Minnie Driver’s ‘Good Will Hunting’ accolades came with heartache, she says
Less than two weeks after turning 28, Minnie Driver has been nominated for her first Oscar, for her role in Goodwill hunting as the assumed girlfriend of the titular character (Matt Damon). To celebrate, she joined the two her sister and best friend, Alexandra, for a quiet glass of champagne at Château Marmont. The lounge was almost empty in the famous Hollywood hotel, and a waiter asked him, “What are you doing tonight?” Where are you going to party? She had no plan, so the waiter insisted she celebrate, telling the British actor to “just use the house phone and call your friends!”
So she did. “We called a bunch of people and I threw this amazing impromptu party at the Castle,” Driver told Bustle. “Sixty people came and [they] brought their dogs and babies.
At the time, she was living in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles with Alexandra and their dogs. The friends shared a cantilevered duplex overlooking Hollywood, which she describes as “a revolving door where people come and stay and live for a few months.” It was the era of dark denim, low-rise jeans, Helmut Lang strappy dresses and strappy tops by Cynthia Rowley and Veronica Beard. “I’ve always had something in my hair, like butterflies and bows and stuff like that,” says Driver, who is now 52. “But I knew dark brown lip liner was a bad idea.”
In his new memoirs, Manage expectations, Driver collects similar anecdotes from his life in restrained but insightful prose. For her, turning 28 was the year she navigated “the connection between heartbreak and truly agreed-upon success,” says the actor, who recently helmed the much-loved ABC sitcom. Mute. Sure, she had reached the highest level of talent in her industry, but she felt her personal life was “falling apart”. Earlier that month, Damon, who she was dating, announced he was single on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Looking back, she wished she’d enjoyed the time a little more, “even the teardown,” she says, “because it’s nice when things break down when you’re younger, because then you can put back together with intention. ”
Below, she talks to Bustle about fame, the leaked role, and meeting co-workers.
What did a typical Friday night look like to you in 1998?
We entertained people and played loud music, and invariably our neighbors complained and joined the party. If we went out, we’d go somewhere like El Coyote and eat Mexican food and margaritas and dance on the tables. It was always a safe bet, as we were never photographed doing any of this. I do not know why. Or we would go to Chateau Marmont, which was magnificently seedy at the time. We would basically use their living room as our own living room.
How did your daily life change when Goodwill hunting came out of?
It was an amazing thing to pull off with something that you love, something that I knew and still know was good, that movie. But having photographers outside your house 24 hours a day and not being able to do anything without being subjected to the meat ax of someone else’s idea of you is incredibly disempowering. . You feel like there are so many versions of yourself being put into the world that the truth about who you are can often escape you. If you have a big newspaper saying you are this, how do you know it’s not true? It is an existentially strange experience. Particularly then, in 1998, there was no recourse; there was no social media; there was no way to respond to anything that was written about you.
It seems incredibly destabilizing. There’s a big line in your book about being metabolized by strangers.
It’s weird when it happens next to that thing you love. I love playing today as much as I loved it when I was 28. All I really wanted was to be an actor, but suddenly there’s this juggernaut, [fame]attached to that thing you love.
In your book, you allude to the relief of not winning the Oscar. Why was that?
I wasn’t so relieved not to win, it was the notion of “now that I haven’t won, I can be an actor again”. The totally dishonest nature of my business is that no one really gives a fuck. Like, they’ll give a shit for this moment, and then it’s on to someone else. There’s a fresh-faced person who believes they want that attention, and the baton will be passed. On Twitter, I saw the word “relevant” thrown around as an assault, [like] “You are irrelevant!” As the zenith of human achievement is to be and remain relevant. I was happy to ride a different wave for a minute.
How did you apply what you learned from Goodwill hunting to your next projects?
I turned down a lot of business stuff, which in retrospect I wish I had taken, as I turned down The wedding planner – which was fabulous – in favor of ideal husband and Governess. And I wish I was done [The Wedding Planner] because it was such a good movie and fun. I wanted to go and flex as an actor, and I was a little stubborn. But I still love those movies that I made.
I don’t want to focus too much on your relationship with Matt Damon, but what did you learn from the experience of dating someone you worked with?
Oh, that’s a terrible idea. Everyone has an office romance, and it never ends well, and then you literally have to see them every day. My dad tried to warn me, but the thing is, you’re falling in love. And I was so naive. Matt was so wonderful and funny and charming and talented. I understand why it happened, and I wouldn’t change it because it was beautiful. But I haven’t quite learned my lesson. I went out with a few others [actors] and then it was like, “OK, I’m done.”
At what age did you realize you wanted to stick to work and not chase after fame?
watch my mother die [in March 2021] and after having one last chat with her, you really realize that it all comes down to the love and stories of your life. Approximately [age] 31, so 2001, I stopped playing for a while when I started making music. I was just like, “F*ck this. I need to do something that I love.” Then I came back and I did The Phantom of the Opera.
I was obsessed with Joel Schumacher The Phantom of the Opera adaptation When I was small. It is so good.
It’s beautiful, and making it was as fun as the movie the world has seen.
Do you have a favorite memory from the shoot?
Joel made me laugh so much every day. He was reading The New York Times when [stage crew] installed the lights. Another person in the movie was complaining about my exaggeration. Joel didn’t even look up from his newspaper. He just said, “Oh, honey, nobody ever paid to see under the roof.”
He was so funny and awesome. We had the happiest setting in the studio where we were shooting. They were shooting Eyes wide closed and alexander at the same time, and these strange missives were passed under the door of the studio of Eyes wide closedsaying, “No one comes near our set! Don’t even look. Don’t even come here. We always put signs under their door saying, ‘Please come visit us!’
What advice would you give to your 28-year-old self?
It’s normal for it to look like it’s on fire for a minute. This will change. There is no stasis. Remember that and breathe.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.