Interview: Ben Affleck Brings Stunning Story of ‘Argo’ to Life

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AIN’T IT COOL NEWS: Do you feel like in this film that you’ve actually made three different styles of film? The Hollywood ’70s stuff had to be so much fun to do, just to recreate that period, but I mean that’s a different movie than what’s going on in Iran.

AFFLECK: That’s the thing I was really scared of, having these three tones and putting them together. “If it’s too goofy and laughy, it’s going to upend the stuff that’s supposed to be intense, because nothing is going to seem real. You’re not going to care anymore. You’re going to have the comedic approach to reality rather than the dramatic approach to reality.” Also I didn’t want it to be bumpy, so I used some real footage. I used some montages. Ultimately, the actors bailed me out, because like I said John and Alan were so real, so even when they are saying the most absurd ridiculous laugh lines, it didn’t seem at all out of place with the rest of reality in the film.

WIND: I really enjoyed the comical parts of it. I think it eased the tension, too. It’s an intense film.

AFFLECK: If you try to have an audience be tense the whole movie, they’re going to reject it. They’re going to push away from it, because the mind doesn’t want to have to carry that weight, so you have to have a give and take I think, and you give a few laughs. This was a perfect structure as written where you have these laughs, you let it out, and then ease back into the tension, and when it got to be too much, you ease out of it again. An audience knows when you’re manipulating them, so if it gets to be too tense, they will just go, “This is bullshit, you’re pushing this too far.” Also, life is full of humor. Humor is my favorite thing in the world. We use humor to sooth our own anxieties, and there’s gallows humor. There’s humor in all kinds of places. You’ve got to have humor in your movie no matter, even if it’s that, or if it’s like a movie about two guys in prison.

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

WIND: I know that one of the messages I would assume that you want people to take away from this is a “Thank You” to Canada, our neighbor that really did step up here.

AFFLECK: Absolutely. There was this moment of eruption of gratitude towards Canada when this happened, because they were sheltered by the Canadians. I would like to revisit that a little bit. I think it was a great cross-national moment. Obviously we’re also now including Tony in the story, but I want to be sure to note that that doesn’t diminish the fact that the Canadians actually did hide American citizens and actually did protect them and put their necks on the line. So yeah, “Thank you, Canada” is still a strong part of this.

HOLLYWOODCHICAGO.COM: We talked about ’70s inspirations and being an actor’s director. Do you see yourself always staying that way? Would you make a film that’s so purely in the ’10s, like a superhero movie or a sci-fi movie?

AFFLECK: I would love to. A guy who was interviewing me downstairs was like, “Would you ever make a superhero movie?” I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Really?!” [Laughs] “Do you not think I’m qualified for it or…?”

AIN’T IT COOL NEWS: Your name got tossed around recently with connection to…

AFFLECK: to “Justice League” or “Superman”?

AIN’T IT COOL NEWS: Was that even real?

AFFLECK: No. Now because there are so many bloggers, and there’s so much entertainment blogging and especially those comic book movies, which are so subject to rumor, and the people who are super fans are on there all of the time. It can be in the Talkback section of something, and somebody else hears about it, and then it takes off and gets its own life. The movie business is such that people get loosely attached to stuff, and so people are used to something being attached to them then falling off that it’s never that embarrassing when something that you write turns out to not be true. You just go, “Well he decided not to.”

I wasn’t approached about “Justice League,” although I do think the “Superman” teaser looked badass. I think it’s really the right tone. I think it looked great. I would love to do a movie like that of some kind. I’d love to play with all of the toys that you get when you get to spend that kind of money to build images of that scale. One of my favorite filmmakers is Ridley Scott—“Alien,” “Blade Runner”—that kind of thing where you’re taking a look and you’re building a world and you’re also combining it with a very grounded story. That’s very appealing to me, so I don’t know. If you guys have any 3D epics, let me know.

AIN’T IT COOL NEWS: I don’t know how much you can even talk about TO THE WONDER, but can you talk at all about it? Just give me your best Malick story?

AFFLECK: It’s a funny movie, because it’s not… You’ve got to anticipate something different than a conventional movie. It’s Terry really into silences and telling a story in an impressionistic way. It’s non-linear. He doesn’t have a lot of literal scenes. It’s just like meant to give you a feeling of something. It’s about this woman that this guy is kind of obsessed with, and he brings her back, and she’s beguiling, and then there’s this other woman and then there’s a priest involved. It all sort of flows on top of itself. I think it’s a “wonder-ful” movie, to make a bad pun, but it strikes people in different ways. It’s got the pace of like a Tarkovsky film or Bela Tar, where you have to recalibrate what you are used to in watching movies.

If you are just expecting your conventional three-act story where the inciting incident happens and then the first act ends on page 21, it’s not that. It truly is an experimental movie, and experimental stuff is polarizing. I think it’s going to polarize people. There are some people who will love it, some people who won’t. He’s taking what he did in “Tree of Life” and moving further into the experimental zone, so if you didn’t like “Tree of Life,” it’s probably not the movie for you, but if you’re interested in seeing something that really breaks some molds, check it out.

Check out “Argo” when it opens in theaters nationwide on October 12, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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