Posted on Friday, January 7th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
Not only has Terrence Malick make a few damn good movies, he can make a damn good trailer and if you have dinner with him, he might give you a damn good ending to your movie.
In an recent interview, Matt Damon told a story of how he and eventual Oscar-winning writing partner Ben Affleck requested a dinner with Malick when they were working on the script for Good Will Hunting. Malick, who was good friends with Affleck’s godfather, granted the request but didn’t read the script. Instead, Damon and Affleck told him the story and Malick gave a piece of advice that made the ending.
Read the full quote after the jump as well as how Rob Reiner contributed to the story and how the death of a major character was written into the script.
We just asked if we could have a meeting with him. We went to Boston to see him. And we had it in the script that my character and Minnie’s left together at the end of the movie. Terry didn’t ready the script but we explained the whole story to him, and in the middle of the dinner, he said, ‘I think it would be better if she left and he went after her.’ And Ben and I looked at each other. It was one of those things where you go: of course that ‘s better. He said it and he probably doesn’t even remember that he said it. He started talking about Antonioni. ‘In Italian movies a guy just leaves town at the end and that enough.’ And we said of course that’s enough. That’s where we come from. If you just leave that’s a big enough deal. It doesn’t have to build up to anything more.
In the same interview, Damon reveals that the movie had a huge government conspiracy in it, until another Hollywood legend – Rob Reiner – suggested otherwise.
The original script that we sold had this high concept thing where the government was trying to get Will. Rob Reiner sat with us for script meeting and said ‘why don’t you guys take all that stuff out?’ Wait a minute. We can do that? ‘Yeah its enough just to make the movie about these guys. That’s a really good movie. That’s what we really love about it. And we said ‘we thought there was this whole high concept thing.’ ‘No you don’t need any of that’.
Also, the film’s eventual director, Gus Van Sant, suggested a radical departure from the original script.
At one point after Gus [Van Sant] became involved I was shooting The Rainmaker in Memphis and everyone came down for script meeting. Gus came down and said ‘I want to do a draft where Chucky, Ben’s character, dies on the construction site.’ And Ben and I were just mortified. ‘What are you talking about’ ‘I want him to get crushed like a bug.’ We said ‘Gus what are you talking about? You can’t just fucking smush Ben. That’s a terrible idea.’ Gus said ‘no I really want to see what would happen.’ So we did a whole new draft on weekends of The Rainmaker, when I wasn’t working, we would write, Ben and I did a whole draft, with a wake and everything. It was took a left turn and went into this other place. The scenes in a vacuum I thought were good, but we still didn’t like the idea, then Gus read it said ‘okay its a terrible idea let’s go back to what we had.’
Being a huge Good Will Hunting fan, it’s very cool to hear these kind of what-could-have-been stories. And while Malick’s suggestion is a stroke of genius, I really think what makes the end of the movie special is the combination of bringing back the line of dialogue, “Son of a bitch. He stole my line” as well as the Oscar-nominated song Miss Misery by Elliot Smith.
There’s more information about the Good Will Hunting script on Shone’s site, so definitely check it out.
Do you think Malick’s contribution is more important than the dialogue and music? And would the movie have been as successful if the government was a big part of it or Chucky died?