Before the release of 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” best friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were a couple of 20-something actors and aspiring writers still hoping for a huge breakout experience in Hollywood. After its release, they were legitimate big screen stars and the youngest ever winners of the Academy Award for best original screenplay.
The tearjerker drama had the then up-and-comers working alongside veteran stars like Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgård for the first time, and as both Damon and Affleck recently confessed, it also had them crying long before it hit theaters.
In fact, the waterworks started on the first day of filming.
“Sometimes those moments sneak up on you,” Damon recalled in a cover feature for GQ magazine. “And that was another one of those moments we never thought was going to arrive. To see not only actors, but those actors, saying the stuff that we wrote, was like…f---. Just, I guess, a mixture of joy and disbelief. And relief. And gratitude. That would probably be it. That was a really nice moment. I’m not ashamed to say it.”
And he wasn’t ashamed to say he wasn’t the only one to have that reaction to that transformative moment in their careers.
“I remember him as crying,” the 50-year-old said of Affleck. “Now, memory is a funny thing, as we know, so you would have to ask him, but my recollection is we both were. Yeah. I think ... I put my hand on his arm, as these guys were talking. On his shoulder. Like: ‘Holy s---…’ ”
Just as Damon suggested, GQ contacted Affleck, who owned up to the tears and added he never saw them coming — from himself.
“I knew Matt was an emotional,” the 49-year-old told the publication. “No, it didn’t surprise me at all to see Matt crying. It surprised me a little bit to be crying along with him, but maybe he felt that way about me.”
But given more consideration, Affleck explained it shouldn’t have surprised him. After all, that first moment of seeing their story come to life, with stars they truly admired working alongside them, was a dream come true.
“It was all we thought about, it was all we focused on, and we never really believed it would happen,” Affleck noted. “And it sort of represented the sum total of what we tried to do.”
And at the time, they didn’t even realize the full impact it would eventually have on both of their lives, from accolades to further work to future ambitions — all made possible by the critical and box office success of “Good Will Hunting.”
“We might have cried for other reasons had we been able to see the whole future and understand the complexity of what we’d gotten ourselves into,” Affleck continued. “But at the time, we had the sort of surety and the naivete of being just guys in our mid-20s who weren’t thinking about anything except what was happening just right there in the moment, and feeling a tremendous amount of belief and satisfaction that it actually happened. That we actually accomplished something. We just felt relieved that we hadn’t totally failed.”