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Why You Haven't Seen Matt Damon In Movies For A While

Matt Damon is far and away one of the biggest box office draws to emerge from the 90s, first exploding onto the A-list with his role in 1997's Good Will Hunting. Aside from 2019's Ford v Ferrari, however, it might occur to you that you haven't really seen him in a whole lot of projects lately. Some bit roles, yes — most famously as melodramatic theater pseudo-Loki in Thor: Ragnarok — but not those big, meaty lead roles his red-carpet status usually affords him. 

Damon's last lead role before Ford vs. Ferrari was the 2017 Coen Brothers film Suburbicon, which means he dipped out of full-time projects for almost three years. That's a long while to not be up-front in the public eye; even high-profile actors can be subject to Hollywood's short half-lives of relevance. Brad Pitt, A-list contemporary of Damon, has made news by announcing he's largely stepping away from acting as he hits his mid-fifties; is that same life cycle slowdown a part of Damon's future, too? Here's why you haven't seen Matt Damon in so many leading roles in the past few years.

Matt Damon has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes

You may not have seen much of him, but Damon has been plenty busy; he has largely been working on projects from the other side of the camera the last few years, usually as an executive producer. This isn't exactly new for him — he has EP credits stretching all the way back to 2002 — but the projects have certainly grown bigger and higher-profile. "Executive producer" can mean many different things, but it still means a lot of work, meetings, and approval processes coming up from the lower rungs of the production food chain.

Damon has also done some pivoting away from fiction in favor of documentaries; 2017 brought the release of Bending the Arc, a documentary film about the creation of Partners In Health, a non-profit devoted to expanding healthcare access to the impoverished. He also has his fingers in a lot of third-world charity pies — not the least of which is his own, Water.org, which is dedicated to providing consistent access to clean water worldwide in the face of both poverty and climate change. It's all still very much part of the Hollywood lifestyle, just not as public — and if you had lived through the late '90s and early '00s as a sex symbol, you might want a little privacy, too.

A death in the family forced Matt Damon to take some time off

A couple years of Damon's faded public presence can also be explained by a personal event: his father's death from cancer at the end of 2016. Damon explained in an interview with The Talks: "I had done five movies in a row — The Martian, Jason Bourne, The Great Wall, Suburbicon and Downsizing all back to back — so I had promised my family I was going to take a year off, but then that year turned into a year in a hospital with my dad, which didn't feel a year off for anybody. So I took another year off after that. We really needed to do it, and it was a tough year." 

What should have been a simple, quick sabbatical after a very intense run of work — including full-time international work on The Great Wall, which was a Chinese production  turned into a difficult time that Damon needed to recover from all over again. Nobody should have to work under those circumstances, and Damon is fortunate in his successful career to be able to take some time off with little consequence, financially or in terms of his public profile.

Will Matt Damon be back on the big screen soon?

If you're concerned that this means Damon will be taking a backseat in the movie-making sphere, don't worry. When asked by The Talks if he was considering giving up acting, he was emphatic in his answer: "No, I [will] still keep acting... ultimately, I love filmmaking because it speaks to that impulse that we have to tell stories to each other. It's a very human impulse that we have had since we were drawing pictures on cave walls, saying, 'Hey look, the buffalo almost got me. My friends and I got the buffalo instead. Can you relate to that?'"

Indeed, Damon has a couple of films in the works right now. His biggest upcoming project by far reunites him with Ben Affleck onscreen for the first time in years. They have co-written and will co-star in the Ridley Scott-directed film The Last Duel, a story about a 14th century knight and his squire put at odds over allegations of sexual assault against the knight's wife. It will have an initial limited release on Christmas 2020, with a planned wider release in January.

The other pending project is a drama entitled Stillwater, which will star Damon as an Oklahoman father who is forced to leave his oil rig job for France after his daughter is accused of murder; he will learn to expand his perspective on the world as he struggles to help exonerate his child. Tom McCarthy of Spotlight fame will be directing, and Abigail Breslin (Zombieland: Double Tap) will portray Damon's estranged daughter. Filming wrapped in 2019, and while the flick is still in post-production, it is expected to be released sometime in 2020.