Matt Damon ’92 to Receive Arts Medal
“His whopping conviction transports the audience,” exclaimed the Harvard Crimson of Matthew Damon ‘92 in its March 25, 1993 review of Lanford Wilson’s drama Burn This, produced at Winthrop House. “He slips effortlessly through bombastic tirades, inebriated Aikido, tearful outpourings of the heart and sly seduction scenes.”
But Matt Damon’s versatility as a performer—at that time also evident onscreen via small roles in the films Mystic Pizza (1988), School Ties and Geronimo: An American Legend (both 1992)—hardly prepared audiences and critics for the one-two punch of 1997’s Good Will Hunting. Recipient of nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Damon, it won two: Best Supporting Actor for Robin Williams, and Best Original Screenplay for Damon and Ben Affleck.
The rest is Hollywood history: Damon has commanded the big screen in a variety of roles, including the Bourne Identity and Ocean’s trilogies, and has won or been nominated for many awards. On Thursday, April 25, he will add another to his mantel when he receives the Harvard Arts Medal, given annually to an alumnus/a or faculty member who has achieved distinction in the arts and made a special contribution to the good of the arts.
With Ben Affleck, Damon formed the production company LivePlanet to produce film, television and new media projects, including three Emmy-nominated seasons of “Project Greenlight,” chronicling the making of independent films by first-time writers and directors. He both executive produced and appeared in the History Channel project “The People Speak,” based on a book co-written by noted historian Howard Zinn and featuring dramatic readings and performances from a number of bold-face entertainers. In addition, Damon co-founded H20 Africa, now known as Water.org, a nonprofit organization that has transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation.
Fellow Harvard-educated thespian John Lithgow ’67 will serve as host and moderator of the Arts Medal ceremony, which will include a conversation with the honoree (interspersed with clips from his films) followed by the awarding of the medal by President Drew Gilpin Faust. The event takes place at 4 pm at Sanders Theatre; admission is free but tickets are required, available through the Harvard Box Office beginning Tuesday, April 16: 617.496.2222, www.boxoffice.harvard.edu.