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Behind the Scenery

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November 25, 2007

WILL HUNTING'S SOUTHIE APARTMENT

THEN The grungy backyard behind 190 West 6th Street in South Boston served as the unlikely entryway to the home of a genius.

NOW Stephen T. Kelly says that his trash-strewn backyard - which has only gotten grungier with age and which is best viewed from the alleyway that runs behind the triple-decker - attracts a fair share of shutterbugs who are out hunting Will. "I got two new windows out of the deal," says Kelly, who claims he's the only person in Southie who's never actually seen the movie. "And I met Matt Damon. He said, 'Do you know me?' I said, 'No.' He was just some blond boy."

MIT

THEN Where a math genius from Southie went to get a janitor's job.

NOW Kip Hodges, a former dean now teaching in Arizona, delivered a lecture to incoming freshmen in 1998 dispelling some of the myths the film may have created in their minds. Professors don't wear scarves to class, and their offices don't look like "Victorian sitting rooms," he said. But Hodges believes that even though the film's "MIT" interiors were shot entirely in Toronto, the campus setting had a tremendous impact on the school. "Any time Hollywood needs a smart geek to save the day scientifically, they always look to MIT," he says. "I don't think people understand how good that cachet is for the school."

THE L STREET TAVERN

THEN Jack and Susan Woods bought the Southie dive bar in March 1997 with plans to renovate it to keep up with the gentrifying neighborhood. Four days later, "Robin Williams walked in the door with two cute kids who said they'd written a screenplay," Susan Woods remembers.

NOW No establishment has capitalized on Good Will Hunting like the L Street Tavern. After a giant black-tie Oscar party in 1998, the bar - which provided the setting for some of the movie's more memorable Southie scenes - has drawn visitors from all over the world, thanks largely to the seven Boston Movie Tours buses that stop by every week filled with tourists who gawk at the memorabilia and buy T-shirts. Though the upscale renovation did happen in 2001, L Street has kept the neighborhood feel that has made it the iconic Southie bar. "We're still the same old corner tavern," Susan Woods says. "I don't mind being called a dive."

HARVARD SQUARE

THEN The Bow & Arrow Pub and Baskin-Robbins-Dunkin' Donuts at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Bow Street were institutions in the neighborhood, and they provided the setting (though the bar interiors were actually filmed at the Upfront Bar & Grill in Toronto) for the memorable night when Will meets Skylar, including the famous "How do you like them apples?" scene at the window of Baskin-Robbins.

NOW Both establishments closed shortly after filming, and the Grafton Street Restaurant and Bar has taken their place. A new Baskin-Robbins-Dunkin' Donuts opened three years ago next door to the old location, but manager Juliana Fauza says the place doesn't get tourists slapping napkins on the window.

"I have people coming in here asking about the Bow & Arrow, but nobody asks about Good Will Hunting," she says.

Billy Baker's last article for the magazine was about his wife's Tetris world record. E-mail him at billybaker@gmail.com.

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