Screenshot: Eurotrip

Eurotrip, the 2004 teen sex comedy from Jeff Schaffer, is just a miserable film. It’s undercooked, unimaginative, and roughly 75% gay panic jokes. It’s redeemed, however, by two things: A very catchy song, and a genuinely surprising, all-in cameo from a Hollywood A-lister. At a high school graduation party in the film’s first act, Matt Damon appears—bald, tattooed, and bullish—as the lead singer of a pop-punk band, singing a song that’s a not-so-veiled breakdown of how he’s been sleeping with the main character’s girlfriend.

It’s a sequence that has, bizarrely, stood the test of time, due in no small part to the song—written specifically for the film by the band Lustra, who can be seen onstage in the film—hitting the Billboard Hot 100 charts two years after the film’s theatrical release. Now, Uproxx has chatted with Eurotrip’s filmmakers, writers, musicians, and actors for an oral history of both the song and the scene.

It turns out Damon’s involvement would never have happened if it wasn’t for the SARS breakout that hit the Czech Republic as the movie was filming in Prague.

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Here’s how director Jeff Schaffer and writer David Mandel explain it:

Schaffer: Here’s what happened. We were shooting this movie in Prague. And it was during the Gulf War and SARS and we had a very limited budget. So we didn’t have the money to fly people from Los Angeles to Prague, nor did people want to get on a plane from Los Angeles to Prague.

Mandel: Even if we had the money, no one wanted to come. It seemed dangerous in some weird way.

Schaffer: So our pool of talented actors was reduced to, “Who’s shooting a movie in Prague right now?” And Matt Damon was shooting The Brothers Grimm in Prague. We were talking with him and his head was shaved because he had to wear a wig for that movie. And he had just stopped smoking so, in his words, he had “swelled up like a tick.” So he was buff. And we were talking to him so we said, hey, we’ve got this thing, would you like to do it? And he’s like, “That sounds fun, I’d love to.” And he was like, “I can do it on so and so day,” which I think was literally June 21, which is the longest day of the year. And, of course, we are shooting a night scene, in Prague, with five hours of darkness.

Mandel: And it hasn’t hurt that Matt has luckily had a career as well. People who don’t know about the movie hear the song or see the scene and can’t believe that’s Matt Damon, which can be very helpful.

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And, hey, it ended up being a weirdly perfect fit. Damon’s bugnuts performance is profane, snotty, and terrifyingly prescient in terms of the era’s particular brand of pop-punk douchebag. It’s also stuck with him, as actor Scott Mechlowicz shares how, if you listen closely, you can hear “Scotty Doesn’t Know” playing through the earpiece of Damon’s Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Read the full oral history here, which digs deeper into the origins of the song, reveals the Harvard connections between the band, Damon, and filmmakers, and even offers an alternate version of “Scotty Doesn’t Know” from an entirely different band.