• Interviews

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Ridley Scott on “The Last Duel” – a True Story

Arguably, one of the most anticipated films of the Venice Film Festival, The Last Duel, is the latest historical drama by iconic Golden Globe-winning director, Ridley Scott, based on the book of the same name by Eric Jager, and boasts a stellar cast including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer.

This 14th-century saga is set in 1386, based on the true account of a feud between good friends and fellow noblemen, Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Driver). Life changes dramatically when Carrouges’s wife, Marguerite de Thibouville (Comer), accuses Le Gris of rape. Affleck plays King Charles VI, who declares that the dispute between the two men is resolved through trial by combat.

Not since Good Will Hunting have the Golden Globe-winning scribes Damon and Affleck collaborated on a script (their first in over twenty years). With a strong female voice as the story’s central figure, they enlisted the help of celebrated indie screenwriter Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Lovely & Amazing), largely to write Comer’s part.

Said Holofcener, “I think they were wise not to attempt it [writing the role of Marguerite], although I’m sure they would have done fine. But that’s why they called me – so I wrote Jodie’s part, and then we all collaborated on all three parts.”

Damon added, “Yeah, the basic idea was that Ben and I do the male sections, the first two acts, and Nicole do the third act, which is primarily Jodie’s story, although Jodie enters into both of our stories. The idea was that in the male stories, the women were manifested when the men needed them for something,” he says, shaking his head. “So, either they were ignored or seen as property, because they were not [seen as] human beings.”


Affleck leaned into the feminist angle of the story. “Well, I consider myself to be a feminist,” he said. “This movie, principally, was exciting to me because of the character of Marguerite. Her extraordinary strength and bravery seemed very obvious once I read the book. And what an unbelievably important and powerful story it was, and purely classical storytelling in terms of somebody who has been done a great injustice, who goes to great lengths to seek justice at great risk to themselves.”

The award-winning actor talked passionately about his latest project. “It’s a true story and one that people don’t know. This is an incredible woman from history, one of the earliest known women who spoke out against a powerful man who assaulted her. Naturally, that seemed relevant and also incredibly thrilling. It’s a story that could generate a lot of catharsis and empathy, and one that I hoped would develop in the viewer a sense of compassion,” he explains. “We hoped that the idea might help us look at one another in a different way, with more empathy and with a sense of wondering whether or not our personal perspective might be taken fully into consideration.”


Ridley Scott, familiar with historical dramas, most notably with the multi-award-winning film, Gladiator, said, “When you get a call from Matt Damon who says, “Hey, dude, you’ve done a duel before [the British historical film The Duellists], but we’ve got another duel. Do you want to read it?’ So I said, ‘Yes,’” he shrugs. “You don’t say no, and I enjoyed working with Matt Damon tremendously on The Martian, so I said, ‘Why not? Let’s go again.’”

As for the much-anticipated Affleck-Damon reunion, Damon jokes about the presumption that these longtime friends have matured a great deal, both professionally and personally, since their last effort. “No, not at all,” he laughed. “But I think we found an entirely different process this time, which was really interesting for us because I think one of the things that has kept us from writing for so many years was the way we wrote back in the 90s when we were 22 and 20-years-old,” he explained. “It was really inefficient. We really understood the characters, but we didn’t understand structure. And so, for Good Will Hunting, we ended up writing thousands of pages that we never used. We thought we’d never have the time to do it again because we both had such busy lives.”

Evidently, the celebrated duo was pleasantly surprised with the speed with which they delivered their encore effort. “Yes. When we started writing this time, I think we were both pretty surprised at how quickly it went.”

In summing up the movie, Affleck ruefully noted that hundreds of years later, there are parallels to today’s society. “As Matt has pointed out succinctly, this is an anti-chivalry movie because the great illusion of chivalry is that it was about, ‘Well, we are going to hold the lady’s hand as she gets out of the car and we are going to protect the innocent female.’ But in fact, it was a code, a manner of behavior that denied women’s basic humanity, frankly, and equality.”