Roughly 25 years ago, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck tried their hand at writing a movie … and ended up winning an Oscar for it on the first pass. Despite that monumentally successful breakout, they haven’t collaborated on a screenplay since.
Until now. With the release of The Last Duel on Oct. 15, they’re back together. What took so long?
“It took us forever to write [Good Will Hunting],” Damon recently shared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “I think we wrote thousands and thousands of pages … We didn’t really know what we were doing. That kind of put us off writing again because we never thought we’d have the time.”
But The Last Duel turned out to be a different story. “We found [while] writing this that we had picked up structure over the last 25 years of making movies, and so it went a lot faster. And we also made the really good decision of getting a great writer to come with us.”
He’s talking about Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Enough Said), who lends the duo a much-needed female perspective. The medieval tale is told in three parts and from three characters’ points of view: two men and one woman. (The math checks out.)
Altogether, The Last Duel’s writing team is legendary, and it reminds us of a few more movies from iconic screenwriting teams. These movie scripts show us that when it comes to writing, maybe it’s the more the merrier.
The Last Duel is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Together, Joel and Ethan Coen have written 22 feature-length movies. They’ve earned seven Oscar nominations for their screenplays and won twice: First, for Fargo, then later for this nerve-racking adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s modern Western. All this is to say nothing of their additional achievements as directors, producers and editors. Not many siblings get along this well.
Well, maybe the Wachowskis do. As if the first three entries of The Matrix weren’t epic enough, the sisters stuck together to bring the same larger-than-life quality to screenplays in different genres: sports comedy (Speed Racer), fantasy (Cloud Atlas) and, perhaps most memorably, political thriller (V for Vendetta).
This one, too, is a family affair. Brothers Marlon and Shawn Wayans wrote the story for the groundbreaking comedy/horror flick while brother Keenen Ivory Wayans serves as director. Marlon and Shawn also pull double duty and show up in the cast. They’re just three of ten Wayans siblings, all of whom have worked in film in one way or another. Show business is in their blood.
After 1957, I.A.L. Diamond barely wrote a movie without Billy Wilder. The Oscar-winning screenplay for The Apartment was written toward the beginning of the duo’s collaborative career, which lasted more than 20 years and spanned 12 movies (with Wilder always directing). Their creative partnership was responsible for a few more Oscar-nominated titles you’re sure to know: Some Like It Hot and The Fortune Cookie.
We have the trio of Ang Lee, James Schamus and Hui-Ling Wang to thank for this heartfelt family dramedy about generational divides. Although the three of them never shared screenwriting credit as a group again, they continue to orbit each other’s work in one way or another. Most of the time, Lee directs, while Schamus and Wang take the lead on writing. (Together, these two wrote the screenplay for Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Lust, Caution.) Sometimes, Schamus steps into the role of producer, as he did for Sense and Sensibility and Brokeback Mountain (both of which were directed by Lee). Any way you slice it, this group has something special.
Everything is awesome, especially when it comes to the filmmaking talents of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The duo is quite adept at moving between different audience demographics: While they write witty and original animated films for the family with ease (just look at this original Lego entry, or Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, or the upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel), they can also write raunchier laughs, like the ones in Extreme Movie. The duo is also famous for directing the Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill cop flicks 21 and 22 Jump Street
Like Damon and Affleck, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo took a bit of a hiatus after their breakout collaboration. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar arrived 10 years after Bridesmaids (which was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar), but it was well worth the wait. It’s arguably more delightful this time around, maybe because Mumolo gets to be front and center to deliver the lines she co-wrote. (As Nervous Woman on Plane in Bridesmaids, she didn’t get much screen time.)
But it’s not stopping with Barb and Star. The comediennes are currently writing the script for a Disney fairy tale with a twist: Cinderella, from the perspective of the stepsisters.