January 8, 1998 in Features

‘Hunting’ Season Best Friends Matt Damon And Ben Affleck Team Up To Produce ‘Good Will Hunting,’ A Project That Has Kept Their Attention Since 1992

Pamela Mitchell The Hartford Courant
 

Many times, the story of how a movie makes it to the big screen is just as interesting as the movie itself. Such is the case with “Good Will Hunting,” co-written by and starring childhood friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

It all began in 1992, in a playwriting class at Harvard University. English major Damon, asked to write a one-act play, created a charming character named Will Hunting, a South Boston townie who just happens to be a mathematics genius. “I wrote this 40-page thing that didn’t end and was in screenplay form,” said Damon, who spoke to reporters recently in New York City along with Affleck.

His professor encouraged him to continue working on it, and Damon turned to his friend and fellow struggling actor Affleck. The two have been pals since elementary school, doing everything together in their hometown of Cambridge, Mass.: Little League, high school plays, but not Harvard, which Damon left a few credits short of a degree anyway.

“I brought it out to Ben when I went to California and said, ‘Do you have any idea what to do with this?’ He said, ‘No, but I want to write it with you.’ ”

They shelved the script for a year and then one night picked it up out of frustration. “We couldn’t get jobs as actors and we felt like we had a lot of energy to put into this career and there was no outlet for it,” Damon said. “Our plan was to do it together, just act in it together.”

Damon and Affleck began landing movie roles, but they continued to work on their script, sometimes face to face, sometimes fax to fax. “We’d talk endlessly and, if the talk became productive, we’d stand up and act out the scene,” remembered Affleck, who described their creative process as “kinda like catching raindrops. Like, ‘Oh, there it is, quick write it down.’ ”

They sold the finished product to a studio in 1994, but, because of creative differences, “Good Will Hunting” again went into limbo.

In 1995, Affleck was set to begin filming Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy.” The actor showed the script to Smith, who then recommended it to Miramax, the studio making his movie. Miramax gave the go-ahead and Gus Van Sant, who actually saw the script through Affleck’s younger brother Casey (a cast member in his film “To Die For”), signed on to direct.

The friends, who would only sell their story with them attached to play the lead roles, went with the parts they had each assumed during the writing process. Damon, who also can be seen in “John Grisham’s The Rainmaker,” stars as Will, the rebellious math prodigy who works as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Affleck is his best friend Chuckie.

Together, they hang in South Boston bars and occasionally start street fights with help from neighborhood pals Morgan and Billy. Since the script was created out of friendship, it seemed natural for Damon and Affleck to include friends in the cast. The role of Morgan is played by Casey Affleck. Cole Hauser, who starred in “Dazed and Confused” with Affleck and “School Ties” with Damon, stars as Billy. Minnie Driver stars as Skylar, a British Harvard University student and Will’s love interest; Driver has been romantically linked to Damon off-screen as well.

When Will stuns the university’s math department by solving a problem considered to be the most difficult of the semester, he finds himself caught between two father figures. Stellan Skarsgard plays Lambeau, the professor who discovers Will and wants him to use his problem-solving skills instead of wasting them. Robin Williams plays Sean, a psychologist asked to work with Will, whose rebellious side tends to keep him in front of a judge. Damon and Affleck are currently working on their second script together, a story centered on the residents of a halfway house near where they grew up.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MOVIE “Good Will Hunting,” starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, opens Friday in Spokane.

For a review of “Good Will Hunting,” please see Friday’s Weekend section.

This sidebar appeared with the story: MOVIE “Good Will Hunting,” starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, opens Friday in Spokane.

For a review of “Good Will Hunting,” please see Friday’s Weekend section.


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