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Good Will Hunting is a 1997 drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and written (with help from Van Sant) by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who both star in the film.

The movie tells the story of Will Hunting, a prodigy hoodlum from South Boston who works as a janitor at MITmarker.

Good Will Hunting was a financial success, earned several awards, and launched Damon and Affleck into prominence.


Though Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level intellect, eidetic memory and a profound gift for mathematics, he works as a janitor at MITmarker and lives alone in a sparsely-furnished house in a rundown South Boston neighborhood. An abused foster child, he subconsciously blames 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 graph theory that Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), a Fields Medalist and combinatorialist, 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 down.

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), an 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 Red Sox 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 Harvard Universitymarker.

This doctor-patient relationship, 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 cancer 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.

Skylar asks Will to move to Californiamarker with her, where she will begin medical school at Stanford. Will 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 out.

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 isn't there.

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 Hunting or acted as a script doctor.

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 Smith was working with Affleck on Mallrats and with both Affleck and Damon on Chasing Amy. Seeing that Affleck and Damon were having trouble with Castle Rock, Smith and his producer partner Scott Mosier brought the script to Miramax, which eventually caused the two to receive co-executive producer credits for Hunting. 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 Cowboy (1989) had left a favorable impression on the fledgling screenwriters. Miramax was persuaded and hired Van Sant to direct the film.

Good Will Hunting was filmed on location in the Greater Bostonmarker area and Torontomarker 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 Torontomarker standing in for MITmarker and Harvardmarker, and the classroom scenes being filmed at McLennan Physical Laboratories(of the University of Toronto) and Central Technical Schoolmarker. The interior bar scenes set in South Boston ("Southie") 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 1997.


Good Will Hunting received many positive reviews from film critics: 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 reports, 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 Damon, Robin Williams and Minnie Driver, all of whom were nominated for Academy Awards for the film, with Williams winning. Damon and Affleck won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Box office
Released in US: December 5, 1997 (limited), January 9, 1998 (wide)

Opening Weekend: $272,912 (limited), $10,261,471 (wide)

Studio: Miramax

Total US Gross: $138,433,435

Production Budget: $10,000,000

Rentals: $53,988,000

Worldwide Gross: $225,900,000


Track listing
  1. Elliott Smith - "Between the Bars" (Orchestral)
  2. Jeb Loy Nichols - "As the Rain"
  3. Elliott Smith - "Angeles"
  4. Elliott Smith - "No Name #3"
  5. The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"
  6. Luscious Jackson - "Why Do I Lie?"
  7. Danny Elfman & Steve Bartek - "Will Hunting" (Main Titles)
  8. Elliott Smith - "Between the Bars"
  9. Elliott Smith - "Say Yes"
  10. Gerry Rafferty - "Baker Street"
  11. Andru Donalds - "Somebody's Baby"
  12. The Dandy Warhols - "Boys Better"
  13. Al Green - "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"
  14. Elliott Smith - "Miss Misery"
  15. Danny Elfman & Steve Bartek - "Weepy Donuts"

"Miss Misery" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, 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 Show on September 11 2006, while Matt Lauer spoke 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 the soundtrack.


70th Academy Awards

55th Golden Globe Awards

Other Major Awards/Nominations

See also


  1. see Goldman's memoir Which Lie Did I Tell?
  2. Smith's comments on the Mallrats DVD audio commentary
  3. Good Will Hunting Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes

External links

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