Matt Damon currently lives with his wife Luciana and four daughters in New York, but is planning a move to LA at the end of the school year. Leno asked him why he was making the move and Damon credited it to his long-time friendship with Ben Affleck who is married to Jennifer Garner and has three children of his own.
He said, “We just decided to come back. I’m gonna be right down the street from Ben and we can keep the kids all together.”
Damon and Affleck have been friends for over 32 years, having met when Matt was 10 and Ben was 8.
When did Damon become aware that his little movie had become a monster hit? "I know I realized it when Harvey Weinstein called me and told me that we could get it to $150 million, but Robin had a deal — God, I love Robin — against 20 percent of the gross," said Damon. "He was one of the biggest movie stars at the time, but he drastically reduced his fee and basically bet on the movie by saying, 'After it reaches $60 million, I get an increasing percentage of the gross.' And when they drew up the contract, Miramax was like, '$60 million? If we can get to $60 million, that'd be amazing.' And it made more than twice that!"
"They hit a point where, just mathematically, it cost more for Harvey to keep the ads in the papers and keep the movie in theaters than to just pull it and get more money on DVD and video. So Harvey called me and said, 'We can keep it in [theaters], and we can definitely get the movie to $150 million, but I need you to call Robin and ask his permission to renegotiate the deal from this point on.' And I was like, 'Harvey, are you asking me to call the guy who not only got our movie made, but believed in it so much that he structured his entire deal around its success? There's no way I'm making that phone call.' And I didn't, and Good Will Hunting made $138 million." Damon laughed uproariously.
Thanks to Van Sant's naturalistic approach, the movie still holds up today, fifteen years later. Well, all right ... there is one thing that feels dated about it: Damon's yellow-blond nineties haircut.
"You know, and I fought for that hair," Damon admitted, groaning. "That is so my fault. For whatever weird 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 fuckin' hair. I don't know what my problem was. I looked like I should be singing backup for Color Me Badd."
For nine months, work on screenplay drafts continued. Moore marvels, “Matt and John have a very strong work ethic; they would make time to get together and refine the script, whether it was in Mexico City, Vancouver, or New York City. These two guys are very secure in being able to tell each other when an idea is bad – which I think is the most important thing in a partnership – and are truly supportive when an idea is good.”
Closest to home on the West Coast, the writing partners convened “every weekend while Matt was shooting We Bought a Zoo,” recalls Krasinski. “We’d write all day Saturday and all day Sunday with his kids and our wives all around. It could get chaotic.”
Damon says, “During the week, John and I would go back to our jobs and pore over what we’d written during our downtimes, scribbling notes and ideas before reconvening on the weekend to revise and revise and revise.
“My wife said to me, ‘You had such a great time that even if it never gets made, it was worth it because you remembered how much you love writing and you had this incredible creative experience with John.’”
AE: What do Damon and Krasinki bring out of each other as writers?
Gus Van Sant: I heard [Damon] say just yesterday that he wouldn't necessarily write much unless he had a writing partner. Or he wouldn't write at all. It's not like he's turned out a bunch of screenplays in his spare time. I think he's used to writing from the perspective of a performer. Because they're both performers, they can act out ideas or do scenes together as they're writing. The writing comes from those scenes, that imagining. They're making each other laugh by imagining a scene in a given part of the story, and they get into it. I've seen them do it. Even if it was a wrong turn. "What if you two guys were playing pool together?" And they'd visit it, and start doing it. They'd make stuff up. If they liked the dialogue that came out, then they might take out the pool table [in the scene]. They're actually writing, but they're writing out loud. They both need someone to ping-pong off of. In John's case, he can go faster than Matt and be as quick-witted or quicker -- probably quicker. And probably because Matt feels John is quicker than he is, there's some competitiveness there.