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GOOD WILL HUNTING

The Production
With the cast in place, the challenge for the Good Will Hunting production team was to make it all happen, and fast

With the cast in place, the challenge for the Good Will Hunting production team was to make it all happen, and fast. With only five and one­half weeks available to prep the film, producer Lawrence Bender called upon Executive Producer Su Armstrong, who miraculously pulled things together. "It's a blessed shoot in that everything fell into place with a lot of hard work by a great team," says Bender.

Says Armstrong, "Gus' way of directing, his focus and his ability to see what people have to offer really opened my eyes, because he really is incredibly talented and has such a clarity of vision. And he brings with him a tremendously gifted and creative team ­­ Production Designer Missy Stewart ("To Die For," "Drugstore Cowboy"), Costume Designer Beatrix Pasztor ("Excess Baggage," "To Die For") and wizard Cinematographer Jean­Yves Escoffier ("Grace of my Heart" "Gummo").

To direct Good Will Hunting, Van Sant used his classmates and personal experiences at the Rhode Island School of Design as a point reference for the scenes depicting M.I.T. and Harvard. The students at the world­class art school were gifted, high strung and (usually) disturbed in some way, recalls Van Sant. "Although film is a completely different area, a lot of the classes at the School of Design were very technical, involving math. Most of the students in my school were in different states of being very advanced in their field. A lot of them had back stories similar to the characters that we have in the film. My school had the same kind of vibes, intensity and level of study. So I just applied that to this particular screenplay."

Robin Williams sees Good Will Hunting as "a battle of wills." It's a love story with four different parties vying for Will's soul: a mathematician, a therapist, a girlfriend and best friend, all basically trying to help him find himself. There's so much going on in any given scene, it's layered in many ways," says Williams. He prepared for his role by talking to a teacher at Bunker Hill Community College and hanging out at a couple of tough bars in South Boston, where he picked up a blue­collar South Boston Irish accent. "My character's a combination of a few different people from Southie (South Boston). Talking to them and getting a feel for the neighborhood was really fascinating."

Van Sant had wanted to work with Damon ever since he auditioned him for a role in "To Die For." "But back then I needed an actor who was a wasted, weird hillbilly, and Matt was too good­looking. In Good Will Hunting, he fits just right. I thought the character should be seen as a vulnerable person, in trouble of some kind. I think that Matt has a quality that relates to that. He has a sort of misguided feeling in his eyes, like there's a pain in there somewhere. Sometimes we played that quality. I found Matt really easy to work with and extremely cooperative. What Matt really wants from me is a second opinion, before he goes out and does what he wants anyway."

The cast lavished similar praise on director Van Sant. "As a director, Gus is very relaxed, and has a tremendous ability to make you feel at ease. He is a director you can really trust and learn from," says Affleck.

"Gus is like a European director," says Skarsgard. "He's so full of trust and lets you have the time you want to explore the scenes, to investiga

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