When it comes to historic Hollywood friendships, few are as well-known or as enduring as that of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Close friends since childhood, the inseparable duo won an Academy Award together for their Good Will Hunting (1997) screenplay and have starred in several films together, from Dogma (1999) to The Last Duel (2021).
“This friendship has been essential and defining and so important to me in my life,” Affleck said during a conversation with Damon for Entertainment Weekly. “There were a few critical times, which are private and I don’t want to share, but where your support was so profoundly meaningful to me that I don’t think I would’ve been able to be successful without it.”
“We grew up together,” Damon told Entertainment Tonight. “We were both in love with the same thing: acting and filmmaking. I think we fed on each other’s obsession during really formative, important years, and that bonded us for life.”
The two best friends share the screen once again in Air, the new Affleck-directed film about the origins of Nike’s partnership with basketball legend Michael Jordan on the Air Jordan shoe line.
1980s: Growing Up Together
Affleck and Damon grew up together in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became friends when Damon was 10 years old and Affleck was 8. Living two blocks apart from each other, the boys attended school together and bonded over their mutual love of baseball and acting.
Affleck told Parade that he probably would not have become an actor if not for Damon. “Matt gave acting a framework, an integration into the social hierarchy at school,” Affleck said. “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. … 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.”
Even before they were professionals, Affleck and Damon appeared in a movie together, though neither can actually be seen on camera. They were both extras in the Kevin Costner baseball film Field of Dreams (1989), appearing with thousands of others in a scene filmed at the Fenway Park in Boston. Damon said they did it “just to go to Fenway.”
Early 1990s: Breaking Into Show Business
Affleck and Damon graduated in the early 1990s from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where other students described them as “drama geeks” and said they “weren’t considered cool kids,” according to People. After that, they started driving around and looking for acting jobs.
They appeared in films together from the earliest years of their career. Their first joint feature was School Ties (1992), a drama set in a 1950s prep school. They stayed next to a dump in Lowell, Massachusetts, during filming. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Affleck told Entertainment Weekly. “We literally were next to a dump and thought we were kings.”
The two also appeared together in the independent comedy film Glory Daze (1995), with Affleck in the lead role as a college student approaching graduation and Damon in a small non-speaking role.
1997: "Good Will Hunting"
Affleck and Damon were roommates when they wrote the screenplay for Good Will Hunting together. They rented a house in the Venice beach neighborhood of Los Angeles, where Affleck said “800 people came and stayed with us and got drunk. Then, we ran out of money and had to get an apartment. It was, like, everything was exciting.”
Good Will Hunting began with a 40-page script Damon wrote for a playwriting class at Harvard University. Affleck liked it and felt the two should finish it together. “I said, ‘I know, but I don’t know where it should go,’” Damon told Interview magazine. “And he said, ‘I don’t either,’ but we agreed to write it.”
The finished product became an acclaimed film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Damon, Affleck, and Robin Williams, the latter of whom won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Affleck and Damon won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay as well, which led to a memorable, high-energy acceptance speech.
Late 90s and Early 2000s: Joint Film Appearances
Affleck and Damon became A-list movie stars following Good Will Hunting, and they continue to appear alongside each other in movies, particularly in those directed by their friend and fellow filmmaker Kevin Smith.
They both played fallen angels in Smith’s religious satire comedy Dogma (1999) and appeared as fictional versions of themselves in Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), which features a comedic scene with Affleck and Damon filming a fictional sequel to Good Will Hunting.
Damon made cameos in several of Affleck’s films over the years, including the little-seen romantic comedy The Third Wheel (2002) and Smith’s dramedy Jersey Girl (2004), which featured Damon as a film industry PR executive who turns down Affleck during a job interview.
2010s: Off-Screen Support
The Affleck and Damon bromance continued well into the 2010s. The two presented at the 2017 Oscars together, produced the documentary series Project Greenlight, participated in an ongoing fake feud with comedian Jimmy Kimmel, and won the “Guys of the Decade” award at Spike TV’s Guys’ Choice Awards.
But the friendship goes beyond just fun and games. Us Weekly reported that Damon was a huge source of support for Affleck during his widely publicized struggle with sobriety, during which he checked into a rehabilitation clinic in 2018.
Affleck also credited Damon with helping get his career back on track after a negative experience with the film Justice League (2017), in which Affleck played the superhero Batman. Unhappy with his work, Affleck said conversations with Damon led him to fundamentally change the type of roles and projects he sought out.
“But really what it was is that I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like being there. I didn’t think it was interesting,” Affleck said in his conversation with Damon for Entertainment Weekly. “I talked to you about it, and you were a principal influence on that decision. I want to do the things that would bring me joy.”
2020s: New Film Projects
Affleck and Damon put their screenwriting caps back on for The Last Duel (2021), a historical action drama they co-wrote with Nicole Holofcenter. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film features Damon as a knight in 1330s England, with Affleck in a supporting role as the villainous Count Pierre d’Alençon.
This month, Damon and Affleck appear on-screen together again in Air, based on the true story of how Nike signed basketball legend Michael Jordan to the Air Jordan shoe line partnership. Affleck directed the film and portrays Nike CEO Phil Knight, while Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, the sports marketing executive who made the deal happen.
The Los Angeles premiere of Air was held at the Regency Village Theatre, where Damon noted that Good Will Hunting had its own premiere 26 years earlier. When asked to reflect on his lifelong friendship and partnership with Affleck, Damon replied: “We’re real lucky guys.”
Colin McEvoy joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.