They met as children, in the eighties. Ben Affleck was eight years old and Matt Damon was 10. The two lived a few blocks apart in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), and their mothers thought they could hit it off. They were not wrong. They both liked basketball and acting. Furthermore, they ended up attending the same institute. The decisive moment, the one that would make them best friends, was when an older boy went to beat up Matt Damon. And Ben Affleck chimed in: “That was the big moment. He put himself in danger to defend me. That’s a good friend,” Matt Damon himself, 52, recounted on the Conan O’Brien show at the end of 2019.
Ben Affleck, 50, later revealed that he would never have pursued his acting vocation if he hadn’t met Damon: “As a teenager it’s only natural to have friends with common interests to fit in with. Before Matt, I was alone. Acting was a solitary activity, and I would do things, I would act on a little TV show or something, and no one would understand it. None of the other children knew what he was doing. All of a sudden I made this friend, Matt, and he got it and he wanted to try it and he liked it and he wanted to talk about it all the time. And all of a sudden, we both got into it.” Although it seems incredible now, Affleck and Damon were not “the cool ones” of the institute, but “the theater geeks”, according to what Damon’s brother, Kyle, told the magazine People in 2002, when Ben Affleck was voted Sexiest Man of the Year.
If we talk about long-term relationships in a world as changing as the film industry, we usually think of long-lasting romances: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Meryl Streep and Don Gummer. In English, there is a word to define the relationship of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck: bromancewhich comes from the diminutive bro, or brother, and Romance. When they were still in their senior years of high school, Damon and Affleck would escape to New York City on the weekends to try their hand at the casting: “We took the train. Or sometimes we even took the plane, if we could find a cheap flight. It cost us about $20 to fly and we could smoke. We both smoked like idiots because we thought that was what adults really did. It was unfortunate,” revealed Ben Affleck.
It didn’t take long for them to land small roles. In 1992, the two landed a role in the film Private school, starring the last Oscar winner for best leading actor, Brendan Fraser. They still did not have enough money. Or rather, they did, but, according to Affleck, they thought they were rich — they were paid between $35,000 and $40,000 each — and they melted it all down in a couple of months, renting different houses in Los Angeles: “We rented a house in Venice Beach and 800 people came, stayed with us and got drunk. Then we ran out of money and had to get a smaller apartment. Everything seemed exciting to us. We live in Glendale and Eagle Rock, and we live in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Venice Beach, at the Hollywood Bowl… We got kicked out of some houses. And on other occasions we had to move, going up or down a category depending on whether we had more or less money.”
In a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, the actors have revealed more details about those beginnings, where their system was, according to Affleck “all for one and one for all”: “We helped each other. It was a bit of ‘you’re not going to be alone, I’m not going to be alone and we’re going to do this together.’ At that time, they not only shared a flat, but also a bank account, Damon has revealed: “In retrospect, it may sound a little strange, but as long as one of us had money, we knew that the power would not be cut off.”
His code of honor also had a series of rules, as Damon has recounted: “We were allowed to take out $10 to go to the arcade. Over time, we also allowed ourselves to buy beers, which worked regularly. Ben Affleck reflects on his part about the spirit of camaraderie, where there was no competition: “I think the attitude helped us in ways we couldn’t have anticipated, we always felt like we were in this together. He’d be like, ‘Hey, I want to apply for this role, but I think you should apply too.’ The film was released in 1993. Geronimo, a legend, a western that received a lukewarm reception from the public and critics, but which put Matt Damon on the map, sharing the bill with actors such as Robert Duvall or Gene Hackman. He charged $35,000 for the tape. He put them in the common account: “I looked at Ben and I said: ‘We are overflowing! We have money for a year!”
During that period, in the early 1990s, at their home in the Eagle Rock neighborhood, they had time to sit down and write the script for the movie that would change everything: The unstoppable Will Hunting. The film was released in 1997. It was directed by Gus Van Sant and starred Matt Damon as the young cleaner Will Hunting and Robin Williams as the psychologist who, after discovering his enormous talent for mathematics while working cleaning the hallway of college, presents him with a dilemma: get away from his neighborhood friends, including Affleck, and their perspective of a simple life, or take advantage of his qualities to attend college. It was nominated for nine Oscars, taking two: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Williams. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon attended the gala accompanied by their respective mothers. When they 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 they shared a bank account and their Oscars, the actors had already earned a humble place in the industry, but this movie made them stars.
Since then they have not had financial problems again, nor have they shared a flat or a checking account. They have collaborated on projects again. In 2021 they premiered the last duel, starring Adam Driver and Jodie Comer, as well as themselves. The script was also his. They continue to be friends. After his lavish second wedding to Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck went on a buddy trip, of course, with Matt Damon.