They met as children in the 1980s. Ben Affleck was eight years old and Matt Damon was 10. The two lived a few blocks apart in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and their mothers thought they might hit it off. They weren’t wrong. They both liked basketball and acting. They also ended up attending the same high school. The turning point, the one that would make them best friends, was when an older boy went to beat up Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck stepped in.
“I remember that was like a big moment,” Damon said in an interview on the Conan O’Brian Show in 2019. “He will put himself in a really bad spot for me. This is a good friend.”
Ben Affleck, 50, later revealed that he would never have pursued his acting vocation had he not met Damon. “Before Matt, I was by myself. Acting was a solo activity where I’d just go off and do something, act in a little TV show or something, and no one understood it. None of the other kids knew what it was I did, how it worked, or anything,” Affleck told Parade in 2007. “All of a sudden, I had this friend, Matt, and he gets it and wants to do it and thinks it’s interesting and wants to talk about it. Soon both of us are doing it.”
As unbelievable as it may seem now, neither Affleck and Damon were the cool kids in high school, but the theater geeks, as Damon’s brother Kyle told People magazine in 2002, when Ben Affleck was voted Sexiest Man of the Year.
While still in high school, Damon and Affleck would escape on weekends to New York City to try their luck at auditions: “We’d take the train. Or sometimes we’d even take the airplane, back when there was the Eastern Shuttle or People’s Express. It cost like $20 to fly and you could smoke on the plane. We were smoking like idiots because we thought we were really supposed to be grown-up. It was pitiful,” Affleck told Parade.
In a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, the actors revealed more details about those early days, where their system was, according to Affleck “all for one and one for all.” At that time, they not only shared an apartment, but also a bank account, Damon revealed: “In retrospect, maybe it sounds a little weird, but as long as one of us had money, we knew we wouldn’t get our electricity cut off.”
Their honor code also had a set of rules, as Damon has recounted. They were allowed to take out $10 to go to the arcade. Eventually, they also allowed themselves to buy beers. Ben Affleck reflects on the spirit of camaraderie, where there was no competition: “I think the attitude helped us in ways we couldn’t have foreseen, we always felt like we were in this together.”
In 1993, the film Geronimo, An American Legend was released, a western that received a lukewarm reception from audiences and critics, but which put Matt Damon on the map, sharing the bill with actors such as Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman. He was paid $35,000, which he deposited into their joint account, exclaiming “We’re rich!”
During that period, in the early 1990s, at their home in the Eagle Rock neighborhood, they had time to sit down and write the screenplay for the film that would change everything: Good Will Hunting. The film was released in 1997. It was directed by Gus Van Sant and starred Matt Damon as the young Will Hunting and Robin Williams as the professor who discovers his enormous talent for mathematics and presents him with a dilemma: to get away from his neighborhood friends and their prospect of a simple life, or to take advantage of his qualities to attend college.
It was nominated for nine Oscars, winning two: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Williams. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon attended the gala accompanied by their respective mothers. When it was announced that they had won the award for best original screenplay, the first thing the two actors did was hug them. Matt Damon was 28, Ben Affleck was 26. Between the years in which they shared a bank account and their Oscar, the actors had already carved a niche in the industry, but this film truly made them stars.
Since then, they have not had any more financial problems, nor have they shared an apartment or a bank account. They have collaborated on projects, though. In 2021 they released The Last Duel, starring Adam Driver and Jodie Comer, as well as themselves. The script was also theirs. They remain friends. After his lavish second wedding to Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck went on a buddy trip with, of course, Matt Damon.
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