For actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, 1997’s Good Will Hunting was a breakthrough film. While both actors had seen success with their previous work, it was that film, written by Damon and Affleck and directed by Gus Van Sant which served as a turning point in their careers with the pair going on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for their work. However, the beloved film may not have happened if it weren’t for filmmaker Kevin Smith. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Damon and Affleck reveal that it was Smith that saved Good Will Hunting.
During a conversation between Damon and Affleck, Affleck’s work in Smith’s films—particularly Mallrats and Chasing Amy—came up and Damon revealed that Good Will Hunting was “dead in the water” without Smith.
“Kevin also saved Good Will Hunting,” Damon said. “This is not a small side note. He is the reason Good Will Hunting got made. We were dead in the water, all the offers had expired.”
“I promised him I would thank him if we ever got an Oscar and promptly forgot,” Affleck added. “And then I told him, ‘If I ever win again I swear to God I’m going to thank you.’ Forgot again.”
Damon went on to note that Van Sant as well as co-star Robin Williams were equally as important as Smith as well as noted that Francis Ford Coppola had vouched for him with Williams. Still, the idea that Smith was instrumental to Good Will Hunting getting made is interesting and not the first time the filmmaker’s role has come up. As the story goes, it was Smith who gave the script to Harvey Weinstein, then at Miramax. Weinstein ended up loving the script, leading to the film being made.
More recently, Affleck and Damon re-teamed to write another script, this time along with Nicole Holofcener for Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. It was the first script they’d worked on together in two decades, something they spoke about during a press conference for that film last fall.
“So, why don’t you ask Ben?,” Damon joked when the moderator said she had to ask him about Good Will Hunting. “‘Cause you’re older,” Affleck quipped. “I don’t know. That’s a really good question,” Damon added when asked why they chose to adapt this new story all these years later. “I think we were just, we were kind of afraid of writing. ‘Cause we were so inefficient. It was so time-consuming the first time we did it ’cause we didn’t know what we were doing. And it took us, literally, years. And we wrote thousands and thousands of pages that we, basically, scrunched into a 130-page screenplay. But, I think by just doing movies for 25 years, just kind of by osmosis, we figured out structure. So, it turned out to be really efficient, the process. And also, like begging an incredible writer like Nicole to come help us was also a really good idea, too. That definitely streamlined the process.”
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