I just posted about Matt Damon last week and how he’s been enjoying a quieter summer before what should be a busy fall season with the release of Ford vs Ferrari, his upcoming film co-starring Christian Bale. People are already expecting it to be an Oscar contender and the festivals, Venice, TIFF, Telluride, are all announcing their programmes soon (TIFF is happening today, this was written before the announcement) – Ford vs Ferrari is one of the most anticipated titles on the circuit.
But there’s other Matt Damon news making headlines: he and Ben Affleck will star in another movie. There’s a lot of 90s nostalgia for Matt and Ben Affleck from Good Will Hunting. Two good-looking guys wrote a movie and sold it to Hollywood and it became a smash hit and they won an Oscar – the story is forever irresistible. Now they’ve co-written a screenplay together, adapted Eric Jager’s book, The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, and will star in the film to be directed by Ridley Scott.
Here’s the synopsis per Deadline:
It’s a revenge story of two best friends. Damon and Affleck will play them. The main characters are the Norman knight Jean de Carrouges and the squire Jacques Le Gris. They were friends. One goes to war and returns to accuse Le Gris of raping his wife Margerite de Carrouges. No one will believe the woman, and the soldier appeals to the king of France to undo a decision handed down by Count Pierre d’Anencon, which favored Le Gris. The decision handed down is that the two men fight a duel to the death. The one left alive would be declared the winner as a sign of God’s will. And if Jean de Carrouges loses, his wife will be burned at the stake for punishment for her false accusation.
Ummm… are you nervous? Let’s start with the superficial. Certain actors are exceptionally well-suited for period pieces. Matt and Ben, however, aren’t top of mind for casting in period pieces. Do you remember Ben in Shakespeare in Love? I actually enjoyed him in that movie, but he was playing an egotistical actor. The character’s behaviour negated the fact that he clearly did not belong in the era. Matt straight up looked ridiculous in The Brothers Grimm. THAT HAIR. I’m worried that seeing these two in costume as medieval Frenchman will elicit the same reaction as the Cats trailer.
Next… Ridley Scott is directing a period piece, again. Ridley and Matt worked on The Martian together so I get that there’s an established relationship here but with Ridley, is this going to be Gladiator or is it going to be Exodus: Gods and Kings? You’ll recall, he was criticised for that film back in 2014 because it was about Moses and Ramses who were played by white guys – remember his rationale for it?
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” Scott told Variety. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
Fortunately for Ridley, he won’t need to find “Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such” on this movie.
Oh but wait…
This, The Last Duel, is apparently about two dudes, one of whom may or may not have raped the other’s wife… and then they fight over her fate. Under Ridley Scott’s direction, will the woman have any agency? Any say at all in her own life? Or is her rape the motivation for their actions, a plot device that once again uses a woman’s body to tell a man’s story?
Let’s not write this off just yet, they’ll say. It’s not fair to judge the story before we see the story. And Matt and Ben co-wrote the script with Nicole Holofcener who was just nominated for an Oscar for writing Can You Ever Forgive Me. So maybe they’ve taken the source material and subverted it? Maybe they used the book as a springboard and turned it around to give us a film that interrogates the experience of women through a history of misogyny? And instead of Nicole directing it, because she is also a director, after all, maybe these three men, Ridley, Matt, and Ben are the better ones to tell that story? Right. I feel more confident already. Can’t wait to see this movie!
Attached - Matt Damon leaving Ben's house the other day, and Ben getting coffee in LA on the weekend.