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Affleck ad Damon prove to be unlikely movie duo

Sean Sweany | Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The two names go together like Laurel and Hardy or Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. The two Hollywood mega stars have enjoyed fame and fortune in their brief movie careers ever since their breakout performances in “Good Will Hunting.”

The story of their seemingly overnight transformation from obscure actors to stardom is the epitome of the Hollywood success story.

Matt and Ben were good friends throughout childhood as they played little league and took drama classes together. Both had a penchant for acting and ventured to Hollywood to attempt a career in show business. Their early careers featured small roles in movies and television, but this satisfied neither of the aspiring leading men.

The trouble the two encountered landing big roles led them to write an independent screenplay so that they would have complete control over their project. Their script was first purchased by the film company Castle Rock, but the studio would not give Matt and Ben the control they desired. Director Kevin Smith – a friend who cast Matt and Ben in his independent comedy “Chasing Amy” – delivered their script to the head of the studio Miramax, which immediately bought the film and gave the two their desired control.

The screenplay, entitled “Good Will Hunting,” told the story of a young man (Damon) from Boston who was prodigious in mathematics but had trouble in relationships with other people and himself. Damon’s character must struggle with himself and his relationships so that he can open up to others and also realize his gift and its true potential.

In 1997, “Good Will Hunting” made it to the big screen and grossed $225 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing Miramax picture until “Chicago” in 2002.

Critics loved the film not only for the writing, but also because of the superb acting from Damon, Affleck and supporting actors including Robin Williams and Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd (“Amistad”). “Good Will Hunting” won two Academy Awards – Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams) and Best Original Screenplay.

After their success with “Good Will Hunting,” Matt and Ben immediately became two of the most well known actors in Hollywood.

They acted together in several more films, including “Dogma,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and “Jersey Girl.” Beyond this, however, the acting careers of the friends began to take different paths.

Affleck chose roles in big budget blockbusters such as “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Daredevil.” Damon, on the other hand, picked projects based on the director and made movies such as “Rounders,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “All The Pretty Horses” and “Syriana.”

While Damon made his share of big budget movies like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Bourne Identity,” these still tended to be more serious films than Affleck’s.

Although their careers diverged, the two remain good friends and still work on projects together. One of their latest efforts is “Project Greenlight” – a contest through which aspiring screenwriters can submit their work with the hopes of making it into a full-length movie.

The entire process of selecting and creating the movie would air on television before the final film premiered in theaters. This endeavor has led to two films – “Stolen Summer” and “The Battle of Shaker Heights” – both of which received respectable amounts of critical acclaim.

Through “Project Greenlight,” Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are able to help other aspiring screenwriters participate in the dream and success they enjoyed from “Good Will Hunting.” Their remarkable story demonstrates the reward of perseverance and determination in the typically cutthroat world of Hollywood.

A story like theirs will serve as inspiration to many young dreamers who hope to make it big on the silver screen.