Affleck comes forth as gangster, director in Live By Night
Ben Affleck's new movie Live By Night sees him playing the lead gangster and directing for the fourth time
Notwithstanding the cape and tights he donned last year as Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, and which he will wear again in the upcoming Justice League films, Ben Affleck, 44, has always wanted to be in a gangster film.
The love for the genre drew him to Dennis Lehane's best-selling book Live By Night, which he adapted for the big screen as his fourth directorial outing following the Oscar-winning Argo (2012).
The crime flick, which opens here tomorrow, also sees Affleck taking on the lead. Joe Coughlin is a World War I veteran and a cop's son, who returns home from the war to Boston and becomes a petty criminal during the Prohibition era.
He is also in love with a local crime boss' girlfriend, Emma (Sienna Miller), a development that has its own consequences.
The action shifts to Florida when he turns to bootlegging, becoming a full-fledged gangster.
The movie raises the question: Can you be a good man and a good gangster?
His moral code and sense of justice force him to pay the price for the life he has chosen.
What inspired you to make this film?
The main inspiration was the Warner Brothers gangster movies in the 1930s and 1940s, which really, for the first time, allowed the audience to have a kind of morally uncomfortable relationship with the protagonist.
We weren't sure we liked him or if he was doing the right thing. The whole time we are wondering if we are on this guy's side or not.
There is something about the way these films were made - where they said we are going to transport you, we are going to take you to a place you haven't seen and show you a kind of a spectacle... that was the overarching drive of this to me.
What were the challenges of writing the screenplay?
There is something so rich and pulpy about the combination of Lehane's dialogue and characters. It is a complicated book.
Wanting to maintain the integrity of that writing and also make it cinematic, sexy, punchy and rich, and build a big tapestry, that was the challenge, that was the hardest part about it.
I was working on the script when I was doing Argo.
It took about a year until I finally figured out how I could get it down to a length that I thought was passable as a film, but that also contained all the elements that it needed to and didn't lose any of the nuance and the detail.
You directed and acted in three movies before this. What have you learnt about film-making from those experiences?
I learnt a lot about who I am as a film-maker on the three films I made coming up to this. This is kind of the sum total of my experiences, and why I call it a love letter to the movie business.
In terms of actors, they say that acting is 90 per cent casting, and I think there is a lot of truth in that.
We directors often get credit for performances, when the truth is the smart thing you do is to hire a great actor, and you give them the room to perform.
I got all my first-choice actors, and I tried to make them feel like what they have to offer is really valued. I think that is important when you are directing.
You seem pretty confident, but have there been times when you are overwhelmed?
It is acting (laughs).
I feel like I belong here finally after four movies. I am starting to feel like okay, I understand how this works.- Ben Affleck
I feel like I belong here finally after four movies. I am starting to feel like okay, I understand how this works. I feel less terrified during the process, and I feel a little bit more confident, but mostly because I am working with people who are really gifted, and I can rely on them.
Building the screenplay and doing that work first was really what created the springboard for me to jump in and do the movie. That gave me a lot of confidence.
If I didn't have a script that worked, I think I would have been forever panicking. I guess I am confident enough to do it, but I am smart enough not to be overconfident.
Are you a night person?
It is funny. I go to bed at nine and I still don't want to get up until 10.30am, so I guess we call that a lazy person (laughs).
Luckily, I have my kids there, and they all need to get to school and that gets me out of bed.
But staying up late as a writer is when you have time to just be by yourself and be with your thoughts and let the world quiet down a little bit. That is when I do most of my writing - at night.