The fight for truth in 20th Century's "The Last Duel" commences this weekend in theaters. This crossing of swords and clash of clans features an all-star cast including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver. The subject of this Ridley Scott-directed film is that of a true story.
In 1386, Marguerite de Carrouges made the claim that she was taken advantage of by her husband's best friend, squire Jacques Le Gris. Marguerite's husband, Sir Jean de Carrouges, confronts him and requests a trial by combat. You might also refer to it as a duel to the death. This battle was recorded as the last legally sanctioned duel in France's history. So, to hear more about the film (presented from multiple perspectives) and what went into producing it, check out this quick Q&A with the stars of "The Last Duel."
'The Last Duel' Q&A: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, & Jodie Comer
Q: How much of the detail between the different perspectives was on the page? How much did you have to work (out) on the day?
Jodie Comer: I think the beautiful thing about the script was, it was all there on the page, you know? The intentions were very, very clear as to what was needed in each perspective. What was sometimes jarring was that we shot each version simultaneously. So, we were literally jumping from one to the next. So, I’m always wanting to make sure that we’ve got Marguerite. You know, I felt really loyal to her. And really wanted to make sure that we’d always, kind of, got that in the bag. And then I felt like I could play around with the other versions. I was kind of afforded a lot of freedom in what I wanted to explore. We kind of played around with the subtlety and how far we wanted to push it. It was great to then see the final film and see how all those moments play out. It’s so important that when you’re in each perspective, you’re really kind of invested in what that character is telling you.
Q: I would have to imagine there have been conversations and ideas about working together again ("Good Will Hunting" co-writers Damon and Affleck, who also wrote this script with Nicole Holofcener). Why this story? And why now?
Matt Damon: I think we were just kind of afraid of writing (together again) because we were so inefficient. It was so time-consuming the first time we did it because we didn’t know what we were doing. And it took us, literally, years. And we wrote thousands and thousands of pages that we, basically, scrunched into a 130-page screen play. But I think by just doing movies for 25 years, just kind of by osmosis, we figured out structure. So, it turned out to be really efficient, the process. And also begging an incredible writer like Nicole to come help us was also a really good idea, too. That definitely streamlined the process.
Ben Affleck: That’s what gave us the confidence to do it. We knew we couldn’t rely on each other.
Matt Damon: Definitely knew we couldn’t rely on each other.
Q: How was your experience working with Ridley Scott? And why do you feel he was the right director for you on this one?
Jodie Comer: Well, for me, it’s like, when a script comes from Ridley Scott, and he wants to meet you…you’re like, "Yes, I will." And then I read the script and I was so fascinated by the structure of it and this idea of there being three perspectives but, ultimately, only one truth. And then, I remember when I met Matt early on and Matt was like, "You should know, he works at a pace. Like, he has four or five cameras rolling. It’s fast." He kind of gave me a little heads’ up. And then I got to set, and I was like, "Oh, no kidding. I’ve never worked like this before." It was just really fascinating to see how he makes his decisions. His attention to detail, whether it be through the characters in the story or the locations, and the set design. He doesn’t miss a trick. And the film has a lot of heart. And it has the fighting and the duels, and I think it’s what he’s so great at.
Matt Damon: Well, (for me) from the moment I saw the cover of the book, you know, “The Last Duel.” And Ridley’s first movie, obviously, is “The Duelist.” And I’d been looking for something because we did “The Martian” together six or seven years ago. And I just had the best time working with him. And partly, it’s what’s Jodie’s saying. Like, the four cameras at a time. Like, the amount of momentum that you get. It’s just all of the energy’s just around, right on the floor. And it’s really exciting. And I just love that. So, I originally gave him the book and he said right away, he read it and wanted to do it and we were looking for a writer. And I told Ben, I was havin’ dinner with Ben and told him the idea. And he was like, “Well, why don’t we write it?” And I was like, “What? You wanna write that?” So, it just kind of happened organically and really quickly. Like, we started writing and Ridley had another movie he was gonna do and he just goes, “I’m not doin’ that movie anymore. I wanna do this.”
Q: What was your experience filming in Ireland?
Ben Affleck: I loved it. It was wonderful and beautiful, and people were lovely. And it was mitigated only by the fact that it was during the pandemic. You got to shoot and then you immediately had to be sort of wrapped in your sarcophagus and separated. And that’s just an added hurdle. But Ireland itself is a magical, lovely place. And like many people from Boston, I grew up hearing that I was Irish though I’d never been to Ireland. But it’s an incredible place. The crew was extraordinary. Everyone was amazing. Ridley’s style of filmmaking was so impressive and exciting and energizing and made you feel so alive. You’re on camera, they’re on camera, and it’s all happening on point. I immediately, as a director, thought, I’m gonna steal this.
Q: From an acting perspective, what was the biggest challenge or the most exciting aspect of doing the same scene with a different subtext or different point of view? What was the most exciting aspect of doing that?
Jodie Comer: I think the most exciting aspect was the fact I’d never done it before. And it was so new. Usually, when you approach a character, it’s none of your concern what the other character thinks of you. You don’t have to worry about what they need from you. Whereas, on this film, you really had to think about what the other actor, character, needed from you in that moment in order for their story to ring true to them. And you never have to usually think about that. So, I think that was definitely exciting.
Matt Damon: It was really the fun. I was more concerned that we were gonna muff it up. And, like, we had written down on the schedule, whose perspective we were in, always. But we would always say, before we rolled, we were like, “This is my perspective,” or, “This is your perspective.” We’d remind each other because we had to totally calibrate everything based on that. And that was kind of the fun. You could also push it in other people’s stories a little more. Because you’re their version of you, in a way. So, you had a little more leeway, in some ways, and that was really fun. But yeah, it was really about intention, you know?
Ben Affleck: Yeah, the challenge really was 'cause we didn’t wanna cheat at all, and have it be, “Oh, and from my point of view, this whole other scene happens.” Really try to create and reflect this phenomenon of the fact that two people can have a conversation. And you can ask each one of them, “What’d you come away with?” And they’ll genuinely tell you different things. They’ll have different experiences. And that those experiences, oftentimes, are rooted in where they’re coming from, what their needs are, what their values are, and so forth. But really, I certainly didn’t have a challenging role in that aspect because my character exists predominantly in Adam Driver’s role. Though, sort of the influence of my character pervades the other two. But Jodie and Adam had it the most difficult. I mean, the degree of difficulty of that performance. They’re very self-effacing, in a way. You don’t really realize how hard it is to play three different characters.
Q: Do you think it’s more important than ever for an audience to get a chance to see this story?
Jodie Comer: Yes, I mean, I think it’s always as important to tell. The sad part about this story is that you could say it for any part of history that’s gone by. That this story is relevant, you know. They’re extremely delicate subjects and they need to be handled with sensitivity. And I know, for me, and all of us, like, especially in regard to the rape scenes themselves, they couldn’t be gratuitous. They had to be moving the story forward. And, you know, that was always at the front of everybody’s minds. ‘Cause you know that there are gonna be many people who watch this film and, sadly, relate to it in some way. And that can be difficult to execute, and it can be difficult to watch. But I believe we shouldn’t shy away from it for that reason, as long as it’s handled with care.
Q: Could you quickly talk about the actual duel and if you think it’s maybe Ridley’s greatest fight yet?
Matt Damon: The duel was actually in the book that we adapted that Eric Jager wrote. And he really meticulously explained the duel and exactly how it happened. Because it was recorded in history. It was a very famous thing. And it was decidedly uncinematic because these guys basically looked like giant tin cans. It would have been a really awkward affair. And it wouldn’t have looked very good. So, Ridley kept the bones of the duel. The duel did happen, three joust passes, they came off their horses, they went to axes, swords, then daggers. That all is true. But Rob Inch, our stunt coordinator, really invented this beautiful choreography with Ridley. And they figured out how to shoot it. And that’s the great thing about collaborating with great people. They kept the spirit of the duel and exactly what really happened. The same person won, in history, who won in our movie.
Ben Affleck: In the same way.
Matt Damon: In the same way, and he actually did say that line. That was the last thing he said. All the dialogue is from the actual recorded event. And it’s a Ridley Scott duel, so we have visors where half our face is showing and it’s beautiful and visually great.
Ben Affleck: And we kind of knew he would make it great. It was like, "Look, here’s what happened. You’re gonna make it, you know, we’re not gonna tell ya how to do it."
October 15, 2021
Jesse is a writer and content manager for Noovie. When he's not working, he's on the beach playing volleyball.