Matt Damon's 'History' is made (finally)

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In the movie “Good Will Hunting,” Matt Damon’s character sees a book on a shelf. It is “A People’s History of the United States” by radical historian Howard Zinn.

“This,” Damon tells his shrink, “will knock you on your ass.”

That line turned out to be one part product placement, one part prophecy.

Damon grew up next to Zinn, who taught at Boston University, and the young actor-to-be read “People’s History” when it was published in 1980.

“It had a huge impact on my life,” said Damon, who co-wrote the “Good Will” screenplay with Ben Affleck.

Zinn’s book was American history from the bottom up, telling our story not from the POV of the country’s great men, but the ordinary men and women who led popular movements to organize labor, fight for equal rights, end slavery and the Vietnam War and other causes.

Damon had no intention of limiting his enthusiasm for Zinn’s book to a shout-out from Will Hunting. As soon as he and Affleck exploded on the Hollywood scene, the two men, along with producer Chris Moore, began a crusade to get “People’s History” adapted for the screen.

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