Ben Affleck - Poster boy For Independent Films
A friend wrote to me last night "what are you going to see tonight?". I answered him, I'm going to see Ben Affleck, of course! My friend replied "Ask him what happened after Good Will Hunting". Well he answered that.
"C´mon, how can he be called indie?" another friend asked. I´d asked the same question myself. Well Ben Affleck answered that too, with reflections on Good Will Hunting that launched his career, role after role in films by Kevin Smith (who famously said he would cast Ben Affleck in any role, even the shark in Jaws), and a launch into directing with the critically acclaimed and Academy Award nominated Gone Baby Gone. But for sure, he had a lot of non-indie roles not to be celebrated in between.
I too had been thinking oh Ben Affleck, he's such a Hollywood pretty boy, so I wasn't expecting much, (and I certainly wasn't expecting to see Ben Affleck with a beard, and Ben Affleck helping the set assistants move the furniture on and off stage!) but come on, it was Conversations with Ben Affleck - I'd come all the way from Australia, I had to see that. And I am so glad I did. He was funny, intelligent, interesting, humble, and did I mention funny?
Ben Affleck on why he started acting when he was so young:
You don´t really know why you are doing something when you are eight.
On Matt Damon:
Yeah, I had this friend I went to school with, who kept bugging me to get him an agent- boy do I regret that!
The studios said we are going to market you as the next rat pack but the (next) film bombed so there was no pack.
On Good Will Hunting and making independent films:
The indie movement was in keeping with what I had learnt about acting and writing, that taught me to blur the line as part of this larger creative process. we always thought of these gatekeepers that you had to ask their permission... making your own movie made us feel "all we have to do is get some actors.." That idea shaped my view of how film-making could work.
We were so dumb and naive that we thought it could really work - yeah someone might buy this! I remember telling Matt , who was in some TV commercial, go and tell the producer about our movie! He said latervyeah I don´t think he wants to do our movie! It was a lot of luck, a good agent got it to people.
On the comment, ''it seemed after that Matt was going to spend his time making Oscar bait movies and you were going to spend your time making blockbusters":
That is an accurate characterization but it's a lot different to look at careers from the outside. I would have loved to have done Private Ryan- everyone said why aren't you working with Spielberg? Like 'why aren't you guys (in the audience) working with Spielberg, what's wrong with you'! some movies work and some don't there is nothing I regret. It's hard to know ahead of times.
I had an overdeveloped fear of failure, of not having work. I definitely chased movies that would make money, but found that less satisfying than movies that were more interesting to me. Ultimately I found myself being mature enough to let that go. I would rather go after things I find artistically interesting to me.
Chasing Amy was the best experience, staying on peoples couch, no money... Kevin Smith really liked me. I thought I would be the only unappealing guy. It was so nice to be a protagonist and have more to do. I became good friends with Kevin, they are fun movies that I´ve liked. Some I am proud of, some I am less proud of but still believe in to a certain extent.
On moving into directing, with Gone Baby Gone, and why it wasn't promoted as a film directed by Ben Affleck;
I wanted it to be judged on its own merits. I didn't want to act in it, and be seen as an adjunct to acting. I knew at least one thing in the movie would be good -Amy Ryan. I can't fuck her performance up.
On directing Jeremy Renner in Affleck's next film 'The Town';
Most directing is casting. If you cast the right person it all works out for you and makes you look good. ]You are modulating 5 percent. my job is not acting school, he is a brilliant actor. It's trying things, shall we try this, or that.. It´s giving an environment to be completely comfortable, there is no choice that is wrong, and time to shoot it. When a guy is as good as this, you can use 1 take, the rest of it is about nuancing. The only time Iworry about directing is when you cast people that have never acted before, .. in this film I cast a lot of felons! "Don't look down the camera, don't look at the lens!" That is doubly tough because it´s like "whatever you do is fine! maybe just try this....!"
It's hard to emulate greatness. Or we would all be Picasso. But I have had plenty of negative experiences and I really remember them. I collected those memories and brought those to bear and swore I am not going to do all those things. If I am going to fail I want do something I already know doesn't work, I will do something new that doesn't work. on his next film "The Town"
I have some pride that I kept the budget pretty low, but it wasn't a choice to be honest, "oh I kept it really low!" They told me what I got!
I like to tell good stories. You are doing an actors work as you prep for directing. Being on a set and acting in front of a camera was not unusual to me, it's just that it took time and concentration away from me as a director. I have to do a lot of work and prepare and I get anxious. I was really nervous about it... I polled other actors and directors about it. One guy said haven't you ever been on a movie where you looked over at thedirector and thought well if this asshole can do it... if you get nervous just remember that. If I get in trouble with my own performance I always have something to cut to - as I got great actors.
The performances I am most proud of are the ones that I have done the most preparation. So for me all the work is done in the prep time as a director so I have all that knowledge, then I just throw it away and don't worry about it. Not this thing where you get the slate and go... I try to create a feeling that the cameras aren't going and none of that matters. If you can release that self consciousness it´s more effective.