“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Sean, Good Will Hunting
Fasten your seatbelts and let’s take a look at the many elements that came together to make Good Will Hunting such an incredible film.
32. The storyline was originally completely different
Initially, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon ran with the idea that the film would be about a math whiz and his buddy trying to outsmart the government. Alas, when the producers at Castle Rock bought the screenplay, they advised them to focus the story a little more (since the original still had the subplot of the genius and his therapist). So, the duo focused on the subplot, which was probably a good a call.
31. From Boston to Toronto
That’s right! A film boasting major Bostonian flare was actually partially filmed in Toronto, Canada. The major Boston locations were the real deal, but most of the interiors were actually shot on sets in Toronto – although the L Street Tavern was shot at the actual place.
30. Sean’s office flow
The layout of Sean’s office was laid out like a baseball diamond, with the bases being represented by 4 chairs and a table in the middle is akin to a pitcher’s mound. This is why the Carlton Fisk home run re-enactment worked out so fluidly – the office was a perfect setup for it!
29. The lecture space
The lecture hall used in the film is actually the McLennan Physical Laboratories – a building on the University of Toronto St. George campus. So, if you’re in the area, you can actually visit one of the “sets.”
28. The famous park bench is now a memorial
The bench in Boston’s Public Garden, which served as the setting for the iconic scene between Dr. Maguire and Will in Good Will Hunting, is now used as a memorial for Robin Williams by his fans.
27. The picture of the boat is legit
Well, “legit” is a strong word, but the picture of the boat hanging in Sean’s office was actually painted by the film’s director, Gus Van Sant. The director happens to have a collection of art pieces that he has created. The more you know…
26. How Kevin Smith helped make the movie
The screenplay was originally bought by Castle Rock, but the bosses disagreed with Damon and Affleck on who should direct the film. Castle Rock agreed to sell the script if the boys found another buyer. Otherwise, it would be made without their involvement. In a scramble to find a buyer, Ben Affleck approached Kevin Smith, who loved the script and passed it on to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. The directing position eventually went to Gus Van Sant.
25. For a hot minute, the script had a gay sex scene in it
Saucy stuff! The scene was between Sean and Will, and was written into the script to test if the execs at Castle Rock were reading Affleck and Damon’s script edits – but no one ever said a thing! It wasn’t until the script made it on Harvey Weinstein’s desk at Miramax that anyone mentioned the sex scene, which proved that he had actually read the draft. Which is why the project was moved over to Miramax.
24. Good Will Hunting was originally a class assignment
Matt Damon was supposed to write a one-act play for a class in college, which turned into a 40-page partial film script. When he moved to Los Angeles, he and Affleck developed the idea into what it is now.
23. The film was almost directed by Mel Gibson
Before Gus Van Sant was chosen to direct the film, Harvey Weinstein set up numerous meetings with potential directors – which included Mel Gibson, who was riding the post-Braveheart wave of success. Gibson was on board with the project and even spent several months developing it, but he wasn’t moving forward fast enough and was asked to step down. We can all agree that in the end, it worked out for the best!
22. Gus Van Sant’s most successful movie
It’s actually much more than that. Good Will Hunting made almost as much money worldwide as the other 14 films Van Sant has directed combined. That’s pretty impressive.
21. Casey Affleck ad-libbed most of his lines
Despite occasionally frustrating Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Gus Van Sant, Casey Affleck relentlessly ad-libbed a bunch of his lines – a choice the other three agreed worked out in the film’s favour. The character turned out to be way funnier than he was originally written to be.
20. Hi, my name is Bob
In one of the early scenes, where Will is mopping the floors, his name tag actually reads “Bob”. We have no idea why.
19. First day at work was full of tears
This is super adorable, but Matt Damon and Ben Affleck cried on the first day of shooting. It was a scene with Stellan Skarsgard and Robin Williams, which got the pair tearing up with happiness – since they could not believe they were filming two big stars for their own movie.
18. The big date
The setting of Matt Damon and Minnie Driver’s date was the Ontario Specialty Co. at 133 Church Street, Toronto – now permanently closed. The manager of store at the time, Anna Zejn, even made an appearance.
17. Robin Williams, the bar and a brawl
After Robin Williams signed up for the film, he really wanted to soak South Boston in and asked Affleck and Damon to show him around. The pair took him to a rough dive called the L Street Tavern, where Williams was apparently swamped by the locals and Affleck almost got into a brawl. Williams loved the place so much, he insisted it was used in the movie. Damon later got a message from Weinstein telling him to stop taking Williams to any other locations.
16. Construction company connections
It turns out that the phone number printed on the sign for the construction company some of the characters worked for used to be the actual number of a construction company Matt Damon worked for in high school. Free advertisement, anyone?
15. Affleck’s gotta go
Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant initially wanted Chuckie to die at the construction site, asking Affleck and Damon to rewrite part of the screenplay – despite their disagreement. But, after reading the new script, Van Sant agreed that it was actually a terrible idea and changed it back.
14. Good Will company
The film had a pretty award-worthy cast, with Oscar winners: Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. Of course, some of those awards were won after the film.
13. Skylar is named after, well, Skylar
The film’s character Skylar (played by Minnie Driver) was named after Matt Damon’s then girlfriend, Skylar Satenstein, who later left the actor for the Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. It’s always the drummer…
12. Like the rest of us, Matt Damon doesn’t like his hair
We weren’t the only ones who were left scratching our heads after seeing Damon’s very frosty hairdo in the film. Matt Damon totally agrees that the cut was a bad choice, “That is so my fault. For whatever reason at that age, I loved that haircut. Gus was like, ‘Really?’ Ben was like, ‘Really?’ If you look at Ben’s hair in that movie, it’s totally acceptable by today’s standards, but no, I wanted the frosted f*****’ hair. I don’t know what my problem was.”
11. Robin Williams ad-libbed the last line
Matt Damon himself said that Williams’ most memorable ad-libbing triumph was the last line of the film, when Sean reads Will’s note and says: “Son of a b**** stole my line”. Williams had numerous takes, trying out a different line every time, before he said that one and it stuck.
10. They handed out movie scripts to Oscar voters
In an unusual move, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck handed out the script to Good Will Hunting to Oscar voters, so they could compare it to the movie and appreciate the improvised scenes. This obviously worked out for them, since they each won an Oscar that year.
9. Stellan Skarsgard loved his scarf
Not everyone can pull off a skinny little scarf, but Stellan Skarsgard can and he loved every moment of it. The actor had a plan for his character and the scarf played its part, “I wanted a rock and roll professor more than a tweed professor.”
8. Matt Damon and Minnie Driver dated during the movie
Yes, indeed. Damon and Driver had their own romance during the making of the film, but their short-lived relationship came to an end in a very public breakup. The two didn’t stay friends, which Driver has stated makes her sad.
7. Terrence Malick helped with the ending
Affleck and Damon arranged to have dinner with the director, and told him the plot of their film. Initially, in the end, Will and Skylar leave the town together, but Malick suggested that Driver’s character leaves first and Damon follows her – an idea the duo loved.
6. Another one for the bench
In the scene with Williams and Damon on the bench in the Public Garden, it looks as though they’re the only people there. In reality, since Williams was a huge star, there were several thousand people watching the shooting of the scene.
5. Sean is based on Damon and Affleck’s parents
Robin Williams’ character, Sean, is allegedly based Matt Damon’s mom and Ben Affleck’s dad. That’s kind of sweet, right?
4. Minnie Driver almost didn’t get to play Skylar
Harvey Weinstein was against casting Driver as Skylar, because he didn’t think she was sexy or cute enough for the part. But with Damon and Affleck’s insistence, Weinstein agreed to give her the role.
3. Surprise! This is Matt Damon’s favourite movie
Rather expectedly, this is Matt Damon’s favourite movie that he has ever done. This is mostly because he wrote it, worked so hard to have it made, starred in it and won an Oscar for it.
2. Will Hunting was originally going to be a physics genius
Theoretical physicist Sheldon Glashow, whom Damon met during his studies at Harvard, convinced the actor to write Will as a mathematician instead of a physics whiz, because it would make more sense – it’d be impossible to solve a complex physics problem on a board, the way Will solved the math problem.
1. The “farting wife” story was unscripted
Originally, the scene was written with Sean telling Will about how his wife used to turn off the alarm clock in her sleep. Williams took an improvisational approach and talked about how his wife used to fart in her sleep. Matt Damon’s laughter is absolutely genuine – he just couldn’t contain himself – and you can even see the camera shaking slightly from the laughing cameraman.