‘Good Will Hunting’ turns 20: 9 stories about the making of the film

It’s been 20 years since “Good Will Hunting” hit movie theaters and made household names of its screenwriters and stars, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

A critical darling, “Good Will Hunting” won two of the nine Oscars for which it was nominated, including one for Affleck and Damon and another for supporting actor Robin Williams — and proved to be lucrative to boot.

According to Box Office Mojo, “Good Will Hunting” earned $225,933,435 worldwide and was ranked as the seventh most lucrative film of 1997.

However, despite the film’s tremendous success, there are still things about its production that even the biggest “Good Will Hunting” fans might not know.

1. The script began as a school project: Damon told Boston Magazine in 2013 that he began writing “Good Will Hunting” for a playwriting class he was taking at Harvard University. After the course ended, he asked his childhood friend Affleck to help him flesh out the story. “We came up with this idea of the brilliant kid and his townie friends, where he was special and the government wanted to get their mitts on him. And it had a very ‘Beverly Hills Cop,’ ‘Midnight Run’ sensibility, where the kids from Boston were giving the NSA the slip all the time,” Affleck told the magazine. “We would improvise and drink like six or 12 beers or whatever and record it with a tape recorder. At the time we imagined the professor and the shrink would be Morgan Freeman and [Robert] De Niro, so we’d do our imitations of Freeman and De Niro. It was kind of hopelessly naive and probably really embarrassing in that respect.” Damon said that the only scene that survived from his initial draft was the one in which his character, a math genius, meets his psychologist, played by Williams.

Ultimately, they dropped the NSA story after Rob Reiner, whose company Castle Rock originally bought the film, told Damon and Affleck that the film needed more focus. “It was a complete overhaul,” Affleck said.

IMDB
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting,” 1997.

2. Will Hunting was originally a physics genius: At the suggestion of Harvard professor and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Sheldon Glashow, Damon’s character, Will Hunting, became a mathematics genius instead. Glashow’s brother-in-law, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Daniel Kleitman, went on to work with Damon and Affleck to ensure that the dialogue would be authentic. “When they asked me, ‘Can you speak math to us?’ my mouth froze,” he told…

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