Last Duel, The: Historical Epic, Told as Rashomon-like Saga, with Male and Female Perspectives

One of the most versatile filmmakers working today, Ridley Scott began his screen career in 1977 with The Duelists, which had premiered at the Cannes Film Fest.

Scott’s new historical epic, The Last Duel, world premiered at the Venice Film Fest.

Over the span of the next four decades, he has directed the 1979 ground-breaking Alien, and the 2000 Oscar winning picture, Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe.

Origins of the Project

Matt Damon: The book was written in the early 2000s and Drew Vinton, who works in our company and who is an executive producer, has been sending us emails about “The Last Duel” since 2011. But the rights were already taken.  We had our eye on the book for a long time, and then when the rights lapsed, Drew gave me the book and I read it and immediately thought of Ridley Scott, because we had been looking for something to do, after our successful collaboration on The Martian.

And also, I don’t know anybody who does this era better than Ridley. So I contacted Ridley and Kevin Walsh, another of our producers, and they got the rights. And then Ben Affleck and I started talking about it and then we called Nicole, and lo and behold, here we are.

Ridley Scott: When you get a call from Matt Damon that says hey dude, you have done a duel before but we have got another duel, do you want to read it, and I said yes, you don’t say no.

It was around Christmas 2018. So between having not written it, me saying yeah why not, because I enjoyed working with Matt Damon tremendously on “The Martian,” why not let’s go again? And so I got the script, it seemed to be like six weeks it took before I was going this is it, cause normally you have this kind of thing proposed and ten years later you still haven’t made it.

Female Perspective

Nicole Holofcener: I think they needed somebody to write the character of Marguerite, being that we are women. I think they were wise not to attempt it, although I’m sure they would have done fine. But that’s why they called me.  I wrote Jodie Comer’s part, and then we all kind of collaborated on all three parts.

Toxic Masculinity

Ben Affleck: I do consider myself to be a feminist. And I think this movie principally was exciting because of the character of Marguerite, her extraordinary strength and bravery seemed very obvious once I read the book. What an unbelievably important and powerful story it was, and purely classical storytelling. She is somebody who has been done a great injustice, who goes to great lengths to seek justice at great risk to a lot of people.

It was a true story, one that people didn’t know–and don’t know. This incredible woman from history who is an early person who spoke out against a powerful man who assaulted her.  Naturally, that seemed relevant to today’s culture. It was also a thrilling story that could generate catharsis and empathy and one that I hoped would develop in the viewer a sense of compassion.

We liked the idea of look at one another in a different way and with more empathy and with a sense of wondering, whether or not our personal perspective might not be taken into consideration. The other person’s reality, culture, education.

I thought it was important and interesting to tell a story that wasn’t just an indictment of one bad person, but that pointed to the cultural antecedent that Europe and countries colonized by European countries share. It was a culture that didn’t view women for many centuries as human beings. In fact, many original aspects of that remain today. But we didn’t want it to be preachy or didactic or boring, so we got Nicole to write the female part.

Damon: The basic idea was that Ben and I did the male sections, the first two acts and Nicole did the third act, which is primarily Jodie’s story, although Jodie enters into both of our stories, the idea was that in the male stories, the women were kind of manifested when the men need them for something, either they are ignored or they are property, because they are not human beings, they are property and they are kind of seen as that. But we had to talk to each other about, because there are things obviously that are happening in the third act that are set up in the first act, so there was a lot of discussion about what the architecture was going to be. But then we kind of split up and did drafts and then came together and then just put it together and then worked on it all together from there on out.