Great Scene: “Good Will Hunting”

The bar scene. Will’s classic putdown. And a spin on the ‘meet cute’.

In 1997, two young actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, co-starred in the movie Good Will Hunting. They also co-wrote the screenplay, which ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, Written Directly for the Screen. There are a lot of great scenes in the movie, but my favorite is this one: Where Will (Damon) backs up his buddy Chuckie (Affleck) and utterly puts down a stuffy Harvard grad student.

INT. BOW AND ARROW -- CONTINUOUSChuckie is collecting money from the guys to buy a pitcher,
all but Morgan cough up some crumpled dollars.
CHUCKIE
So, this is a Harvard bar, huh? I
thought there'd be equations and shit
on the wall.
INT. BACK SECTION, BOW AND ARROW -- MOMENTS LATERChuckie returns to a table where Will, Morgan and Billy have
made themselves comfortable. He [Chuckie] spots two ATTRACTIVE YOUNG
HARVARD WOMEN sitting together at the end of the bar. Chuckie
struts his way toward the women and pulls up a chair. He
flashes a smile and tries to submerge his thick Boston accent.
CHUCKIE
Hey, how's it goin'?
LYDIA
Fine.
SKYLAR
Okay.
CHUCKIE
So, you ladies ah, go to school here?
LYDIA
Yes.
CHUCKIE
Yeah, cause I think I had a class with
you.
At this point, several interested parties materialize. Morgan
Billy and Will try, as inconspicuously as possible, to situate
themselves within listening distance. A rather large student
in a HARVARD LACROSSE sweatshirt, CLARK (22) notices Chuckie.
He [Clark] walks over to Skylar and Lydia, nobly hovering over them as protector. This gets Will, Morgan, and Billy's attention.
SKYLAR
What class?
CHUCKIE
Ah, history I think.
SKYLAR
Oh...
CHUCKIE
Yah, it's not a bad school...
At this point, Clark can't resist and steps in. CLARK
What class did you say that was?
CHUCKIE
History.
CLARK
How'd you like that course?
CHUCKIE
Good, it was all right.
CLARK
History? Just "history?" It must
have been a survey course then.
Chuckie nods. Clark notices Chuckie's clothes. Will and Billy
exchange a look and move subtly closer.
CLARK (cont'd)
Pretty broad. "History of the World?"
CHUCKIE
Hey, come on pal we're in classes all
day. That's one thing about Harvard never
seizes to amaze me, everybody's talkin'
about school all the time.
CLARK
Hey, I'm the last guy to want to talk
about school at the bar. But as long
as you're here I want to "seize" the
opportunity to ask you a question.
Billy shifts his beer into his left hand. Will and Morgan see
this. Morgan rolls his eyes as if to say "not again..."
CLARK (cont'd)
Oh, I'm sure you covered it in your
history class.
Clark looks to see if the girls are impressed. They are not.
When Clark looks back to Chuckie, Skylar turns to Lydia and
rolls her [own] eyes. They laugh. Will sees this and smiles.
CHUCKIE
To tell you the truth, I wasn't there
much. The class was rather elementary.
CLARK
Elementary? Oh, I don't doubt that it
was. I remember the class, it was
just between recess and lunch.
Will and Billy come forward, stand behind Chuckie. CHUCKIE
All right, are we gonna have a problem?
CLARK
There's no problem. I was just hoping
you could give me some insight into
the evolution of the market economy in
the early colonies. My contention is
that prior to the Revolutionary War
the economic modalities especially of
the southern colonies could most aptly
be characterized as agrarian pre-
capitalist and...
Will, who at this point has migrated to Chuckie's side and is
completely fed-up, includes himself in the conversation.
WILL
Of course that's your contention.
You're a first year grad student.
You just finished some Marxian
historian, Pete Garrison prob'ly, and
so naturally that's what you believe
until next month when you get to James
Lemon and get convinced that Virginia
and Pennsylvania were strongly
entrepreneurial and capitalist back in
1740. That'll last until sometime in
your second year, then you'll be in
here regurgitating Gordon Wood about
the Pre-revolutionary utopia and the
capital-forming effects of military
mobilization.
CLARK
(taken aback)
Well, as a matter of fact, I won't,
because Wood drastically underestimates
the impact of--
WILL
--"Wood drastically underestimates the
impact of social distinctions predicated
upon wealth, especially inherited
wealth..." You got that from "Work in
Essex County," Page 421, right? Do
you have any thoughts of your own on
the subject or were you just gonna
plagarize the whole book for me?
Clark is stunned. WILL(cont'd)
Look, don't try to pass yourself off
as some kind of an intellect at the
expense of my friend just to impress
these girls.
Clark is lost now, searching for a graceful exit, any exit. WILL (cont'd)
The sad thing is, in about 50 years
you might start doin' some thinkin' on
your own and by then you'll realize
there are only two certainties in life.
CLARK
Yeah? What're those?
WILL
One, don't do that. Two-- you dropped
a hundred and fifty grand on an
education you coulda' picked up for a
dollar fifty in late charges at the
Public Library.
Will catches Skylar's eye. CLARK
But I will have a degree, and you'll
be serving my kids fries at a drive
through on our way to a skiing trip.
WILL
(smiles)
Maybe. But at least I won't be a prick.
(beat)
And if you got a problem with that, I
guess we can step outside and deal
with it that way.
While Will is substantially smaller than Clark, he [Clark] decides not to take Will up on his [Will's] offer. WILL (cont'd)
If you change your mind, I'll be
over by the bar.
He turns and walks away. Chuckie follows, throwing Clark a
look. Morgan turns to a nearby girl.
MORGAN
My boy's wicked smart.

And the scene in the movie:

One amazing thing about the project is the screenplay didn’t start off as a drama. Per Wikipedia:

The scene is not only hugely entertaining, it also — like all great scenes — services the plot: (A) It indicates for the first time just how smart Will is. (B) It intersects he and Skylar (Minnie Driver), Will’s love interest / Attractor character.

How about you? What are your favorite scenes from Good Will Hunting?

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For more post in the Great Scene series, go here.

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