Prolific director Ridley Scott is no stranger to movies with a heavy focus on women. With classics such as Alien and Thelma & Louise under his belt, many would put Scott’s cinematic portrayal of women rather high up on the list relative to other male directors. But what separates directors from the truly great ones is that the latter know precisely where their limits are and, ideally, aren’t opposed to getting help from authentic perspectives. This is precisely what makes a recent revelation concerning screenplay credits in Scott’s upcoming The Last Duel so intriguing.
The Last Duel is written by a triumvirate that includes stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, along with Nicole Holofcener (most well known for co-writing the screenplay for 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Per IndieWire, the Rashomon-styled structure of The Last Duel specifically allowed for Affleck and Damon to write the sequences pertaining to their character’s recollections of the film’s central conflict: the alleged rape of Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer). Holofcener, meanwhile, handled the writing for Carrouges’ pivotal sequence.
As Damon tells it:
“It’s a story about perspective. So, there are two knights and then there’s the Lady Marguerite. So Ben and I wrote the male perspectives and Nicole Holofcener wrote the female perspective. That’s kind of the architecture of that movie.”
Though Holofcener likely contributed to more of the script than that — the procedure to receive arbitration credits are typically arduous and even somewhat ruthless, with stipulations outlining that, “Any writer, including a production executive, whose work represents a contribution of more than 33% to the final shooting script shall be entitled to screenplay credit” — it’s encouraging and refreshing to hear that the writing process allowed room for a woman to handle the parts of the story specifically told from a woman’s perspective.
Damon, of course, co-wrote the script for Good Will Hunting with Affleck almost 25 years ago. The Last Duel marks their first writing reunion since then, and Damon expands on how their process has changed in the years since.
We didn’t really understand structure [while writing ‘Good Will Hunting’] so we wrote thousands of pages. We’d be like, ‘Well, what if this happened?,’ and then we’d just write different scenes. So, we had all these kind of disparate scenes and then we kind of tried to jam them together into something that looked like a movie.”
“Making movies for 30 years, we actually learned something about structure along the way and the process went along a lot faster. And so I think we’ll write a lot more in the future just because it didn’t turn out to be as time consuming as we thought. It was actually a lot of fun.”
The Last Duel
The Last Duel was just announced to be premiering at the Venice Film Festival. Starring Damon as Jean de Carrouges, Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon, Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges, and Adam Driver as Jacques LeGris, the film is based on Erig Jager’s novel, The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France.
The film is set for release on October 15, 2021.
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