It’s been almost 25 years since two unknown actors came out of nowhere to write and co-star in the Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting,” minting them on spot as Hollywood boy wonders. And, according to Matt Damon, there might be a few more scripts on the horizon between him and Ben Affleck.
At Monday night’s New York premiere of Damon’s “Stillwater,” directed by Tom McCarthy and co-starring Abigail Breslin and Camille Cottin, Damon reacted to the news that “The Last Duel,” his upcoming film co-written with Affleck and the first project from the two since “Good Will Hunting,” will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.
“I wasn’t expecting it, because Venice is just six weeks before the movie opens,” he told Variety. “We’ve been holding it for a while, and I can’t wait to see what people think.”
Damon said that returning to writing with Affleck was easier than they both expected, likely a consequence of 25 years spent in Hollywood — the pair a long way from that starry-eyed duo who accepted their Academy Award for screenplay in 1998.
“We wrote so much faster than we wrote ‘Good Will Hunting,’ just because our process has become so much more efficient,” he said. “Out of some osmosis we’ve actually learned about structure in the last 30 years. We outlined it this time. We wrote it like professional writers, rather than actors trying to write themselves roles.”
“The Last Duel,” a drama set in medieval France and starring Damon, Affleck and Adam Driver, was also co-written by Nicole Holofcener. After the project, Damon said he could easily envision more scripts with Affleck.
“What had kept us from writing all these years was that we thought it was too time intensive,” Damon told Variety. “But we found that we could drop the kids off and meet up to write for four hours. It was easy. I’d go home at night and be lying in bed making notes on what we wrote, and I’d think, ‘Wow, this is pretty good. We’ve got six pages today.’ Before we knew it, we had 20, then 40, then 60.”
Just back from a teary-eyed return to Cannes, Damon was in New York to celebrate the U.S. premiere of “Stillwater,” held at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
In the movie—loosely inspired by the Amanda Knox case — Damon plays ‘roughneck’ oil rig worker from Oklahoma who travels to France to right his daughter’s wrongful murder conviction. At times a slow-simmering French drama rather than an American investigative thriller, “Stillwater” is led by a protagonist who isn’t a globetrotting Jason Bourne killing machine, but a screw-up American dropped in Marseille with no skills to complete his mission.
Casting Damon in that role, said McCarthy on the red carpet, was the point.“We wanted an actor who audiences are used to trusting, whose integrity and sense of purpose was almost unquestionable—and then question that,” he said.
Part of what the movie questions, he continued, is the content of the all-American trope many of Damon’s characters embody.
“I was working with two French writers, and they had a very unique perspective on America,” said McCarthy. “We started thinking about America’s moral authority in the world. In movies, that’s often a man on a mission. ‘I’m going to get it right. I’m going to get it done.’ But we don’t live in that world anymore,” he continued.
“That mission is sometimes just pure fiction.”