On March 23, 1998, an unofficial coronation took place at the Academy Awards. Onstage were Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, whose decades-long friendship led to 11 film appearances together and whose names, much like Laurel and Hardy or Cheech and Chong, were rarely heard separately. It was therefore all too fitting that the duo announced the winners of the Best Original Screenplay Oscar: Cambridge natives, childhood friends, and Hollywood collaborators Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
Affleck and Damon were 25 and 27, respectively. In the video of their speech above, both actors hug their dates — their moms — before heading to the stage to accept their award.
“I just said to Matt, losing would suck and winning would be really scary, and it’s really, really scary,” Affleck said, with Damon at his side. “We’re just really two young guys who were fortunate enough to be involved with a lot of great people whom it’s incumbent upon us to — there’s no way we’re doing this in less than 20 seconds.”
It’s at this point in the speech that it becomes particularly hard to not consider all that has changed in Affleck’s and Damon’s careers in the last 20 years, specifically in the last year, in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The very first person Affleck thanks is Harvey Weinstein, who Affleck says in the speech “believed in us and made this movie.” The disgraced former Miramax executive was crucial in launching the pair’s careers. Additionally, Affleck faced allegations of sexual misconduct last fall.
After rattling off names like Gus van Sant, Minnie Driver, and Robin Williams, the duo begins to take turns yelling thank-yous into the microphone, with Affleck’s voice cracking multiple times.
“Chris Moore, who produced the movie,” Affleck says.
“Chris Moore! Chris Moore!” Damon yells in refrain.
“To Patrick Whitesall, the best agent in Hollywood,” Affleck yells.
“Yeah! Patrick Whitesall!” Damon echoes.
Stumbling over each other, Damon thanks “all our friends and family, and everyone watching us back in Boston tonight,” before Affleck adds that he “knows we’re forgetting somebody.”
“Whoever we forgot,” Damon concludes, “we love you and we thank you!”