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Ben Affleck: No Regrets

Photo: WireImage

For a long time, it’s seemed like Ben Affleck’s career has been in freefall. While his best buddy Matt Damon was busy building the Bourne franchise, Affleck’s reluctant run as a leading man came to an abrupt halt when Daredevil, Gigli, and Jersey Girl all turned out to suck. And no matter how much he turned on the charm, it seemed the public would never forgive him for his extremely annoying relationship with Jennifer Lopez.

But now that Lopez has moved on to much skinnier pastures, and it’s clear who the crazy one was, Affleck has fast been gaining back ground. His directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane book which stars his brother Casey, is opening this week to very solid reviews. At the film’s New York premiere on Tuesday night, he talked about working with family and why he’s the only one who’s allowed to joke about his career.

Were you purposely trying to showcase your brother by directing this movie?
Absolutely not. I thought he was underappreciated, absolutely, but I’d be lying if I said that I was trying to, like, in some altruistic way, help my brother. That would be totally false. I was initially trying to come up with a platform for me. To act in. And then, as I thought it got better, I thought maybe this would be a platform for me to direct. And then the part wasn’t working at the age it was written, so I changed it younger, just to make it more interesting, story-wise. I made him 30 years old and immediately realized there was no one who could play the part but Casey. So it was really just completely selfish. There was no one else who could play the part. In fact, I knew that I would be completely screwed if he didn’t do it.

Was there a chance he’d turn it down?
I don’t know. I knew it would be good for him, and I knew that he would realize that. It’s not like he’s somebody who’s going to be mercurial or petulant. And he’s my brother. At a certain point I knew I could say, “Hey, man, I need a favor.” Know what I mean? And if he said, “I don’t want to do it,” I would have just said, “So what?” But it wasn’t like I was going to him and saying, “Here you go. I’m doing you a solid.” It was that he truly was the only guy for the part.

Do you have brother-brother telepathy?
We have an interesting relationship. We’re actually very different. And I think he’s very smart. I wouldn’t say that we know what each other’s thinking, but we have a very complementary kind of thinking, where, you know, we see different sides of the same thing. So we’ll talk about something, and he’ll say something that I didn’t see at all and I’ll say something that he didn’t see at all. So we have really different psychologies. I cover one part of the map, and it touches no part of the map that he sees.

What’s your map?
Now, that would be telling something way too personal.

Casey said you fought a lot, but they were very brief fights.
Yeah. That’s what I mean. Different parts of the map. The difference between me and Casey is that I like to have pleasant conversations with the press, and he likes to provoke them. You will see that up and down the interview chain.

You’ve joked about your career in a lot of interviews. How does it feel to be taken seriously now?
I have been taking myself seriously. I am a funny guy. I am a very funny person. I make jokes. I’m funny.

But don’t you feel like it’s hard to get taken seriously as an actor trying to direct?
I was hoping that people would like my movie. In the same way that other directors are when they direct their movies. I was hoping people would like it.

Have you cautioned Casey about fame?
No. And I haven’t cautioned him at all. I’ve had an extraordinary career. I’ve been extremely lucky, fortunate to have the chance to be as blessed as I’ve been, to work with the people that I’ve worked with. I’ve really had nothing but gratitude.

But surely you have to have some regrets.
I think everyone has to figure these things out in some way on their own. Casey is very smart. You figure out each movie kind of on its merits. Any actor has to think themselves extraordinarily lucky, and even if you do one or two or three movies, that’s an extraordinary career. For me, I’ve been really fortunate, and I feel incredibly grateful as a writer, as a director, as an actor to have had the opportunity to do what I have, and I hope people like what I do every time I do it. And I hope people like this movie when it comes out — October 19! — and I hope they see it. —Jada Yuan

Related: Casey At Bat