I n 2002, when Ben Affleck’s career hit rock bottom, no one expected him to bounce back. A few years later, when he made his directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone (2007), most critics bit their tongues. Affleck’s choice of acting roles also miraculously went up a notch, and behind the camera, he proved his talent yet again with The Town (2010).
Though his latest film, Argo, has just released, there’s already a buzz about Oscar nominations — making it three out of three hits for the actor-director. Here, he discusses Argo and its challenges.
There’s already an Oscar buzz about Argo. How important are awards and recognition in your scheme of things?
When you work for as long as we all have, on something like this, the focus is just on the audience coming to see it. Otherwise, you’ve spent all that time for a plastic disc. The goal is to have it be as large a collective experience as possible.
You’ve directed twice in the past. How was it different the third time around?
I think there’s a lot of scepticism towards actors directing in particular, and I understand that. But I had some good instincts; I knew where I wanted to go. I don’t think my first movie was a home run, but it was a single and it got me going.
The two films you’ve directed previously have been based in areas you have grown up around. How difficult was it to move into unfamiliar territory?
Unfortunately we couldn’t shoot in Iran, where the story is based. The same political issues that were at play 30 years ago are still at play now. So we shot in Turkey, which is next to Iran. I was really excited, because I thought we could get a lot of Farsi-speaking people to convincingly play Persian, but we couldn’t get anyone. It turned out that these people were afraid that if they would be seen in this movie, their relatives would pay the price back in Iran. So the irony of it is that we went back to LA, which it turns out they call ‘Tehran-geles’. There are 500,000 Persians down there, and everyone’s an expert.
Any plans of making a film with your wife Jennifer?
I would love to work with Jena (Jennifer Garner) and if we get a film that suits us, we will go for it. We both try to balance our work well to spend more time with our kids.
Have you watched any Bollywood films or interacted with filmmakers here?
Yes, I met Mira Nair for a brief period at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. I think she is an incredible director. I’ve been hearing good reviews for The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and I know I have to see that film.