If there is one person more important than wife Jennifer Garner and their daughter Violet, 22 months, in Ben Affleck’s life, it is Matt Damon. It’s no secret the longtime buddies are best friends, as evidenced by their joint Hawaiian vacation in June, but how close are they?

Matt is credited for saving his Boston brethren from one of the most depressing times in his life — his brief tenure at the University of Vermont, where Ben enrolled to follow his girlfriend who was attending another school, only to discover she wasn’t all that loyal. That unfortunate turn of events was one of many for Ben.

“Then, when I was playing an intramural basketball game, I fractured my hip. I was miserable,” he tells Parade magazine. “I was now on crutches in the coldest university in America, living in the dorm farthest from the main campus, and I didn’t know a soul, nobody! I ate by myself in the cafeteria, and my girlfriend had a strange guy answering her phone! I hadn’t been to Spanish class in five weeks.

“I called Matt. ‘You’ve got to pick me up! I can’t walk that well. Come and get me now!’ Matt was there in six hours. That was the last I ever saw of the University of Vermont. I never went back. I don’t think I have any credits. It was not money well spent.”

The Bourne Ultimatum star has been there for Ben from the beginning, forging a friendship with the lonely kid who lived around the block. Sharing a love for acting, it was clear from the beginning that they were two peas in a pod.

“Before Matt, I was by myself,” Ben says. “None of the other kids knew what it was I did, how it worked, or anything. All of a sudden I had this friend, Matt, and he gets it and wants to do it and thinks it’s interesting and wants to talk about it. Soon both of us are doing it.”

This coming December will mark the 10-year anniversary of the release of Good Will Hunting, their star-making collaboration that brought the two screenwriting Oscars. They have yet to work together again, but perhaps a future project would involve Matt in front of the camera and Ben, 35, behind it?

“I’m looking forward to directing,” Ben, whose directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, hits theaters Oct. 19. “I love it. I do have a better sense of myself than I did before. In 1998 [after the success of Good Will Hunting], everything was so new. I was trying to figure it out as I went along. It was trial and error. Eventually you go through this stuff and you figure some things out. A lot of it you learn by mistakes, some of it by success. I feel good, and maybe a little bit smarter. I have a strong sense of where I want to go.”

 

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