Matt Damon Says Edward Norton Landing ‘Primal Fear’ Role Motivated Him and Ben Affleck To Write ‘Good Will Hunting’

Matt Damon has starred in some of the biggest movies to ever hit Hollywood. From Ocean’s Eleven to The Departed, he’s been involved with some major critical and commercial successes. 

However, there was a time earlier in his career when Damon wasn’t having much luck landing good roles. Prior to breaking through, he often missed out on many roles to talented peers such as Ethan Hawke and Edward Norton. 

In fact, after Norton landed a life-changing role in Primal Fear, Damon and his best friend Ben Affleck knew that they had to create something of their own in order to make it in Hollywood. 

Matt Damon says everyone knew ‘Primal Fear’ was going to be a huge success

Matt Damon appears at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2019
Matt Damon appears at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2019 | Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Damon detailed the struggle of breaking through as an actor during a 2019 interview with The Off Camera Show. He had to compete with dozens of talented actors during every audition and even spent his own money to learn new skills for his Primal Fear audition. 

“It’s like when Primal Fear came along, and everyone knew. I literally spent money — on a dialect coach — that I didn’t have,” he said. “Because there were two different dialects in the movie and I was like, ‘I gotta work on this,’ because it was clear that whoever got that role was gonna blow up.”

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck decided to write ‘Good Will Hunting’ after Ed Norton got the ‘Primal Fear’ role 

Even though Damon and Affleck both had great auditions for Primal Fear, neither of them got the role. After realizing that they had very slim chances of landing any major roles in Hollywood films, they decided to write their own movie and put themselves in it. 

“That was one of the things that was really the impetus behind Ben and I writing Good Will Hunting and focusing on it, was because when Primal Fear, when Edward Norton got Primal Fear, we went, ‘F***. There’s not gonna be another one of those that’s gonna come around. We gotta do our own thing.’”

Going further, Damon explained why the likelihood of unestablished actors getting a good role was so low. 

“What are the odds that a movie with that good a role is gonna make it all the way through the ranks of known actors and then get thrown to the wolves?” Damon asked. “And all of us are gonna fight for that scrap, and one of us will get it. This ain’t gonna work.”

He never allowed the rejection to define him 

Damon also admitted that every time he was faced with rejection it took a toll on him.

“It was devastating,” Damon admitted. 

However, he never allowed the failures to kill his dream. 

“It wasn’t self-doubt, it was frustration at the system because the system is not built for you to succeed. You have to break through it,” Damon said.

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