One of the highlights of Hollywood’s boom in the 1990s was the emergence of Matt Damon. First coming to fame as part of the double act, alongside Ben Affleck, that created Good Will Hunting, Damon would soon rise to the top of the pile. Not only flexing his muscles with action-packed blockbusters but also finding time to craft nuanced performances within arthouse films, like this one, the Anthony Minghella-directed classic The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Over the years, he has garnered commercial success as well as critical acclaim, including an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards. Apart from acting, Damon has been involved in social activism with various organisations and his commitment has seen the actor become the founder of H2O Africa Foundation, the charitable arm of the Running the Sahara expedition.
“It’s the work. It’s the process itself. I have done enough movies now — movies that have failed, movies that have been successful,” Damon once commented. “All we have as the people making it is the love of the doing of it. I am aware of the results because I have to be; it has an impact on my career so I can’t be ignorant of the movies that I am doing. But it’s really about feeling that I did my best work, the best work I could do under the circumstances, feeling that we told the story we wanted to tell in the way we wanted to tell it. That’s really the definition of success.”
He added, “The journey is everything! It’s a cliché, but I have really felt it in my own life, in the 25 or 30 years I’ve been in this… The goal is the process, really enjoying the process. You can’t really predict what is going to happen with movies… I have made movies that I thought were really going to be well received and successful, and they failed miserably. And I have made movies that were very successful that I didn’t see coming.”
“It’s better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody,” is the motto of Damon’s character Tom Ripley in this 1999 crime thriller, easily the actor’s greatest performance. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s classic novel, Ripley cons his way into the elite rich circles of society by lying, cheating and murdering. For his chilling performance, Damon earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
“Someone cool would have distanced the audience,” explained the director. “But Matt has a credibility, and warmth and generosity – such winning qualities – that make you want to go on that journey with him inch by inch. We’ve all at some stage known what it’s like to feel excluded.
“We might even have pretended to be someone we’re not in order to be accepted. But not many of us are flawed enough to kill for it. After I saw Good Will Hunting I was convinced he had the goods. And being a writer himself, he would better understand the issues at stake.”
Watch The Talented Mr. Ripley on Netflix now.