In an article about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck,three versions of Matt Damon, at various ages and from different films, are sketched in black and white.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck: The Genius of ‘Good Will Hunting’

The lasting friendship between these two celebrity actors has resulted in groundbreaking art.
September 5, 2023
8 mins read

In 1997, two men, aged 27 and 25, were called onstage to receive the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Best Screenplay is typically an old man’s game;these two boys were shockingly young to be receiving such an accolade. The entire audience roared with excitement — everyone was rooting for them to win. Both young men had brought their mothers as their dates, and they leaned over to hug them with stunned faces. When they reached the stage and took hold of the awards, they yelled into the microphone with youthful vigor.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were young, aspiring actors at the time, and had written the screenplay in an attempt to break into the world of film. They hadn’t even known if it was possible to get such a project greenlit, and getting it into theaters was nothing but a fever dream. Matt Damon, who was attending Harvard, wrote the first 40 pages of their award-winning film, “Good Will Hunting,” for an English project. He took those first 40 pages to his childhood friend Ben Affleck, and they decided to give it a shot. At 25, Affleck became the youngest person to receive the Best Screenplay award at the Oscars. In addition to their other accolades, Damon was nominated for Best Actor, and Affleck for Best Supporting Actor.

Good Will Hunting” follows Matt Damon’s character Will, a former foster kid who grew up with the challenges of abuse and poverty. Will is accompanied by his best friend Chuckie, played by Ben Affleck. Through Will’s job as a janitor at MIT, it is revealed that he possesses a once-in-a-generation intellect for mathematics. Though his past proves to be an obstacle for Will, a man named Sean with a Ph.D. in Psychology works with Will to unravel the issues caused by his childhood. His tender outlook and philosophical teachings are enhanced by the acting of Robin Williams, who portrays Sean in the film.

“Good Will Hunting” is raw and real. The movie serves as a love letter for Affleck and Damon’s hometown of Boston, and most of it was filmed on-site. Each actor infuses passion into every word, and every delicate moment of complicated feelings is treated with care. At its core, “Good Will Hunting” is about a young genius who comes from an unlikely background, struggling under the weight of his own mind.

Damon and Affleck continued to act together in many movies, but their individual successes cannot be understated, both in acting and production. Ben Affleck went on to play Batman in several DC films, and starred in “Gone Girl.” He has had many writing, directing and producing roles throughout his years in Hollywood.

Matt Damon has had an extremely impressive career as well. Contrasted against his depiction of Will Hunting, his most recent film, “Oppenheimer,” and the iconic Jason Bourne action franchise illustrate the enormous range of his acting skills. His work in “The Martian” was a triumph. Most of the film displays Damon’s character Mark Watney alone on Mars, which allows the incredible depth of his character-acting to shine.

Affleck and Damon’s lifelong friendship has been a well-known success story in Hollywood. Jennifer Garner, actress and Ben Affleck’s wife at the time, said the following while introducing Affleck at an event honoring Damon: “Ben is half of one of the greatest love stories ever told…the actual prototype for the great Hollywood bromance, Matt and Ben…Here’s proof that love is alive and well in Hollywood, at least for my darling husband and my husband’s darling husband.”

In 2021, Affleck and Damon reignited their team and wrote “The Last Duel,” which they both appeared in. “The Last Duel” is an adaptation about a trial by combat in Medieval France, centering around an allegation of sexual assault. It was their first official screenwriting collaboration since “Good Will Hunting,” and with the addition of dozens of movies’ worth of experience for each of them, this film was sure to rock Hollywood. Nevertheless, it was a hard sell. Its premise and execution weren’t guaranteed money-makers: a period piece based on a real-life story, a film centered around the treatment of women in the Middle Ages, a blond Ben Affleck — Damon and Affleck walked a fragile line with this one. They took all the risks, and many paid off. With an audience score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, the unusual and intense execution of its storyline stunned viewers.

“Air” (2023), which Affleck and Damon starred in, and which Affleck directed, is about sports executive Sonny Vaccaro and his relation to Michael Jordan. It was critically acclaimed, especially for Affleck’s directing and the performance of its cast. It grossed $90 million in box office revenue and may be a film of interest at the next Academy Awards. Affleck and Damon were very excited to be working together. In a Vanity Fair interview together, Affleck remarked the following about his friend during “Air”: “Matt’s a f—ing genius… no matter what was happening in a scene, you could cut to Matt. He’s always authentic, he’s always present, and there’s always something f—ing interesting about what he’s doing.”

Throughout the interview, they reiterated how special their friendship was, and Damon described a shared regret of theirs: “What would we have done differently? We both came to the conclusion that we would have worked together a lot more.”

When the minds of Affleck and Damon come together, a genius quality seems to prevail — one that is wacky, dynamic and simply interesting. In “Good Will Hunting,” Robin Williams’ character, whose soft wisdom radiates throughout the film, utters the following words: “We get to choose who we let into our weird little worlds.” A lifetime of friendship and collaboration has given us the privilege of a glimpse into Damon and Affleck’s weird little worlds.

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