Oscar Actors: Dillon, Matt–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Emmy Nom)

Updated June 20, 2020
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Matthew Raymond Dillon (born February 18, 1964) made his feature film debut in Over the Edge (1979) and became a teen idol by starring in My Bodyguard (1980), Little Darlings (1980), Tex (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), The Outsiders (1983) and The Flamingo Kid (1984).

From the late 1980s onward, Dillon achieved success, starring in Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Singles (1992), The Saint of Fort Washington (1993), To Die For (1995), Beautiful Girls (1996), In & Out (1997), There’s Something About Mary (1998), and Wild Things (1998).

In the 2000s, he made his directing debut with City of Ghosts (2002) and starred in Factotum (2005), You, Me and Dupree (2006), Nothing but the Truth (2008), Sunlight Jr. (2013) and The House That Jack Built (2018).

For Crash (2004), he won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He had been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for narrating Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

In 2015, he starred in the first season of the FOX television series Wayward Pines, for which he was nominated for a Saturn Award.

Dillon was born in New Rochelle, New York, to Mary Ellen, a homemaker, and Paul Dillon, a portrait painter and sales manager for Union Camp, a toy bear manufacturer. His paternal grandmother was the sister of comic strip artist Alex Raymond, the creator of Flash Gordon. Dillon is the second of 6 children with one sister and four brothers, one of whom is actor Kevin Dillon. He is of mostly Irish descent, with some Scottish and German ancestry.

Raised in a close-knit Roman Catholic family, he grew up in Mamaroneck, New York.

Feature Debut:

In 1978, Jane Bernstein and a friend were helping director Jonathan Kaplan cast the violent teen drama Over the Edge when they found Dillon cutting class at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont. Dillon auditioned and made his debut in the film. The film received a regional, limited theatrical release in May 1979, and grossed only $200,000.


Dillon’s strong performance led to the teenage sex comedy Little Darlings, in which Kristy McNichol’s character loses her virginity to a boy from the camp, played by Dillon, and the more serious teen dramedy My Bodyguard, where he played a high-school bully opposite Chris Makepeace. The films, released in March and July 1980, respectively, were box office successes and raised Dillon’s profile among teenage audiences.

Another of Dillon’s early roles was in the Jean Shepherd PBS special “The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters.” The only available copies are stored at UCLA, where legal dispute makes it unavailable.

In Liar’s Moon, he played Jack Duncan, a poor Texas boy madly in love with a rich banker’s daughter.

In the early 1980s, Dillon also had prominent roles in adaptations of S. E. Hinton novels: Tex (1982), The Outsiders (1983) and Rumble Fish (1983). All three films were shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hinton’s hometown. The Outsiders and Rumble Fish had Dillon working with Francis Ford Coppola and Diane Lane.  He followed those up with The Flamingo Kid in 1984.

Broadway Debut:

He made his Broadway debut with the play The Boys of Winter in 1985.

Dillon did voiceover in the 1987 docu “Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.” In 1985, Dillon was namechecked in the lyrics of the Roger Daltrey song ‘After The Fire’ (written by Pete Townshend).

In 1989, Dillon won critical acclaim for his performance as a drug addict in Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy.”

Dillon continued to work in Singles (1992). He had a resurgence when playing Nicole Kidman’s husband in Van Sant’s “To Die For” (1995), starring roles in Wild Things (1998) and There’s Something About Mary (1998), for which he received an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain.

In 2002, he wrote and directed “City of Ghosts,” starring himself, James Caan and Gérard Depardieu. In 2005, he starred in Factotum, a film adaptation of an autobiography by Charles Bukowski.

He received critical praise and earned Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe and Oscar Award nominations for his role in Crash, co-written and directed by Paul Haggis.

In 2005, Dillon co-starred in Disney’s Herbie: Fully Loaded and on March 11, 2006 hosted Saturday Night Live, impersonating Greg Anderson and Rod Serling in sketches.

In July 2006, Dillon starred in the comedy You, Me and Dupree, opposite Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson. On September 29, 2006, Dillon was honored with Premio Donostia prize in the San Sebastián Festival.

Docu Narrator

Dillon contributed his voice as the narrator, Sal Paradise, in an audiobook version of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. In 2006, he narrated Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos.

Dillon appeared in several music videos during his career, as a detective in Madonna’s Bad Girl music video which also stars Christopher Walken. Dillon appeared in the 1987 music video for “Fairytale of New York” by the Irish folk-punk band The Pogues playing a cop who escorts lead singer Shane MacGowan into the “drunk tank”. In 2007, the band Dinosaur Jr. hired Dillon to direct the video for their single “Been There All The Time” from the album Beyond. That year, he guest-starred on The Simpsons episode “Midnight Towboy”. Early in 2015 he played the role of a Secret Service agent in the FOX 10-episode series Wayward Pines.

In 2018, Dillon played the lead role in the Lars von Trier thriller “The House That Jack Built.”

Dillon is collector of Latin music, with large collection of vinyl, including a library of Cuban 78s.[