Matt Damon has molded a splendid legacy in his decades-spanning career. Certainly, Damon is now one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. However, like most celebrities, he had to face his fair share of competition in the industry as well.
The Martian actor once crossed paths with Fight Club actor Edward Norton as a contender for Gregory Hoblit’s 1996 movie Primal Fear. Of course, it was not the only time the duo would face off against each other for a role, but the movie definitely changed the course of the actors’ lives.
Edward Norton’s Breakthrough Role Seriously Wounded Matt Damon
Both Edward Norton and Matt Damon were rising stars at the time of the making of Primal Fear and they were desperate for some bigger roles with potential impact. Norton had previously worked in several minor roles but he needed a breakthrough and that’s when he asked casting director Deborah Aquila for an opportunity. Norton once said (via Daily Actors),
“I sent a fax to her [Aquila] at Paramount. Dating myself. Trying to desperately say I was, [that] you saw me for this animated short in front of an independent at Sundance, or something like that, and I’d love to get in [for an audition].”
“When I went in to audition for Primal Fear, I asked if I could come into the room. Then, Deb came into the room, and I was sitting on the floor by the couch in the scene in the prison cell. Deb took a look at me and grasped that I didn’t want to chat, that I just wanted to get into it. She came over, pushed the table aside, and sat down on the floor with me. I looked at her and realized, ‘There is no assistant; She doesn’t have a script in her hand. She’s sitting down to do the scene with me. So, let’s go.’ And she did.”
Among “thousands and thousands of people for that part” Damon was also in the mix and he really wanted that. But when he lost the role to Norton, he was devastated, however, it inspired the actor to create something beautiful that pushed him through the doors of the Oscars.
Losing Primal Fear Inspired Matt Damon to Create Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting, without a doubt, is one of the best movies of Damon’s career. But before that, the actor wanted to have a taste of movies that eventually created a mark in the critically acclaimed movie list which include Dead Poets Society and Primal Fear. The actor auditioned for both movies but failed to secure the roles to his name. But Primal Fear had a lasting impact on the 52-year-old.
Damon told Off The Camera Show,
“You know it’s like when primal fear came along and everyone knew I mean, I literally spent money on a dialect coach that I didn’t have because there were two different dialects in them and I was like I gotta work on this and cut because it was clear that whoever got that role was going to blow up. And that was one of the things that was really the impetus behind Ben [Affleck] and I writing Good Will Hunting and focusing on it was because when primal fear when Edward Norton got primal fear we went like there’s not going to be another one of those that’s going to come around like we got to do our own thing.”
Later, Norton lost Francis Ford Coppola’s 1997 movie The Rainmaker role to Damon. However, The Incredible Hulk actor was not particularly interested in it as much as his agent was. He went to do American History X instead. In 1998, the actors collaborated on John Dahl’s Rounders.
Primal Fear is available for streaming on Paramount+.