“Matt has been in so many great movies in his career, and I don’t think anybody realizes it’s all the same guy, because he’s such a chameleon,” Ain’t It Cool News.
A Chicago native, Matt O’Leary started his career by modeling until the age nine. At that time he decided to sign up with an acting agency. Matt auditioned for HOME ALONE 3 and out of 4,000 kids got down to the final eight. He ultimately lost the role to Alex D. Linz.
“I went on auditions for commercials and never got one. I did a taped interview for a Disney TV show that never got picked up, but that got me other auditions because my agent knew other people there that would handle me,” Matt admits to in an interview with Scholastic School Zone, “Now when I get rejected, I do exactly what my dad told me: just let it go and other movies will come.”
Matt eventually went on to appear in guest roles on such television shows as THE FEARING MIND, EARLY EDITION, and TURKS. In 2000, he finally lucked out with Disney and received his first starring role in the Disney Channel Original Movie MOM’S GOT A DATE WITH A VAMPIRE.
Matt proved himself a versatile talent in his theatrical debut, FRAILTY, the dark, supernatural drama directed by and starring Bill Paxton. “He charmed the pants off of everybody,” recalled Paxton in the FRAILTY production notes. Matt enjoyed the experience very much, “I really liked the script and it was a fun film to work on. I learned a lot, especially from Bill Paxton.”
Then Matt’s dreams came true when he won the role as John Travolta’s son in the thriller DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE. “I got the part through a series of auditions,” Matt remembers in an interview for the DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE press kit, “On the last audition I met John Travolta. Meeting him was a rush.”
In the summer of 2002, thanks to a recommendation from Bill Paxton, Matt was launched into teen heartthrob status as Gary Giggles in SPY KIDS 2: THE ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS. In an interview for Ignite Magazine, Matt denies the new heartthrob status, “I don't know about that! I think that it’s kind of something you fall into... It’s not something you want or you don’t want.” But there was no doubting it, Matt was now a star. In 2003, he brought Gary Giggles back, this time in 3-D, for a small cameo in SPY KIDS-3D: GAME OVER.
Also that year, Matt appeared in the box office flop, THE ALAMO, where sadly most of his part was cut. That is when he decided to make a change. “Before that, it was just a pure, natural thing that I did," he said in an interview for NWI.com, "Since that moment, I started actually putting my mind to it and figuring out what acting really is to me. I wanted to start doing good films.”
It was then that Matt started doing numerous independent films such as HAVOC, DEATH SENTENCE, AMERICAN BULLY, AMERICAN SON, and the cult favorite BRICK. These films allowed Matt to grow as an actor and showcase all the wonderful talent he has to offer. He also appeared in the big screen blockbuster LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD and the slasher flick SORORITY ROW. In between films Matt had found time to return to his television roots, guest starring in various network dramas including LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, and ELEVENTH HOUR.
Some more recent works include the horror-thriller MOTHER’S DAY, the HBO drama CINEMA VERITE, and the drama-comedy NATURAL SELECTION, for which Matt won the Breakthrough Performance award at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. “I wore a lot of leather, and I jingled when I walked,” Matt jokes in an interview for Geekscape. In March 2012, two more films premiered at SXSW, the drama EDEN and the Matthew Lillard directorial debut FAT KID RULES THE WORLD, both films taking home awards. Lillard recently talked to Crave Online and had nothing but great things to say about Matt, “I think Matt O’Leary is more talented than I am but he’s fearless and he says yes to everything and has this incredible energy and charm.”
Matt kept busy in 2014, working on the Eric Bilitch film SUBMARINE KID starring Emilie de Ravin and Finn Wittrock, the Icelandic set scifi drama BOKEH costarring Maika Monroe, a small role in the Briana Evigan and Kerry Norton film TOY, and starring in a short film about the California gold rush called THE CANARY. He finished off the year in Mexico playing Frank Peluco, an American exmilitar with psychological problems, in the film LA PIERDE ALMAS: SANTA MORONGA.
Recently, Matt has been working on several short films and TV guest spots including NBC’s GAME OF SILENCE, MTV’s SWEET/VICIOUS and TNT’s MAJOR CRIMES.
2011 SXSW Film Festival -- Breakthrough Performance for NATURAL SELECTION
2011 PWFF Audience Choice Awards -- Best Actor in a Feature Film for AMERICAN BULLY
2012 Seattle International Film Festival -- Golden Space Needle Award for Best Actor (2nd place) for EDEN
2001 Young Artist Awards -- Best Performance by a Leading Young Actor in a TV Movie Comedy for MOM’S GOT A DATE WITH A VAMPIRE
2002 Young Artist Awards -- Best Performance in a Feature Film for Supporting Young Actor for DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE
2003 Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards -- Youth in Film for FRAILTY
2003 Young Artist Awards -- Best Performance in a Feature Film by Leading Young Actor for FRAILTY
2004 Young Artist Awards -- Best Young Ensemble in a Feature Film for SPY KIDS 3-D
2011 PWFF Grand Jury Awards -- Best Actor in a Feature Film for AMERICAN BULLY
2014 Orlando Film Festival -- Best Ensemble Cast for TIME LAPSE