"I thought if I could just execute this, even in the most straight down the middle way, I have the possibility of creating a movie that's really unique," Ben Affleck told us last night at the star-studded and swanky Peggy Siegal fete for Warner Bros.' "Argo." "With really strong creative partners, I could so something that I'm really proud of. And to be honest with you, I feel this movie is better than anything I've even been involved with in my life."
And indeed, Affleck has every reason to be feeling on top of the world. Riding out of Telluride and TIFF with strong reviews from both critics and audiences (including our own review) and now poised as a very strong Oscar contender, the actor/director who already has two accomplished films under his belt — "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" — nonetheless headed into production on his latest with a bit of trepidation.
"[I'm] constantly worried, constantly in a state of low grade or medium grade anxiety," he said, self-deprecatingly, but honestly. "I'm quietly certain that I've screwed up almost every day. I go home at night and think, 'Did I get this, did get that'…I look at the dailies, try to scan through it, and then try to prepare for the next day. So it becomes this constant sort of hamster wheel of the mind. The shooting process is really difficult for me, I'm completely checked out of my family and I do feel that it's necessary. In order to push yourself to the extent to try and achieve something excellent. You could do something boring, you could do something run of the mill…but to do something interesting, I admire all the directors who can do it in their sleep. But for me it really requires full-time dedication."
Blending a number of different tones (comedic and dead serious) and genre elements (satire and thriller), "Argo" required a steady hand and smart approach to make it work. And Affleck credits his cast with helping him to get it right. "The hardest thing as a director — and this is a director's job — is to take this life-or-death drama and this laugh-out-loud satire and this CIA intrigue story, and weave them together, so they feel like one linear, connected story," he said, explaining that a fluid blend of transitions, footage and music all assisted him in achieving this tricky goal. "But to be honest the thing that really did it was the acting. John Goodman and Alan Arkin play comedy so real that it never feels like comedy, it feels like reality."
And keeping it real and getting the story right will be a challenge Affleck once again faces he gears up to helm the gestating biopic on famed Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. One of the FBI's most wanted men — and also an informer as well — he was finally captured in the summer of 2011 sparking headlines around the world. The project, which involves his brother Casey Affleck and his best friend Matt Damon as well, is one that has been brewing for a while now, and indeed it's still on Affleck's slate, though not quite in his immediate future. "My guess is honestly, [it'll be] the movie after next. I'll probably find something that's in better shape to do next until we got that one ready, and then we'll go ahead and fire that one up," he stated.
"Matt Damon…he's going to play Whitey. And I'm directing it, we're in the process writing it, the script is not ready yet, it needs a lot more work," he updated us, while noting the continued involvement of "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire" scribe. "Terrence Winter is a really talented writer, he's working on it. It's a tricky thing because it needs a lot nuance, but luckily it dosen't matter how old Matt gets. It ends with [Bulger] at 85."
It sounds like yet another expansive story set against a riveting backdrop and we'll be eager to see Affleck and his close friends and collaborators take it on. But until then, you can see "Argo" in theaters starting Friday, October 12th. — interview by Rodrigo Perez