The Last Duel

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the Boston-bred pals who won an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting in the late 1990s, have not co-written another script since – at least not one that’s actually gotten made into a movie. But it looks like that may change imminently, because Ridley Scott is now set to direct The Last Duel, a revenge film that’s an adaptation of Eric Jager’s novel. Affleck and Damon co-wrote the movie with Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and it’s a period piece set in the 1300s France.

Deadline broke the news, and the outlet has a breakdown of the film’s plot:

It’s a revenge story of two best friends. Damon and Affleck will play them. The main characters are the Norman knight Jean de Carrouges and the squire Jacques Le Gris. They were friends. One goes to war and returns to accuse Le Gris of raping his wife Margerite de Carrouges. No one will believe the woman, and the soldier appeals to the king of France to undo a decision handed down by Count Pierre d’Anencon, which favored Le Gris. The decision handed down is that the two men fight a duel to the death. The one left alive would be declared the winner as a sign of God’s will. And if Jean de Carrouges loses, his wife will be burned at the stake for punishment for her false accusation.

On one hand, there are some fun narratives going on here. Damon and Affleck, together on screen again! Damon and Affleck, co-writing another script again – and with a prominent, beloved female writer! Ridley Scott reuniting with Damon for the first time since The Martian, which was very enjoyable!

On the other hand, though…well, this story seems particularly fraught when viewed through the lens of what’s happening in the world right now. This is essentially a movie about people not believing a woman who says she was raped – something that’s still all too common. (Hey, remember when a prominent journalist became the latest woman to accuse our president of rape a few weeks ago and absolutely nothing happened?)

This movie’s subject matter could be viewed as a way for these filmmakers to comment on our current culture, but since Damon and Affleck don’t exactly have a perfect track record when it comes to their working relationships with women in Hollywood, the fact that they’re telling such a sexually-charged story will probably rub many folks the wrong way. Damon’s comments about diversity during an argument with producer Effie Brown during Project Greenlight back in 2015 haven’t been forgotten (though he later apologized), and Affleck has been accused of sexual assault on two separate occasions. Are they the right people to tell this story? I don’t know. Should Damon and Affleck not be allowed to write movies that have rape as a major plot point? I don’t think so, but I’m sure you can see why it raises a warning flag for some people. It’s a complicated conversation, but for now I’ll just leave it at this: personally, I’m way more excited about the movie knowing that Holofecener is writing the script with them than I would be otherwise.

Deadline says that Fox has the rights to this book, but that this subject matter might be a bit too hot to handle considering Fox is now under the Disney umbrella. But if Disney doesn’t want it, Deadline says “every studio in town is waiting in the wings for this one.” The Last Duel is coming together quickly, with Scott aiming to make it his next movie and bump back The Merlin Saga (also a Disney movie), but the script is almost done and it sounds like no deals are officially in place yet, so there’s a chance this one never gets off the starting block.

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