A/V Room









Paycheck - Ben Affleck Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Was this an irresistible opportunity, working on a script from Philip K Dick and with John Woo?
Yeah, like John I had seen the Philip K Dick movies and read a few of the stories. However, I have been a fan of John since one of the first movies I saw of his, which I guess was either The Killer or Hard Boiled (I can't remember which one came first). But I've had these posters of those movies ever since.
Without embarassing John, this represented a brilliant opportunity for me to get to work with somebody who I had admired for many, many years, and who I think has been responsible, in a lot of ways, for kind of elevating the way that a particular genre of movies were made. Yeah, it was an easy decision, put it that way.

Q. The theme of the movie enables you to see the future, is there anything you might have been tempted to change in your own life, if such a machine existed?
One of the things this movie talks about is this notion of whether or not it's a good thing for us to see the future, or to erase the past.
I think it's probably suggested in the movie that it's an unhealthy desire, you know, I think it's a good thing that we don't see the future, or perhaps we'd dwell on maybe the negative things that are going to happen. It's also important to remember, well, the good and the bad that happens in our lives. It builds character, and if you don't remember the past, then you'd just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Some people do that anyway! [laughs]

Q. So is it fair to describe you as a fatalist? That you play the cards you're dealt?
Yeah, I think so. I think you have a certain amount of choice, and a certain amount of control over the things you have control of, and that which you don't you can't really worry about too much.

Q. Were there any times, while filming, that you became paranoid, like your character? And you look very dapper in this movie. Have you ever considered playing down that image?
The look of the movie, in some ways, was Hitchockian. John had talked about North by Northwest at one point, and some homages are in the movie that you can see. The look was a part of that.
There are some movies where I just want to please the director, and help the director accomplish whatever vision they have for it, so in this case I was happy to do whatever John wanted.
However, if he had said, you know, to smear myself in mud... I would have done that.
In terms of being paranoid, yeah, you know, it's interesting, as you can't help but absorb a little bit of what you're doing. I found, while filming this, I had these really weird dreams, so I guess a little bit of that bled over, yeah.

Q. How much of the action hero in the role is a realisation of your boyhood fantasies?
Well actually just being able to work with John, and to be in a John Woo movie, that, by itself, was a big deal for me.
Doing that action stuff definitely fufils a kind of adolescent fantasy, although I liked that, ultimately, this wasn't about a guy that was a superman, but he was more of a real person, and that many of his struggles and many of the action elements in it were kind of intellectual action, in a way. I had to unravel a logic puzzle, really, which was an interesting take on that, and a credit to John's ingenuity.

Q. So did you get to do many of the stunts, for the motorbike sequence, for instance?
I loved it [laughs]. There were a lot of stunt guys, but I loved the stuff that I got to do, and then loved it even more when I saw everything else, when it had been cut together. I love to ride bikes, so that was really fun.
And it was fun to be on the tow rig with Uma, but it's a lot easier to do motorcycle stunts when you're actually being held up by an iron pipe, so you haven't got any fear of falling over. It actually made me look a much better rider than I really am.

Q. It was on the internet that Matt Damon was originally offered the role?
John Woo:
That's true, but unfortunately, he was already committed to another movie, and he didn't want to do the same role, but he highly recommended Ben Affleck. He said Ben would probably do it better than him.
But I love Ben, and I love all of his work, especially Good Will Hunting and Changing Lanes. I find that Ben has great charisma and actually reminds me of a young Cary Grant.
Actually, I had a great time working with Ben, and I think that he's a real person, and really right for the role. He was very humble and always happy to work with anybody. He would never say 'no'.

Q. And what did you think of that, Ben? Are you grateful to Matt for recommending you?
Yeah, yeah, and one of the things that's nice is that I have a friend, who I can bounce ideas off. I mean Matt and I have been fans of John for a long time, and I got this phone call after he had met with John...
As John said, he had just done an amnesia move [The Bourne Identity], and he didn't want to do the same thing again. But he told me the script was really good, you should work with John Woo, and you should talk to him.
So, you know, it's nice to have somebody who you respect, who you knew from before, who's in a similar position that you are.
I guess most actors, on a certain level, don't really know each other, or if they do, not to the extent where they'll call each other up and say 'how about this', or 'how about that'?
I think I'm in a nice position, that way, and I suppose I should give him a little kick back [laughs].

Q. Are there any specific movies you've done that you'd like to erase from your memory, or ours?
[Laughs] You know, that's interesting. It's funny because often times the experience of making a movie, and the things that you learn, are not necessarily mirrored in the final product, you know?
I've had some really interesting and valuable experiences, when the movies didn't work out that well.
If you've got a great director, that you can really trust, like John... or put it this way, no one really knows. It's hard to make a good movie.
But, again, in some ways, I think you learn more from failure, than you do from things that work, because they're just much more pointedly instructive, in that way.
I don't know, it's hard to say, I might be depriving myself of something valuable by erasing those films.

Q. Tom Cruise said last week that he didn't read his reviews. Do you, bearing in mind that you appeared on the David Letterman Show and read out some of your bad notices. Was that more of an exercise in damage control?
That particular talk show appearance, I had got some of my... I had a collection of a sort of greatest hits of the banners of the particular reviews of that, which were particularly bad. I actually had Ken, my publicist, put together a sort of list of excerpts, which spared me having to pore over them all, and just had some greatest hits lines from them.
In general I don't read my reviews, because I find often that, you know, for one thing, film critics these days are sort of like writing for telling people whether or not to go see a movie, and not really approaching film criticism from the point of view which is the kind of criticism which would be helpful to you as an artist.
Like what were you trying to do? Did you accomplish this? You know, sometimes it's just about being clever, or whatever, and that's ok, but it's not particularly helpful in the sense that it's not really about what you're doing.
It's the same with me reading press clippings, or anything else, I avoid reading reviews, because it's sort of distracting. You don't want to be there making a movie and, in the back of your head, anticipating what people will say about it. I think that can be pretty distracting.

Q. When you start to read the stuff that's written about you, I would imagine that you start to think who is this person, because the one you see in print and the one who is really you are completely different?
Yeah, it's true. But I think it's a natural thing that happens, you know, you can become a projected image, in a way, whether it's the iconic, or some image of an actor who develops some point of view, or another. Inevitably, it's a kind of reductive simplification of who you are, and really, often times, much more about other people's ideas, and their projections; what they're thinking about, and what they're responding to.
So there's not much point in spending a lot of time going over it.

Q. What do you think of the accelerated pace of success you have enjoyed since Good Will Hunting?
Certainly the accelerated pace of success is something to adjust to, but, you know, it's probably a lot easier to adjust to than the accelerated pace of failure [laughs]. Given the choice between those, I've had the opportunity to work with great directors, so it's a dream come true.
It comes with its own attendant, unique issues, that are unusual, but I think it's important for someone in my position to focus more on the fact of how grateful I am, and how fortunate, and really very blessed, than dwell on what particular difficulties it brings with it.
But yes, the short answer is I'm extremely pleased and very lucky, and just happy to be given the opportunities that I have. And mostly I focus on looking forward and continuing to improve, and make myself a better person, and a better actor, and all that stuff.

Q. Which gives you more satisfaction - acting or writing?
Well, they are different in some ways. Writing gives you more of a sense of authorship and that is interesting, but lately, what I've been drawn to, is working with directors from whom I can learn a lot. And that's an aspect of acting that you don't get from directing, which is finding somebody that you admire, and that you think is really talented, and sort of dedicating yourself to apprenticing from them.
That's the real gift of being an actor, is that you can do a number of movies, while even directors, it might take John a year and a half to go through a movie, whereas I can do three in a year, and in that time work with several different directors and get to see how they work and how they think. With somebody like John, every day is an education, and valuable to me.
They both have their own merits, but I've been really interested, lately, in trying to learn from the great directors.

Q. Movies aside, have you ever had a forehead striking moment of 'oh shit, I've forgotten that?'
Too many to mention, unfortunately. I constantly forget people's names, so I have sometimes, with someone I've known for two years, I know their name is Don, I'll blank on the name for a second and then take a guess. 'You know Steve', and then realise I just called him Steve, when it's Don. So that's something I try to avoid, making those sorts of blunders, but in general I try not to dwell too much on that sort of thing. And I have pretty good friends who are forgiving.

Q. In the film, your character gives up three years of his life for work. Is there any project you'd give up three years for?
It's a tricky question, but one of the things I thought was interesting about the movie was no matter what we do, I think most people grapple with this notion of how much of our lives are we going to give up for our professional work, to make a living, and so on.
For many of us, we're lucky enough to work in things that we really like doing, but still there are attendant sacrifices that go with that. That balance is a tricky one to maintain.
I probably would have given up three years and worked for free with John, but they didn't ask me to, so I took what I could get!

Q. What was it like working with Uma Thurman?
A. Well, she's obviously quite beautiful. And she also has an ease about her. Sometimes, maybe it's because she has been successful for quite a long time now, and doesn't suffer from the insecurity, sometimes mixed with desperation, in the character of actors who are made a little nuts by the business, she's extremely well-educated, refined and yet accessible. It's a rare combination. She's also quite talented and a really great mother. She had these two great little kids who were always dragging around the set, and very precocious [says joking]. You felt like they were smarter than you, and didn't want to talk to them for too long.

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