It's all a matter of honor...
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener on 'The Last Duel.'

The Last Duel (2021 movie)

The Last Duel puts audiences through its (ten) paces with its shifting perspectives, telling a story of honor, revenge, male vanity, and the women injured by it through three distinct lenses.

Screenwriters Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener divided the story's three points-of-view — that of knight Jean de Carrouges (Damon), his friend-turned-adversary Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and Carrouges' wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) — between them.

While the pages evolved and their fingerprints eventually touched every aspect of the script, they tried to maintain a distinct voice and perspective in each of the three acts. Sharing with EW an exclusive script page from the second act, they walked us through the particulars of this scene.

The Last Duel
Credit: 20th Century Studios

While act one depicts this moment of wounded pride from Carrouges' point of view, this time we see it through Le Gris' eyes. "The first story is my story and it's the standard knight's tale about a man who's dishonored and requests a duel to the death because of this dishonor that he has to address," Damon details. "And then Adam's story is, 'Now hang on a second, that's not exactly what happened.'"

Adds Holofcener: "It does push the story forward in ways we don't know yet," trading off the ways the changing pov slowly reveals more of the truth of the situation.

"In the first story, [Matt's character] is more wellspoken, more composed," Affleck notes. "[This scene] is seeing him not composed and him being vaguely incoherent."

This also meant making some changes from script to screen. "What you see is more anger and envy and pettiness," adds Affleck. "The way it's written, it's got a progression that feels linear whereas when he played it, it felt more disjointed. It helped tell the perspective. We always viewed it as 'How would Le Gris tell the story in court in retrospect? How would he say, 'This is what happened?' He would say Carrouges showed up, interrupts our lunch, and is not making sense."

Affleck's role, that of Count Pierre d'Alençon, the arbiter of the titular duel, also expanded in this scene when putting it on its feet. They wanted to emphasize his role as the most powerful (and contempible) man in the room, adding interjections that further humiliate Carrouges.

The Last Duel
Adam Driver and Matt Damon in 'The Last Duel.'
| Credit: Patrick Redmond/20th Century Studios

Another notable change was the take that director Ridley Scott used of Damon's riff on his line demanding Le Gris call him "sir."

"I kept looking at Adam [Driver] because he was making me angrier and angrier," says Damon. "I'd say, 'You call me "sir," ' and he's looking back at me, and I went, 'Sir! Sir!' I kept repeating it, goading him, because [Carrouges] wants to fight all the time. Adam, as we wrote in the script, he decides to be political. He stands and addresses me as 'Sir;' he's the bigger man in the scene, which is in keeping with the story."

Replaying scenes from different perspectives also produced a unique acting challenge for the cast, shading or shifting their performance to fit with whatever version of the story they were telling.

"We had our script supervisor write whose story we were in next to every scene," explains Damon. "We would talk with Ridley before the scene about like, 'Let's remember we're in Carrouges version because in his version, the hero always does everything right and everyone else is wrong.' As actors, you modulate your performance based on which story you're in."

"You're not really playing your character, you're playing the other character's version of your character," adds Affleck.

Affleck also found personal inspiration – for his performance and his own career as a director — in Scott's approach to shooting. "He has this brilliant technique of doing a bunch of cameras all at once, creating different shots, which I really was inspired by and would like to experiment with going forward directing myself," he reflects. "It's almost more like a play. Everybody's on camera all the time, and everybody feels more alive and you know we're not going to do a bunch of takes so there's a sense of urgency and vitality to the scenes."

He breaks down how that impacted this scene in particular: "What Matt is saying to Adam in that scene — they're both being photographed at the same time, so they're able to react to one another and be intercut in ways that are just more authentic. That was a brilliant approach to making movies."

The Last Duel hits theaters Oct. 15.

A version of this story appears in the October issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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The Last Duel (2021 movie)

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