Middle-Eastern Studies Major, Actor, Director
An interview with Ben Affleck
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 23:10
Ben Affleck sits forward in his chair, his hands moving with each word he speaks. The actor and director is clearly passionate about his new film, Argo and wants everyone else to be as well. His words come quickly, despite how nonchalant the man is, making you feel like you are talking to your best friend about the new job he just snagged. Whether talking Red Sox or filmmaking, Affleck is comfortable and hops from subject to subject without hesitation. The man shows hints of his remarkable intelligence beneath the blue collar persona he presents and leaves you second-guessing just who, exactly, he is and what role he best serves as.
While once unknown, Affleck came into his own as co-writer with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. A Boston native, he began to grow in popularity, exploding as a heartthrob in the late '90s with films like Armageddon before nearly falling off the map after a series of flops. When Affleck began to reemerge as a director, people were rife with doubts. With Argo, supported by his last films The Town and the less popular Gone Baby Gone, Affleck proves that he deserves to be in the spotlight again. Though Affleck stars in Argo, his work as a director elevates the film from enjoyable viewing to Oscar-worthy, genuinely entertaining delight.
The Bostonian sat down with “The Suffolk Voice” and others to discuss his new movie, Middle-Eastern politics, the Red Sox, and Argo in what was one of the funniest interviews ever reported:
Ben Affleck: Alright, thank you all for coming. This is very cool. I'm really grateful that you saw this movie.
Press: So Canada and Iran..
Affleck: I know, isn't that amazing? The Canadians pull their diplomats out of Tehran the day we premiere in Toronto. I swear to god, if this was a Miramax movie, I would have thought Harvey Weinstein had something to do with it.
But, uh, yeah. It's hard to say that some bad thing in world events is good for you. I mean, I suppose it could be kinda taken as a good sign that they're standing up for human rights and for Iran's flying out to Syria that's a bold step, so, you know.. No one got hurt and it proved to be serendipitous with the movie. I don't know. You usually do a period movie and, as you do it, it kinda fades away and people forget the story and 'it happened a long time ago.' This movie keeps getting more relevant. The stuff with Iran, the Arab Spring, the Green Revolution in Iran...
Press: Shitty science fiction movies.
Affleck: And that! That was the like apex of greatness or era of shitty science fiction movies. I mean, not just movies. Like remember they had "Land of the Lost" on TV? I was like, have you even- It is the worst thing in the world.
Press: It's funny how fondly you remember those shows as a kid though and then when you see them as an adult, it's like.. what was wrong with me?
Affleck: The disillusioning power of youtube. We can actually go back. 'Oh, my childhood, you know! I'm gonna watch Battlestar Galactica! The original one!' and you're like 'oh, funny haircuts.. they had a dog? A robot dog?'
Press: Oh, you're the king of funny haircuts though. I mean, [Argo] rocked. Was that a wig, or?
Affleck: I know, it was great. I knew we were gonna have to do it, so I grew it out ahead of time, because I didn't want to have any bullsh*t from all the other actors, because actors can talk you out of some sh*t. Scoot was like 'I don't think my character would have-' I'm like, 'Look! This is the picture of your character. There's no question that he has that mustache, and the glasses, and the weird hair part in the middle. That's just you!'
Press: You made Kyle Chandler unattractive to women.
Affleck: Yeah, he does look--
Press: No, he doesn't. [Laughs]
Affleck: He looks like just him. They both went to the same college and he knows stuff about him. He came to me and was like 'I want to play this part. I want to put on 15 lbs, I know the guy.' I was like 'Uhh... Well I guess you're hired. Great. Come on down.' He was amazing! He was super cool and, of all the movies I've been on, he was definitely the most.. I've been in plenty of movies with like, you know, sexy guys. And women showed up. [Laughs] A lot of them too! Like, my friends. Hurting my feelings! It was like, 'How's it going down here?- Oh my god.'
Press: So what attracted you to the story?
Affleck: I didn't write it. I just think it was an incredible story that landed on my desk. The amazing thing was that it was true. This would be the worst movie ever made if it wasn't true. It would just seem completely absurd. You'd be checked out by the beginning. But the fact that it was true and that Hollywood had worked with the CIA and had these opportunities: to cast broadly, it had a lot of cool characters, and that I could do three different tones. And it took place in the 70's, which was my favorite era. I think it was the golden era for American film. It had some of the worst, but like how Being There gets made in the same year as The Last Starfighter, you know? It's amazing. So there was so much stuff. It basically just came down to: I think it was a fascinating story. I was a middle-eastern studies major, so I had some interest anyway in this arena. Obviously I work in Hollywood. I'd done some research into the CIA, but I wanted it to be All the President's Men, you know? Dirty, papers everywhere, smokin' cigarettes. Just kinda a f*ckin' mess. That's what we tried to do and everyone was really into that. Like, 'How messy can we make it?' So I was really excited to do it and I went to George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who have a company called Smokehouse [Pictures], and they had developed it. It was at Warner Brothers and I remember I was like 'I literally have to do this. This is like- I don't know what else to say. Here's what I would do, here's how it would work.' We had a long, full conversation and they said 'Great, let's do it.' And, uh, we were kinda off and running.