Ben Affleck is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week promoting his latest awards-season film, The Tender Bar, which was directed by George Clooney. The headline: “Ben Affleck, at the top of his game.” To get to the heart of what makes Affleck so winning, EW hired his best friend, Matt Damon, to interview him. The guys talked about themselves, yes, but also other guys, namely other famous guys with whom they are on a first-name basis. Marty, Georgie, Rick… well, let’s just list them all.
“You said you received some of the best direction of your career from Georgie,” says Damon to Affleck of the aforementioned director. They both praise him for finding a way to sell both coffee and tequila.
“Francis [Ford Coppola]”
Early in the interview, Damon shares this anecdote about the famed director to establish that he knows him personally: “I remember Francis [Ford Coppola] sold these little cigars at his winery that are called Carmine Thrifties, they're named after his father. And on the side of the box, it says, ‘Steal from the best.’”
Affleck recalls that he “first met Bradley [Cooper]” on the set of Chasing Amy.
Affleck praises his fellow actor thusly: “It's deceptively difficult to play the leading-man role. It's like Denzel [Washington], you just can't help but like him and want to be him and admire him.”
Affleck uses the director as an example of an artist who sometimes has bad ideas but admits it.
“The Coen brothers”
In response to Affleck’s comment about Fincher, Damon invokes his good friends Joel and Ethan. “One of them would come up and give me a note after a take and then the other one would be off talking to another actor and would come up and give me the exact opposite note. And without fail, I would always say, ‘Joel, Ethan just told me the opposite thing,’ or ‘Ethan, Joel just told me to do the opposite thing.’ And no matter who it was, the second guy would say, ‘Oh yeah, do what he said [laughs].’”
In discussing some of his critical misses, Affleck says he didn’t always have the best options. “People talk about your choices and I want to say, ‘Well, it's not like I was passing on Scorsese movies,’” he explains. “Like, No, Marty, I'm good. I'm going to do Surviving Christmas.’”
“Rick Linklater and all those guys”
Damon brings up Dazed and Confused, and Affleck praises the director and the rest of the cast, which — whoa — included two women. “I got to know Matthew [McConaughey] when he was first starting out,” Affleck says. “Rory [Cochrane], I stayed friends with him, he was in Argo. Anthony Rapp and Joey Lauren Adams and Renée Zellweger, it was just an abundance of riches.”
“Kevin [Smith], Gus [Van Sant], Robin [Williams], Francis [Ford Coppola]” (again)
Affleck remembers the Chasing Amy director as “funny and smart and charming.” Damon recalls that Good Will Hunting would not have been made without him. “Kevin and Gus [Van Sant, Good Will's director] and Robin [Williams] were equally important,” he says. “And I think Francis [Ford Coppola] vouched for me with Robin.”
“Bruce Willis, Owen Wilson, Billie Bob [Thornton], and Mike Duncan” plus “Michael [Bay] and Jerry [Bruckheimer]”
Affleck lists off the “real Hollywood” cast of Armageddon, then notes that director Bay and producer Bruckheimer made them all go to a tanning bed so they would be “sexy” for the movie trailer. (I appreciated this anecdote.)
After shooting the shit about Bradley and Billie Bob and Gus et al., Damon and Affleck do spend some time discussing the doomed 2003 gangster movie Gigli, in which Affleck starred with his then and current partner, Jennifer Lopez. The movie was a bust, but “I did get to meet Jennifer, the relationship with whom has been really meaningful to me in my life,” says Affleck. Aw.