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South Boston native Will Hunting (Matt Damon) works as a janitor at MIT despite being a genius. To avoid jail time for assaulting a childhood bully, he is ordered to study advanced mathematics, for which he has an astonishing aptitude, and visit a therapist, played by Robin Williams. This therapy makes Will reevaluate his life and his relationships with his girlfriend (Minnie Driver) and best friend (Ben Affleck).
Good Will Hunting (1997) was written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, childhood friends who had grown up together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After college, they moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. In 1994, Affleck and Damon got tired of waiting for their big break and decided to write their own film, based on a short story Damon created in a creative writing class in college. Good Will Hunting was passed to Damon's agent, who sent it around town. Like something out of a Hollywood movie, it created a bidding war almost immediately between studios and was eventually purchased by Castle Rock. As often happens, the script changed hands again until it reached director Kevin Smith, who sold it to Miramax.
According to author Michio Kaku, "Good Will Hunting is loosely based on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the greatest mathematical genius of the twentieth century, a man who grew up in poverty and isolation near Madras, India, at the turn of the last century. Living in isolation, he had to derive much of nineteenth-century European mathematics on his own. His career was like a supernova, briefly lighting up the heavens with his mathematical brilliance. [...] Like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, he dreamed of mathematical equations." Damon has spoken about his and Affleck's own real-life experiences living near Harvard and MIT, and of their resentment toward the out-of-town college students who invaded the city each year. Damon himself went to Harvard, where Affleck's father was the janitor.
Kevin Smith preferred to direct films that he had written himself, and so the assignment was offered to Gus Van Sant, who called Good Will Hunting, "probably the best written screenplay I had ever read. We called it a color-by-numbers script: if you just filled in the scenes as they were written, it would come to life." After reading the script, Van Sant immediately called Affleck and Damon and agreed to take the project on, "because you just don't find that a lot all in one screenplay."
Good Will Hunting was shot on location at the University of Toronto (doubling for Harvard and MIT) and around Boston. The film was edited by Pietro Scalia who found that judicial editing helped strengthen Robin Williams' performance, admitting that he "tended to go for the early takes from Robin Williams where he was low-key. As the takes progressed he became more artificial, more exaggerated. When Robin Williams saw the film, he was shocked because it seemed far from the performance he thought he had delivered!" That performance earned Williams an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Released in the United States on January 9, 1998, Good Will Hunting was nominated for seven Oscars® - Best Picture, Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Supporting Actress (Minnie Driver), Best Director (Gus Van Sant), Best Song (Miss Misery by Elliott Smith), Original Music Score (Danny Elfman), Film Editing (Pietro Scalia). It won two awards - Best Supporting Actor for Robin Williams and Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for Affleck and Damon.
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Cinematography: Jean Yves Escoffier
Art Direction: James McAteer
Music: Danny Elfman
Film Editing: Pietro Scalia
Cast: Matt Damon (Will Hunting), Robin Williams (Sean Maguire), Ben Affleck (Chuckie Sullivan), Stellan Skarsgard (Prof. Gerald Lambeau), Minnie Driver (Skylar), Casey Affleck (Morgan O'Mally), Cole Hauser (Billy McBride), John Mighton (Tom - Lambeau's Teaching Assistant), Rachel Majorowski (Krystyn), Colleen McCauley (Cathy).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Bona, Damien Inside Oscar 2
Denby, David "Matt City," New York Magazine 8 Dec 97
The Internet Movie Database
Kagen, Jeremy Paul Directors close up: Interviews with Directors Nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film by the Directors Guild of America
Kaku, Michio Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos.
McGrath, Declan Editing and Post-Production
Stringham, Joan and Keller, Mary Famous Actors