Widely regarded as one of the best films of the 1990s, Good Wil Hunting celebrated its 25th birthday this year, so we thought there was no better time to dig into why Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote the movie.
It was Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s first foray into writing and shot the pair into seeming overnight success – though both had been waving small waves in the film industry throughout the early 1990s. Affleck once revealed the true reason that they decided to make the film at all.
“The whole thing of Good Will Hunting was really just to make – at the time – a video cassette that was like an acting reel,” Affleck said. “Like, we can’t get the job to show that we can do interesting stuff, so the whole thing was to have a reel and show casting directors, and so we’ll write these parts for ourselves. That was our ambition, so I think we were shocked that it even got released.”
He added, “It was like, ‘No, you don’t have to go to the studios. You can do it cheaply and get a movie star, and they’ll make it for you for a million bucks.’ So we wrote a movie that’s just all interiors and people talking in rooms because it was inexpensive, and we were like, ‘Write the cool monologues and get a famous guy’.
And a ‘famous guy’ they did get, with the legendary Robin Williams joining the cast and delivering one of the most unforgettable moments in cinematic history with the “It’s not your fault” line when Damon’s character finally breaks down after years of locking his trauma inside.
Damon also admitted to the tedious nature of writing the script. “Good Will Hunting took us so long. We were like unemployed, broke guys. It took us forever to write that screenplay,” Damon said. “I think we wrote thousands and thousands of pages. We didn’t really know what we were doing. And I think that kind of put us off writing again because we never thought we’d have the time.”
Fortunately, Damon and Affleck did not struggle half as much when they wrote The Last Duel some 25 years later, perhaps in art because it was based on a 2004 book by Eric Jager entitled, The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France. However, Damon admitted that the fact that he and Affleck were, by now, not newcomers to the game helped drastically.
He said, “I think we found writing this that we actually kind of picked up the structure over the last 25 years of kind of making movies, and so it went a lot faster. Then we also made the really good decision of getting a great writer to come with us.”