VENICE (Reuters) - Ben Affleck directs and stars in “The Town,” a tense cops-and-robbers thriller set in Boston which is premiering out of competition at the Venice film festival.
Affleck, who made his directorial debut in 2007 with “Gone Baby Gone,” also a Boston crime drama, plays the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers who dangerously falls for a woman the gang briefly takes hostage.
Overall his character, Doug, is painted in a sympathetic light as the FBI is closing in on him and he is torn between a desire to change life and the loyalty to his partners in crime who want to go for one last heist.
“The idea of whether or not I was glorifying a criminal character or minimizing the impact of violence was on my mind throughout and was really important,” Affleck told reporters after a press screening.
“The need to reconcile those moral considerations with the demands of truthful storytelling was the central issue for me. I tried to be both as accurate and as complicated as I could because while I didn’t want to glorify anything, I didn’t want to oversimplify anything.”
The film is based on Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves” and set in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, which has had more bank and armored car robberies than anywhere in the United States.
Raised near Boston, Affleck said he felt comfortable he had tried to make the film as realistic as possible, visiting prisons and talking to former bank robbers and FBI agents.
“I was a little bit hesitant actually to do this because I did not want to be pigeonholed as the Boston director guy but I liked the part, I wanted to play the part, I believed the story was good,” he told reporters after a press screening.
“I don’t think you can like a movie like this or believe in a movie like this if you don’t have a really strong sense of place, if you don’t really believe that the characters are from there and that what you are seeing is really happening.”
He said both his two films as a director and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar for best original screenplay with Matt Damon, focused on similar themes — the influence growing up in a certain place has on people, and the fact that children often pay the price for their parents’ sins.
“I guess maybe it’s time that I try something new,” he said, adding that he hoped to carry on as a director.
“I was a little bit nervous the first time out, I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to finish the movie having never been through the process. The second time I knew it was possible to kind of get to the finish line at the very least, so that gave me more confidence.”
The film’s cast includes Jeremy Renner, who also starred in this year’s Oscar-winner “The Hurt Locker,” Jon Hamm, a Golden Globe winner for his performance in the “Mad Men” TV series, and Rebecca Hall.
Affleck came to the Venice festival just days after his younger brother Casey took the Lido by storm with “I’m Still Here,” his documentary — some say hoax — on Joaquin Phoenix and his transition from acclaimed actor to shambolic hip-hop singer wannabe.