Ben Affleck Talks Working With David Fincher on ‘Gone Girl’ and the Highs and Lows of His Career
There has been no greater turnaround of opinions on a Hollywood star than on Ben Affleck… and it’s happened multiple times. First he was the indie movie darling that won an Oscar for co-writing the script for Good Will Hunting. Then he was committing career suicide with a series of bad movies and headlines about his love life in the tabloids. But wait! Affleck began stepping behind the camera and directing films, with his latest, Argo, winning the Oscar for Best Picture. But the story doesn’t end there, because the then-beloved Affleck was announced as the latest actor to play Batman, causing legions of film fans to once again turn on him because of the very idea of “Batfleck.” However, before we see Affleck as Batman he next stars in David Fincher‘s adaptation of Gone Girl, a novel about a husband whose wife is murdered and soon finds himself the media’s number one suspect. Affleck spoke to The New York Times about his shifting career perceptions and why he decided to work with Fincher.
Affleck is a devoted family man, but he did feel a connection with the character in the sense that his life had been manipulated through his portrayal in the media. He explains, “There’s nothing really about this guy or character that I feel connected to personally. Except that I have definitely felt as though I was looking at a version of my life that I didn’t recognize through the prism of the media.” In fact, Affleck disputes the media’s account of his career being in shambles after several box office bombs in the early 2000s and his very public engagement to singer Jennifer Lopez ended. He instead offers, “I think for me there’s the idea that ‘Oh, he was callow and foolish in his youth and has sort of learned the error of his ways and has redeemed himself and is now like, maybe, a person of substance.’ But it wasn’t that I was lost and now I’m found. It was because we grow up. We kind of evolve.”
Because Affleck has come into his own as an acclaimed director in recent years, he wanted to work with Fincher on two levels: one as an actor and one as a way to learn more about directing films. He says, “David could’ve said, ‘I’m doing a project called the phone book, it starts with you reading A. A. Aramson,’ and I would’ve done it. He’s at the very, very tiptop of the list of directors I admire and want to learn from.” Even Fincher’s reputation for shooting scenes 20 times or more didn’t bother Affleck. He claims, “It was music to my ears. I love that idea of almost a hair shirt of a movie, when you’re just working very hard, all day every day.” Affleck believes that doing that many takes actually eventually took his mind off acting so he didn’t feel “that tightens inside” that tells him “You’re supposed to be acting now.”
While Affleck had some hesitation with what takes Fincher would eventually use in the final cut, he believes that added to the rawness of his performance. He reveals, “The feeling of risk has to do with: ‘Is this person going to do something with my humiliation, or with my honesty and with my nakedness and the degree to which I’m exposing myself in a real way? Or are they just going to humiliate me and butcher it?’ A guy like David, he hasn’t made a bad movie.”
As for the roadblocks he has found himself facing throughout his career, Affleck notes that it’s simply the nature of life. He says,”The world is more naturally full of nos than they are with yeses. And, in fact, the yeses are so rare. I have to make peace with it. I don’t always succeed. All these phases of life I’ve found are challenging in their own way. You keep running into new versions of yourself, and having to acclimate to that.”