tv & movies

How Matt Damon’s star-making Good Will Hunting began as a college project

Matt Damon, who turns 51 today, revealed in a 2013 piece in Boston Magazine that he and childhood friend Affleck came up with the first draft of this movie as a college kid.

Good Will Hunting (1997) is credited for making stars out of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as well as featuring one of the best performances of late comedy legend Robin Williams’ career. Damon and Affleck were not Hollywood bigwigs back then, but this movie changed that.

The film was about a 20-year-old janitor Will Hunting who is secretly a mathematics genius. He goes on to solve a difficult problem and gets discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard). After he is arrested for attacking a cop, Lambeau offers him leniency in exchange of the services of a therapist, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams).

The film’s screenplay, penned by Damon and Affleck, won the film an Oscar (as did Williams’ performance). The film was loaded with emotion, and was intimate, amazingly entertaining and funny throughout.

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Damon, who turns 51 today, revealed in a 2013 piece in Boston Magazine that he came up with the first draft of this movie as a college kid.

While at Harvard University, in his fifth year, Damon attended a playwriting class. He told Boston Magazine, “There was this playwriting class and the culmination of it was to write a one-act play, and I just started writing a movie. So I handed the professor at the end of the semester, a 40-odd page document, and said, ‘Look, I might have failed your class, but it is the first act of something longer.’”

Affleck added that they together “came up with this idea of the brilliant kid and his townie friends, where he was special and the government wanted to get their mitts on him. And it had a very Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run sensibility, where the kids from Boston were giving the NSA the slip all the time. We would improvise and drink like six or twelve beers or whatever and record it with a tape recorder. At the time we imagined the professor and the shrink would be Morgan Freeman and De Niro, so we’d do our imitations of Freeman and De Niro. It was kind of hopelessly naïve and probably really embarrassing in that respect.”

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Today, it is unbelievable to think that a movie as impeccable as Good Will Hunting began as a casual college project. More than two decades later, the film remains as watchable and fresh as ever.

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