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GOOD WILL HUNTING

The Story
Like so many film projects that originate in the minds of struggling young writers and hopeful young filmmakers, the making of Good Will Hunting is a story filled with rags and riches, longshot odds and lucky breaks

Like so many film projects that originate in the minds of struggling young writers and hopeful young filmmakers, the making of Good Will Hunting is a story filled with rags and riches, longshot odds and lucky breaks. Indeed, the story behind the screenplay sounds like a screenplay itself: two childhood friends (and aspiring actors) sit down and try their hands at writing their own movie and, after years of sweat, struggle and studio­wrangling, get the project made with some of the most renowned names in the business, with themselves in starring roles.

The tale of a misunderstood young genius named Will Hunting wasn't originally intended for the big screen at all; it started as a fifty­page short story, conceived by then­Harvard student Matt Damon to fulfill a creative writing assignment in 1992. But something about that simple story just wouldn't let Damon go ­ namely, it's possibilities, and the unique characteristics of its thoroughly original protagonist, a brilliant South Boston "townie" named Will Hunting.

Once his short story was finished, Damon showed Good Will Hunting to his longtime friend, Ben Affleck. The two natives of Cambridge, Massachusetts, had been friends since third grade, and shared the same acting career aspirations from their high school years on. But while they had performed together in numerous high school productions, Damon and Affleck had never collaborated on a writing project. The moment they sat down to contemplate the possibilities of Damon's short story, they realized they had the makings of a movie, and decided to work together and create their own script. "As a pair of struggling actors, we had read a lot of scripts ­ at least 500 a year," says Damon. "The only problem is, when you're just starting out, a lot of the scripts you read aren't that great, and you never even get to see the really great scripts. So we thought we'd take a crack at writing one ourselves. We just thought that it would be something fun and interesting to try. But we never expected the process to yield such amazing results ­ we feel pretty lucky that things turned out as they did. In the beginning, Good Will Hunting was just two struggling actors sitting down to try their hand at writing; the thought that all of this would lead us to work with Gus Van Sant or Robin Williams never crossed our minds. Everything that's happened, and the way people have responded to our work, is really pretty amazing. "

Since it was their first script, and they were both primarily performers, Damon and Affleck took an actor's approach to begin the writing process: they improvised each scene together before writing, building on their characters as they went along. "Basically, we tried to make each other laugh," Damon recalls. "The hard part was putting the story together. We finally realized that you're supposed to have something happen when you write a movie. The whole process was definitely a challenge."

"Then we looked over a few encyclopedias to make ourselves sound more intelligent," adds Affleck with a grin. "When we created Will Hunting, we asked ourselves such questions as 'What if you could read everything rapidly and retain it? What if you could charm the perfect woman?' In our minds, Will was a totally heroic character."

"The roadblock, in fact, was that he was too heroic, " adds Damon. &quo

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