We’re used to walking out of movies set in the 1960s and 1970s and lamenting how unfortunately relevant decades-ago depictions of race, gender and other social constructs still feel today.
The Last Duel is managing to have the same effect on critics and audiences while rewinding the clock over 600 years. The historical drama follows the real-life 1386 clash between Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), a knight who challenges his one-time friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to a fight to the death after Le Gris is accused of rape by de Carrouges’s wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer).
Co-written by Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener, directed by Ridley Scott and told in three parts presenting each character’s point of view, the crushing, oftentimes brutally violent drama is being widely labeled a “14th century #MeToo story.” But that’s not necessarily what its creators intended.
“I don't believe we came to the movie that way,” Holofcener tells us during an interview alongside Damon (watch above). “I don't think the guys did, either. I think they came to the movie thinking this is a great story. Incredibly visual, exciting and important because nobody knows about Marguerite de Carrouges. She was a brave heroine and did something ridiculously brave. Of course we were aware that, you know, certain things have not changed at all and we're aware of the culture we're in right now, but we didn't want to make a documentary. We're not experts in the #MeToo movement and we're not here to be on a soapbox. So I think we all came to it wanting to create three-dimensional people and tell the specific story. And the fact that it's relevant today is tragic.”
The film also marks a highly publicized reunion for Damon and Affleck, who rose to stardom as the Oscar-winning co-writers and co-stars of their beloved 1997 Boston-set drama Good Will Hunting. Critics have suggested that because that film was distributed and championed by Harvey Weinstein — the disgraced movie exec whose epic downfall sent shockwaves through the industry and brought the #MeToo movement into the mainstream — The Last Duel could be a redemption song for the longtime friends. But Damon says it ain’t so.
“I'm obviously very aware of that case and what happened and, and yeah, he was the person who made our movie 25 years ago,” he says. “But no, we didn't [think about him]. I was not thinking of it in the context of redemption. As Nicole said, this is just this incredible woman who… came from a culture that didn't even consider her a human being. She was considered property.
“She claimed what agency she could and spoke truth to power again and again, and again, to this ever-widening circle that eventually included like the king and all of France at the risk of like incredible public shame, and the ruination of her name, and eventually her own life. So that was really where our heads were.”
That strength found in Marguerite is what drew Killing Eve and Free Guy actress Comer to the film.
“What really inspired me to want to do the project was the opportunity to give Marguerite a voice,” she says. “When I was told about the event and I realized, there was so much information about it and so much information about these men who fought in the duel but [little] information about her. So to then get the script and see the way in which Matt, Ben and Nicole wanted to deliver it and really explore this kind of narrative of these three perspectives, but there's ultimately only ever one truth.
“And it was always at the forefront of my mind that this is an incredibly sensitive subject matter and it's a problem that has not gone away. And there are going to be many people who watch this film who do relate to it.”
The Last Duel opens Oct. 15.
Watch the trailer:
-Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee