The making of “Good Will Hunting” is the stuff of cinematic legend.
That is partially because the script earned writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon Oscars for best original screenplay and launched them both into stardom.
But they weren’t the only ones to contribute to the classic script.
At a Tribeca Film Festival panel held on Wednesday, moderator Faith Saile brought up that Damon began working on the idea for the script during a playwriting class he took while attending Harvard. Originally, the character of Will Hunting, who Damon ended up playing, was a physics prodigy.
However, Sheldon Glashow, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who teaches at Harvard, told Damon that he should be brilliant at maths instead of physics.
That may not sound like a big difference, but according to Columbia University physics and mathematics professor Brian Greene, who spoke at the panel about how “Good Will Hunting” portrays maths and science, it makes a lot more sense.
He went on to explain why physics wouldn’t have worked as well in the context of the film.
“Having some deep insight about the universe, though, typically, it’s a group project in the modern era,” Greene said. “Doing some mathematical theorem is a singular undertaking very often.”
This works well for both the film and the character of Will. After all, Will’s genius makes him something of a loner, and the more people want to work with him and help him, the more he pushes away. It just seems like a group project wouldn’t benefit him.
It also seems like one of the film’s most important moments, in which nobody realises that it is the janitor who has finished the equation written out on a chalkboard, would have existed without this change.
“You’ve got this guy who sees a problem on the board and he goes ahead and solves it. It’s unlikely someone could look at physics by themselves and come up with a theory of the origin of the universe,” Greene said, “it’s just less believable.”
“Good Will Hunting” would go on to gross $US225.9 million worldwide and win two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams) and Best Original Screenplay (Affleck, Damon).
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.