Kevin Smith has claimed that Harvey Weinstein knowingly hurt Robin Williams’ pay with the theatrical release of Good Will Hunting. Smith had a relationship with Good Will Hunting writers, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, from his previous film, Chasing Amy, and is credited with bringing the script to Weinstein’s attention. The film was distributed by Miramax, of which Weinstein is the co-founder.
Good Will Hunting was originally released in 1997 and stars Damon as the titular Will Hunting, a 20-year-old janitor at MIT with a genius IQ level. Williams played the character of Dr. Sean Maguire, an important mentor figure to Will. For his performance, Williams earned his only Oscar in his nearly 40-year long career. Smith is credited as a co-executive producer on the film.
As reported by ET Canada, in his new book, Kevin Smith’s Secret Stash, Smith claims that Weinstein and Miramax purposefully pulled the movie from theaters early so that Williams would receive less pay. Smith says Williams signed a deal that said if the film were to gross over $100 million in box office sales, the actor would receive a larger portion of the film’s total gross. This means that once it hit that mark, Williams would split profits with Miramax. The film ended its opening weekend with a gross of $272,912 in box office sales. Despite the deal, Weinstein didn’t appear intent on keeping up any part of it. Smith believes the goal of Weinstein and his production company was to maximize their own profits and keep Williams from splitting the profits. Good Will Hunting climbed the box office charts steadily until the end of February 1998 when Miramax began pulling it from theaters. To add validity to Smith’s claims, the film’s box office sales neared $90 million around that time. Smith believes greed was their only motivator and expands in his full quote below:
“I remember when ‘Good Will Hunting’ was leaving theatres and it felt weird because it was like, ‘Wait? There’s all this Oscar buzz, so why would you pull it if it was just making money?’” he wrote in the new book. “And they did it because keeping it in theatres meant that more of the money would go to Robin, whereas the moment it went to video the split wasn’t Robin-heavy.”
By the time Good Will Hunting ended its theatrical run in April 1998, it had grossed $133 million in domestic box office sales. It went on to gross $225.9 million worldwide from a $10 million dollar budget. Good Will Hunting was the third highest-grossing Robin Williams movie at the time and garnered nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for Williams. Smith stated in earlier interviews that he ended his professional relationship with Weinstein in 2008 when he first learned about the assaults.
While Smith thinks Weinstein and Miramax may have sabotaged Williams’ earnings from Good Will Hunting, it did little to hurt the reception of his performance. Good Will Hunting is often cited as one of Williams’ best performances. In addition to extremely positive critical reception, audiences were also moved by the chemistry between Williams and Damon as well as the truly genuine way in which Williams performed the role.