Last night I interviewed Boston’s own Ben Affleck in person before a live audience at the AMC BOSTON COMMON CINEMAS immediately following a 7PM special screening of his latest film, ARGO! Ben stars in and directs this taut thriller about a little known chapter in the Iranian hostage crisis that put the nail in the coffin of the Carter administration. It seems that in addition to the American hostages who were known to be held captive for 444 days in Iran, there were six additional Americans who had secretly escaped the American Embassy, but were holed up in the Canadian Embassy in Iran, with no way out of the country.
Ben plays a CIA “exfiltration” agent whose specialty is extricating people from politically and physically explosive situations; the plan he hatches is “so crazy– it just might work.” His scheme? To disguise the six as a Canadian film crew scouting locations in Iran for a science fiction movie called ARGO. The true story was finally declassified under the Clinton administration, but I won’t spoil the ending if you don’t know it; I didn’t– and I was on the edge of my seat.
Ben– who joked about just turning 40– was as handsome, affable, and articulate as always, fielding questions from me and the audience. The ARGO script apparently just “landed in his lap” and he jumped on it. Ben majored in Middle Eastern studies and has always hovered around the political arena. He raved about a “dream cast” which includes Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryan Cranston who helped him find the right balance of humor and seriousness in the film.
And once again he directed himself–but noted he consulted both Kevin Costner (with whom he shot the underrated THE COMPANY MEN in the Boston area a few years ago), and Warren Beatty who both warned him not to feel self-conscious about getting enough takes of his own performance. In fact, Ben remarked that it was important for him to appear as an actor in his films because of the practical strategy of an acting career– “if they don’t see you” they forget, but also because his directorial projects are so interesting, he always thinks, “this is so good– I want to be in it.”
Can’t wait to see who he plays in the Whitey Bulger story! That’s right– Ben’s in development to shoot a film about the Boston bad guy and direct life-long pal Matt Damon as Whitey! But for now, it’s all about ARGO and last night’s screening was for Academy members– as in voting members of THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURES, as in OSCARS, as in– we might be seeing this film among the BEST PICTURE NOMINEES next year! ARGO officially opens to the public October 12 and I’ll have a full review when it does.