Ben Affleck Is One Of Hollywood’s Biggest Names But He Is No Stranger To Setbacks

Ben Affleck looks tired. And a little fed up. Usually in sweary, relaxed manner, he's tense when we meet. And slightly anxious. Today, his gatekeepers are ardently keen to keep promotional chat to a minimum, yet his slightly somber expression disguises someone actually emerging from the darkness with considerable optimism.

Yet he has his health, and his sobriety – here he opens up to RSNG about coming face to face with the specter of alcoholism, as well as the satisfaction he gets from combining directing with acting, something that has already won him an Oscar…

RSNG Do you enjoy pulling double duty as director and actor? BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR “I love acting in the movies I get to direct because it's much easier to speak up when you don't like the way a scene is being shot, haha! Obviously you have so much more control over the entire process and you can create the kind of atmosphere on the set that you feel is going to help you and the other actors do the best work possible.”

“As an actor, you're entirely dependent on the vision of the director and the lines you have to do when you go to work in the morning. And I've done enough films to know what it's like when you're not happy with the way things are going.”

“That's why if you're the director, you can make those creative decisions even though there are times when you worry about those choices.”

RSNG What's the best part of directing? BA “One of the best things is being able to work at a comfortable pace. I don't like it when on some film sets you feel like you don't have the time to get things right because you're worried about losing the light or you need to move to another location.”

“When you're the director, you have the power to take as much time as you need to shoot a scene the way you want. You also [as an actor] have an added perspective where you know right away that you feel you can change a line or do something different that makes a scene play better.”

RSNG What is it you want out of the next slew of movies you take on? BA “It's simple – I don’t ever want to do movies if I don’t feel passionate about them. You aren’t either in the right frame of mind, the right person to play the role or anything else which makes you feel personally that you can’t deliver to the standards either you want or the way it should be for a Hollywood, you shouldn’t be there.”

“That’s the way I felt with the role as Batman and I still think that I definitely made the right decision to choose not to carry it on. That obviously opens up the opportunity for someone else who can play Batman the way it should be and with the passion it deserves.”

I had to be truthful to myself and admit that I was an alcoholic or certainly had a problem with drink

RSNG Are you putting yourself further out there for criticism when taking on multiple roles in a film project… actor, producer, director etc.? BA “I’ve been in the business a certain length of time and I've experienced highs and lows, criticism, all that – there comes a point where I just don't give too much oxygen to the critics, personally. Not through any animosity or anger, just because I can't take that all on board anymore. It's too much pressure.”

“So if you make something and it lands, or whether it doesn't, you have to be content with that within yourself. Maybe the fans will like it, maybe the critics won't, maybe it'll be the other way around, there's a lot of variables and I know now, after 20 odd years, it's rarely black or white.”

RSNG Do you plan things more carefully these days? BA “I wish I could say I do that but I really don't approach this business thinking about my status or how this might affect my career down the road. I look for projects that interest me and inspire me in some way. I couldn't be happier or more grateful or feel more fortunate than I do now for all the opportunities that I have now.”

RSNG How do you pick yourself up from the setbacks? BA “It's not easy, but having kids focuses you onto the things that really matter, and work isn’t it.”

“The birth of my children has been the most beautiful and important thing that has happened to me. Watching my children grow up has changed me in many ways and made me a better person. I see it as my role and privilege to be able to help them become good people and to teach them to be respectful, thoughtful, and caring.”

RSNG But you must have to reflect on yourself a fair bit? BA “I would say my forties haven’t been the years that I might have hoped they would be in some ways, but I’ve won another Oscar, which I am so proud about, for Argo getting Best Picture. That was amazing and to have gotten one for directing just my third film after Gone Baby Gone and The Town, it made me feel so at home with it. So, that’s one of the positive sides.”

“Obviously, there are always negatives in everyone’s lives – I don’t think a perfect life exists, no matter how perfect some people think their life is. But I’ve had some harsh realities that I have come to face and there were no two ways about it, I had to be truthful to myself and admit that I was an alcoholic or certainly had a problem with drink.”

“I was able to deal with similar problems when I was younger, and I’ve always been a person who is quite harsh with himself or certainly has a self-deprecative nature. That’s certainly part of my make-up as a human being and I think it can help me deal with some less than positive situations, but not everything.”

“Alcohol dependency was something that I felt was getting out of control and I didn’t feel I had a good grip on my faculties and senses, but I must have had enough to know that what I was doing on an almost daily basis, wasn’t good for me or those around me.”

“At this stage in my life, I feel a lot stronger with regards to my health and my tendency not to drink.”

My mom was working from morning to night so I grew up being very much on my own – no one ever forced me to do anything but grow up quickly

RSNG Do you believe your father’s alcoholism had an influence on your own? BA “It has to, doesn’t it? When you see your father drinking every day and drunk it’s got to affect you in some way. I honestly never thought that would be me, but here we are.”

“I would be getting back home after working and then just drinking until I passed out sitting there. That’s not a good thing at all, but I never once attributed it to my own childhood experiences of my father doing the same.”

“When you have things going on in your own life at the time, you never stop to think that what you’re doing is wrong, how it’s perceived by others or if it’s affected by something in your past – because what you’re trying to do is block out what’s happening in your own current day-to-day. I enjoyed the taste and it wasn’t always as if I was forcing myself to just black out and forget everything.”

RSNG Overall, do you think you’ve been lucky? BA “I think we are all lucky, and all unlucky in different ways. I mean, look, my father and mother were divorced when I was 11 and I lived with my mom after that – there’s nothing lucky growing up like that.”

“My mom was working from morning to night so I grew up being very much on my own. No one ever forced me to do anything but grow up quickly… but I’m glad I did.”

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