By Gwynne Watkins
In the weeks that have followed Robin Williams' death, countless friends have spoken of the comedian's generous spirit. For Williams' "Good Will Hunting" co-star Matt Damon, that generosity was life changing. Speaking with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, Damon explained that his breakthrough film, which he co-wrote with childhood friend Ben Affleck, would never have been made if not for Robin Williams.
"Ben and I owe everything to him. He said yes to our movie and he got it made. I could never thank him enough," Damon told Couric. "You know, I look around at the life I have and how blessed I feel, and so much of it started with him."
Though their script sold quickly, "Good Will Hunting" lingered in preproduction for two years until Williams signed on. Not only did the film launch the careers of Damon (who was nominated for best actor in the Academy Awards) and Affleck (who won a best picture Oscar in 2012 for directing "Argo"), but it earned Robin Williams his only Academy Award, for Actor in a Supporting Role. Damon recalls the pleasure of working with Williams on "Good Will Hunting," telling Couric, "He was the funniest person that I ever met in my life. He was the guy who, when the crew was flagging, he would stop everything and do 20 minutes of standup off the top of his head that literally had everybody on the floor, then be like, 'OK, let's get back to work.'"
In spite of their closeness on set, Damon admitted that he'd fallen out of touch with Williams in recent years, and he was "shocked" by the news of his death. "I think everyone who wasn't there with him at the end feels bad that they didn't see it coming," he told Couric. "I hope I become better at checking in with my friends, and I hope that we as a country get better at checking in with each other, to prevent this kind of thing." In the wake of his friend's suicide, Damon expressed hope that depression would lose some of its stigma. "It's a sign of incredible strength and fortitude," Damon said, "to be able to stand up and say, 'This is real, this is happening to me, and I need your help.'"