The English dubs of Studio Ghibli movies are littered with Hollywood actors – from the Fanning sisters in My Neighbor Totoro, to Michael Keaton as Porco Rosso, to Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, to Emily Blunt and John Krasinski in The Wind Rises and best of all – Christian Bale as emo dreamboy Howl. But one big Hollywood star who may have easily escaped you as a Studio Ghibli voice actor is Matt Damon.
Matt Damon’s cameos are now almost as legendary as his actual proper acting roles. He’s cropped up in comedy movies The Third Wheel, EuroTrip and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, as well as in Deadpool 2, Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move and in numerous Kevin Smith movies. His most famous recurring cameo is probably in the MCU movies as an actor who plays Loki in the play-within-the-film.
Less well-known in the Damon oeuvre is his voiceover roles in animated movies, but there are a few good ones – such as Titan AE, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Happy Feet Two. In 2009, Damon joined the English dub voice cast of Studio Ghibli movie Ponyo, alongside Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, and Cate Blanchett. Damon plays Koichi, the father of main character Sosuke.
Although Hayao Miyazaki had been directing movies since 1979, including Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke – it was 2001’s Spirited Away that massively broke through to international audiences. After this, Disney took an interest and started employing Hollywood actors for the English dubs in a bid to try to generate US success at the box office.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, while Spirited Away made $265 million worldwide, only $10 million of this was in the US. Similarly, Howl’s Moving Castle made $230 million worldwide, but less than $5 million of that came from the US.
Pixar‘s John Lasseter produced the English version of Ponyo; “I’ve wanted Disney to distribute all of his films. I want everybody to see all his films, because they’re so inventive and fantastic.” Miyazaki had a extremely typical Miyazaki response; “Since John (Lasseter) is right beside me, it’s hard for me to say this, but I’m not that concerned whether it’s going to be a success or not. I came here to show that I am responsible for what I made.”
Miyazaki has made his first movie in a decade, called How Do You Live? which comes out in Japan on July 14, 2023. Check out our guide to the best anime movies.