Interesting article from Mental Floss:
On its release in 1997, the film Good Will Hunting proved to be a sizeable hit. It also garnered several Oscar nominations, with the late Robin Williams picking up a Best Supporting Actor gong.
Also taking home Oscar gold for the movie were then-debutant screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Their script earned them an Academy Award apiece, but whilst they’d had a lot of interest in their work, it was proving tricky to get someone to properly commit.
Not that there was a lack of interest. Damon and Affleck had several studios involved, and several were making offers to the pair. Yet they opted to go with Miramax, then run – with his brother – by producer Harvey Weinstein.
So why did they choose him over a big studio? Weinstein appeared on The Graham Norton Show in the UK last week, and explained all.
“Everyone in Hollywood wanted Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the film”, he recalled to Norton. “In the meeting with them, I said ‘I only have one really big note on the script. About page 60, the two leads, both straight men, have a sex scene. What the hell is that?'”
And that was a good question.
For there was method to Affleck and Damon’s madness. “That’s the scene”, they explained to Weinstein, “we wrote to see if guys like you read the script, because every studio executive we went to hadn’t read it. You’re the only guy who brought it up, so you get the movie”.
Good Will Hunting would go on to gross over $200m worldwide, reportedly costing just $10m to make.
Screencaps from the third movie added. I also added the missing ones from Good Will Hunting that for some reason didn’t upload properly. Enjoy!
There used to be a rumor that William Goldman was the true screenwriter behind Good Will Hunting, rather than Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who won an Oscar for that script. As Goldman himself put it in his denial of the rumor, “People don’t want to think those two cute guys wrote it.“ But it turns out Affleck and Damon actually had help from another film legend: Terrence Malick. Malick happens to be best friends with Affleck’s godfather, so Damon and Affleck visited the director in Boston while they were writing the film. Damon recalls:
“We had it in the script that my character and Minnie’s left together at the end of the movie. Terry didn’t read the script but we explained the whole story to him, and in the middle of the dinner, he said, ‘I think it would be better if she left and he went after her.’ And Ben and I looked at each other. It was one of those things where you go: of course that ‘s better. He said it and he probably doesn’t even remember that he said it.”
According to Damon, Malick cited his inspiration for the new ending from Italian cinema:
“[Malick] started talking about Antonioni. ‘In Italian movies a guy just leaves town at the end and that enough.’ And we said of course that’s enough. That’s where we come from. If you just leave that’s a big enough deal. It doesn’t have to build up to anything more.”
I’ve always liked the ending to Good Will Hunting, so it’s funny to hear that it was at one point much, much worse. In fact, the script benefited from the punch-up work of another legendary film director: Rob Reiner. Damon told Tom Shone [via Vulture]:
“The original script that we sold had this high concept thing where the government was trying to get Will. Rob Riener sat with us for script meeting and said ‘Why don’t you guys take all that stuff out?’ Wait a minute. We can do that? ‘Yeah its enough just to make the movie about these guys. That’s a really good movie. That’s what we really love about it. And we said ‘We thought there was this whole high concept thing.’ ‘No you don’t need any of that.’ “
Ironically enough, the most useless advice came from Gus Van Sant, the director of Good Will Hunting:
“At one point after Gus [Van Sant] became involved I was shooting The Rainmaker in Memphis and everyone came down for script meeting. Gus came down and said ‘I want to do a draft where Chucky, Ben’s character, dies on the construction site.’ And Ben and I were just mortified. ‘What are you talking about’ ‘I want him to get crushed like a bug.’ We said ‘Gus what are you talking about? You cant just fucking smush Ben. That’s a terrible idea.’ Gus said ‘No, I really want to see what would happen.’ So we did a whole new draft on weekends of The Rainmaker, when I wasn’t working, we would write, Ben and I did a whole draft, with a wake and everything. It was took a left turn and went into this other place. The scenes in a vacuum I thought were good, but we still didn’t like the idea, then Gus read it said ‘Okay, its a terrible idea let’s go back to what we had.’”
Fascinating. Good Will Hunting is already a very flawed movie (video at their site). I’d love to see this bizarro version where Damon is a spy, Affleck dies, and everything ends happily ever after.