Is ‘Good Will Hunting’ Based On A True Story? What Happened To The Real Genius?

Good Will Hunting‘ directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Matt Damon and Robin Williams, captured the hearts of viewers worldwide since it was first released in 1997. The critically acclaimed movie revolves around a young and troubled genius named Will Hunting, who worked as a janitor at MIT.


Matt Damon wrote the first act of a play for his screenwriting class while still at Harvard. This screenplay was later developed into ‘Good Will Hunting‘ for which Damon and Ben Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Since its release, the character of Will Hunting has led people to wonder if the movie is based on a true story.

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The Inspiration Behind ‘Good Will Hunting’

Even though Matt Damon never said anything concrete about the inspiration behind Will Hunting, the character shares a lot of similarities with the Harvard alumnus Will Sidis. Sidis was born in New York City in 1898, and even at a young age, he was exceptional. He was one of the most intelligent people with an IQ of 250-300. He supposedly could read the New York Times by the age of two and taught himself eight languages by the age of eight.


He became the youngest person to be ever admitted to Harvard University at the age of 11, where he studied physics and mathematics. At 17 years old, he was teaching three mathematics courses at William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science and Art. However, Sidis struggled to adjust to the social pressures and bullying he suffered at various institutions.

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What Happened To Will Sidis?

Will Sidis was arrested in 1919 for participating in a communist demonstration which led to police trouble. ‘Good Will Hunting‘ fans will remember Will Hunting getting imprisoned for assaulting a police officer and he was then given a second chance. Sidis, in a similar fashion, was granted parole under the condition of working at MIT and attending therapy sessions. However, unlike Hunting, Sidis didn’t get a sympathetic figure like Robin Williams as his therapist, instead, he was required to see his strict father.


Sidis lived in his father’s institution for a year, an experience that he described as a form of “mental torture.” Even though Sidis had a different upbringing than Matt Damon’s character, in terms of class and social status, he may have had a similar abusive childhood. He dropped out of college and then went on to work various off jobs. He continued his passion for learning and writing but he found it difficult to fit into society because of his eccentric behavior. Sidis died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 46 in 1944 without ever having achieved recognition for his extraordinary talents.   

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