Here is another section from the introduction concerning the "Beanstreets" movies--the first sustained wave of Boston independent features. Take a look at the earlier excerpt to see how these movies came about, and read about the gritty stories they told.
SO THE IDEALISTIC "BEANSTREETS" movies came and went with barely a blip. Or did they? A more accurate description might be that they quietly planted a seed, and the crop is still being reaped today.
Put bluntly, the chances that Hollywood ever would have made Boston “neighborhood movies” like Mystic River or The Departed were it not for Billy in the Lowlands—a movie few people are even aware of today—are doubtful. But the dots are pretty easy to connect. Billy begat Dark End of the Street, in which a little tyke named Ben Affleck made his acting debut [in photo, Laura Harrington and Lance Henriksen in The Dark End of the Street]. Affleck’s and Matt Damon’s families were friendly with Egleson’s before Matt and Ben were even born—Affleck’s dad acted some with the Theater Company of Boston and the three families were all Cambridge neighbors. The influence of Egleson’s homegrown movies rubbed off on Good Will Hunting, and not just on Damon and Affleck’s stubborn insistence that at least a good chunk of the movie be shot locally. As Affleck told me shortly before filming began on Good Will Hunting: “Part of what the movie’s about on a subtext level is class and the way people deal with each other. In Cambridge, we were acutely aware of the stark contrast between university life and the lives of the people who live there.” Working on Egleson’s second movie surely wasn’t the only way Affleck learned about class struggle, but it helped to shape the specific understanding of society that Good Will Hunting exudes.
Good Will Hunting isn’t the only sprout that’s the result of the “Beanstreets” movies. Robert Patton-Spruill, the Roxbury-based director and producer, is the son of another Theater Company of Boston alumnus, B.U. drama professor James Spruill. In the 1990s, when Patton-Spruill was working at Collinge-Pickman, the casting agency co-founded by Egleson’s wife, Patty Collinge, Egleson took Patton-Spruill under his wing. The two collaborated on an unproduced script for The Boy Without a Flag, the Abraham Rodriguez, Jr. story Egleson had optioned. That project never came to fruition, but Patton- Spruill’s first movie, 1997’s Squeeze, grew out of his experiences with kids at the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, just as Egleson’s early movies had been inspired by his Group School students. Like Egleson, Patton-Spruill cast untrained kids as his Squeeze leads.
Good Will Hunting and Squeeze are big parts of the impressive late-1990s cluster of Boston independent movies that also included Brad Anderson’s Next Stop Wonderland and Ted Demme’s Denis Leary-produced Monument Ave. These films, as much as Blown Away, Housesitter or The Crucible—Hollywood visits that pumped much more money into local coffers—kept Boston an interesting movie city and indirectly inspired Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese to fight their studios for a local shooting schedule—the entire movie for Mystic River, about half for The Departed. The momentum generated by such acclaimed movies also made it possible for Affleck to later direct his own Boston neighborhood movie, Gone Baby Gone—like Mystic River, an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel.