Ill will hunting
That screenplay Oscar shoulda been mine. If only I'd written a screenplay.
Out There by Mark Bazer
By the time you read this, local wonder twins Matt Damon and Ben Affleck may
already have picked up their Oscar for Best Screenplay, thanked their
junior-high English teachers, and scooted off with girlfriends Winona Ryder and
Gwyneth Paltrow to catch their pumpkin carriage before the stroke of
But for my sake, I hope they don't win the damn thing.
Affleck and Damon have, in the technical sense of the term, "got it made." And
for some reason, it's bugging the bejesus out of me. As I'm wont do when in
need of an emotion, I turned to one of Shakespeare's most popular works,
Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, where I found the source of my buggage.
The Bard of Avon wrote:
But jealous souls will not be answered so;
(Incidentally, Shakespeare, apparently running out of ideas, later
recycled this line in Othello.)
They are not ever jealous for the cause,
But jealous for they are jealous; 'tis a monster
Begot upon itself, born on itself.
After reading that, I put down the book and did what I so often do after
reading a great piece of writing: I fell sound asleep. And I had a familiar,
recurring dream -- that I was nominated for an Oscar, that I was on the cover
of a national magazine, that I was dating Winona Ryder. When I woke up, I
realized how wrong Shakespeare had been about jealously, or at least my
jealousy. Indeed, I am jealous of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for "the
cause." The cause just happens to be me.
I wanted to be the next big thing in Hollywood. I wanted my screenplay to
attract the attention of Gus Van Sant and Robin Williams. I wanted to be the
subject of countless Web sites put up by adoring young girls who mastered HTML
just for me. I wanted to make the overnight jump from indie sensation to
Hollywood golden boy to mainstream hack. That's right, dammit, the starring
role in Phantoms should have been mine! But I can forget it now.
And so can the rest of you out there in Somerville or Brighton, slaving away
on that million-dollar screenplay. Throw it out, for God's sake. I've already
tossed mine. All three pages of it. It would have been huge -- millions of
Americans would have flooded the theaters to see my heartwarming tale of a
working-class fella from Southie who just happened to be a genius when it came
to recess. But Damon and Affleck have already used up this city's ticket to
Hollywood, and it's time for all the rest of us to find another career. (And
yes, that means you, Mr. Man in the Model Café the other night who was
going on and on about your screenplay-in-progress. I don't care if it's
Citizen Kane -- you missed your chance, and it's a good thing, too,
because you'd probably be sued for plagiarism.)
The worst part of the whole Damon/Affleck thing is that they're more talented
than I am, and that Good Will Hunting is a good movie. Yes, I could
argue that when you get right down to it, the film's pure formula. That it's as
risky and innovative as any film playing at Fresh Pond. Or that the name "Will
Hunting" is beyond stupid. But none of that can take away the tears I shed at
the end of the movie (some for Will, others for me); or the fact that nearly
every critic in America has loved it; or the three sold-out screens at the
Kendall Square Cinema. Even my father, who hasn't liked a film since The
Glenn Miller Story, raves about Good Will Hunting. I have to face
the facts: my three-page screenplay had its moments, but it couldn't compare. I
mean, these guys got Robin Williams to attempt a Boston accent, to wax eloquent
about growing up in Southie, and to wear a Red Sox jacket -- and all this in
one of his sensitive, bearded roles, for Christ's sake! Even closer to my
heart, Damon and Affleck managed to include footage of my hero, Carlton Fisk,
and his legendary home run in Game Six of the '75 World Series. What's left for
the rest of us wannabe screenwriters -- Buckner's error?
Of course, Affleck and Damon are more than just screenwriters. They're Golden
Globe winners, Oscar contenders, big-time actors. They're Hollywood hunks. But
if I admire their work, their behavior and their omnipresence are also starting
to make me quite ill. Everything about them is so gosh-darn precious -- from
Matt's aw-shucks smile to Ben's eight-page fashion spread in GQ (you
know, the issue where he appears shirtless and in fantastic shape on the cover)
to Matt's mother telling reporters she was upset that her son was on the cover
of Vanity Fair. Oh, boo-hoo, Mrs. Damon, or whatever your name is. Sorry
your son is so successful -- any time he wants to come back home to Cambridge
(home of a university I didn't get accepted to, let alone leave of my own
volition) and help me scoop ice cream, he's more than welcome. And then there's
the matter of Ben and Gwyneth, Matt and Winona. Best friends dating best
friends -- could Seventeen magazine not be behind this one? You just
know two years ago, Ben and Matt were lying in their bunk beds jerking it to
those two women.
Or maybe that was my roommate and me. And maybe I'm getting a tad bitter here.
The magazine articles tell me that Damon and Affleck have worked hard for their
success, that they dropped out of school and slaved away in relative poverty to
make their dreams come true. (Still, Affleck is only 25; he couldn't have
pounded the pavement for too long.) And sure, they're extremely good-looking,
but they must owe some of their success with women (Damon's also been with
Claire Danes and Minnie Driver) to the fact that they bathe more frequently
than I do. And how can I blame them for grinning from ear to ear and acting so
innocently shocked at the Golden Globes?
But when all else fails (and it has), I can remember that everything
eventually reverts back to high school. I'd like to turn Mr. Damon's and Mr.
Affleck's attention to this month's issue of Teen People (the one with
Puff Daddy on the cover): they'll notice that's it's my old high school, Newton
North, and not theirs, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, that's picked up the honor
of Cool High School of the Month. So there. Ben and Matt -- I got an idea. Meet
me at the flagpole after class, and we'll see if you ever make another movie
You probably will.
Mark Bazer, a freelance writer, can be reached at