Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have been A-list actors for nearly 20 years. Having starred in films such as Good Will Hunting and The Last Duel, they’ve proven their versatility and skill on the big screen numerous times. 

However, when they were first getting started, Damon and Affleck both struggled to land roles in the movies they really desired, many of which went on to become major successes.

In fact, Damon and Affleck both missed out on an opportunity to star in The Dead Poets Society, which was a monster hit. To add insult to injury, the young stars had to spend the entire summer selling tickets to the movie. 

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck unsuccessfully auditioned for ‘The Dead Poets Society’

Damon detailed the challenges of getting roles in films such as The Dead Poets Society during a resurfaced 2020 interview with The Off Camera Show.

“It’s a total feast or famine business — a great example being Dead Poets Society. Ben and I got close on that,” Damon recalled. “We both auditioned, we both got called back … we read that and I was like, ‘This is a f****** amazing movie, and I was probably 17 or 18.”

They had to sell tickets to ‘The Dead Poets Society’ for a whole summer after it came out

Even though they both auditioned well, they were passed over for Ethan Hawke, another talented actor. To make matters worse, they ended up having to sell tickets to the movie for an entire summer. 

“We didn’t get it. We ended up having the summer job of working at the Janus Theater in Harvard Square, which doesn’t exist anymore. But it played one movie f****** movie the entire summer. And it was Dead Poets Society,” Damon said.

After that experience, Damon realized just how fickle the Hollywood casting process can be, as well as how easily the pendulum swings between success and failure. 

“So you go from the possibility of being in the movie to the guy tearing the ticket and watching people come out crying because they’re so moved,” he said. “And watching Ethan Hawke f****** get nominated for an Academy Award. And it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s the range of possibility for you if you go into that business,” he said.

Matt Damon says landing roles is largely based on auditioning and luck

Even though he didn’t get the role, Damon remained optimistic because he knew he was taking steps in the right direction. 

“Having said that, we did get called back,” Damon said. “So the business was telling us, ‘Hey, it didn’t work out this time, but you’re doing some things right.’ And then you need to get extraordinarily lucky.” 

In the same interview, he noted that the biggest thing that separated him from other actors was his work ethic. Staying persistent with the craft has allowed him to become one of the most successful actors of his generation.

“I think my one skill is that I’ll outwork anybody,” Damon said. “I’ll work harder, especially at that age, right? Where certainly starting out, Ben and I would go to auditions where kids would be there with their parents. Like, their mom was making them go, because their mom had some unrealized fantasy about doing it and was trying to live it through the kid. I’m gonna beat that guy, I want it way more than him, right?”

The Last Duel hits theaters on October 15. 

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