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Monday, February 3, 2003

BEN AFFLECK TALKS DAREDEVIL

By Rob Allstetter / The Comics Continuum

PASADENA, Calif. - He actually was allowed to talk about Daredevil.

Ben Affleck continues to make headlines with his romance with Jennifer Lopez, but during the weekend at a Daredevil press conference, he easily handled the opening salvos about the tabloid-heaven relationship and talked about many aspects of the film.

Following is an edited transcription:

QUESTION: Ben, how does it feel to be in the eye of the hurricane, so to speak, with what Hollywood is calling the most celebrated love affair?

BEN AFFLECK: It's a little weird. That's a little strange, and it's new for me. I've been in relationships - public relationships - before with Gwyenth (Paltrow), but it wasn't quite the same type of thing. I don't know what is different. I didn't anticipate that it would be different. I thought, "OK, there's a degree of publicity that kind of goes along with this, but I was a little bit shocked.

But I take a lot of comfort in the fact that, you know, there's only so much you can say about that stuff. Then there's somebody else. Then Colin Ferrell's dating Brittney Spears and you're off the hook. (laughs).

QUESTION: Can you clear up where things are and address the rumors?

BEN AFFLECK: I'm not even abreast with all the rumors the way you guys probably are. Nothing's changed as far as I know, but I'm not up to date with the papers. I'm not getting married anytime in the near future, so don't worry.

QUESTION: With regards to Daredevil, playing a blind man, did that inhibit or free you in any way?

BEN AFFLECK: Glad to get to some of the questions that won't make any of the copy. (Laughs).

Yeah, it was interesting playing a blind guy. What was interesting about it as opposed, to like You look at Red Dragon with Emily Watson, I thought did a great job playing a blind character, and (Al) Pacino did it famously and won an Oscar for Scent of a Woman. So there's a high bar for playing blind people that's out there. The interesting thing about this was that, while he's blind kind of with his eyes, because of this sort of super-power that he has with advanced hearing that allows him to create this sort of three-dimensional using a kind of sonar with his surroundings, he's not in the way we think of people who are blind, technically blind. So a lot of times, as Matt Murdock, it's kind of an act. That you sort of play at being more helpless than he really is.

But what I did was that I worked with a guy named Tom Sullivan, who is blind. He's one of these guys who jumps out of airplanes and is a really good skier and makes you feel really inadequate. He helped me in terms of talking about how one who's blind, can't use their eyes, uses their other senses to navigate their surroundings and so on and so forth.

And the big kind of cheat for me was that I was able to use these contact lenses, which were completely opaque, which I couldn't see out of at all. Which meant that I didn't have to consciously act blind or try to use my eyes. It took that away. Then the challenge was not walking into furniture.

QUESTION: If you're Daredevil, who would you cast your brother or Kevin (Smith) as a super-hero?

BEN AFFLECK: My brother, that's hard to say. My brother is a super-hero. Incidentally, my brother has a movie opening this weekend as well, which I think it's one of the great American art movies ever made. It's a staggering movie. Worth checking out. Really, really brilliant. Gus VanZandt directed it. It's called Jerry. It's playing art houses.

Kevin is Internet Boy. That would be his super-hero. Talkback Man. Kevin manages to keep up with every person who posts on the Internet in the world about movies Kevin writes a reply. I don't know how he has time to do it.

QUESTION: As a huge Daredevil fan, how did you feel about (Daredevil) allowing a man to die or the prescription medicine (Matt Murdock takes pain killers in the film)?

BEN AFFLECK: That was a real controversial issue. I know that the really hardcore fans - myself include - and I think probably even Marvel felt that was stepping over a line in a way. We went back and forth over that many, many times.

That's the one way it kind of deviates from the heart of the book. Daredevil never killed anybody. He does let Bullseye drop in the comic book, and in this film we throw him out the window - that's very consistent with the comic. But he was not as vengeful as we portrayed him in the beginning. But for the sake of giving the character an arc - letting him go from a guy who is seeking ultimate vengeance to a guy who understands the difference between that and justice and understands about mercy and compassionate, largely because of the love of this woman. We kept it in there.

There's part of me that's ambivalent about it because it is the most significant departure from the tenor and tone of the comic book itself, which is what I wanted to be the most faithful to. But I do think it works in the context of the movie.

And I think ultimately, he's not The Punisher. You know what I mean? He's not a vigilante who shoots bad guys or kills them in the comic. And ultimate that's now where he ends up. Where Daredevil ends up at the end of this movie is very, very consistent with who he is in the comics.

And the prescription drugs, I thought that was emblematic in a way in which this has its own tone. It's a little grittier, a little bit more realistic. It represented the fact that in this comic-book, super-hero universe, when a guy gets hit or is stabbed, he bleeds and there are consequences to it. Still, it's a comic-book movie, you kind of have to suspend your disbelief. If you were to add up all the injuries the guy he takes over the course of the movie, it's borderline, right?

But we did want to make the point. I think that speaks to the violence issue - that there are consequences to violence. That this is not wanton, random graphic violence without consequence. That it hurts. That people suffer. So I supported that and I like that part of it.

QUESTION: If you could do without a sense, what would it be?

BEN AFFLECK: Probably smell. I have a friend of mine, Chris, who I knew as a kid, who, in a matter fact, introduced me to Daredevil when I was 9 years old. And I just ran into him again and he e-mailed me and said, "I can't believe you're doing Daredevil. It's amazing." He just couldn't fathom it.

So he came down and visited me on the set. And when he came down and visited me, it turned out that he had this very rare, little-known condition.

And I was like, "What's the story with this condition?"

He said, "Well, one of the things is I can't smell anything."

And I said, "You have no sense of smell?"

And he was like, "No, I never did. I would go up to people who said that things stink and just go long with it."

And Chris never seemed to be lacking in anything of any kind and I never noticed it, so that has to be the most disposable of all senses. Although if you have it, I'd think you'd missed. But half the things you smell, you wish you hadn't.

QUESTION: Why Daredevil? When you were nine years old, what was the connection?

BEN AFFLECK: That's hard to say. I supposed it reveals some things that are better suited to my shrink. But why not? Ever other issue in my life I seem to bearing to the world.

I don't really know. I know that was when I was a kid, I think there was a contrast between that hero and others in the spectrum of this comic book universe, many of whom were kind of very chaste, boy scout, black-and-white kind of Golden Age 50s comic book heroes who were predictable. You'd always know they do the right thing, they were fighting intergalactic foes.

It was fun in a little kid kind of way, but it was nothing I could ever identify with. And as I got into pre-adolescence and into adolescence, this guy represented something to me that I guess I felt was more realistic. That's funny to say about a guy who puts on a red suit and crimes fight at night. But it was like he was a flawed hero and he had his own struggles. Here was this hero, he was openly religious. He had these tragic kind of love affairs. He struggled with himself as much as struggled with the rest. He didn't always win. He didn't always do the right thing. And I guess that resonated with me a little bit more.

He was also more of a ground-level guy. Like I said, he wasn't fighting various intergalactic empires or traveling through alternate universes or have a ring that shot a green ray. He was just a guy, a guy who evolved.

And also, I think in particular, he had this handicap. So he had this peculiar vulnerability that I thought was interesting. And I also just have to credit the writers and artists who worked on that comic - then and now - and made it, in my opinion, a really significant work. And one that I was really drawn to.

It's hard to say what makes a story good and another story bad. It's relative and it's subjective and if I poll all of you in the room, you'd probably all have various opinions about various movies and novels. It was just a thing that I thought was good.

QUESTION: You said that Daredevil ultimately is not a vigilante, but when he does set out, he's taking the law into his own hands. How much of a 9-11 hero does that make him?

BEN AFFLECK: It's interesting. There's been kind of a seismic shift. I saw an article - I think it was in the New York Times today - about how the CIA is now represented in a way that's really different. If you look back at the Redford movie, Three Days of the Condor, where he says, "You people, you think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth." There was a time of anti-authoritarianism and government scandals and the Vietnam War had made a generation very skeptical of authority and wanting to pull back and rein in secret government programs and the like.

And now, like with Colin's movie that's out now (The Recruit), there were citing lines from like where he says, "Do I get to kill people?" And Pacino says, "Do you want to kill people?" It's very much the Bill Casey mentality of like, "Give us free reign and we'll be able to fix the problems."

It's a reflection of as people feel more and more in jeopardy, they want their kind of guardians, the watchmen, the policemen and even their vigilantes - there's more sympathy for them. You know what I mean?

I think that that trend means that people are more interested in stories about heroes and the conflict of people being out there trying to protect us at large.

I don't know if that will help us or hurt us with the movie or if it's really relevant, but I do think it's interesting to note that societally we're kind of more willing all of a sudden to be less restrictive of the people who are protecting us and maybe less judgmental.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about Kevin Smith's influence on your life and career?

BEN AFFLECK: Kevin is the reason why Good Will Hunting got made. Kevin is the reason I have a career playing leading roles and not being stuck playing obnoxious bad-guy bullies. Kevin believed in me after Mallrats and cast me in the lead of Chasing Amy. We were doing Chasing Amy and he told Miramax - who had already passed on Good Will Hunting initially - that they should read the script. And that's the reason we got it made there.

Kevin has always been a big believer in me. I really owe the guy a big part of my career, if not the whole thing. Don't tell him that because he'll ask for money.

He's also seen as the godfather of the comic-book/movie connection. Here's a guy, he's such a comic-book enthusiast, he owns a comic-book store, he worked for Avi (Arad) writing Daredevil and he's a filmmaker. And he was a natural for Mark (Steven Johnson, Daredevil director) to go to.

In some ways, when you do something like this, taking on a character that's already been done, you kind of seek people's blessings - the people who had already worked on it. Kevin did a great run of Daredevil and the people like Frank Miller, the kind of people Mark and I wanted to please with this because they represent the hardcore fans and the base support core group.

And Kevin was very enthusiastic, brokered my connection with Mark and has been like a champion of me doing this. Very encouraging. Came in and sat and watched early cuts of the movie and gave feedback.

And is in the movie. And, actually, isn't nearly as bad of an actor in this movie than he is in his own movies. (Laughs). True, it's like he needs a guest director to come in and direct him. So he doesn't bug his eyes out so much. It's like a weird Al Jolson performance in his own movies. He's grounded in this one.

QUESTION: You originally wanted to be Bullseye in this?

ANSWER: What it was was that they wanted to go really early. I was shooting Gigli. By time I had heard about this Daredevil thing when Kevin brought it up to me, I was already committed to doing this other movie and they wanted it to go in that slot. Which kind of broke my heart because I so wanted to be involved with this.

But they had their release date issued. With movies, there's another whole side to them that has to do deal with what order they come out in and where they fit. Movies, particularly with large, multi-national corporations, they're basically seen as pipes. The pipes cost a lot of money to maintain and the pipes need to be filled with product at specific intervals. So there was that issue.

So, I said, "Jesus, I guess I can't play Daredevil because I'm not available." And I always loved Bullseye. In the foreword, I wrote to Kevin's graphic novel, the run of Daredevil that he did, I talk about sympathizing with Bullseye. I thought he was one of the great villains. You kind of love him in a way. And Colin is a perfect choice for that because he is literally the lovable rogue.

So I went in sat down with them just to say that maybe I'll be able to do this if we compress the days and so on and so forth. And then Mark was like, "Y'know, maybe we could work with you as Daredevil."

And I said, "Look, that would be a dream come true for me."

And that's how it sort of evolved, going from Bullseye to Daredevil. I would have been happy to play Bullseye. That's a great part.

QUESTION: What happened to your slot then?

BEN AFFLECK: A lot of times you hear, "We really need to go, we really need to go" because the studio wants to go. And then as it turns out, they're kind of like, "Well, actually we won't really be ready until a couple of months after that." Or, "We'd rather have this much time to prep." Or, "We can go that soon but it would cost more money." And the urgency fades.

I'm sure what happened is that Fox rearranged movies, but you'd have to ask them that. I don't really know the answer to that.

And they compressed back-to-back. They started shooting two weeks of the origin stuff with the little kids while I was shooting Gigli. So, technically, I had two movies shooting at the same time. I just wasn't in that two-week section of filming.

And as soon as I wrapped Gigli, I went right into shooting Daredevil, Which meant that a lot of the physical training I had to do for this movie, was done after work on Gigli. I would wrap and then go train for three or four hours at night. I was sort of exhausted.

QUESTION: Daredevil is the Man Without Fear. Do you have any fears?

BEN AFFLECK: I have so many fears, it would be hard to itemize them all. I dunno. My real super-hero would be like Anxiety Guy.

I used to be really scared of flying. Actually, with Pearl Harbor and that was one of the good things I took out of doing that movie, I took flying lessons and that got me past that fear.

It's a control thing with me. I don't know why I think I'd do any better at flying the plane. Clearly I would be much worse. But it's that thing that you don't have control over it. "Are you guys all right up there? Is everything good?"

As you get older I put my seat belt on now. Stuff like that. I'm just more conscious and fearful. I think everybody has in the last year or two. Geez, look at yesterday's news. There's this constant fear of turning on the TV and looking at some horrible thing has happened.

QUESTION: Do you have any fears that you'll go away?

BEN AFFLECK: I'm hopeful. (laughs). Ultimately, I would like to be able to work in this business and make movies without being so quite, as somebody astutely put it, in the middle of a tornado of it all.

Basically, the trade-off is just money. Right now a big part of why I get cast in things - I would like to think it's because I'm this great, towering talent of an actor - but I have to acknowledge that some of it has to do with marketability, visibility, name on a poster, sitting down and talking with you folks.

And that's the trade off, right? You make a bunch of money because you sell your life along with the movie, and the story of yourself. There's a part of me that wants to segue from doing that kind of acting and work in movies to a kind of where you take more of a backseat and somebody else is up here talking about their love life and their personal issues.

I'd like to do acting in the way I did Shakespeare in Love or Boiler Room. Come in and out and do stuff. And maybe direct and write stuff where the work speaks for itself. Nobody really wants to talk to directors that much.

QUESTION: We talked about love changed Daredevil. How has love changed you?

BEN AFFLECK: Ahhh, yes. What I will say you do movies like this, and it takes place in this alternate universe. And this one is unique in the comic book/movie adaptation pantheon, in that while I have this tonal thing of people dressing in costumes and fighting crime and super-villains and stuff, there's a dual tone. Because there's also a tone of realism in it. That's not tongue-in-cheek. It dares to ask the audience to take the characters seriously. And to really get invested in their emotional journey. Which could be absurd.

But you sort of have to invent yourself in it and be convicted of it. In order to do it it was hard for me. It's a little far afield from my everyday life, putting on a costume, doing flips, fighting crime, people getting stabbed in this operatic, melodramatic scale of good vs. evil.

But what one of things I could identify with this movie is what's at the center of it in some ways really, which is the love story. And the transforming power of love and the redemptive qualities that falling in love has.

And without going into too much detail, I can tell you that's the thing I really could identify and I used as an actor as a centerpiece to hold onto when sometimes I felt like, "I'm trying to think of what this is like in my life and I can't think of anything."

QUESTION: What does Matt Damon think about you being a super-hero?

BEN AFFLECK: Ummm, he's threatened. (Laughter) He's intimidated. He wishes he'd made that choice. He's jealous. He likes the tights. (Laughter).

I know that he feels a little bit comforted. Because on those lonely nights when he hears a noise in the room, he can say, "Honey, get up. You go look downstairs." And I'll go down and look downstairs. (laughter)

QUESTION: Does Jennifer (Lopez) do that?

BEN AFFLECK: Jennifer's always the one that goes downstairs. I'm like, "Honey, get up." (laughter).

QUESTION: Can you speak for a moment about Jennifer Garner?

BEN AFFLECK: Yes. I know it's probably hard for you guys because you sit there and these actors come up and same people are great and so on and so forth. And there are always actors who, I'm sure you guys know, when you see them sit down, you think, "This person's an asshole. Clearly, this a charade."

But with Jennifer Garner, it really is one of those kind of things where she's so up with people. You keep thinking that there has to be a dark side, some twisted deep underbelly of something over here. But at least, as far as I could tell from the months we spent together, there really isn't.

She was professional and really patient. I think if she has a flaw, it's that sometimes she's too patient, too indulgent, allows herself put out too much when she should be saying, "Wait a minute. This is not exactly my job." Or, "This should be done better." Know what I mean?

She's that nice. I think it's a product of her upbringing. Being this girl from West Virginia, being very well-mannered, being very smart.

One of the great things about Jennifer Garner is that she really doesn't know how beautiful she is. You know what I mean?

There are a lot of women who not only aware of that, but, particularly in this business, are sort of, I don't know, subconsciously instructed to use their physical attributes in a way to trade on their sexuality, trade on their beauty. That that's what's valuable about them, that's what interesting about them. Put it out there. Keep it up. Do plastic surgery. Go through this whole thing.

And it really isn't about that for her. I don't think she think she is as drop-dead gorgeous as she is. I think that is what givew her this incredibly kind of appealing quality. She's more than the girl next door because she is va-va-voom, you know, but also she's not threatening. And women look at her and don't say, "She's going to try to seduce my husband. She's somebody I could trust. She's like I a girlfriend I could get along with."

And as far as working with her, she was better at the action stuff than I was. Flat out, no questions about it. Just better.

QUESTION: Some of my favorite parts of the film were your interaction with Jon Favreau. How much did he bring to this role?

BEN AFFLECK: Favs flat out killed it. He just kills in this movie.

I'm finding myself with directors always saying, "Cut it down, cut it down, cut it down." Pace is really critical. Jon Favreau's stuff is the one thing I still wish there was more of. I could watch that guy sit there and kind of punch holes in this character and tell jokes for hours. Maybe my tolerance is a little bit higher than anybody else's, but I thought we as great.

It was fun acting with him. I'm a huge fan of his. I love Swingers. I love his sense of humor. And he really got it. He understood the brooding hero guy who has got the weight of the world on his shoulders is so ripe for kind of having his balloon popped by this sort of counterweight to it.

There's so much other stuff in there that didn't make the movie that hopefully we'll see in the DVD. (In Favreau voice) "Where do you go at night? When you come home, you have bruises. Do you have an alternative lifestyle? You can tell me about it. Was it Fight Club? First rule about Fight Club, don't talk about it?" (laughs)

It kind of made you feel like the movie stopped for the Jon Favreau stand-up act. The Jon Favreau standup act is good.

QUESTION: I heard that in every movie you work on you learn to impersonate somebody in the cast. Who was it in this film?

BEN AFFLECK: The best impersonation is Colin. The bigger the personality, the easier they are to imitate. So I worked my Colin Farrell, but it won't be quotable. (Launches into profanity-strewn impression, drawing laughter and applause).

The truth that should be said about Colin is that he's not crazy or out there. He's actually just really friendly and sweet. He has nothing but love and is really open to everyone. He isn't that actor guy whose kind of putting on this demeanor that (in serious voice) "I'm remote and distant to you" as a mask for their own "I don't know who I am or what I'm doing."

He is really accessible and sweet and kind. For all these rumors of carousing and going crazy, he shows up to work everyday and worked really hard. But I got to really, really love Colin Farrell. If I could do my bachelorhood all over again, I would do it like Colin Farrell.




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