In 1998, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won the Academy Award for Best Original screenplay for the drama movie Good Will Hunting. Upcoming historical thriller movie The Last Duel is their first script together since, and they’ve gone on record as to why it took so long.
During an episode of Around the Table for Entertainment Weekly, Damon and Affleck explained the gap. The fanfare surrounding Good Will Hunting came up, and the two stars say they just got too busy afterward to work together like that again. “We hadn’t written in a really long time. I think mostly because the first time, when we wrote Good Will Hunting we really didn’t know what we were doing,” Damon says. “And it took a really long time. And I think both of us probably thought we would never have that much time again. We were unemployed…”
Damon calls Nicole Holofcener, their co-writer on The Last Duel, the “best writer in the world”, to which Affleck adds, “We wanted somebody good.” Holofcener’s credits include Can you Forgive Me?, nominated by Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards, and her work has been continually highlighted within independent filmmaking. Good Will hunting came together over a couple of years, when, as fledgling actors, their workload wasn’t as consistent as it would become.
“The goal was to get the work and then we started working and that was what we focused on. But we continued to collaborate and work together and show each other stuff,” Affleck recalls. “Then, this book came along, we found it – [I] gave it to Matt, he gave it to me and we were both struck by this story of this incredible woman and what she did and her heroism. It just seemed so moving. Because a part of the story as conceived, trying to reveal the untold world of women that history didn’t record.”
Ridley Scott directs The Last Duel, about two knights in 14th century France, Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver,) who challenge each other to a duel when Carrouges’s wife (Jodie Comer) accuses Le Gris of rape. Affleck features in a smaller role.
Affleck and Damon writing and co-starring in Good Will Hunting was a big moment for both of their careers. Along with the awards, Robin Williams starred in the romance movie, in what’s considered one of his best roles. Lofty standards for The Last Duel to live up to.
The Last Duel is out in theatres October 15.