Movie Flashback: 15 Years Ago Ben Affleck and Matt Damon Penned This Oscar Winner
12.05.12 by Chris
How do you like them apples?
Before Argo, before Gigli, Ben Affleck was actually known as an Academy Award-winning screenwriter. He and Matt Damon wrote Good Will Hunting, which was released 15 years ago today.
Daman plays 20-year-old MIT janitor Will Hunting who is discovered to be a genius after solving an algebraic graph theory. After getting arrested, the professor who wrote the math problem, Stellan Skarsgård, is able to get Hunting released but under two conditions: weekly math lessons and he has to visit a therapist, Robin Williams, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for the role. Oh, and Affleck plays his knucklehead loser friend.
Damon and Affleck initially wrote the story as a thriller with Hunting being targeted by the FBI to become a G-Man after being discovered to be a genus. It was Rob Reiner, president of Castle Rock Entertainment, who suggested to the duo to drop the FBI angle and focus on the relationship between Williams and Damon.
Despite winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, rumors followed Damon and Affleck that they didn't write the screenplay alone and were helped by script doctors (a common practice in Hollywood). Noted screenwriter William Goldman said he read the script and offered suggestions to Damon and Affleck but denies contributing to the screenplay. In his book, Which Lie Did I Tell?, Goldman writes, "I think the reason the world was so anxious to believe Matt Damon and Ben Affleck didn't write their script was simple jealousy. They were young and cute and famous; kill the f**kers."
The studio balked at the idea of Damon and Affleck starring in the movie and wanted Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio for the roles. Affleck also wanted Kevin Smith, whom he worked with on Mallrats, and later Chasing Amy, to direct the movie but Smith said they needed a "good director" and that he only directs his own screenplays (Smith was responsible for Miramax picking up the project). Mel Gibson, Michael Mann, and Steven Soderbergh were considered as directors but Damon and Affleck were able to get Gus Van Saint to helm the project.
The movie, produced on a small $10 million budget, went on to gross more than $225 million in theaters, earn nine Oscar nominations, and skyrocketed the careers of Damon and Affleck, for better or worse.
Where to watch: Good Will Hunting is streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and iTunes.