Until last weekend the only time I had been to the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade was in 2005 with a friend from high school, a friend of my friend, and a my friend’s friend’s 8 to 12 teenage English-as-a-second-language students. I really only remember three things.
- It was crowded.
- Some guy was selling a green long-sleeved t-shirt that said “What happens in Southie stays in Southie” and I’ve always regretted not getting one.
- There were Storm Troopers marching in the parade, and they were wearing leprechaun hats.
This, Boston’s official St. Patrick’s Day parade, has been held in Southie since 1901 — and unofficially since 1737. It is such a distinct part of South Boston history and tradition that Team Affleck/Damon intended their Good Will Hunting would open with it. The opening credits were to take place over scenes from the St. Paddy’s marching and motorcading, and the subsequent opening scene would take place at the crowded Southie bar as Chuckie regales the boys with a story.
Gus Van Sant actually shot and cut together a sequence, which is available for viewing as a deleted scene on the Good Will Hunting DVD. They shot it at the real parade, months before the film began principle photography. This is notable for a couple reasons: shooting at a live event with a small crew, the footage actually looks like a Gus Van Sant movie. You know — “gritty,” “intimate,” etc. Second, according to Van Sant on the DVD commentary, since the hairstyles of the characters hadn’t yet been determined, they are all wearing ridiculous hats as they goof around at curbside. This combined with the actors’ odd clothing in these scenes points to how much those decisions about costume and makeup (and maintaining their consistency) matters in creating a set of authentic characters.
As someone who blogs regularly about Good Will Hunting, I was determined to make it to this year’s parade, rain or shine.
And rain it did.
Still, I’d say it was worth it. I shook hands with the staff of multiple candidates for Auditor, received some green bead necklaces and 2010 Census chapstick, and saw unicycling floutists, an old-timey canon, and the coldest, wettest bagpipers I’ll probably ever see.
As far as the subsequent scene of the boys in the bar, it’s not the most eloquent introduction to the characters and themes of the film. (Otherwise, the film’s strongest moments lie in the relationships amongst Will and his friends. Compare Will’s climactic scenes with Sean, his therapist, and with Chuckie, his best friend. Both communicate to Will that he must let go of his fear, but the “it’s not your fault” sequence with Robin Williams is as forced and melodramatic as the later construction site scene with Will and Chuckie is frank and stirring — “you’re sitting on a winning lottery ticket.”)
Besides making it completely unclear who the main character of the film is, the St. Paddy’s Day bar scene is territory essentially retread by Chuckie, et al, when Will introduces them to Skylar at the bar later in the film.
So, let’s be thankful Gus Van Sant served up a kaleidoscopic meditation on Will’s solitude, stuck inside his brain, instead of a story of a cat getting beaten to death, in those early moments of Good Will Hunting.
EXT. SOUTH BOSTON ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE — DAY
INT. L STREET BAR & GRILLE, SOUTH BOSTON — EVENING
The bar is dirty, more than a little run down. If there is ever a cook on duty, he’s not here now. As we pan across several empty tables, we can almost smell the odor of last nights beer and crushed pretzels on the floor.
Oh my God, I got the most fucked up
thing I been meanin’ to tell you.
As the camera rises, we find FOUR YOUNG MEN seated around a table near the back of the bar.
Oh Jesus. Here we go.
The guy holding court is CHUCKIE SULLIVAN, 20, and the largest of the bunch. He is loud, boisterous, a born entertainer. Next to him is WILL HUNTING, 20, handsome and confident, a softspoken leader. On Will’s right sits BILLY MCBRIDE, 22, heavy, quiet, someone you definitely wouldn’t want to tangle with.
Finally there is MORGAN O’MALLY, 19, smaller than the other guys. Wiry and anxious, Morgan listens to Chuckie’s horror stories with eager disgust.
All four boys speak with thick Boston accents. This is a rough, working class Irish neighborhood and these boys are its product.
You guys know my cousin Mikey
Well you know how he loves animals
right? Anyway, last week he’s drivin’
What? Come on!
(trying not to laugh)
I’m sorry, ’cause you know Mikey,
the fuckin guy loves animals, and
this is the last person you’d want
this to happen to.
Chuckie, what the fuck happened?
Okay. He’s driving along and this
fuckin’ cat jumps in front of his
car, and so he hits this cat–
Chuckie is really laughing now.
–That isn’t funny–
–and he’s like “shit! Motherfucker!”
And he looks in his rearview and
sees this cat — I’m sorry–
So he sees this cat tryin to make it
across the street and it’s not lookin’
It’s walkin’ pretty slow at this
You guys are fuckin’ sick.
So Mikey’s like “Fuck, I gotta put
this thing out of its misery”–So he
gets a hammer–
out of his tool box, and starts
chasin’ the cat and starts whackin’
it with the hammer. You know, tryin’
to put the thing out of its misery.
And all the time he’s apologizin’ to
the cat, goin’ “I’m sorry.” BANG,
“I’m sorry.” BANG!
Like it can understand.
And this Samoan guy comes runnin’
out of his house and he’s like “What
the fuck are you doing to my cat?!”
Mikey’s like “I’m sorry” –BANG–” I
hit your cat with my truck, and I’m
just trying to put it out of it’s
misery” — BANG! And the cat dies.
So Mikey’s like “Why don’t you come
look at the front of the truck.”
‘Cause the other guy’s all fuckin
flipped out about–
Watching his cat get brained.
Morgan gives Will a look, but Will only smiles.
Yeah, so he’s like “Check the front
of my truck, I can prove I hit it
’cause there’s probably some blood
–or a tail–
And so they go around to the front
of his truck… and there’s another
cat on the grille.
Is that unbelievable? He brained an
The opening credits roll over a series of shots of the city and the real people who live and work there, going about their daily lives.
We see a panoramic view of South Boston.