Matt Damon and Ben Affleck became Hollywood superstars after the success of Good Will Hunting. Not only did the longtime friends star in the movie, but they won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that year. But that was 22 years ago, and despite taking home one of the most prestigious awards Hollywood has to offer, they haven’t written together again. That’s about to change
Not too long ago, we learned Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were finally reteaming as writers for a movie called The Last Duel, a movie they co-wrote with Nicole Holofcener that will be directed by Ridley Scott. With Matt Damon making the publicity rounds for the release of Ford vs Ferrari this weekend, the actor and writer got a chance to explain why it took so long to reteam with his old Boston buddy for this forthcoming project.
First of all, in case you didn’t hear, here’s how The Last Duel has been described:
It’s a revenge story of two best friends. The main characters are the Norman knight Jean de Carrouges and the squire Jacques Le Gris. They were friends. One goes to war and returns to accuse Le Gris of raping his wife Margerite de Carrouges. No one will believe the woman, and the soldier appeals to the king of France to undo a decision handed down by Count Pierre d’Anencon, which favored Le Gris. The decision handed down is that the two men fight a duel to the death. The one left alive would be declared the winner as a sign of God’s will. And if Jean de Carrouges loses, his wife will be burned at the stake for punishment for her false accusation.
While the story of the movie does come from history, using the sexual assault of a woman to further the narrative of two men who are fighting about whether or not she was raped seem more than a little problematic in the year 2019. /Film contributor Donna Dickens even discussed how a story like this could be approached without being so flippant about the subject matter itself. However, Damon noted on The Bill Simmons Podcast (via Collider) that the story is told from different perspectives, and the presence of Nicole Holofcener as co-writer seemingly makes the female character more than a plot device. Damon said:
“We wrote something together along with this unbelievable writer, Nicole Holofcener, she’s just great great. So the three of us wrote this movie, it’s about medieval France and it’s called The Last Duel and it’s about the last sanctioned duel in medieval France between two knights, one of whom claimed the other raped his wife. It’s really this movie about perspective, so Ben and I wrote the male perspectives and Nicole wrote the female perspective. So I think it could potentially be really interesting.”
There’s not a lot of detail there to know for sure how the story will be presented, but it seems like the perspectives of each of the characters will be key to how it plays out. Apparently, this was a script that came together very quickly thanks to having three talented writers churning out pages. Damon hopes this means he and Affleck will write more as he explained why it took them so long to team up on the page and how easy the writing process was this time. Damon said:
“I think we will write more. It was interesting, Good Will Hunting took us such a long time, and we always told ourselves and each other we just don’t have time to write. We’re never really in the same place for very long. And then this one we wrote so fast and I think it’s because in the intervening 25 years, we did nothing but make movies, so we know so much more about it now. Our process was so much more streamlined that without even trying to—we didn’t set a deadline for ourselves. I’d just show up at his house or he’d show up at my house and we’d write for three hours. We’d take the kids to school and then we’d just grab a coffee and sit down and start working, and suddenly it’s like, ‘Wait we have 20 pages? I think they’re good? I read them again last night.’ And before we knew it we had two-thirds of our movie and Nicole was every bit as fast, I mean she’s a professional writer so she’s great, and she’s faster than we are. Suddenly it’s like ‘Wait we have 150 pages guys, we gotta pare this down.’”
It should come as no surprise that Affleck and Damon know how to work together so swiftly, but it sounds like Nicole Holofcener collaborated with them pretty efficiently as well. Hopefully that means we get a movie that approaches the subject matter in a thoughtful way.
Last we heard, Adam Driver was in talks to star opposite Damon in the movie with Affleck taking a supporting role, but we haven’t heard anything since then. It’s currently set up at 20th Century Fox, so there’s a chance it might not end up going forward, depending on what Disney has to say about it. But it would be nice to see what Affleck and Damon can do together on the page again after working on their own separate projects all these years.
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