“It’s Good Will Hunting; it’s amazing!”

From now on, every time I leave a bathroom I’m going to shout out “It’s Good Will Hunting; it’s amazing!”

Director Kevin Smith worked with Matt and Ben in Chasing Amy, preceding Good Will Hunting, and also directed each of the films in which they’ve appeared together since.  The story goes: Matt and Ben wanted Smith to direct GWH, but he declined, saying they needed to get someone better.

Bringing Down the House that Affleck Built

Blog Will Hunting welcomes guest contributor Rolando Garcia.

I once jokingly referred to Miramax as “the house Ben Affleck built.” That’s not true. Miramax has existed since at least 1980. (My friend recently showed me a poster for a stoner Star Wars parody Miramax released that year. Think about that. They’ve been pulling the whole “Disaster Movie” genre schtick for 30 years!) Ben Affleck didn’t show up until the later half of the mid-90’s, but he was integral in the Miramax my generation came to know. His Oscar win alongside best bud Matt Damon in 1998 gave him some “indie film street cred” that no doubt rubbed off on Shakespeare in Love. He was certainly in the thick of things when Miramax became the Oscar juggernaut it’s commonly known as today.

No matter how high his star rose, Ben always kept it real with Miramax. Which is why I was so surprised to see him stay with Miramax after the Weinsteins left.

Matt and Ben at the Oscars

A little background for non-movie-industry-news-nerds: Miramax was founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. They sold it to Disney in 1993 but stayed on board as presidents to run the ship, as they always had. So it was an accepted truth that anyone who worked with Miramax regularly did so because they wanted to work with the Weinstein brothers.

When they left and created the Weinstein Company in 2005, all the other Miramax filmmakers and go-to actors went with them. Disney was left with little more than the Miramax name, installing a new president and beginning the “New Miramax” era, with practically a whole new roster of executives and creatives. Yet Ben Affleck chose to make Gone Baby Gone at the New Miramax.

I think this was a clever PR move.

Affleck in South Boston
Photo by Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

The average guy on the street who doesn’t read way too many movie blogs has no idea who runs Miramax. As far as the general population goes, Miramax was still Miramax. And actors, being public faces, come to be associated with brands in the public’s mind. In this case, the association goes something like this: “Ben Affleck + Miramax = some pretty good movies like Good Will Hunting(!).”

Ben used this to his advantage by allying himself with the Miramax name and not the Weinstein brothers. On the mean, indie film streets “Miramax presents a Ben Affleck film” sounds way more impressive than “The Weinstein Company presents a Ben Affleck film.” One reminds me of Good Will Hunting, and that Ben Affleck was once more than a headliner for mindless blockbusters and tabloids. It makes me root for the guy and probably give his movie a chance.

In January 2010, despite major Oscar wins under the new regime, Disney closed the doors on Miramax. The fate of the label remains a mystery, with rumors swirling that the Weinsteins would like to buy it back. But with Miramax off the table for the foreseeable future, I can’t help but wonder: what will Ben Affleck do when he needs to remind people of his indie street cred?


Rolando has spent the eight years since college involved in all sorts of movie-related activities. His most relevant experience to Good Will Hunting was a three year tenure at the New Miramax in marketing. He spearheaded the design and distribution of a most awesome in-theater display for Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone. These days he moonlights as producer on To Them That’s Gone, a documentary about a group of young people who ran 4,000 miles across the USA in 2008. This spring he’s directing his first short film in many, many years.

They’re reuniting!

Sorta!

Matt! and Ben!
Google image search: "Matt Ben shiny joy"

Matt ‘n’ Ben are re-forming their production company for a “first look” deal at Warner Bros. In movie lingo, “first look” refers to this exchange: “First, look – Ben, I wish you hadn’t sold my Oscar on eBay to fund Gone Baby Gone. But what the hell, let’s re-form our production company!”

Of course, I’m being unfair (and hilarious!). Affleck has become a well-respected director after Gone Baby Gone, and his next film, the highly anticipated The Town, is due in September. With his newfound clout and Damon’s ongoing credibility as an actor and a box-office draw, the timing for this thing seems right. Ready those Gerry 2 pitches …. now.

Movie Review: Gerry (2002)

When I first heard about Gerry, the 2002 film written by Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, and Gus Van Sant and starring two of our darling Bostonian golden boys—well, I was excited. Could this be a Good Will Hunting renaissance of some sort? Is this the film we’ve all been waiting for, after the promising start that was Good Will Hunting? After all, it was directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Matt Damon and, well… an Affleck! Not Ben, but pretty close. Maybe it would be almost like a sequel? Or would that be too much to ask?

And, I suppose, one could regard it as something like a sequel. It’s as if Morgan accompanied Will on his cross-country road trip and we find them somewhere in the southwest. And they’ve lost their accents. And Will got a haircut. And they don’t talk much. And–OK, in spite of the superficial similarities, I guess there’s not actually much of a connection between the two movies, despite how badly I was hoping to find one.

The beginning of the film, however, does almost seem like an oblique, teasing reference to the final scene in Good Will Hunting where we watch Will’s car disappear down the highway while Afternoon Delight plays and the credits roll. Gerry opens in much the same way—a car traveling down a road, through a dry desert-scape.

Gerry

It’s like we’ve picked up right where we left off! It’s Good Will Hunting, but without the Afternoon Delight!

Gerry

Alas, nearly immediately it became obvious that these were not Will and Morgan that we were dealing with. Gerry aspires to be a serious, high-art film: lots of long, unbroken takes; awkwardly long close-ups; long stretches where the only soundtrack is the sound of Damon and Affleck’s feet crunching against the gravelly desert ground for whole minutes at a time; grandiose, sweeping shots of the (admittedly stunning) scenery; and a deliberate vagueness as to who exactly our characters are and what they are doing.

It starts out with a long drive, as mentioned, and then our two heroes—both named Gerry—set out on a wilderness trail. They are headed for “the thing,” but after about 45 seconds they decide to “fuck the thing” and turn back. Unfortunately, within moments they manage to become spectacularly lost amidst an ever-changing backdrop of mountains, ravines, and desert scrub. No spoilers here, but you can probably imagine how this will end.

Gerry

As for the script, I imagine it’s probably about 3 pages long—there isn’t much dialogue, and I got the impression that most of it was improvised.

Certainly, this is no Good Will Hunting, but it isn’t bad. I guess you could say my taste in film veers more towards the popular than the high-art, but in the end I still appreciated this film and its intentions. It’s earnest and thoughtful and interesting, and visually very beautiful.

And I bet Will Hunting would have loved it.