The first time I heard about William Goldman was after Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting. They enthusiastically shouted out their Oscar acceptance speech, warmed the hearts of film lovers everywhere and spent the next couple of years charting very different career paths (e.g., Saving Private Ryan and Talented Mr. Ripley for Damon, Armageddon and Reindeer Games for Affleck). However, in the immediate aftermath of their win I kept hearing this rumor that they didn’t actually write the Good Will Hunting script, or, at the very least, the version they wrote wasn’t Oscar-worthy. The person who truly deserved the Oscar was some Hollywood legend named William Goldman.
“Who the hell is that?” I wondered at the time.
Oh, no one, really. He’s just the guy who wrote Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, All The President’s Men, Marathon Man, Misery and The Princess Bride as well as the classic Hollywood bible Adventures in The Screen Trade. Plus, he’s been an uncredited script doctor on seemingly countless other movies.
He did not, however, write Good Will Hunting.
The backstory behind Damon and Affleck’s success has always seemed too good to be true, to the point that Mindy Kaling once co-wrote a play in which the Good Will Hunting script literally fell from the sky into their Boston apartment one day and they just went with it. As such, when it was revealed William Goldman had offered Damon and Affleck some pointers on Good Will Hunting it was assumed that by “pointers” we really meant “he performed a page one rewrite.”
Not true, though. As Goldman has made perfectly clear over the years, all he did was suggest the film should end with Will going after the girl. That was only after he read Damon and Affleck’s work at the request of Rob Reiner.
What’s sad is that this is the only real anecdote I can share about William Goldman. To me, he’s always been the guy every Hollywood screenwriter points to as their hero, referring to their tattered, well-worn copies of Adventures in The Screen Trade with a reverence usually reserved for holy documents. However, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Goldman interviewed before. I don’t actually know much about him, but I’d love to learn more.
I could just read one of his memoirs, and maybe I will. However, I’d also love to watch a documentary about him.
That’s where Nobody Knows Anything (Except William Goldman) comes into play. It’s a documentary being directed and co-produced by Caroline Case, and it’s Kickstarter page carries the following logline:
Featuring rare footage of Bill revisiting his personal archives as well as verite, in-depth interviews and animated sequences depicting seminal moments in a groundbreaking career, Nobody Knows Anything tells the story of an “unexceptional” kid from Highland Park who defied expectations, broke all the rules, and became one of the most influential storytellers of our time.
They’ve already shot over 20 interviews with notable Hollywood figures like Aaron Sorkin, Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Matthew Weiner, Kathy Bates, Cary Elwes, James Caan, Mandy Patinkin, John Cleese, Shane Black, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Rothman and Michael DeLuca. Now they just need to finish editing and graphics, but they’re $50K short. So far, they’ve raised $13,155 in 5 days (with 25 to go) on Kickstarter.
What they’re making looks exactly like the type of documentary which will someday end up on some random “Best Documentaries About the Film Industry on Netflix Right Now” list, and you’ll spend 90-120 insightful minutes of an afternoon streaming it, delighted by Goldman’s surprisingly frank observations about the absurdity of the entire business of making movies.
But they need to reach their fundraising goal for us to ever get there. So, why not head over to their Kickstarter page and read more about this project and see if you want to donate anything.