With Argo and The Promised Land, friends Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are putting out their most political work yet. But only one of them seems to be eyeing higher office.
When Good Will Hunting was released in 1997 and its wonder boys Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were catapulted into the upper ranks of Hollywood leading men, there was little indication of how politics would come to shape the two stars' careers. The populism of that film, in which a working-class genius defeats the oppressive intellectual elite, was always evident, but its politics have become even more visible with hindsight. As the pair have matured from touted Hollywood newcomers to respected and established filmmakers, they have gradually let their true political colors fly—and, of course, the color in question is blue.
Raised in the solidly Democratic state of Massachusetts, Affleck and Damon have supported liberal candidates throughout their careers, and pundits have sometimes wondered which of them might run for office someday. Damon in the press has been a solid "no" on the idea, even when Michael Moore publicly suggested he run for president, but Affleck has said that he may eventually become a candidate. Now, the two are putting out their most political films yet: the upcoming The Promised Land and the just-released Argo, respectively. These movies and their creators' careers show the two paths that exist for smart, politically engaged celebrities: that of the bold voice for change, and that of the guy who might actually win votes. In other words, we are far more likely to one day be saluting President Gigli than President Bourne.
Damon has been more outspoken, and his liberal politics have come into sharp relief during the Obama administration. He has criticized the president from the left and made a campaign video for the Working Families Party in New York, but he ascended to liberal folk hero when he angrily spoke out for teachers during an impromptu interview at a teachers' rally earlier this year. Affleck, on the other hand, has been a vocal supporter of President Obama, defending him unreservedly recently on The O'Reilly Factor, but has largely avoided speaking out on controversial issues.