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He made his professional acting debut in the film Mystic Pizza (1988).He came to prominence in 1997 when he wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting alongside Ben Affleck, which won them the Academy and Golden Globe awards for Best Screenplay and earned Damon a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.Variety said of his work in All the Pretty Horses: "[Damon] just doesn't quite seem like a young man who's spent his life amidst the dust and dung of a Texas cattle ranch.Nor does he strike any sparks with [Penelope] Cruz." From 2001 to 2007, Damon gained wider international recognition as part of two major film franchises.Damon supports the ONE Campaign, which is aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries.He has appeared in their print and television advertising.The Washington Post concluded, "Damon, constantly flashing his newscaster's teeth and flaunting a fake, 'Masterpiece Theatre' dialect, comes across like someone who got lost on the way to an audition for a high school production of The Pirates of Penzance." In 2006, Damon joined Robert De Niro in The Good Shepherd as a career CIA officer, and played an undercover mobster working for the Massachusetts State Police in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong police thriller Infernal Affairs.
Damon did the voice of Spirit in the animated movie Spirit Stallion of the Cimmaron (2002) and later played a conjoined twin in Stuck on You (2003), which received a 60% Rotten Tomatoes score and mixed critical reception.
Damon donates all fees from the advertisements to charity.
He, along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, David Pressman, and Jerry Weintraub, is one of the founders of Not On Our Watch Project, an organization that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur.
While at Harvard, he wrote an early treatment of the screenplay for Good Will Hunting as an exercise for an English class.
Damon was a member of the Delphic Club, one of the University's select Final Clubs. During the early 1990s, Damon and Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting (1997), a screenplay about a young mathematics genius, an extension of a screenplay he wrote for an assignment at Harvard, having integrated advice from director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman, and writer/director Kevin Smith.