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Matt Dillon is an American actor known for his tough guy roles, particularly the adaptations of S.E. Hinton's books including Rumble Fish and The Outsiders.
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The Greasers’ main rivals are a group of rich kids known as the Soches. When a Greaser kills one of the Soches (played by Leif Garrett), the conflict between the two groups escalates.
Released that same year, Dillon played Rusty James, a young thug, in Rumble Fish (1983). Part of his character’s struggle in the film was to live up to the reputation of his older brother, the Motorcycle Boy, played by Mickey Rourke. Diane Lane appeared in the film as Rusty’s girlfriend and Dennis Hopper played his father. While critics had mixed opinions about both of Coppola’s adaptations, the films proved popular with movie-goers.
The Flamingo Kid (1984) was also a big hit for Dillon. In this dramatic comedy, he played a recent high school grad who takes a summer job as a cabana boy at an affluent beach club. Critics were wowed by his subtle portrayal of a young man trying to figure out his future as he pushed and pulled by two very different examples—the wealthy, but morally suspect car dealer (Richard Crenna) and his own humble, hard-working father (Hector Elizondo).
After The Flamingo Kid, Dillon worked on several film projects but none matched his earlier successes. He eventually graduated to more adult roles, turning in a stellar performance as a junkie criminal on a road trip in Drugstore Cowboy (1989) directed by indie auteur Gus Van Sant.
In the 1990s, Dillon took on a variety of parts. He played a drummer of a grunge rock band in the romantic comedy Singles (1992) with Bridget Fonda appearing as his neglected girlfriend. Rounding out the cast were Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick among others in this tale about twenty-somethings finding their way in life and love in Seattle. Dillon went on to play a troubled schizophrenic in The Saint of Fort Washington (1993) with Danny Glover and a FBI agent in Golden Gate (1994).
Reuniting with Gus Van Sant, Dillon starred opposite Nicole Kidman in To Die For (1995) as her oblivious husband Larry. He teamed up with Illeana Douglas for the musical drama Grace of My Heart (1996), in which he played a Brian Wilson-type character. In one of his most memorable comic turns, Dillon had a supporting role in the box office hit There’s Something About Mary (1998) as a bumbling private eye who falls for Cameron Diaz’s character. Dillon and Diaz had been involved for several years, but their relationship soon fizzled out after finishing the film.
Dillon seemed to disappear off the pop culture radar for a time, but, in fact, he was working a very personal project. For several years, he worked on the crime thriller City of Ghosts (2002), which he wrote, directed, and starred in. The independent film failed to garner much attention, but Dillon told People magazine that the project was worth all of the effort he put into it. “I wish more people saw it and appreciated it but, hey, I have nothing but great memories of that experience.”
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