Matt Damon Recalls the ‘Frustration’ and Desperation’ It Took Him and Ben Affleck to Write ‘Good Will Hunting’

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck grew up just two blocks away from each other.
  • It was actually “frustration” and “desperation” that forced them into writing Good Will Hunting.
  • After writing the Oscar-winning script almost ruined their friendship, they waited 25 years to write another one.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon hold up their Oscars after winning in the Original Screenplay Category for Good Will Hunting during the 70th Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium 23 March
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon | Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were launched into stardom when they wrote the script for Good Will Hunting. But the process nearly ruined their lifelong friendship. According to Damon, the script was born out of “frustration” and “desperation.” It was such a grueling experience that it took 25 years for them to write another script together.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were introduced by their mothers

In the 1980s, Damon and Affleck grew up just two blocks away from each other in their Massachusetts neighborhood. They were introduced by their moms when they were just 10 and 8 years old, respectively, and they instantly hit it off.

Affleck told Parade Magazine that they bonded over sports and acting. He explained that before he met Damon, acting was something he did by himself. And no one understood why he did it.

“Acting was a solo activity where I’d just go off and do something, act in a little TV show or something, and no one understood it,” Affleck explained. “All of a sudden, I had this friend, Matt, and he gets it and wants to do it and thinks it’s interesting and wants to talk about it. Soon both of us are doing it.”

The future Oscar winners started auditioning together

Damon once told Conan O’Brien that he remembered the exact moment that he knew Affleck would be “a good friend to have.” He says Affleck came to his defense in a fight when they were in high school, and saving him from a much taller opponent cemented their decades-long friendship.

The two young friends started attending auditions together in New York, often competing for the same part. In their late teens and early 20s, both Damon and Affleck made appearances in a string of movies. Including one that they starred in together — School Ties.

But the roles weren’t coming like either actor wanted. So, they moved in together to save some money and got to work on writing their first original screenplay.

Matt Damon says the ‘Good Will Hunting’ script came from ‘frustration’ and ‘desperation’

During a visit with Matt Lauer on The Today Show in 1997, Damon and Affleck shared the origin story for their Good Will Hunting script. Damon revealed that it started out as a one-act play that he wrote for a college class, and the teacher encouraged him to keep going.

“The script, really, was born out of frustration with our unemployment. So we just wrote it pretty much out of desperation,” Damon explained.

Affleck credited Good Will Hunting’s success to getting Robin Williams to play the part of Dr. Sean Maguire. He explained that the movie made it into “the Hollywood mainstream” because Williams was attached to the project.

All three went on to win Academy Awards for the film — Affleck and Damon for writing their original screenplay and Williams for best-supporting actor.

It took 25 years for the duo to write together again

Despite the massive success of their first script, it took Affleck and Damon 25 years to write another one and star in the film together. Damon said in 2015 that they were waiting to find the right project before writing together again.

“We’re constantly developing stuff,” Damon said. “It’s just, you want to have to find the right project. We want to work together, obviously, it’s just that we want to get it right.”

Damon and Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting in 1996. But it wasn’t until 2021 that their next co-writing project — The Last Duel — would hit theaters.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck didn’t take nearly as long to write ‘The Last Duel’

The duo told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that the 25 year gap was due to the lengthy writing process they experienced the first time around.

“I mean, I think 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. I don’t think we really knew what we were doing. I think that kind of put us off writing again, because we never thought we’d have the time.”

Because of their Hollywood experience, writing the second script wasn’t nearly as difficult as writing their first. So, they ended up writing it much faster than they expected.

“We had such a great time doing this that it was like, why don’t we do this more? What have we been doing?” Damon told E! News. Affleck added, “I grew up with this guy, I’ve known him forever. We’re from the same world and place, and stayed close…You’re lucky if you get to do the job you love and luckier if it’s with people that you love.”

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