Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.
Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

Williams’ genius payday move

MATT Damon has revealed the crafty deal Robin Williams cut for Good Will Hunting that made him millions.

On The Bill Simmons Podcast, Damon, 47, opened up about the 1997 movie he wrote with Ben Affleck which went on to win them the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

"Ben and I had sold the script for $US600,000 which we split and then I had a deal for Good Will Hunting if it went that I get $US350,000," Damon said.

"Robin made this incredible deal where if the movie made over $US60 million he started to get some sort of escalating participation. He read it and he just got it. Everyone was like, 'This is cool, we're getting Robin Williams cheap,' because he's the biggest movie star in the world and I think he got $US20 million a movie, and I think they paid him like $US5 million."


Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.
Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.


The movie exceeded everyone's expectations and made more than $US225 million worldwide.

"They were like, 'Great, we're winning here,' and then it just turned out Robin crushed them," Damon recalled.

The actor said he and Affleck "never begrudged" Williams for the deal because it was his involvement that helped get the movie made.

"That changed everything," Damon said about Williams signing on.

"We called that our Harvey Keitel part because of Reservoir Dogs and we had heard that Reservoir Dogs got made because Harvey Keitel said yes and that got funding, so we said we need a Harvey Keitel part.

"We wrote specifically a role, it could have gone anywhere from a Harvey Keitel or a De Niro or an Ed Harris or a huge massive star like Robin or Tom Hanks … it could have gone Meryl Streep, you know what I mean? We could have done some rewrites and it becomes more of a mother/son relationship. It could have gone to Morgan Freeman … and then you bring in elements of racial tension around Boston.

"It was made to be as flexible as possible because we were just trying to get it made, that was a bit of a calculation I guess," he said.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting.


After making Good Will Hunting, Damon went on to appear in Saving Private Ryan and Affleck starred in Armageddon. Due to the very different film choices, Damon was portrayed in the media at the time as the 'smart guy' and Affleck was portrayed as 'the dumbass' of the duo.

"That was really hurtful, to be honest," Damon told Simmons about the two different portrayals.

"I remember the first time seeing Saturday Night Live and they portrayed Ben as some f***ing neanderthal who literally couldn't talk. It was so offensive and so not true.

"We'd shot Good Will Hunting. I remember, after seeing a rough cut of the movie, we were at Miramax and Ben asked Harvey (Weinstein) to please call Michael Bay because he was up for this movie, Armageddon. And I remember thinking, 'Oh that's really smart, maybe Michael Bay will listen to Harvey …'

"I would have done Armageddon," Damon continued. "We had no idea where things were going to go for us, we needed jobs. I had lucked out and been cast in Saving Private Ryan, so those movies came out the following summer … and then it was like, 'Oh Matt's the serious guy and Ben's the big popcorn movie guy,' and it was just like, no!


Matt Damon with Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan.
Matt Damon with Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan.


"It was terrifically unfair and it took a long time for Ben to right that ship publicly … It wasn't until he started directing and started directing some really good movies and then won Best Picture that people were like, 'Oh f**k, he's really smart.'"

After Saving Private Ryan, Damon then starred alongside Edward Norton and John Malkovich in Rounders, a film about a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks.

In the podcast, Damon spoke about what it was like working with John Malkovich who at the time was one of the most mysterious and revered actors in Hollywood.

"This is one of my favourite stories," Damon said to Simmons.

"So the build-up to Malkovich getting there was extraordinary. He had one of those deals where he was there for a week. We start shooting in December, Malkovich is coming February 1st. So for the whole run of the show it was like, 'Malkovich is coming!'

"He shows up and the first time we roll, he goes, (Damon puts on a crazy Russian accent) 'If you don't have my money, then you are mine.'



"They go, 'Cut!' and everybody just spontaneously erupts into applause. They were like, 'F**k, he's amazing!'

"It's just me and him (in the scene) and I'm looking at him across the table like, 'What are you doing?'"

Damon was confused by the bizarre Russian accent Malkovich was doing, which Malkovich did in the second take as well and got just as big a round of applause for afterwards.

"I was just looking at him and I guess he sees me, I'm giving him the one-eye and I don't even mean to and he leans over the table and he beckons for me," Damon said.

"I lean across the poker table and he whispers in my ear and he goes, 'I'm a terrible actor.'

"It was the f***ing greatest. There was so much in that that I still to this day treasure."

After a string of hit movies including The Talented Mr Ripley and Dogma, Damon signed on for Ocean's Eleven with George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt.

In the podcast, Damon spoke about how Pitt was a megastar at the time whereas he and Clooney were still trying to make a name for themselves.

"Brad was massively famous," Damon said.

"There was something on Ocean's that George wanted us to do, I forget what it was, it was some appearance or something. Brad said no and George looked at me and said, 'Well, look, you can't really blame the guy, I mean he's Brad Pitt and he's been Brad Pitt a lot longer than we've been us,'" Damon said.

"I remember the first time we went to Europe on that movie to promote and George tells the story of people stepping over our faces in order to get to Brad. We were completely invisible.

"We used to send him out before us because there would be 1000 people out the front of the hotel and we would say, 'Brad, just walk out to the left,' and they would go completely bananas and George and I would just walk out to the right and go to dinner."


Matt Damon reunited with Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean’s Twelve.
Matt Damon reunited with Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean’s Twelve.


Damon went on to star in Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen as well as other huge films including The Bourne franchise, The Departed and The Martian.

He's also starred in a few duds and was asked by Simmons which of his films he's most surprised wasn't a success.

"There have been quite a few that I really wished worked better," Damon said.

"Downsizing I was really bummed out about. I just thought the critical response would be better.

"It's so f***ing weird," he said about the movie. "It takes such a bizarre left turn that's so insane … it was so bizarre but wonderfully bizarre that I thought film critics would go, 'This is the f***ing kind of thing that people need to be making more of …' And instead it was like the opposite; 'What, Kristen Wiig doesn't get small and it's a not a screwball comedy? What's going on?'

"I would have bet that one wrong, obviously," Damon said.


Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.


The Oscar winner added that he never sets out to make a bad movie and that if he says yes to it, it's because he believes it has potential.

"I always tell people, you don't see the movie before you make it," Damon said.

"You get the ingredients for whatever you're cooking and you get to see what the ingredients are and you go, 'All right, with all these people around we should be able to do something pretty good, or hopefully great.'

"Some of them just don't work," he said.

Damon will next be seen on the big screen alongside Christian Bale and Jon Bernthal in Ford v. Ferrari, the true story of the battle between Ford and Ferrari to win Le Mans in 1966. It's due out mid next year.

You can listen to Bill Simmons' full podcast with Matt Damon below.


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