Affleck interview: Ben takes the ‘paycheck’ money and runs

Genevieve Giambanco

In the agonizingly trite formula of sappy romantic comedies, an actor’s display of ability is just as hopeless as the movie. Raw theatrical talent is deliberately masqued through nauseatingly foolish mutterings and hasty fits of passion, usually understood as Hollywood’s attempts at profundity. Such over-quoted cheesy lines have come to define the token one-size-fits-all acting that Ben Affleck seems to have lived for … until now, that is. The male Meg Ryan of romantic comedies seems to be falling out of love with practicing camera-ready smirks and falling into action with director John Woo’s new sci-fi action thriller, “Paycheck.”

To promote the new film, Affleck took some time from his action-packed schedule to sit down and talk about the real motivation behind his ‘paycheck.’

Genevieve Leon: How does a script like “Paycheck” push your limits as an actor?

Ben Affleck: In this particular genre of film it is like a certain distinct kind of performance. It like requires like a different set of I guess skills, you know. I mean because they tend to be filmed in a more, a way which is more of a lot of little compartmentalized moments which are then strung together so it requires maintaining a kind of level of energy that is sometimes kind of counter intuitive. John Woo’s movies have always had another element and are present in this movie, like friendship, betrayal and love. So really it is the same task as any movie in terms of acting where you have to find the character and immerse yourself in the imagined reality of the character’s emotional life.

GL: What was it like working with John Woo? Did you consider him a challengomg director during filming?

BA: I really felt like it was an honor to work with John Woo. I have been a fan of his since his early Hong Kong movies, “Hard-Boiled” and “The Killer” and watched his work in movies like “Mission: Impossible 2” and “Face/Off.” So it was really a real pleasure and honor for me and ultimately I just wanted to try to be available to him to do whatever he wanted so that John could make exactly the movie he wanted to make.

One of the interesting things about John is that a couple of things were surprising. One was that for a guy who has made so many shoot ’em up macho movies he is an incredibly sweet, gentle, kind man that really sort of, surprised me at first, I guess. The other is that John sees, I think sees movies as a kind of choreographed dance between the actors and the camera so that movement is laid out in a much more specific way and it is really tied to the camera move and it all designed to evoke whatever feeling John wants to evoke, be it building suspense or making you feel suggesting romance or whatever it is. But it was a real education for me and a true pleasure.

GL: Is there any particular genre of film you’re after next? Do you avoid playing a routine role to not to be stereotyped as an actor?

BA: Yes, it is absolutely a conscious effort on my part to try to do diverse stuff. I try to think of myself in some ways as like a decathlete; I mean I would like to. You can win a decathlon without being the best in any one event. One of my goals is to look back on my career and say that I was able to successfully do a lot of different genres from romance to comedy to drama to action to horror to independent unusual movies because I think that is one of my greatest assets and hopefully I hope one of the things that will keep working for a while.

GL: How do you manage to grasp so many roles within short intervals of time?

BA: Well it sometimes seems like a short period of time but I really always make sure that I have a month or so to prepare and to get my head on straight, sometimes the movies come out closer together. But for the most part, it should not really take you more than a month. I’ve done a lot of plays, and independent movies. I am used to having to prepare on a pretty accelerated schedule. During my brief stint in college I would do three, four, five plays a year and you really had to turn around and focus on the next one pretty quick. So my training kind of prepared me for that. I think there is no excuse if you cannot get your performance together in a month then you know you ought to hang it up.

GL: Any advice for young people looking to make it in Hollywood?

BA: I think one of the things that is really important is just to go out and do it. I mean it is a very difficult business. First thing I would advise you to do is if you can think of anything else that you would be happy doing in life to do that. And if not then you can feel comfortable knowing that you really have no choice. You take it as it comes. If you are a college student there are tons of opportunities to do theatre at school. You just have to get experience doing it and putting together a resume in your local area. Be it commercials, be it industrials, guest appearances, little stuff and then pick your moment and make your move to LA or New York.

GL: It’s known that you’re a loyal Boston Red Sox fan. I’m curious which you would treasure more: winning another Oscar or seeing the Red Sox win the World Series?

BA: Seeing the Red Sox win the World Series without a doubt, without question!