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Good Will Hunting (1997, Robin Williams, Matt Damon)

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Working as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) lives an unremarkable life, until one night he completes a vastly complex maths problem left on a classroom blackboard.

Shortly after, he is involved in a fight, but avoids jail after the judge listens to evidence from Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), who promises redemption through education and counselling. That night, Will watches as his friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck) tries to sweet talk a medical student named Skylar (Minnie Driver). When he fails, Will steps in and gets her phone number. They begin to date.

After several failed attempts, Hunting finds a sympathetic counsellor, Sean McGuire (Robin Williams). During the sessions McGuire admits to being newly widowed, and is able to get reciprocal revelations from his client, who becomes aware that his life is at a crossroads…

The recognition of rare talent occurred on both sides of the camera, with Will gaining the glory, and his creators breaking into Hollywood. Damon and Affleck watched in disbelief as their agent refused a $15,000 offer for the script, only to be vindicated when Miramax sprang for $1 million.

Taking over from Mel Gibson (who opted to make Ransom instead) Van Sant produced his most accessible picture, nurturing a cast whose skill belies their collective inexperience. Williams is the sole star, dispensing with his usual shtick in favour of a measured performance wholly in tune with the literate script.

The writers cram autobiography into the plot, with character names, locations and experiences appropriated from real-life. Art mirrored life during production when Damon finished with the real Skylar, his current girlfriend, in favour of the fictional one.

production details
Canada – USA | 127 minutes | 1997

Director: Gus Van Sant
Script: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck,

cast
Matt Damon as Will Hunting
Ben Affleck as Chuckie Sullivan
Robin Williams as Sean Maguire
Stellan Skarsgård as Prof. Gerald Lambeau
Cole Hauser as Billy McBride
Alison Folland as M.I.T. Student
Vik Sahay as M.I.T. Student
Bruce Hunter as NSA Agent
Minnie Driver as Skylar
Casey Affleck as Morgan O’Mally
John Mighton as Tom
Rachel Majorowski as Krystyn
Colleen McCauley as Cathy
Matt Mercier as Barbershop Quartet #1
Ralph St. George as Barbershop Quartet #2
Rob Lynds as Barbershop Quartet #3
Dan Washington as Barbershop Quartet #4
Derrick Bridgeman as M.I.T. Student
Shannon Egleson as Girl on Street
Rob Lyons as Carmine Scarpaglia
Steven Kozlowski as Carmine Friend #1
Jennifer Deathe as Lydia
Scott William Winters as Clark
Philip Williams as Head Custodian
Patrick O’Donnell as Marty
Kevin Rushton as Courtroom Guard
Jimmy Flynn as Judge Malone
Joe Cannon as Prosecutor
Ann Matacunas as Court Officer
George Plimpton as Psychologist
Francesco Clemente as Hypnotist
Jessica Morton as Bunker Hill Student
Barna Moricz as Bunker Hill Student
Libby Geller as Toy Store Cashier
Chas Lawther as M.I.T. Professor
Richard Fitzpatrick as Timmy
Frank Nakashima as Executive #1
Christopher Britton as Executive #2
David Eisner as Executive #3
Robert Talvano as 2nd NSA Agent
James Allodi as Security Guard
Michael Arthur as Reunion Guest (uncredited)
Riva Di Paola as M.I.T. Student (uncredited)
Daniel Olsen as M.I.T. Student (uncredited)
Christian Harmony as Student (uncredited)
Harmony Korine as Jerve (uncredited)
Thomas Lundy as Waiter (uncredited)
Paul McGillicuddy as Race Track Fan (uncredited)
Stephen Trouskie as Bystander (uncredited)
Elisabeth Anne Hughes as Reception Attendant (uncredited)