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INT: Ben Affleck

I've said it before and I'll say it again. In person, Ben Affleck is the nicest guy you could possibly find. But after watching some of his recent movies I've wondered if he could just quit making movies and just be my pal for the rest of his life. Great guy to hang around with and that just wasn't translating to the big screen. But he's back with his strongest performance yet in JERSEY GIRL and as usual, he was his trademark affable, lovable ole self when we talked. Despite the warnings to keep the topics related to JERSEY GIRL (i.e., no J.Lo or gambling talk), he was more than willing to answer every question as openly, honestly and self-affacingly as possible.

What do you think of Raquel?
She's one of those kids where you think it's a shame she has to grow up because she's so cute. Especially with that accent too. Did you push Kevin to write this kind of movie?
You know, I had this feeling that we both could use the change, you know? Really pushing himself, I though he had done my favorite movie of his, "Chasing Amy." Then he did "Dogma," which he had written for a while, which had a lot of the same broad, kind of comic quirks from MALLRATS. And then come to JAY AND SILENT BOB, which is sort of the pinnacle of that kind of thing. And I had finished PEARL HARBOR, or THE SUM OF ALL FEARS or one of those movies and I was just feeling like, it would be good for Kevin to let go of those kinds of crutches of that kind of comedy, of the Jay and Bob characters and to write about what's more heartfelt. And for me, to do some acting, to get away from being a part of this cog in the machine of these giant action movies and do something that was really kind of back to both our roots. So I knew in a weird way that it would be risky for both of us, but that was the healthy thing. Was Ollie an easy fit for you, or was it a tough character to get into?
It was a pretty easy fit. Part of it is that Kevin wrote it for me and Kevin knows me probably as well as anybody. So it was similar in terms of Kevin and I. In terms of being sort of language oriented, in terms of how people express themselves. So that was something that was comfortable for me. In addition, I was playing a guy from this middle class working background from New Jersey, single parent family going into Manhattan. And for me, it was sort of Hollywood, and we're both trying to find an identity after going to extremes. So that was really easy for me to relate, yeah. How hard was it to do the scene where you're fighting with Gertie?
That was tough. I mean, having been a child actor, I was really concerned because there's some things that I look back on and moments that happened with me as a kid that weren't so healthy. And it's hard, because most people just think you get a kid actor on set and it's hard enough to just think of them as another professional, but you also have to remember that these are children, you know? So I wanted to make it really clear to her that it was not real, that it was sort of like a game. Let her know that I really care about her and make it a fun thing. And actually, once we got to doing that, kids are really comfortable with yelling and being hard. So I think it was harder for me than it was for her. [Laughs] She was like, "I have these fights with my mom all the time." How was it working with Liv again?
It was nice. This movie was great. Everybody in this movie I knew, everyone I felt comfortable. And Liv and I have have something great. When I first met her, she was dating Joaquin [Phoenix], who’s my brother’s best friend. So I knew her from hanging around with my brother. She was always around, and we’re very different in a lot of different ways, but I think that helps us have a good time together on the movie and both of us felt good about it. We kind of bonded on ARMAGEDDON, because, you know, “the director [Michael Bay] is crazy, and this is all insane,” so we were just really easy going comfortable with each other. So it made it really easy and kind of fun. Like with the scene where we’re together making out and I start taking of her clothes, it’s really easy for me to go to her and be like, “look, to me, I think this should be like a starving guy and he gets food for the first time in months. Like a tearing open the package kind of thing!” [Laughs] So it made it easier to do that and we had fun with it. And she’s fun. She’s a great girl. What was it like to deal with the media during your very publicized relationship?
When we were shooting this, it was at the pinnacle of… well, I thought it was the pinnacle. It didn’t end up being the pinnacle… but the madness. You know, it’s the few bad apples thing with the media. For the most part, in my experience, people among [media] tend to be bright, interesting, smart, thoughtful, professional people with standards. And then there’s just a few people who, you know, mostly the tabloid media. And then it’s the need to compete with the tabloids that creates this lowest common denominator. You know we have these magazines that used to do straight ahead journalism, but now they feel like they have to compete with screaming headlines from gossipy angles. But it definitely gave me a perspective on it. I felt like I had an inside track on the whole thing. [Laughs]

You speak your mind about politics. Are you going to support Kerry?
Yeah, I mean I feel awkward when actors actually issue their endorsements, as if, what am I? The AFL, CIO? You know what I mean? Me and my membership. [Laughs] I will campaign with [Kerry] and talk to people. Something I’m really excited about- Ted Kennedy is proposing raising the minimum wage. And I did some work with him and janitors in Boston with this proposal. It was started by students at Harvard [University] actually. Because what happens at these huge universities is, some students can barely make enough to live on. So Ted Kennedy is gonna propose this minimum wage hike, and it’s really exciting because it actually may pass. It’s really hard for Republicans to oppose that in an election year. So I’m doing that and I’m also going to go to the convention in Boston, where I grew up. I was always very much, a kind of Union, blue-dog Democrat. Was it interesting when you met George W. Bush?
It was interesting. I shook his hand. You know, I wondered if it would be awkward for me or if it would be awkward for him. And then he personally came by and shook my hand. I didn’t even know I was standing there, and he just sort of reaching out and shaking hands, and he shook my hand. And I thought he sort of recognized me, but he didn’t say anything. I said, “Mr. President,” he shook my hand and he kept walking. And I thought, “well, alright. Fair enough.” But I have to say to his credit, he came back by later on and said, “how are you doing? Are you excited about this?” Blah, blah, blah. And we chatted. And you know, as a person, he’s an extremely amiable, kind guy. And we were shooting “The Sum of All Fears,” and I had just finished doing this thing with Gore in Miami- election night in fact- and it wasn’t that long after he had just been elected we were shooting SUM OF ALL FEARS across from the White House and somebody said, “you know, the vice president would like to invite you into the White House.” The only reason I did the White House tour was Vice President Cheney’s invitation and I got the chance to meet him. And you know, those guys have always been particularly pleasant. So yes, I met the President. I was very honored to meet the President of the United States. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given or that you would give?
Well, you know there’s practical advice, in terms of how to get going and kick start your career, which I think is to start locally first and build your resume before you try going to LA or New York. Are you still a comic fan at all?
Yeah. I’m still a big comic fan. Kevin steers me. I have Kevin send me the stuff that he thinks is good, because he reads everything. So he sends me stuff that he thinks is interesting. Although I haven’t loved anything too much lately that I read, anything new to tell you the truth. And it’s interesting, I like the new X-Men. I do like the new X-Men, how they sort of took the movie universe and tried to incorporate it into the comic. It’s like the one time they’ve successfully done it, because they didn’t go all the way like the movie, with just a comic version of Hugh Jackman or something. But they did distill the characters. It was getting too crazy with too many different books, too many different characters, and too much intergalactic shit. They lost the essence of what it was and I like how they’ve distilled it.

With the bit of controversy last year, how does this movie fit into your overall career?
Last year was an interesting year. I had a movie [DAREDEVIL] that worked really well, one [GIGLI] that was a gigantic bomb, and one [PAYCHECK] that performed more or less on par with what it should have. It’s interesting that the worst one… it’s like “if it bleeds, it leads.” The one that’s the biggest catastrophe is the one that everyone remembers, which is why I think it’s really nice to have this movie happen now, because it serves as a sort of counter to that movie. I really am proud of this movie and I really like this movie. I think, professionally and personally, being that Jen is in it for even 10 minutes, it leaves that whole thing on kind of a positive note. Like, “hey, they were in this movie together. It was actually good.” It gives me positive memories of my professional experience working with her. And it also, I think, was important to me career-wise for me to go back to doing the most basic thing that I started off doing, which were stories about regular people. So this year has been humbling for me in some ways and informative in some ways, overwhelming. But it’s also shown me that I like doing this stuff. This is really what’s true to me. I don’t have to do other big budget, giganto movies. So I imagine that this is kind of the thing that I want to do more. Is there any kind of role that you wouldn’t take, even if Kevin Smith offered it to you?
No, I don’t think so. I mean, maybe an adult film. [Laughs] It might be interesting. I owe Kevin for my career. There’s not much to my career that I have, to which I’m not grateful to Kevin for. He was the launching man. He was the first person who cast me as a lead in a movie when I was really typecast as a good bad-guy, doomed to spend the rest of my career throwing teenagers against their lockers. And I really rely on him for a kind of livelihood; a creative livelihood if not necessarily a monetary one. He’s continued to give me the chance to do really interesting stuff. You really gotta have a friend who’s like, “I wrote some self-satire for you.” He’s always given me the chance to do interesting stuff, and I really believe in loyalty and I can’t imagine anything where I would say no to the guy. Do you think that Ollie made the right decision at the end of this movie?
One of the things I think about is, I think again, it’s sort of like CHASING AMY. I think he sort of left her with sort of a debatable ending. At the end of CHASING AMY, you kind of go, “well, are they gonna get back together? What’s gonna happen with them? Was this right?” And with this, the radical element of this movie is the traditionalist slant that it takes. Almost a conservative slant in the sense that it’s really saying we really live in a modern, career driven world where the idea is, you do what’s best for you and your career and the kid’s gonna have to understand that and they go along with it. And this is a counter-point to that in a way. He doesn’t end up taking the job and I think part of the point of showing the bad side of being a publicist was a way of saying to the audience was saying that he wasn’t actually satisfied with his job in a way that’s healthy. Besides being a good swindler or hustler, it wasn’t enriching to his soul or innovative to him in any way. But I do think that it’s actually kind of radical and interesting in a way. So I think he made the best decision, yeah, but I wouldn’t make that judgment on somebody else’s life. I wouldn’t say, “you should not work as a…,” you know. It’s very hard to say. I think the struggle between juggling your family and your work life is probably the most central, profound, modern, universal struggle that people have. If you have kids, if you’re dealing with death and you have to deal with how much time you spend at your work and how much time you spend with you family and how your work life is affecting your family, it’s a big deal, and I think it’s something that anyone with a family faces.

Does Kevin allow you to participate in the creative process of this movie, such as the script or certain scenes?
You know, I talked to him a little bit about it as he was writing it. He was sending it to me. It mostly involved me saying, “I think you’re on track. I get what you’re doing. I think this is beautiful. Keep doing it.” Mostly what we got into wasn’t overall direction, because it was just the initial conversation that we had where I said, “something that is personal to you.” And, you know, you can’t dictate what’s personal to somebody else. But then once he started doing that, I just wanted to encourage him and try to cultivate that. We did debate a few things. We argued a lot about the Town Hall scene, which is an argument that I would say I ultimately won, because it ended up being kind of shortened for other reasons, but I always thought that it should be cut out of the movie. Kevin thought it was necessary. It ended up being compromised. You don’t hear the dialogue but you see me at the Town Hall giving a speech. I was constantly trying to stick ad-libs in the movie, got shot down, with a couple exceptions. I think I got two in. One’s the “?” joke. The other is the “Starlight Express” joke, that ended up being in there because he cut out another part. Does it frustrate you to read the pre-conceived notions about the film?
Yeah, I don’t understand that. I think that’s just lazy journalism, you know what I mean? And I think ultimately was happens is… here’s a good example- there’s no movie that could have been buried more by the press than “The Passion of the Christ” before it came out. Mel Gibson was finished, “he had gone crazy, no one had seen this movie and it was seen as his mad, religious HEAVEN'S GATE.” And then the headline this week was, “Mel Gibson Survived the Passion.” And then, turns out Mel’s been all right. [Laughs] Turns out people like THE CHRIST. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t talked to one critic that liked the movie, but the secular press is not a good candidate. Do you watch any reality shows?
I’m a “Survivor” junkie. I have to say it, but I do love it. Do I have a favorite on the show? They always vote off the people that I like. This is hard because, there’s no real underdogs because they’re all either super-bastards or they’re super-achievers. I like my bearded man, Rupert. It just seems like, I always just root for the tribe that’s getting wupped up on. The problem with “Survivor” and the great thing about it is that the minute somebody comes on and you start rooting for them, the minute they achieve power, they become evil. As soon as they’re in control for a little while, they change their whole fucking tune! [Laughs] So it’s actually hard to root for anyone throughout. It’s like watching asps. But to answer your question, I don’t pay much attention to it. I think that this movie, whatever conventionalism there is, I think this is the first two days that the press has even seen the movie, so I think that that will start to bleed out in the next couple of weeks and word of mouth will start to be good. What’s next for you?
Relaxation. Some time down to take some time off. I’m looking at doing this movie this year, if the script gets done right, called GLORY ROAD, which is about the Texas Western 1965 national championship basketball team. It was the first time in divisional college basketball that there was a starting five. So it’s kind of a story about how the game of basketball changed, and it’s a story about they were sort of civil rights leaders. It’s about this guy who has a shitty basketball program and he just was like, “I’m gonna recruit the best players.” He was from Oklahoma. He didn’t really care- “black, white, whatever. I’m gonna get the best basketball players.” Whereas other people were sort of doing this quota system, so he got the best ball players who all happened to be black guys, and they ended up playing at the national championship, and it was just sort of scandalous. And they beat the Kentucky team when Pat Riley was on that team. So it’s sort of about how basketball changed, but it’s also about a time when America changed.
Source: JoBlo.com

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