Good Will Hunting
is a 1997 drama film
directed by Gus Van Sant
(with help from Van Sant) by Matt Damon
and Ben Affleck
, who both star in the
tells the story of Will Hunting, a prodigy hoodlum from South Boston who works as a janitor at MIT.
Good Will Hunting
was a financial success, earned several
awards, and launched Damon and Affleck into prominence.
Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level intellect, eidetic memory and a profound gift for
mathematics, he works as a janitor at
MIT and lives
alone in a sparsely-furnished house in a rundown South Boston
An abused foster
, he subconsciously
himself for his unhappy upbringing and turns this self-loathing
into a form of self-sabotage in
both his professional and emotional lives.
In the first week of class, Will solves a difficult graduate-level
problem taken from algebraic
that Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård
), a Fields Medalist
, leaves on a chalkboard as a
challenge posed to his students, hoping someone might find the
solution by the end of the semester. When it is solved quickly and
anonymously, Lambeau posts a much more difficult problem-one that
took him and his colleagues two years to prove. When Lambeau
chances upon a janitor writing on the board, Lambeau chases him
away. However, when Lambeau returns to the board, he is astounded
to find the correct answer there. He then sets out to track Will
Meanwhile, Will gets revenge on a bully named Carmine Scarpaglia,
who, according to Will, used to beat him up years ago in
kindergarten, and he now faces imprisonment after attacking a
police officer who was responding to the attack. Realizing Will has
enormous potential, Lambeau goes to Will's trial and intervenes on
his behalf, offering him a choice: either go to jail, or be
released under Lambeau's personal supervision to study mathematics
and see a therapist
. Will chooses the
latter, even though he does not believe he needs therapy.
Will treats the first five psychologists Lambeau has him see with
utter contempt. In desperation, Lambeau finally calls on Sean
Maguire (Robin Williams
estranged old friend and MIT classmate who happens to have grown up
in the same neighborhood as Will. Sean differs from his
predecessors in that he pushes back at Will and is eventually able
to get past Will's hostile, sarcastic defense mechanisms
. Will is particularly
struck when Sean tells him how he gave up his ticket to see the
in Game 6
of the 1975 World Series
(thus missing Carlton Fisk
's famous home run
) in order to
meet and spend time with a stranger in a bar, who would later
become his wife. This encourages Will to try to establish a
relationship with Skylar (Minnie
Driver), a young English woman he had earlier met at a bar near
, however, is far from one-sided. Will challenges
Sean to take a hard, objective look at his own life. Sean has been
unable to deal with his beloved wife's premature death from
two years before.
Meanwhile, Lambeau pushes Will so hard that Will eventually refuses
to go to the job interviews that Lambeau arranges for him. Will
accidentally walks in while Lambeau and Sean are furiously
squabbling about the direction of his future.
asks Will to move to California with her, where she will begin medical school at
panics at the thought. When Skylar expresses sympathy about his
past, it triggers a tantrum and Will storms out of the dorm. He
shrugs off the work he has been doing for Lambeau as "a joke."
Lambeau begs Will not to throw it all away, but Will walks
Sean points out that Will is so adept at anticipating future
failure in his interpersonal relationships, that he either allows
them to fizzle out or deliberately bails, so he can avoid the risk
of emotional pain. When Will refuses to give an honest reply to
Sean's query about what he wants to do with his life, Sean shows
him the door. Will tells his best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck
) that he wants to be a laborer for
the rest of his life. Chuckie becomes brutally honest with Will: he
feels it's an insult for Will to waste his potential, and that his
greatest wish is to knock on Will's door one morning and find he
Will goes to another therapy session, where he and Sean share that
they were both victims of child abuse
Sean then gets Will to truthfully reply to him stating, "It's not
your fault" over and over. At first Will responds to the comment
saying "Yeah I Know" but after repeating, Will begins to cry and
Sean comforts him. Finally, after much self-reflection, Will
decides to cease being a victim of his own inner demons and to take
charge of his life.
When his buddies present him with a rebuilt Chevrolet Nova
for his 21st birthday, he
decides to go after Skylar, setting aside his lucrative corporate
and government job offers. Concurrent to the scene in which Will
leaves, Chuckie knocks on Will's door, and gets no reply. Will
leaves a brief note for Sean, using one of Sean's own quips, "If
the professor calls about that job, just tell him, sorry, I have to
go see about a girl."
Affleck and Damon originally wrote the screenplay
as a thriller: Young man
in the rough-and-tumble streets of South Boston, who possesses a
superior intelligence, is targeted by the FBI to become a G-Man
. Castle Rock Entertainment
president Rob Reiner
later urged them to
drop the thriller aspect of the story and to focus the relationship
between Will Hunting (Damon) and his psychologist (Williams). At
Reiner's request, noted screenwriter William Goldman
read the script and further
suggested that the film's climax ought to be Will's decision to
follow his girlfriend Skylar (Driver) to California. Goldman has
denied widely spread rumors that he wrote Good Will
or acted as a script
Castle Rock bought the script for $675,000 against $775,000,
meaning that Affleck and Damon would stand to earn an additional
$100,000 if the film was produced and they retained sole writing
credit. However, studios balked at the idea of Affleck and Damon in
the lead roles. At the time Damon and Affleck were meeting at
Castle Rock, director Kevin
was working with Affleck on Mallrats
and with both Affleck and Damon on
Affleck and Damon were having trouble with Castle Rock, Smith and
his producer partner Scott Mosier
brought the script to Miramax
eventually caused the two to receive co-executive producer credits
. The script was put into turnaround
, and Miramax bought the rights
from Castle Rock.
After buying the rights from Castle Rock, Miramax gave the green
light to put the film into production. Several well-known
filmmakers were originally considered to direct, including Mel Gibson
, Michael Mann
and Steven Soderbergh
. Originally Affleck
asked Kevin Smith
if he was
interested in directing, Smith declined, saying they needed a "good
director," stating he only directs things he writes and he is not
much of a visual director. Affleck and Damon later chose Gus Van Sant
for the job, whose work in
previous films like Drugstore
) had left a
favorable impression on the fledgling screenwriters. Miramax was
persuaded and hired Van Sant to direct the film.
Will Hunting was filmed on location in the Greater Boston area and
Toronto over five months in 1996. Although the story is
set in Boston, much of the film was shot at locations in Toronto,
with the University of
Toronto standing in for MIT and Harvard, and the
classroom scenes being filmed at McLennan Physical
Laboratories(of the University of Toronto) and Central
The interior bar scenes set in South Boston
") were shot on
location at "Woody's L St. Tavern".
The cast engaged in considerable improvisation in rehearsals; Robin
Williams, Ben Affleck and Minnie Driver each made significant
contributions to their characters. Robin Williams' last line in the
film, as well as the therapy scene in which he talks about his
character's wife's little idiosyncrasies, were both ad-libbed. The
therapy scene took everyone by surprise. According to Damon's
commentary in the DVD version of the movie, this caused "Johnny"
(the cameraman) to laugh so hard that the camera's POV can actually
be seen moving up and down slightly as it shows Damon breaking
character by also laughing so hard.
Director Gus Van Sant says in the DVD commentary that, had he known
just how successful the movie was going to be, he would have left
at least a couple of edited scenes intact that were cut purely for
considerations of length. One of these involves Skylar's visit to
Chuckie in hopes of shedding light on some of Will's eccentricities
that Will himself is unwilling to discuss.
- Filming locations
The film is dedicated to the memory of poet Allen Ginsberg
and writer William S. Burroughs
, both of whom died in
Good Will Hunting
received many positive reviews from
: It has a 97% "Fresh"
rating according to film review compilation website Rotten Tomatoes
, and was nominated for many
awards (see below).
According to the box office
Good Will Hunting
grossed $225 million internationally
(twenty-two times the film's budget). Although the film's limited
release at the end of 1997 (traditional for likely Oscar
candidates) merely hinted at its future
success, the film caught on, thanks to good reviews and a strong
reception by the American public. The film received international
praise, in part due to the acting of Matt
, Robin Williams
, all of whom were
nominated for Academy Awards
film, with Williams winning. Damon and Affleck won an Oscar for
Best Original Screenplay.
Released in US:
- Box office
December 5, 1997 (limited),
January 9, 1998 (wide)
$272,912 (limited), $10,261,471
Total US Gross:
- Track listing
- Elliott Smith - "Between the Bars"
- Jeb Loy Nichols - "As the Rain"
- Elliott Smith - "Angeles"
- Elliott Smith - "No Name #3"
- The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"
- Luscious Jackson - "Why Do I
- Danny Elfman & Steve Bartek -
"Will Hunting" (Main Titles)
- Elliott Smith - "Between the Bars"
- Elliott Smith - "Say Yes"
- Gerry Rafferty - "Baker Street"
- Andru Donalds - "Somebody's
- The Dandy Warhols - "Boys
- Al Green - "How Can You Mend a Broken
- Elliott Smith - "Miss
- Danny Elfman & Steve Bartek - "Weepy Donuts"
"Miss Misery" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best
, but lost to "My
Heart Will Go On
" from Titanic
While Danny Elfman
's score was
nominated for an Oscar
, only two cues
appear on the film's soundtrack release. Elfman's "Weepy Donuts"
was used on NBC's The Today
on September 11 2006
, while Matt Lauer
during the opening credits.
Starland Vocal Band
's "Afternoon Delight
" is also featured
in the closing credits after "Miss Misery," but does not appear on
70th Academy Awards
55th Golden Globe Awards
Other Major Awards/Nominations
- see Goldman's memoir Which Lie Did I Tell?
- Smith's comments on the Mallrats DVD audio commentary
- Good Will Hunting Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten