heston substitute, Captain Leo Davidson, in the unnecessary re-hash of the 1967 classic. “It is what it is,” said a disappointed Wahlberg.“ They didn’t have the script right. Fox had a release date before Tim Burton   had shot a foot of film. They were pushing him and pushing him in the wrong direction. You have to let Tim do his thing.”   Said Damon: My choices are based on how good the scripts were and who was directing them. That’s pretty much all the control you can assert over your career: the choices you make and the jobs you take.”
  17. Ethan Hawke, Training Day, 2000.     Due for  the version with Sam Jackson (not Denzel Washington) as the corrupt cop. “Having been on the sidelines out here in LA and watching the ebb and flow of other careers, I was not unaware of the implications of being in a few flops in a row. It was around that time that things really started drying up. Roles I thought I had in movies, suddenly disappeared… For some reason, I was kind of detached about it and didn’t take it personally.”

  18. Colin Farrell, Minority Report, 2001.  
    Clashing schedules (due to impending Film City strikes) forced Private Ryan out of his second Steven Spielberg assignment – another big break in the inexplicable rise and rise of the Irish Farrell, unknown until Joel Schumacher’s  Tigerland. 2000.  “Getting a call from Steven Spielberg,” recalled Farrell,  “that was huge, no matter how foggy I was. Wow!” His first cinema memory – turning him  to tears – was ET
    . He was invited to the AI set, put into Steven Spielberg’s trailer – “there’s a lunch break in ten minuets and he’ll be here.”    “He arrived….     Steven Spielberg… with a sardine sandwich on a plate.  I love sardines! Hadn’t had a sardine  in years. So we shared a sardine sandwich and talked for a half-hour.   Smart casting… I was supposed to be nipping at Tom’s heels.  And I was, of course, being the new young kid.”

  19. Jim Carrey, The Majestic, 2001.      Would have worked better with Damon.  Carrey fans were anticipating more talking butts, not Martin Guerre Meets Frank Capra.   However, Damon did voice the real Luke Trimbell, or if you prefer Martin Guerre).
  20. Ben Affleck, Daredevil, 2002.     That was the #1 comic for Damon and Ben Affleck as kids. When the movie came along, Damon admitted he chickened out. “I hadn’t seen the director’s work and I didn’t know. So I just said: No. Ben was like: I gotta do it! And the movie ended up doing very well, even though I don’t think Ben was ultimately very proud of it,” (Affleck later told Playboy magazine that it was the only movie he regretted. “It just kills me. I love that story, that character. And the fact that it got fucked up the way it did stays with me. Maybe that’s part of the motivation to do Batman.”) Their pal, New Jersey auteur Kevin Smith (a one-time Daredevil comicbook writer), recommended Affleck – instead of Edward Norton and Guy Pearce as the blind hero. Affleck proved more dumb than blind. Damon was a far superior action hero in the Bourne franchise. “If Chris Nolan came up to me and said, ‘I want to do Daredevil,’ I would be in.”

  21. Patrick Wilson, Angels in America, TV, 2002.  HBO wanted Damon as Joe Pitt, a closeted gay Mormon, married and struggling with his homosexuality.  Director Mike Nichols did not.  He chose – to the actor’s surprise – Wilson. Except he was also booked for the Broadway Oklahoma!  revival.  “Well, we’ll work around that,”: said Nichols. Or Wilson would – playing Joe in the day and dealing with Curly’s corn as high as an elephant’s eye at night.
  22. Giovanni Risibi, Cold Mountain, 2002.      His dance card was too full to find room for  his Ripley maker Anthony Minghella.
  23. Ben Affleck, Paycheck, 2003.       Left it to Ben as it was too close to his Jason  Bourne hero.  Or then again – not.  After The Bourne Identity’sopening weekend, Matt “had something like 20 film offers, having not had a single one in months. That’s when I got it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nice guy or you’re a prick. If your movies do well, there’s a job waiting for you in Hollywood. It’s not any more  complicated than that.”

  24. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain, 2004.  
    Hollywood was not keen on Annie Prouix’s 1977 short story – two gay shepherds in Wyoming, get outa here!   Until directors (more than actors) queued to make it.  Ang Lee, Joel Schumacher – but first in line was Gus Van Sant (obviously). He called up Damon and Joaquin Phoenix (obviously, they’d made his Good Will Hunting and To Die For, respectively). Said Damon: “Gus, I did a gay movie [The Talented Mr Ripley, then a cowboy movie [All the Pretty Horses]. I can’t follow it up with a gay-cowboy movie!”  Ang Lee was considering retirement when the script “nurtured” him back to work, only to find  many actors were scared to play gay. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Philippe and Brad Pitt  all refused. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal did not.  ”These two are among the best in their age group.. Jake plays the opposite of Heath and it creates a very good couple in terms of a romantic love story.”Gyllenhaal added:I don’t think that these two characters even know what gay is. What ties [them] together is not just a love, but primarily it was deep loneliness. Ang Lee  told journo  Robert Ordona  that in the 60s, he’d have chosen  Paul Newman and Montgomery Clift as Ennis and Jack.

  25. Heath Ledger, The Brothers Grimm, 2004.    The brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm swopped  roles and also – for the great US public – became  Wil and Jake. Like the next  LA Hamlet will, be Ham.
  26. Mark Wahlberg, Four Brothers, 2004.    More brothers. But Jason Bourne thought it too violent!!! Ben Affleck also had concerns about the “ultra-violence.” Well, the brothers (two black, two white) were wreaking vengeance for the murder of   adoptive mother. Came across like Death Wishmeets The Sons of Katie Elder(except John Waye and his real siblings were avenging their Dad’s killing in the 1965 Western). A planned Five Brotherssequel never happened. Thankfully.
  27. Josh Zuckerman,  Feast, 2004.       “They’re hungry. You’re dinner.” As the script was developed by Affleck and Matt Damon’s Project Greenlight TV show, there was  moment when the two pals were going to  be brothers Hot Wheels and Bozo against the aliens in the  blood-soaked horror film.  That would have  wound  their clock back…
  28. Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man, 2005.     As corner-men changed from Lasse Hellstrom to Billy Bob Thornton to Ron Howard, it was obvious who’d be Jimmy Braddock, the boxer returning to the ring to feed his Depression age family.
  29. Jason Lee, Clerks II, 2006.    Good to have star pals…  When  Damon could not play Lance Dowds, due to the shooting of The Good Shepherd, Lee turned up during a day off his hit series, My Name Is Earl, 2005-2009.
  30. Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight, 2007.

  31. Will Smith, Hancock, 2007.      Collecting dust on Hollywood shelves for a  decade as Tonight, He Comes, Vincent Ngo’s script  (much darker, with Hancock unable to  to have sex without killing his lovers)  had the finger smudges of Damon and pal Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio.
  32. Sam Worthington, Avatar, 2007.   For his (and Hollywood’s)  most  amazing  science fiction  film – it created an entire new planet –  James Cameron’s backers  wanted Matt Damon or Jake Gyllenhaal as the hero, Jake Scully.    Whereas Cameron wanted an unknown. “A guy you want to have a beer with…. who becomes taleader, transforming a whole world.” Cameron retained his title of the #1 film of all time (last time it was Titanic) with two giant sequels tol come. And all this inspired by  the 1995 Disney toon,  Pocahontus!  Damon regretted being scheduled elsewhere. “That was unlucky  for me as James Cameron makes so few fllms, I might never get another chance to work with him.”  Cameron also short-listed Jake Gyllenhaal (the role was also called Jake) and Chris Pine (“my worst audition ever ”), before settling upon Worthington – reduced to living in his car at the time…
  33. Josh Brolin, Milk, 2007.       Matt agreed toy play real-life assassin Dan White for Gus Van Sant (his Good Will Hunting director in 1997) until over-scheduled with Green Zone.  White assassinated San Francisco’s first openly gay public official,  Harvey Milk – and Mayor George Moscone – in 1978.
  34. Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road, 2007.    Damon’s schedule conflict led to a Titantic reunion of Leo and Kate Winslet.

  35. Chris Pine, Star Trek, 2008.
  36. Chris Hemsworth, Star Trek, 2008.  

  37. Christian Bale, The Fighter. 2009.       Wanting  to make a credible boxing film, Mark Wahlberg chose the story of his pal, Boston’s Irish Mickey Ward, being trained to world glory by his ex-boxer/ex-crackhead half-brother – and stuck with it, sparring  every morning for five years, as directors refused (Scorsese) or quit (Aronofsky) as the $50m studio project became a $20m indie. Wahlberg refused any salary and never thought of playing the brother. “There was always one role for me to play, and that was the champ. I wasn’t giving up the belt. Dicky was a flashier role, but it wasn’t about that… but being believable as a guy who could win the welterweight title, and not look like an actor who could maybe box a little.” Damon quit (twice)  as Dickie Eklund. “I look at Christian’s performance and go: My God, the right actor got the part.”  And the self-emaciated Bale won an Oscar.   
  38. Henry  Cavill, The Man From UNCLE,  2013.     Superman Cavill goes Solo.  Napoleon Solo… After securing the 60s’ TV series rights in 1993,  producer John Davis went through 20 years, 14 scripts, four directors (letting slip Soderbergh and Tarantino!), plus 19 Napoleon Solos. From George Clooney in 2010 to Tom Cruise three years later. By way of the early-21st century suspects: Damon, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Jon Hamm, Joel Kinnaman, Ewan McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Alexander  Skarsgård (he switched to Tarzan), Channing Tatum. Even Russell Crowe, surely a better bet at 50 for old Waverly, the UNCLE boss.  Poor Davis never got it right!
  39. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs, 2015.   Christian Bale was in,  then out (like Sony Pictures!).  Other  potential Jobses  included Damon, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio. Christian baled for The Accountant and Leo took over another Bale reject, The Revenant… before“a lengthy break from acting.”
  40. Jesse Eiasenberg, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2015.

  41.  Will Smith, Suicide Squad, 2015.     After seeing 14 possible Harley Quinns, director David Ayer shuffled through 19 Deadshots. None hit the target. Not  Damon, Daniel Craig, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba, Colin Farrell, Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jon Hamm.  Nor Oscar Isaac, Joel Kinnaman (he became Rick Flag), Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Statham.  Another Warner/DC flop because Warner wasn’t Marvel and Smith was way  too top-heavy for a team effort.    
  42. Chris Pratt, The Magnificent Seven, 2015.  Costner, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, they also wisely rode away from this Dullard Seven.How is it possible to write a tepid take of either John Sturges’ 1960 Sevenor its 1953 source, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai? Then again, writer Nic Pizzolatto made a similar dog’s breakfast out of his second True Detectiveseason. Antoine Fuqua directing meant Denzel Washington would lead the liberators, but Fuqua had no idea what to do wih Pratt. Really? He was obviously  a new versaion of Vin. Fuqua went overboard, declaring “Pratt is Steve McQueen.”  Yeah, and I’m Dolly Parton!
  43. Channing Tatum,  Logan Lucky, 2016.   For his first movie since retiring with Behind the Candelabra,2013, director Steven Soderberg had to change the heister brothers in his “anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie”- from Damon and Michael Shannon to Tatum and Adam Driver. Made no difference. Daniel Craig still stole the show as the appropriately named bomber Joe Bang.

  44. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea, 2016. 
    Damon was supposed to be the guy coping with the terrible loss of his brother. “I was going to direct it. You talk about those seismic decisions that you make.  The smartest thing I did as a producer was replacing myself!    But it just was clearly a Kenny Lonergan movie. He’d had a horrible experience on Margaret – not creatively but with the subsequent litigation and all that stuff that really robbed him of years of his creative life. And suddenly there was this great screenplay that he’d written, “Wait a minute: You just direct this; you’re going to get your movie career back and be the director that everybody knows that you are, and I’ll play the role.” And so we got it set up, [but] I had The Martian starting. Our preproduction kept collapsing and [producer] Chris [Moore] and I got on the phone, I looked at my schedule, and my dance card had filled – “well, I’m free in two years.” And I said, “I will give it up to Casey [Affleck], and he is the only person.” And he won an Oscar.

  45. Jesse Eisenberg,  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2015.
  46. Jason Momoa, Aquaman, 2017.       Damon, Simon Baker, Matt Damon, even Leo Di Caprio were in the swim over the years before Momoa was announced on October 15, 2014… for a 2018 summer release.














 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  46