Robin Williams RIP




A Fixer-Upper with Great Potential (It’s a Metaphor!)

Central Square Theater's production of "Matt & Ben." Pictured: Philana Mia (Matt) and Marianna Bassham (Ben) Photo credit: A.R. Sinclair Photography
Central Square Theater's production of "Matt & Ben" with Philana Mia (Matt) & Marianna Bassham (Ben) Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography

Interior. Ben’s apartment. A lazy Saturday in Somerville, Massachusetts. Stage right we see a desk, a computer, all untouched. Center stage we got a second hand couch. Pan left we see various junk food  . . .

Thus the stage is set—early on in the play Matt & Ben.

Cut to November 2011: the interweb is abuzz with the news that the house at 2327 Hill Drive is up for sale. We aren’t in schlubby, scrappy Somerville anymore.

Known as the ”Braasch House,” “Ma Castle,” and—by some—the “Good Will Hunting house,” this is the house in which Matt and Ben penned their Good Will Hunting, sometime in the mid-nineties.

Ma Castle Gated Entry

I think it’s safe to say—the popular mythology of Matt and Ben’s rags-to-riches (or “Boston-to-Hollywood”) tale brings to mind something a little less grand than what we see here. (Certainly something a little less Viking-French Norman.) Despite being described in the realtor’s listing as “a fixer with great potential,” this is not the Boston-area apartment with pizza boxes and School Ties posters we were probably imagining. Much like Matt Damon’s Will Hunting (that twinkle in his eye! that beautiful shimmering hair! those wicked smart math skills!), the potential is quite obvious.

A duo of underemployed actors write starring roles for themselves and go on to great acclaim? In 2002 the play Matt & Ben was a hit at the International Fringe Festival and the next year Off Broadway. Playwrights Mindy Kaling (a Cambridge native, now on NBC’s The Office and author of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?) and Brenda Withers (actor/writer of the recent play The Ding Dongs, or What Is the Penalty in Portugal?) wrote Matt & Ben in their crummy, railroad-style Brooklyn apartment and went on to star in the play in Manhattan and then L.A.

Good Will Hunting was based on a story Matt wrote at Harvard [citation needed, I know, I know]. According to the version of the legend being pushed on the realty blogs—one stretches the facts even further to claim the house was built in the 19th century and that Matt and Ben themselves owned the place, rather than simply renting it once upon a time—the duo wrote the screenplay itself here:

Fireplace at the real Good Will Hunting house

My favorite part of the press release, by real estate site Zillow:

No, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon do not come with this house at 2327 Hill Drive. But as a result of the creative whirlwind the pair cooked up inside these funky walls, this Eagle Rock address has unofficially become known as the “Good Will Hunting” home.

So I just want to know… where exactly did they hang their School Ties poster? That fireplace eats up so much wall space!

Central Square Theater's production of "Matt & Ben" with Philana Mia (Matt) & Marianna Bassham (Ben)
From the Central Square Theater production of "Matt & Ben." (Yup, that's a School Ties poster on the wall behind Ben.)

Mindy Kaling is quick to point out in her recent book that they basically did no research on the real Matt and Ben’s journey. She and Brenda were essentially more interested in playing with the mythology of the duo’s celebrity.

So, why is it so disappointing to see how bitchin’ their pad was?

Next thing you know, we’ll find out they didn’t actually write Good Will Hunting. It just fell from ceiling, or something.

But writing alongside fancy chandeliers and palm trees? It does drain some of the Boston from the myth. And the Boston was our favorite part.

The Real Housewives of South Boston

Sure, we here at Blog Will Hunting just had our most popular post of all time, a provocative piece by guest blogger Dorothy.

And Matt & Ben have finally announced a project that will bring them and Boston back together on screen.

And I had the pleasure of viewing a local production of the hilarious play Matt & Ben this summer in Cambridge.

And I have plenty of backed-up ruminations on how walking through Harvard Yard on quiet evenings recalls Good Will Hunting, and what it means to make a Boston Movie in this cinematic age.

But instead of blogging about any of that, I’m going to just post this and call it a day: