Out Of The Furnace – Casey Affleck interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
CASEY Affleck talks about some of the challenges of making Out Of The Furnace, getting to know his character and why he enjoyed working alongside Christian Bale in particular.
He also reflects on the type of roles he looks for as well as working with Christopher Nolan on the forthcoming Interstellar. And he talks about being part of the Ocean’s Eleven ensemble.
Q. Out of The Furnace is an amazing film, reminiscent of the classic American films of the ‘70s. Would you agree?
Casey Affleck: Yeah, I’d say so. It runs along those same lines in terms of plot and theme. And I love those movies from the ‘70s.
Q. I read that you feel drawn to complicated characters. So, where did you identify Rodney’s complexity?
Casey Affleck: Well, I thought it would be interesting to play somebody who had something they couldn’t really talk about, that was bothering them to such a degree that it started to take control of their life.
Q. Did you research post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]?
Casey Affleck: A little bit. But there’s only so much that I needed to do to play the part. I probably just scratched the surface.
Q. So, where did you go to get in touch with his feelings?
Casey Affleck: Some of it came from talking to veterans and some of it came from watching documentaries about PTSD. But I also think that, to a certain degree, everyone knows how hard it can be to talk about things and how easy it can be to feel disconnected from everybody around you. I don’t think that’s a feeling that’s exclusive to people with PTSD.
Q. How did you get into shape for the fights in the film? Did you do much work?
Casey Affleck: I worked with a boxing coach, who had his work cut out for him [laughs]. But luckily, I wasn’t supposed to look like Muhammad Ali. These are very sloppy, untrained backyard fights. They’re just really tough guys who pound each other into submission, so it wasn’t necessary to look like I was ready for the Olympics. I just had to be believable when I threw a punch.
Q. What do you think that Scott Cooper brought to the film?
Casey Affleck: Scott really assembled a bunch of great people. Our cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi’s work really stands out and holds the whole film together in a way. And then there was Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson and all of the other tremendous actors he assembled. He just put together an amazing group of people.
Q. I gather that doing this and Aint Them Bodies Saints really re-ignited your passion for acting?
Casey Affleck: Um, it did a little bit. I guess you could say that. But I love acting. Both of these films were good experiences. David Lowery, director of Aint Them Bodies Saints, is an unbelievably smart and creative guy and he was very easy to work with. I liked him immediately and really enjoyed working with him. Out Of The Furnace, on the other hand, gave me the opportunity to work with Christian Bale, which was something I was very excited about. I love how he approaches acting. And he works really hard and is very focused… he’s probably the hardest working guy there and it’s good to be around that. He lifts everybody.
Q. You’ve also just worked with Matthew McConaughey on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. How was that?
Casey Affleck: I wasn’t there that long to be honest. It’s mostly Matthew’s movie. I have just a small part in it but it didn’t take long to see that Nolan is just really one of our masters. I’ve enjoyed his movies a lot but watching him work was incredibly inspiring and impressive and even intimidating. He is a man on top of his game.
Q. Does being around directors like Nolan, Lowery and Cooper inspire you to want to direct again? Or have you left that behind for now?
Casey Affleck: Well, I’m enjoying acting right now. But you’re right, working with these guys and when you’re on set with people like Nolan does make you start thinking about directing yourself. But it’s also intimidating too because he’s doing so much and doing it so well but making it look so easy. And you know that it’s not easy at all. So, you’re ego withers a little bit [laughs]. You just think that you’re never going to be able to do it quite like that.
Q. But I’d imagine you’re continually learning?
Casey Affleck: Nolan is very open. He’s a very smart guy and always busy but he’s happy to spend half an hour explaining to you what he’s doing. I couldn’t possibly have had a better time on Interstellar. Usually, I’m happy when a film shoot is over and I can get to go back and spend more time with my family. But I wanted another couple of weeks on Interstellar.
Q. Is Triple Nine with John Hillcoat happening?
Casey Affleck: Maybe. You never know in this industry until you actually start shooting [laughs].
Q. Talking of the industry, how do you view it’s state of health right now? How hard is it to make independent, character-driven movies like Out Of The Furnace and Aint Them Bodies Saints? And are those the kinds of films you prefer doing?
Casey Affleck: I don’t care how big or small a movie is. The pleasure I get out of it is working with the people. So, Interstellar is gigantic but it’s one of the most intimate sets I’ve been on. And I’ve done little movies where they feel chaotic and product driven and silly. It really doesn’t matter. I’m just interested in who I’m working with.
Q. Will you work with Ben again? Gone Baby Gone was amazing…
Casey Affleck: Ben doesn’t like to cast many people but himself really at the moment [laughs]. But maybe he’ll start doing that again soon. So yeah, maybe…
Q. How did your Oscar nomination for The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford change things for you?
Casey Affleck: Well, I’m not sure it changed anything to tell you the truth. But it was an honour. I’m prone to taking a more cynical view of things normally. But it felt really nice to be acknowledged by the group of people that you work with. If I was a ship builder, for instance, and my fellow ship builders got together and said: “Hey man, you just made an amazing ship…” Then it would feel good. So, it was a huge honour for me to be recognised in that way.
Q. What do you consider to be your own career highlights when you look back on the films you’ve made so far?
Casey Affleck: Oh, it’s always changing based on how you re-live things in your memory and how you’re feeling about things. I’ve actually stopped watching my own movies because I hated having an opinion on why I was doing things in that way. I didn’t want to be self conscious in that way or thinking about a performance as I was doing them. But of the ones I’ve seen, sometimes when you love the actual experience it can cloud your perception of what the performance is. It’s a hard question to answer but I guess the clear, concise answer is that I really do feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with the people I’ve worked with.
I’ve done some big movies, like Interstellar, and then some movies where I’ve been with just one other actor in a crew of seven and we go into the desert in Argentina and shoot the film how we want to make it, with no schedules and that’s an experience I treasure. But they’re all so different and I’m just astonished that I’ve had the opportunity to work with Gus Van Sant, Andrew Dominik, Christopher Nolan and people of their calibre. And I really can’t believe it because when I started out I was just auditioning for daytime TV shows and would have been happy to do anything. So, I really feel blessed.
Q. How was being part of an ensemble cast like Ocean’s Eleven and the subsequent sequels?
Casey Affleck: Well, anytime you do a movie it’s a bit like going to summer camp in that you don’t know anybody, you get together and you meet all these new people. And then you’re together all day long and sometimes at night but then when everything is finished, everyone goes their separate ways. It can be an insane little experience. But on the Ocean’s movies you did that three times, so I felt close to a lot of those guys and they were great experiences to make. I spend most of my time in the background on those films. It’s really Brad [Pitt] and George [Clooney] who are out in front and being very funny. There wasn’t really a whole lot I was doing. But that was fine. I had a great time making them. It was a great experience to be a part of because of the calibre of people you were always working with.
Out Of The Furnace is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday, January 29, 2014