Ben Affleck is many things: an Oscar-winning filmmaker (“Argo”), a revered actor and screenwriter (“Good Will Hunting”), and also a franchise commodity (the “Justice League” films). Few in Hollywood exhibit that multi-hyphenate range. This year, he flexes into character actor territory in his role as a world-weary barkeep in George Clooney’s “The Tender Bar,” but he also made a splash in another movie this year with Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel.” While that film met heaps of critical claim, it plummeted at the box office, making just $10 million off a $100 million production budget.
That caused director Ridley Scott to go off on millennials and “audiences brought up on their fucking cell phones” during Marc Maron’s “WTF Podcast.” And even later, when asked a question he wasn’t keen on by a journalist during the film’s press junket, he told the reporter to “go fuck yourself, sir.”
Affleck, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter timed to the release of “The Tender Bar,” has come out in defense of Scott’s harsh words, with the caveat that he could have been “slightly misquoted.”
“I mean, let’s be honest, who hasn’t wanted to say that in a press junket?” Affleck said, laughing. “Ridley is at the stage in his career where, obviously, he’s completely unencumbered by concerns about what people think.”
As for why the movie bombed, Affleck said he can see where audiences are coming from. “Really, the truth is that I’ve had movies that didn’t work that bombed, that weren’t good. It’s very easy to understand that and why it happened. The movie is shit, people don’t want to see it, right? This movie, ‘The Last Duel,’ I really like. It’s good and it plays — I saw it play with audiences and now it’s playing well on streaming. It wasn’t one of those films that you say, ‘Oh boy, I wish my movie had worked.’ Instead, this is more due to a seismic shift that I’m seeing, and I’m having this conversation with every single person I know. Though there are various iterations, the conversation is the same: How is [the movie business] changing?”
He added, “One of the fundamental ways it’s changing is that the people who want to see complicated, adult, non-IP dramas are the same people who are saying to themselves, ‘You know what? I don’t need to go out to a movie theater because I’d like to pause it, go to the bathroom, finish it tomorrow.’ It’s that, along with the fact that you can watch with good quality at home.”
Affleck’s theory is that the theatrical experience will soon become so rarefied that, as he told The Playlist in another new interview, “There’ll be three directors, maybe, Quentin, Paul, Chris Nolan, Kathryn Bigelow, I don’t know who. That’ll be their three movies a year that they go out and see because they’re in the theater. It’s like ‘Succession’ is just too good.”
Affleck also told The Playlist that the results of “The Last Duel” made him think, “Well, that’s probably the last theatrical release I’ll have.” He added, “Because I don’t want to do IP movies where you have this sort of built-in audience. That’s something I was interested in and liked, and I just don’t like anymore. I like other people who do it. And if you are going to do it, you should love it. And I love something different. So, I want to do that.”