Ok...so it's not quite an interview with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck but it's as close as we're going to get to them!
Matt & Ben, written by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, was a huge success in New York, winning Best Production at the New York Fringe Festival and one of Time Magazine's "5 Plays to Watch." UnderGround Theater Company has brought this hilarious play to Shanghai and will be at The Market from November 23 to November 27!
Back in 1997, these two, now, prolific actors/writers came out of nowhere to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay. The story was well known, but the mystery lives on. Matt & Ben tell us the "not so true" version of how the screenplay came to be and let's just say...it's not just based on their talent.
The Shanghai Show met up with producer, Brandi Burtts (UnderGround Theater Company) and we even got an exclusive interview with Matt Damon (Sarah Wun) and Ben Affleck (Awesta Zarif) about this hilarious play.
This show was a huge success back in the USA. What made you choose this project?
Brandi: A friend had told me about this play and I immediately loved it. It's witty and full of slapstick comedy. I thought a comedy was a perfect way to introduce the UnderGround to Shanghai. Once she mentioned Matt & Ben I felt like that was it and it was decided. I also really loved that it's two female leads. I think it's important to have strong female roles.
Could you summarize the play for those that haven't heard of it?
Brandi: Matt & Ben is a hysterical spoof about the friendship between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The two are thinking of ways to get famous when suddenly the script for Good Will Hunting falls from the sky. The two fight over what to do with the script and who's going to play Will Hunting in the movie. Little do they know through all their fighting that the script has ideas of it's own.
Good Will Hunting was one of those really divisive movies. Do you think it still holds up?
Brandi: Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite movies. No matter how many times I have seen it I cry A LOT. It gets me on a deeper level. I think it has definitely stood its ground as such an important film. It also speaks to the dreamer in me. Here are these two guys who write this emotional and powerful script and they make it. It's a great film but the story of how it got made is equally amazing.
Awesta: Good Will Hunting is one of those movies that just makes you go, "Oh, damn. That is a good ass story." I remember the first time I watched it, I was really moved. It's a solid piece of art and I think it definitely still holds up today because of how simple and honest it is. Now, the jury is still out on who did the most writting...but I'm pretty sure it was Ben.
Sarah: I think Good Will Hunting is still one of the best films. That's what makes this play so funny! How can two goofy ass frat guys be responsible for such brilliance?!
In the play, Matt and Ben are portrayed by two women. What was it like playing two of the most famous male characters of the silver screen?
Awesta: What's fun is that we get to play them before they were famous and glamorous. While they're still dopey, sloppy, hopeful and wide-eyed buddies trying to make it in the "industry." That lends itself to a lot more ridiculousness. Also, knowing them and their achievements now, it's really funny imagining them as the young guys they are portrayed as in the play.
Sarah: It was hard to remember to be so guyish. I am such a damn lady so remembering to sit with my legs open especially was something I had to consciously keep thinking of.
Do you try to channel their real personas?
Awesta: Haha, that's a tough one but in the case of this play their personalities and DIFFERENCES in their personalities are written so distinctly and well, that I'm more focused on trying to embody the "Ben" that Kaling and Withers wrote, rather than trying to be like the real Ben Affleck.
Sarah: I found it really helpful to watch the film this summer to get the role better. I watched a lot of clips about Matt and Ben and their iconic friendship. To be honest, I didn't realize how much of a bromance they have! It's really fun to play!
"To be honest, I didn't realize how much of a bromance they [Matt & Ben] have! It's really fun to play!"
Have you learned anything new about Matt or Ben since rehearsing for the show?
Brandi: I am addicted to watching clips with the two of them on YouTube. They actually make me LOL every time. The banter that Kaling and Withers write about in the play is so true. There was an interview that Matt and Ben gave discussing how GWH got made and Ben makes fun of Matt for getting emotional. I cracked up because Sarah and Awesta tapped in to that dynamic on stage. It became more real for me.
Awesta: Yes, I think it's interesting that their perceived personas have almost switched in a way. When they first became famous, everyone considered Matt the serious actor and Ben just a pretty face. Now Ben is also directing and still writing some incredible movies and he has more Oscars than Matt...while Matt is just working on his 50th Jason Bourne movie (JK, I love you Matt and the Jason Bourne original trilogy).
How would you feel if the real Matt and Ben heard about your portrayal and wanted to talk to you? Moreover, how would you feel if they were upset about it?
Brandi: I would probably start crying out of anxiety if they heard about it and wanted to chat but I don't think they would get upset. I mean, I am bias because I am so proud of Awesta and Sarah for their work on the show. They are hysterical and so dedicated. No one could watch those two and not be thrilled.
Awesta: That would be amazing! I'm sure they know about this play and just think it's hilarious. So, if anyone knows them please feel free to forward my WeChat :p
Sarah: I would love it if Matt and Ben came to the show aka I would definitely pee my pants. Believe it or not, I am pretty shy on stage! If they were pissed about it, I would probably cry and apologize.
If you had to choose one to be in real life, who would it be? Matt or Ben?
Brandi: Team Ben all the way! I'm a sucker for the underdog. And Matt is SUPER short ;P
Awesta: Before doing this play, I would have definitely said Matt because I have always admired him so much as an actor. But now, I have a very special place in my heart for Ben Affleck :D
Sarah: I think I would rather be Ben. He seems more chill and I am a pretty anxious person so it would be nice to be relaxed for a change. On the other hand, Matt gets to play Will in the best movie ever, so...haha.