The Broadcast Film Critics Association announced today that Matt Damon will receive its Joel Siegel Award on Jan. 14 at the 16th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. Damon appeared in three high-profile films in 2010, including the Coen brothers’ current hit Western True Grit, as well as Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone. I specifically mention the directors because since Damon burst upon the scene with 1997’s Good Will Hunting, he’s shrewdly partnered up with an impressive string of accomplished directors for what his pal Ben Affleck has called “the world’s greatest apprenticeship”: Gus Van Sant, Steven Spielberg, Anthony Minghella, Robert Redford, Steven Soderbergh, Greengrass, Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Eastwood, and the Coens, just to name a few.
He keeps extremely good company, and at only 40, he’s crafted a brand for himself that never seems to disappoint his fans — even if it doesn’t always deliver at the box office. In a word, it’s “smart.” Damon’s films are intelligent and have integrity, and his very name attached to a project lends it a type of credibility that many bigger “movie stars” envy. When he does an action film, it’s Bourne. When he cameos on a TV show, it’s 30 Rock. When he signs on for a science-fiction movie, it’s with Neill Blomkamp and Jodie Foster.
Next up for Damon is Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, and at some point, he will probably take all the lessons he’s culled from watching the masters that have directed him and follow Affleck behind the camera. It would be a waste if he didn’t. (Damon has expressed the desire to direct, and there have been reports that Damon might direct Affleck and himself in The Trade, a project about two wife-swapping New York Yankees pitchers from the 1970s.)
Can you think of any other actor who’s put together a more impressive and varied string of director collaborations? (Because I’m only coming up with Jack Nicholson in the 1970s.) And when Damon does finally direct a film, which director’s fingerprints will be most evident? My guess is his films will look and feel like a combination of Soderbergh and Van Sant. Thoughts?