Matt Damon has been a working actor pretty much since his days in Courage Under Fire and Goods Will Hunting. But the film industry’s changing landscape soon made it difficult for Damon to do the films he was interested in.
Matt Damon didn’t act for a year because of the state of the film industry
Damon has usually enjoyed steady work in cinema that’s always kept him busy. It once wasn’t uncommon to find Damon in several films even within the same year. But the film industry has gone through significant changes throughout the years, which made studios more dependent on big-budget features with more blockbuster appeal.
In an interview with Hot Ones, Damon theorized how the decline in DVD sales and technology helped facilitate this shift.
“So what happened was the DVD was a huge part of our business, of our revenue stream,” Damon said. “Technology has just made that obsolete, and so the movies that we used to make you could afford to not make all of your money when it played in the theatre because you knew you had the DVD coming behind the release.”
The loss of DVD sales was one of many reasons studios gravitated towards higher-concept films.
“It would be like reopening the movie almost, and when that went away, that changed the type of movies that we could make,” Damon explained.
This once even affected Damon’s own work in the film industry. Damon found himself taking a long sabbatical from movies that started off as voluntary. But when he was ready to return to Hollywood, the condition of cinema at the time further delayed his comeback.
“The first six months was intentional because we moved from New York to LA, so just to be around the kids for that transition I took time off,” Damon said in a 2015 Collider interview. “And then I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to do. I mean you see what’s out there…it’s tough. The movies that have really been my bread and butter for twenty years, they don’t make them anymore. They really don’t.”
Matt Damon returned to movies with ‘The Martian’
Damon finally found the movie that he was looking for with the 2015 sci-fi film The Martian. In the Ridley Scott feature, Damon played an astronaut stranded in Mars trying to find his way back to Earth. The Oscar-winner confided that many of the truly original material started transitioning over to television. So he felt he had to jump on The Martian immediately while the opportunity was still there.
“When this came along, I went ‘how many of these movies will I be able to really do that I’ll like, that are original and aren’t just a knockoff of something else?’” Damon remembered asking himself.
What little reservations Damon did have came from the fact that he’d already appeared in a movie somewhat similar to The Martian. But the film’s director helped alleviate the actor’s concerns.
“So I went into meet [Ridley Scott], and then that was the thing that happened really quickly because I went in to have this meeting [with] him,” Damon recalled. “The first thing I said was, ‘My only hesitation is, I love this script, but I just did Interstellar and I played a dude who like was stranded on a planet by himself, and it might be weird if I take a year and a half off and then play a dude stranded on a planet.’ And I explained the movie to him and he was like, ‘The movies are totally f***ing different.’”
Matt Damon called ‘The Martian’ the biggest film of his career
The actor was already fully aware of the scale of the project while on its set.
“It’s the biggest movie I’ve ever been on,” he said.
The statement rang true for the movie financially as well. According to IMDb, The Martian is the highest grossing film Damon’s ever been in where he was the lead. Ironically, however, the highest-grossing project Damon has ever appeared in at all is Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.