updated 12/03/2009 AT 10:05 AM ET
•originally published 12/03/2009 AT 11:05 AM ET
Matt Damon has plenty of reasons to thank Clint Eastwood for keeping his wife Luciana happy.
“I have come to judge good jobs and good directors by how my wife feels about them,” Damon, 39, told guests at Tuesday’s Museum of the Moving Image gala in New York City honoring Eastwood, 79. “And my wife loves Clint Eastwood.”
In addition to Luciana’s approval, Damon heaped praise on the Oscar-winning director for providing the leading man with a balanced family life and the sort of work experience that PEOPLE’s 2007 Sexiest Man Alive had always hoped for.
“Not only because her husband was happy everyday when he came home but because I got to do what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to do it,” said Damon, who stars in Eastwood’s Invictus (which, in Latin, means “unconquered”), due in theaters Dec. 11.
In it, the actor plays a real life South African rugby player who helps President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) bring the citizens of the African country together through the 1995 Rugby World Cup, after the fall of Apartheid.
“I felt completely fulfilled creatively,” said Damon.
More importantly, Eastwood’s quick turnaround filming schedule allowed Damon to spend daily quality family time with his wife and daughters, Alexia, 11, Isabella, 3, and LINK “/people/article/0„20218775,00.html” “Gia”], 1.
“I had breakfast with [Luciana] and the kids every morning and dinner with them every night,” says the proud dad. “I never thought I was sacrificing either family life or my work. It was perfect and that’s the life that I hope I can crave out for myself as I go forward.”