Affleck plays a man struggling through both of those challenges in his new film, “The Way Back”: “I didn’t have to do research.”
Ben Affleck may be feeling more confident in himself as an actor than he ever has. And his experience on his latest project, “The Way Back,” has him more excited about the craft of acting than he’s been in a while, too.
Unexpectedly for him, he actually had to credit some of the real-life challenges he’s faced throughout his life, including his divorce from Jennifer Garner and struggles with alcoholism, for helping him rediscover that passion.
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“I’m at a point now in my life where I have sufficient life experience to bring to a role to make it really interesting for me,” he said in a recent roundtable discussion published by The Hollywood Reporter.
In particular, Affleck was able to pull from both of those experiences in shaping the character of Jack in “The Way Back”
Like Affleck, the character has endured his struggles with alcoholism and even the loss of a marriage. That commonality helped him find that character within himself.
“I’m not good enough to just invent it from whole cloth, you know?” he said. “I didn’t have to do research for the alcoholism aspect of the movie — that was covered.”
He went on to say that “growing older and having had more intense and meaningful personal experiences has made acting much more interesting for me and in turn made me drawn to the kinds of movies that are about people who are flawed.”
He was thankful, however, that he couldn’t relate to the deeper struggles of his character. “It’s really about grief and losing a child, which, thank God, I have not experienced, and is probably the worst thing you can experience,” he said. “But also, a lot of it is about alcoholism.”
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Having that intimate understanding of many of the issues Jack was dealing with in his life must have made it easier for Affleck to inhabit the role, and then stretch himself artistically into those areas, like the loss of a child, he can’t relate directly with.
Affleck also credits stepping out from behind the camera with giving him that fresh perspective on his craft, even though he’s been acting in front of the camera for years. In many of his recent projects, though, Affleck has also served as writer, director and producer, keeping him very busy and fragmented in the process.
“Although some things were hard about it, it was also kind of cathartic and reminded me why I love and started acting in the first place,” he said. “Even with things that were emotional or upsetting in some way, I was thrilled and exhilarated at the end of the day.”
That new sense of self-reflection appears to have come at least in part as a result of his recovery program after his relapse back into alcoholism.
“Alcoholism, in and of itself, and compulsive behavior, are not inherently super interesting,” he said. “But what is sometimes interesting is what you discover about yourself in the course of recovery and trying to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, how you want your life to look and what kind of ethics you want to live by.”
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