Ben Affleck prefers "Company" of ensemble casts

Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:07am EST
 
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By Jenelle Riley

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - Ben Affleck is big in Russia. How else to explain the fact that not once, but twice, during a recent interview, he was interrupted by fans from Moscow wanting to meet the Oscar winner?

Affleck gamely poses for photos as one man explains, "I'm an actor. I don't speak English, sorry. But 'Gone Baby Gone' -- very, very good." Affleck thanks him for the praise, and as the man leaves he adds, "Your brother very, very good actor. You, good director!"

If anyone had doubts about that last statement after Affleck's directorial debut, "Gone Baby Gone," they disappeared with the September release of the taut, original thriller "The Town." Though he had been content to stay behind the camera with his first film, letting younger brother Casey take the lead and Amy Ryan win accolades, Affleck put himself front and center for "The Town," in which he plays a career criminal who falls in love with the bank employee he took hostage.

Now, with "The Town" on countless year-end "Best of" lists and Oscar buzz growing for the film, Affleck closes out 2010 by heading another terrific ensemble -- in John Wells' "The Company Men." In the timely story, Affleck plays an arrogant sales manager who finds himself downsized and forced to work for his blue-collar brother-in-law, played by Kevin Costner. Chris Cooper, Maria Bello and Tommy Lee Jones also star.

BACK STAGE: YOUR RECENT CHOICES SEEM TO SHOW YOU GRAVITATING MORE TOWARD ENSEMBLE WORK ("SMOKIN' ACES," "STATE OF PLAY," "HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU"). IS THAT A CONSCIOUS DECISION?

Affleck: I've found that I've had the best time playing in ensembles or character parts where I could do something different. "Good Will Hunting" is a part like that. So is "Boiler Room" and "Dogma" and "Hollywoodland." I just did this movie that nobody saw -- "Extract" -- and I just feel you have more latitude to try things; it's much more satisfying. They mirror the things I did early on that I liked, like "Dazed and Confused." You can do both; "The Town" is a lead role, but an ensemble movie. Same with "The Company Men." Also, I'm attracted to the chance to work with good actors. I care about that more than about being the lead in a movie.

BACK STAGE: HAS THAT CHANGED FOR YOU -- WAS THERE A TIME WHERE YOU WOULD ONLY TAKE LEADS?

Affleck: There was a part of me that had a built-up frustration from never getting the leads. Always being the bully character, or feeling marginalized in some way. So the starving man gets to the table and he wants to eat. Eventually I figured out that's not the thing. It's the part you're playing and its integrity and quality, not its size. It's a cliche, but it really is true. That's led me to where I am today.   Continued...

 
<p>Actor Ben Affleck arrives for the premiere of the movie "The Town," which he co-wrote, directed and acted in, at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder</p>