Matt Damon: Hollywood’s Unlikely Newest Punching Bag

Josh Duboff

Matt DamonMatt DamonMatt Damon-the "Your Best Friend's Hot Dad" of actors-has been on the receiving end of all sorts of barbs recently. At the Golden Globes last week, Damon was one of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's prominent punchlines: "Matt, on any other night, in any other room, you would be a big deal. But tonight-and don't take this the wrong way-you're basically a garbage person." Damon, of course, handled the jab like a pro; when he came out to present an award later in the night, he quipped, "It's me, the garbage man." Meanwhile, his Behind the Candelabra co-star Michael Douglas, in collecting several awards for his performance this awards season, has teased Damon repeatedly-somewhat controversially-riffing on their characters' on-screen romance.

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Now, as the The Monuments Men press cycle heats up, Damon continues to serve as a punching bag of sorts. At a junket last week, George Clooney explained-in a reveal which received a bunch of press-that he played an elaborate (weirdly intense!) prank on Damon during the filming of the movie last year. "[Clooney] took in my wardrobe by an eighth of an inch, every other day," Damon recounted. "[He] had the wardrobe department do that because he knew that I was trying to lose weight . . . This was a job where I would go back to New York, where I was living with my family, and I would come back [to film in Europe] for two weeks. And then I'd go back to New York, and every time I came back my pants were tighter, and I was like, 'Ugh, this is weird. I've been going to the gym!'"

And then People ran a report yesterday divulging further taunts-obviously thrown in jest, but still!-from the junket. From Clooney: "Casting was fun. We couldn't get Brad [Pitt], so we got Matt." And even Cate Blanchett got in on it, in her response to a question about having all of her scenes in the movie opposite Damon: "Can you imagine my disappointment? I thought I was going to be working with Bill Murray . . . I think we've aged relatively well. The last time we were together was in [The Talented Mr. Ripley], which was an entirely different endeavor, then in-between times he went and made Behind the Candelabra. Fortunately I hadn't seen that before we started working."

Did Damon-in light of this verbal assault-fight fire with fire, dishing it right back? Nope! This is what Damon said about Clooney: "It can be a little annoying being [Clooney's] pal because it's kind of like God said, 'Maybe this time I'll just give one of them everything. Let's make him handsome, and as he gets older he'll look even better!'" This is almost transgressive amiability we're dealing with.

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There are few celebrities who come off as "nicer" than Damon. And yes, yes, we know-all the jokes we've listed above were delivered in good fun, and were lobbed by people who seem to be close friends with Damon in "real life." And yes, many other celebrities-such as Clooney himself, who was the recipient of a zinger with way more bite at the Globes-deal with much worse. But this recent fad of Damon-directed demonizing (sorry) still seems, well, odd, considering his standing as one of our most genial celebrities. What did he ever do to any of them?! We feel kind of bad for him (well, as bad as you can feel for an extremely appealing, successful, and attractive movie star). Here are some theories we came up with as a potential explanation for all of this:

- Damon is so easy-going that other celebrities know he's a safe target. (He'll laugh it off!) And teasing Damon allows them to show a bit of edge or verve or "personality" (in that sanitized Hollywood way).
- Damon serves as a proxy for all of these people to work out their potentially complicated feelings toward Ben Affleck.
- Despite all appearances and all evidence to the contrary, Damon is a pretty awful dude, and everyone mentioned above just wants to take him down a peg. They're all being dead serious.
- All of this has been orchestrated by Damon in a plot to evoke feelings of sympathy in us, like a golden retriever arranging for other dogs to knock him over to elicit "awws."

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