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Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s friendship spans 4 decades. How it all began

The childhood friends from Massachusetts cemented their star statuses with “Good Will Hunting” — and have been working together ever since.
/ Source: TODAY

What are the odds that two young boys from Cambridge, Massachusetts, would become best friends, pursue careers in Hollywood, win multiple Academy Awards and start a production company together? It’s not likely, but it happened to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

The two New Englanders have one of the most legendary friendships in Hollywood and have gone on to make a handful of significant movies together, including “Good Will Hunting,” “Air” and “The Last Duel.”

Here’s a look at how Affleck and Damon’s friendship over the years, from their youthful days in Boston, to their successful Hollywood nights. 

Early 1980s: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck meet 

Matt Damon, born 1970, and Ben Affleck, born 1972, grew up down the street from each other in Cambridge, Affleck told Parade magazine in 2007. The pair met when they were 10 and 8 years old, respectively, and they became fast friends after they discovered they shared a mutual love for baseball and movies. 

Affleck said that Damon was one of the first people who really helped him taking acting seriously. 

“As a teenager, the natural thing is to have friends who have common interests and so you fit together seamlessly. Before Matt, I was by myself. Acting was a solo activity where I’d just goof and do something, act in a little TV show or something, and no one understood it,” he told Parade. “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.”

While appearing on “Conan” in 2009, Damon told Conan O’Brien that he and Affleck really cemented their friendship when Affleck defended him in a fight at school. 

“I remember that was, like, a big moment,” Damon said. “He’ll put himself in a really bad spot for me. This is a good friend.”

In that same interview with Parade, Affleck revealed that he and Damon would take the train together down to New York to go on auditions. Damon was just 16 and Affleck was 14. 

He noted that sometimes they would take a $20 flight to New York because they could smoke on the plane: “We were smoking like idiots because we thought we were really supposed to be grown-up. It was pitiful.”

"Good Will Hunting" New York City Premiere
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon at the 1997 premiere of "Good Will Hunting" in New York City.Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1989: Damon and Affleck become co-stars in “Field of Dreams”

In 1989, Damon and Affleck both appeared as uncredited extras in “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner. 

Shortly after the pair started booking small gigs together, they opened a shared bank account while they were still in high school, Damon said on “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” so they could help each other fund their trips to New York for auditions. 

“You were allowed to go to New York with the money,” Damon said on the podcast. “You were allowed to take out $10 and get quarters and go to the arcade and play video games.”

After they graduated high school, they remained close friends while Damon attended Harvard University, and then Affleck went to the University of Vermont two years later. 

Just three years after the pair appeared in “Field of Dreams,” they both booked roles in the 1992 movie “School Ties,” in which Damon has a lead role alongside Brendan Fraser and Affleck has a supporting one.

In 1995, they both starred in the film “Glory Days” — and by that point, the two had both made names for themselves in Hollywood. 

1996: Damon and Affleck write the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”

After the two started earning a living wage from acting, they bought a house in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles — where Affleck told Forbes they blew all their money — and began writing the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.”

The movie, which stars Damon and Affleck alongside Robin Williams and Minnie Driver, was released in 1997, and the pair were nearly immediately thrust into the Hollywood limelight. 

The movie received multiple Academy Award nominations in 1998, and Affleck and Damon won the Oscar for best original screenplay. 

“I just said to Matt, ‘Losing would suck and winning would be really scary.’ And it’s really, really scary,” Affleck said in their acceptance speech. 

The pair went on to make more movies and shows together in the coming years, including “Dogma” (1999), “Project Greenlight” (2001-2005) and “The Third Wheel” (2002). Damon also made a brief appearance in Affleck’s film “Jersey Girl,” which also stars Affleck’s now wife, Jennifer Lopez. 

In 2010, Damon accepted the the 24th American Cinematheque Award in Los Angeles, where Affleck and his wife at the time, Jennifer Garner, presented the award to him on stage. She referred to their friendship as a “Hollywood bromance.”

That same year, Affleck made “The Town,” set in their hometown of Boston. Damon wasn’t in this film and folks speculated that the two had beef — but that wasn’t the case. In that same interview on the Bill Simmons Podcast, Affleck said, point blank, they just didn’t have the funds to hire Damon. 

2017: Damon said his father’s death “changed” both him and Affleck

In 2017, Damon’s father, a man both he and Affleck were close with, passed away. Damon said on a 2023 episode of “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” that going through that experience together gave them both perspective.

“After my dad passed in 2017 — and Ben was very, very close with him — it changed something in us, I think,” Damon said. “You start to see the end game and you start to feel like, ‘I want to make every second count. I don’t want to fritter away time anymore.’”

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck at the Venice International Film Festival for the premiere of "The Last Duel" in 2021.Stephane Cardinale / Corbis via Getty Images

2022 - present: The revival of Bennifer, and Affleck and Damon release “Air”

Affleck and Damon are still the best of friends today — so it only makes sense that Damon was the first person the media turned to when rumors buzzed in 2021 of a rekindled romance between Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. (The pair got together in 2002 before calling off their engagement in 2004.)

While appearing on TODAY, Damon kept his lips sealed about the rumors, staying loyal to his childhood pal. 

“There’s not enough liquor in the world for you to get me to say something about that,” he told Hoda and Savannah when they sneakily asked about the potential romance. “It’s a fascinating story. I hope it’s true. I love them both. … That would be awesome.”

Fast forward to present day: Lopez and Affleck (“Bennifer,” if you will) have been married for over a year. As for Damon and Affleck, the duo have continued to launch into new projects, including the 2023 film “Air,” a movie based on true events starring both Damon and Affleck as Nike execs who acquire a deal with Michael Jordan.

Damon told Sunday TODAY’s Willie Geist that working with Affleck on “Air” was “great” because of their bond.

“In the movie business and in theater, they’ve developed a whole vocabulary for how to talk to somebody — basically, how to tell somebody they’re sucking. We can just say, ‘You suck.’ Which is really a gift because you get through the bulls--- faster,” Damon said of Affleck.

Now, the pair share their own production company — Artists Equity with RedBird Capital Partners — where Affleck is the Chief Executive Officer and Damon is the Chief Content Officer.