Matt Damon Says Terrence Malick Suggested the Ending for GOOD WILL HUNTING

by     Posted 3 years, 228 days ago

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There used to be a rumor that William Goldman was the true screenwriter behind Good Will Hunting, rather than Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who won an Oscar for that script.  As Goldman himself put it in his denial of the rumor, “People don’t want to think those two cute guys wrote it.“  But it turns out Affleck and Damon actually had help from another film legend: Terrence Malick.  Malick happens to be best friends with Affleck’s godfather, so Damon and Affleck visited the director in Boston while they were writing the film.  Damon recalls:

“We had it in the script that my character and Minnie’s left together at the end of the movie. Terry didn’t read the script but we explained the whole story to him, and in the middle of the dinner, he said, ‘I think it would be better if she left and he went after her.’ And Ben and I looked at each other. It was one of those things where you go: of course that ‘s better. He said it and he probably doesn’t even remember that he said it.”

Hit the jump for more quotes from Damon on the evolution of the Good Will Hunting script.

According to Damon, Malick cited his inspiration for the new ending from Italian cinema:

“[Malick] started talking about Antonioni. ‘In Italian movies a guy just leaves town at the end and that enough.’ And we said of course that’s enough. That’s where we come from. If you just leave that’s a big enough deal. It doesn’t have to build up to anything more.”

good-will-hunting-posterI’ve always liked the ending to Good Will Hunting, so it’s funny to hear that it was at one point much, much worse.  In fact, the script benefited from the punch-up work of another legendary film director: Rob Reiner.  Damon told Tom Shone [via Vulture]:

“The original script that we sold had this high concept thing where the government was trying to get Will. Rob Riener sat with us for script meeting and said ‘Why don’t you guys take all that stuff out?’ Wait a minute. We can do that? ‘Yeah its enough just to make the movie about these guys. That’s a really good movie. That’s what we really love about it. And we said ‘We thought there was this whole high concept thing.’ ‘No you don’t need any of that.’ “

Ironically enough, the most useless advice came from Gus Van Sant, the director of Good Will Hunting:

“At one point after Gus [Van Sant] became involved I was shooting The Rainmaker in Memphis and everyone came down for script meeting. Gus came down and said ‘I want to do a draft where Chucky, Ben’s character, dies on the construction site.’ And Ben and I were just mortified. ‘What are you talking about’ ‘I want him to get crushed like a bug.’ We said ‘Gus what are you talking about? You cant just fucking smush Ben. That’s a terrible idea.’ Gus said ‘No, I really want to see what would happen.’ So we did a whole new draft on weekends of The Rainmaker, when I wasn’t working, we would write, Ben and I did a whole draft, with a wake and everything. It was took a left turn and went into this other place. The scenes in a vacuum I thought were good, but we still didn’t like the idea, then Gus read it said ‘Okay, its a terrible idea let’s go back to what we had.’”

Fascinating.  Good Will Hunting is already a very flawed movie (evidence below).  I’d love to see this bizarro version where Damon is a spy, Affleck dies, and everything ends happily ever after.




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  • Paul

    Once long ago I dreamed that Good Will Hunting was written by two young nobodies who wanted to break into the movie business. Over the years I’ve learned the truth that wasn’t the case.

    Oh well, it’s an enjoyable film and it launched the careers of two fantastic performers. Matt Damon has been the consistently most entertaining actor in films for the past decade. With Ben Affleck turning his career around with Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and now starring in a Terrence Malick film I can’t wait to see what he has in store.

  • Edward Lee

    Both actors are a bit of d’bags, so I’m not surprised to learn that someone else wrote the ending to GOOD WILL HUNTING and they stole it. Not surprised at all.

    • James

      Are you a moron? Malick didn’t write it. He suggested it.

      Moron.

  • Corin Prendiville

    There are two morons who have commented on this page, and one guess is which?

    A suggestion does not make a writer. The ending is such a minor thing to, the difference I mean. Definitely better, but it is minor. To say these two DIDN’T write this script is ludicrous, I mean just look at how good Ben Affleck is at writing, Gone Baby Gone and The Town both written and directed by Affleck both fking awesome movies.

    They are talented, and just because some moron finds them to be douche bags doesn’t make it so; the bad rep on Ben Affleck likely comes from a bunch of over-weight losers whose girlfriends had crushes on him in the 90s and they just can’t get over it. That or it is psychologically imbedded in peoples minds due to Affleck playing douche bags in his films like Dazed & Confused and Dogma.

  • n/a

    Gone Baby Gone is not an original screenplay by Ben Affleck. He adapted it from a novel by Dennis Lehane.

  • Corey

    I have always found this talk of Good Will Hunting not being written by Affleck and Damon ridiculous. I think it comes from this disbelief from people that these two guys could actually write something so good.

    You add in the fact that the script went through a few different producers and people start to make up crap like “Goldman wrote it” or “Reiner wrote it.”

    I have tried to compare this before to the film Bottle Rocket. Wes Anderson’s first film, co-written by himself and Owen Wilson. It was based on a short they did, and they were basically commissioned to flesh it out into a full length picture. They had a supportive producer who helped them out and they got a lot of input from a lot of people. But somehow, you don’t hear people running around saying “Ohhhh they didn’t actually write Bottle Rocket.” Not sure why. Maybe people just hadn’t grown to know Wilson yet, and Anderson stayed behind the camera with more help from Wilson to give everyone Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Either way, that film similarly went through tons of drafts and tons of help, but it was still ultimately written by Anderson and Wilson.

    The same is true of Good Will Hunting. That is a great film with a great script, and it’s a script written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. It’s true. Get over it.

    And to the guy that says Affleck doesn’t deserve as much credit for Gone Baby Gone because it was adapted. Reality check. Most films are adapted from a source. No Country for Old Men, a film rightly lauded for it’s tight script, is extremely faithfully adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel. The Godfather is adapted from a book, too. Casablanca was a play. So was 12 Angry Men. The Lord of the Rings films were based on books. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I don’t even know why I’m listing these.

    And for the record, that clip attached to the article is a bit unfair in my opinion. Maybe you didn’t enjoy the film as much as some others have, or maybe you just didn’t like that scene in particular. No clue. I know that for me, when that scene is divorced from the film itself it seem cheesy and idiotic. But I also feel that in context it comes about naturally, and at a true emotional climax for both of these characters, and in that context it gets me every time.

    • n/a

      I think you may need the reality check and need to stop jumping to conclusions and need to reread my comment, since I never stated that Ben Affleck didn’t deserve much credit for Gone Baby Gone’s screenplay. I just said the concept was adapted from a novel, for which I think he did a good job of adapting into a feature film.

      • Corey

        Oh, sorry bout that. Got a little ranty there. I just misread your intentions with your comment because it came after someone defending Affleck by saying he wrote GBG. Your comment seemed to imply that he may have written it but it’s not all that great of an achievement becaus it was based on a book. I read you wrong, my mistake.

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