Matt Damon Reveals Why It Took Him and Ben Affleck 20 Years to Write Another Screenplay

     November 14, 2019

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You may or may not be aware that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are Oscar-winning screenwriters, yet have only written one film together. Until this year, that is. While the two took Hollywood by storm with 1997’s Good Will Hunting, winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in the process, in the wake of that success the duo carved out extremely successful careers onscreen—and in Affleck’s case, behind the camera as a director, which earned him a Best Picture Oscar for Argo.

But while Damon co-wrote the 2012 film Promised Land and Affleck wrote or co-wrote his directorial efforts over the years, the two famous friends didn’t write something together again until this year. Indeed, it was announced that Damon and Affleck were co-writing, alongside Nicole Holofcener, a film called The Last Duel with Ridley Scott directing and Damon and Affleck starring. The movie is nearing a greenlight, and Adam Driver is currently in talks to co-star. It’s a Very Big Deal movie even aside from the fact that it’s technically Damon and Bale’s long-awaited screenwriting follow-up to Good Will Hunting.

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Image via Legendary/Universal

During an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Damon talked about The Last Duel and revealed that he, Affleck, and Holofcener split writing duties:

“Well we wrote something together along with this unbelievable writer, Nicole Holofcener, she’s just great great. So the three of us wrote this movie, it’s about medieval France and it’s called The Last Duel and it’s about the last sanctioned duel in medieval France between two knights, one of whom claimed the other raped his wife. It’s really this movie about perspective, so Ben and I wrote the male perspectives and Nicole wrote the female perspective. So I think it could potentially be really interesting.”

The film has drawn some understandable words of caution given the subject matter at hand, and while it’s nice to know that Holofcener (a filmmaker in her own right) is involved, a movie about sexual assault in the Year of Our Lord 2019 will not exactly go down without a healthy amount of questioning re: how the subject matter is being handled. Especially with faces as familiar as Damon and Affleck onboard.

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Image via HBO

While we don’t have further details on that front, Damon did explain why it’s taken him and Affleck so long to write together again, noting that the screenplay for The Last Duel came together incredibly quickly:

“I think we will write more. It was interesting, Good Will Hunting took us such a long time, and we always told ourselves and each other we just don’t have time to write. We’re never really in the same place for very long. And then this one we wrote so fast and I think it’s because in the intervening 25 years, we did nothing but make movies, so we know so much more about it now. Our process was so much more streamlined that without even trying to—we didn’t set a deadline for ourselves. I’d just show up at his house or he’d show up at my house and we’d write for three hours. We’d take the kids to school and then we’d just grab a coffee and sit down and start working, and suddenly it’s like, ‘Wait we have 20 pages? I think they’re good? I read them again last night.’ And before we knew it we had two-thirds of our movie and Nicole was every bit as fast, I mean she’s a professional writer so she’s great, and she’s faster than we are. Suddenly it’s like ‘Wait we have 150 pages guys, we gotta pare this down.’”

The Last Duel is currently set up at Disney-owned 20th Century Fox but doesn’t quite have the greenlight yet, so it’s still possible this one could go the way so many other planned Damon/Affleck reunions have gone and fizzle out before cameras roll. But this is the furthest they’ve gotten in the 20+ years since Good Will Hunting, and it sounds like the process of writing together has spurred them to take a crack at more screenplays in the future. It’s about damn time.

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