LOS ANGELES—“I’d work with her in a second,” Ben Affleck told us when asked about his wife, Jennifer Garner. Showered with critical praise for his third feature directorial effort, “Argo,” Ben proves that his earlier projects, “The Town” and “Gone Baby Gone,” were not flukes.
“I’d direct Jennifer … if I found a movie with a strong female lead,” Ben stressed. As for acting together, he said, “Audiences are too savvy now to suspend disbelief about a married couple and think of them as other people.”
He described his wife as “a monster talent” and said it would be “a joy to watch her go through a performance … like with my brother [Casey Affleck, whom he directed in ‘Gone Baby Gone’]. I always knew when his performance wasn’t sincere … when there [was] a little upturn of the eye, letting some air out of the nose. Because when you know someone your whole life, you know when he’s bulls***ting you.”
Ben pointed out that he had known Jennifer long enough to know “whether she’s telling the truth or not … but maybe she’s got me totally fooled.”
The proud parents of three children, Ben said that he and Jennifer—they’ve been married seven years—have found time to pursue their respective film careers.
“We have the kind of partnership that allows me to do the stuff that I do. She also gets to work. In fact, when she was doing ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green,’ that’s when I got the script for ‘Argo’ … We’re lucky.”
Ben’s best friend, Matt Damon and his family, conveniently live close by. “I see him all the time. Every day,” Ben disclosed. “We bring the kids back and forth. It’s like Fantasy-ville. Usually my wife is there. And Matt’s wife is there. I have a nice time … I have a lot of friends who don’t work in the business, thank God. Otherwise, the conversations would get very boring.”
Reflecting on turning 40 last Aug. 15, Ben said: “I finally feel like, for better or worse, a grownup. I ran into Morgan Freeman somewhere. I said, ‘Oh s**t, Morgan, I’m turning 40.’ He said, ‘Boy, you’re just coming into your prime.’ I thought, maybe it’s bulls**t … But I feel like, if Morgan said it, it’s probably true.”
Voicing out his thoughts on mortality, he added: “I look at my next 10 years and I think, I believe these can be the best 10 years of my life. I feel great about my work. I’m really happy and engaged. I feel like I have a good chance. It’s still a bet that you can still miss … I’m really looking forward to what comes next. I’ve actually never felt better in my whole life. I know that’s a cliché. Because most of my friends who are already 40, wrote me birthday cards that said, ‘40—f**k!’ ”
In “Argo,” his suspenseful recounting of the 1980 CIA-Canadian top-secret operation to get six US diplomatic personnel out of war-torn Iran, Ben gets excellent performances from his entire cast, including himself.
He cited the challenges of being an actor and director in a film: “It’s hard to watch yourself because all you’re seeing is like, ‘Oh, my eyes look weird.’ Or, ‘Why is my nose funny?’ Or, ‘Why do I breathe like that?’ You get into this weird, self-critical vanity. We all have stuff that when we look in the mirror—it drives us nuts. It’s hard not to see that stuff.”
He explained his solution: “What I do is direct myself in the editing room. I shoot a gigantic number of takes and a ton of footage. I try to do a whole spectrum of things. Then, when I go into the editing room, I’m very self-critical so the easiest thing is to get rid of this, get rid of that. I’m left with like two or three takes. Then I go, ‘Those are okay. Now let’s try to cut them together.’”
Ben recalled shooting a massive protest scene in Turkey, which subbed for Tehran in “Argo”: “I don’t like digital people [on film],” he began. “I don’t think they look good. I wanted to use real people as extras. So, thousands of extras. But the only people who were coming down to be extras were senior citizens who wanted a voucher for lunch. But this was supposed to be a student revolution. So I couldn’t shoot them closely. Like, ‘Down with America!’ (He demonstrated elderly folks protesting). What are you going to do when 2,000 70-year-olds show up? You’re stuck with them. So we had problems.”
He said “Argo” was “much bigger in scope and scale than anything I’d ever done … and I had to keep the budget down. It was a challenge.”
Still, he repeated how fortunate he is at this stage in his life, pointing out the benefit of directing “Argo” with George Clooney and Grant Heslov as his coproducers. “I’ve gotten to know Grant and George on this movie,” Ben said. “They’re wonderful guys. They’re filmmakers, they’re sharp. I have never met anybody as smart about Hollywood as George Clooney. He understands movies and politics really well.”
As for his next gig on the director’s chair, Ben is reportedly mulling an adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel, “The Stand,” which is “like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in America.” In the meantime, he is said to be on tap to direct an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s crime noir novel, “Live by Night.”
As an actor, Ben will be seen next in the following films: (Glenn Ficarra and John
Requa’s) “Focus” with Kristen Stewart; Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” with Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko; and Brad Furman’s “Runner, Runner” with Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton.
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