When Stanislavsky decreed, “there are no small parts, only small actors,” Matt Damon was listening. In a career that started with one line in “Mystic Pizza,” Damon has risen to the ranks of the A-list. Yet as Damon’s star has gotten bigger, the roles have gotten smaller — most recently, the “Bourne” star reaffirmed his status as king of cameos with his brief appearance in “Che: Part II,” in which he plays Father Schwartz, a German priest fluent in Spanish who attempts to negotiate with rebel forces in Bolivia, with screen time of less than a minute. Though his finest pint-sized performance likely went down on the small screen last year in Sarah Silverman’s serenade “I’m Fucking Matt Damon,” no one has done more random onscreen favors for friends than Damon, who has been around the world more than Jason Bourne and worn crazier get-ups than the “Ocean’s” series’ Linus Caldwell in his briefest of roles. In case you blinked, here’s his cameography:
“Finding Forrester” (2000)
Appropriately enough, Gus Van Sant closed out his golden age — a double bill of this film and “Good Will Hunting,” marked less for being an artistic highpoint for the director than by their shared sepia-toned cinematography — with a last-minute appearance by Damon as the executor of reclusive author William Forrester’s will. Easily the least interesting of his cameos (but forgivable for being his first), Damon channels his “Rainmaker” days, playing the lawyer who bestows Forrester’s protégé Jamal with his apartment and belongings, in a scene more symbolic as a bookend to “Hunting” than anything else. Also, Damon’s cameo pales in comparison to the bizarro appearance midway through the film by Joey Buttafuoco as a security guard.
“The Majestic” (2001)
By the time Frank Darabont was casting his Blacklist-era drama about a screenwriter named Peter Appleton, who’s mistaken for a war hero named Luke Trimble after a car accident wipes away his memory, Damon had already played one amnesiac in “The Bourne Identity” and turned down playing another in “Paycheck.” He also turned Darabont down and left the heavy lifting to Jim Carrey. But when Darabont needed a voice to read a letter from the real Luke Trimble, he called up Damon, who obliged and wound up playing the central character in the film, anyway.
“The Third Wheel” (2002)
When the largesse of “Good Will Hunting” allowed for Damon and Ben Affleck to create their own production company, Live Planet, Damon wisely stayed out of the casting calls for the films they produced — with one exception. Although he steered clear of being a guinea pig in one of the “Project Greenlight” films, he couldn’t avoid a last minute appearance as Denise Richards’ emotionally fragile ex-boyfriend Kevin in this ill-fated romantic comedy that went direct-to-DVD. Playing the kind of jerk he faced off with in “Hunting,” Damon makes a bad night worse for Richards’ Diana and her date, Stanley (Luke Wilson) after they hit a bum on the street who then bum feels compelled to chaperone their date. It’s worth mentioning the plot since Damon, compared to Affleck, who gamely suffers through a full-blown supporting role, gets off relatively easy.