Watch Iconic Characters | Casey Affleck Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters | GQ Video | CNE | Gq.com

Watch Iconic Characters | Casey Affleck Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters | GQ Video | CNE | Gq.com

So after those nine people said, no

who shows up?

His brother shows up.

And who comes through?

I come through.

And then what do I get for it?

Three months of bullying and grief on set.

[rock music]

[rock music]

Gerry

Gerry was the first of

a trilogy of movies that Gus ended up making

that had a very unique style inspired by

a period in Russian filmmaking

that Tarkovsky was a part of

that Gus was interested in.

The idea for the story came about from an article

that Gus had read about two young men

who had pulled over on a road trip

on the side of the road.

And they’d followed signs

for some kind of roadside attraction,

and they got lost

as they were walking straight from the path,

accidentally, in a place where

it’s very hard to tell whether or not

you’re actually on the path or not,

one of those kinds of desert hikes,

where everything looks the same.

They were lost for three days in the desert

and dehydration can be very painful.

And one of them

was pretty sure that they were dying

and couldn’t walk anymore

and asked the other one to kill him.

We were all at a friend’s house,

Gus and Matt and I were having lunch at a friend,

a cinematographer named Bobby Bukowski’s house

and Arvo Part was playing on the stereo.

And Gus heard that music

and we think it sort of all came together for him

but maybe he would say that’s stupid.

That’s my memory of it.

And so we wrote a script

based on those two guys, it was minimalist

and it did have a lot of talking in it,

but the story

was pretty straight forward and simple.

They get out of the car, they walk

they get lost, they keep walking.

We tried to shoot it in Jordan

and there was a travel advisory at the time

and so decided not to,

we ended up in Argentina

where somehow it was overlooked that it was winter

in the Southern Hemisphere.

So we got down to the desert

and on day one it was snowing.

So we did our best to sort of fake things

until Gus decided that he wanted to just

go back to try to shoot it in the States

and we ended up in Death Valley.

[rock music]

The Assassination of Jesse James

by the Coward Robert Ford

The novel is almost perfect.

I mean, it’s just, it is perfect.

Describes Robert Ford in a way that

I felt like when I finished reading it,

which I had done before I even auditioned the first time,

I felt like I understood him better

than any character I’d ever played already.

It’s just a beautiful piece of writing.

And it isn’t about Jesse James.

It is about Robert Ford.

You’re the youngest of three James boys.

I’m the youngest of five Ford boys.

[exhales loudly]

Between Charlie and me is another brother,

Wilbur here with six letters in his name.

And between Frank and you

is another brother, Robert also with six letters.

And my Christian name is Robert, of course.

But by working with Andrew,

he’s just a master.

I don’t know how he knows

so much about directing actors

because he had only done one other movie

before Jesse James.

He really is a genius with it.

It’s like sort of explaining the psychology

of the characters in the scenes.

So he helped a lot.

In between Andrew and the novel there was,

I didn’t have to do any other research.

But I did read a lot of these nickel and dime books,

this is what these like little cartoon books

were called in that period.

And Jesse James was someone who people only knew him

as in the way that we know him now.

He had already been sort of mythologized

in a way of, instead of, people thought of him

as this kind of glamorous,

gun fighting Robin Hood figure,

which just wasn’t the case.

He was a serial killer, basically,

very, very violent criminal.

Open that safe.

But people had this idea,

even, it didn’t even wait til he was dead,

they had already, people have been writing about him

and the sort of bank robberies

and things that were happening in the frontier

that no one had any personal experience with

back in the, you know, on the East Coast.

There was this mythologization that it happened

that Robert Ford, as a young man

he was reading those books.

And that was the idea that he had

of Jesse James in his mind.

So when he crossed paths with him for the first time,

when he met him,

I think it was confusing, disappointing

but it was also hard for him to divorce himself

from this picture that he had of him

being this larger than life hero.

He really wasn’t.

He didn’t give his money away.

He killed a lotta people.

It was selfish and violent and murderous.

As he got to know who the real Jesse James was

he became sort of bitter and disillusioned

in a sort of resentful way.

I think any story that is about fame and fans,

you know people are gonna draw parallels to Hollywood

and how they makes sense.

But Andrew wasn’t doing that overtly

and neither was Ron Hansen.

I think they were just sort of telling the story as it was

but those were ideas that came to everybody’s mind.

It was a sort of dawning of a new era of

that kind of thing.

People were becoming famous while they were alive.

There was a distortion of facts

and a misrepresentation of those personalities

through the depiction in popular media.

So it brings to mind the relationship

between fans and Hollywood stars.

You know there’s an old saying about actors that,

how does it go,

Hollywood is a place where they put people under contract

and they should be putting them under observation.

And that was sort of true for Jessie James.

He had become this hero and he was just a lunatic.

And it may be true now with certain people who get famous.

[rock music]

Gone Baby Gone

I was shooting Jesse James at the time,

which was kind of a big break for me.

It was a studio movie.

It was Warner Brothers and, you know, Brad Pitt was in it

and it was one of the best things I’d ever read.

So it was something that I really, really wanted.

I auditioned for it, you know, seven times.

I had to fight hard for it

because nobody knew who I was

and nobody wanted to put me as the lead

of a bigger movie like that.

When I got that part, it was a big break.

And I think that Ben had a list of about 10 people

that he was trying to cast in Gone Baby Gone.

And he went down the first nine people

and they said, no,

and then he got to me.

And I was shooting Jesse James at the time

and I think people were willing to let him cast me

because I was doing that movie

and people thought that it was going to be

kind of a successful movie.

So after those nine people said no,

who shows up?

His brother shows up.

And who comes through?

I come through.

And then what do I get for it?

Three months of bullying and grief on set.

[loud punch]

[table clattering]

[bottle clattering]

How’s that mother[beep]

Now you know.

Your [beep] mouths closed.

Then we shot that in Boston

and it was actually a really great experience.

I knew that Ben was gonna be a good director.

Nobody else sort of knew him the way that I did.

I think people just thought of him,

they, all they knew is him as

the person they’d seen in the movies that he’d done

up to that point, he’d never directed anything.

I knew that he was a very smart guy

and super talented and it’s one of the movies

that I look back on and think that

if I could do it now, it would be a lot better.

I would like to tackle one of those other books

that’s in that series and try to do it now.

It was a first for me and it was also a first for Ben

so there was kind of a big learning curve.

I think we could do another one.

It would be great.

[rock music]

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

No, I’m not gonna leave you.

Nobody’s leaving.

‘Cause I will leave you first.

[man laughing]

It’s not

funny.

I’m not gonna leave you [exhales loudly]

I didn’t know anybody at all.

I didn’t know Rooney,

I didn’t know David.

I had no idea really going into it

how lucky I was to be involved in that project.

What I found was that they’re all

just incredibly talented.

Rooney’s such a special actor

and I think David will emerge as

one of the great American filmmakers.

He’s so prolific and everything he does is different.

All of his movies have a can David Lowry

signature about them as well.

Kinda reminds me of the Cohen brothers,

how they’re all different

but you can sort of tell that they made them.

I don’t know, it’s sort of a perfect fit for me.

I was glad that I took that leap of faith

because it’s true, I didn’t know anything about them.

I had seen his short film called Pioneer,

which was great.

But as if a five minute shot of somebody telling

a bedtime story,

he could’ve turned out to be

any kind of filmmaker

but he turned out to be the kind of filmmaker

that I really love working with

and I love watching his movies.

I can relate to people who are misunderstood.

I can relate to people who feel like they’re outsiders.

I’ve been living in LA for 20 years or whatever

and I feel like an outsider in the industry

and those kinds of parts are easy for me to relate to.

[rock music]

Out of the Furnace

So that was a character who had come back from war

and was having a hard time adjusting.

Found like these kinda backyard fights

as a way of dealing with that stress.

People kinda beating each other up

and someone videotaping it, people bet on it.

And I watched some of that stuff online

’cause it was out there.

I did talk to people who had come back

from service overseas and fighting

and I also just watched a lot of the stuff online.

You can kind of find anything online.

It makes doing research really easy,

you can just find interviews

with people who have done just about anything

in their life or

are dealing with different things.

And it was really helpful.

And I have a lot of friends who are in the military

who I was able to talk to.

It’s some weird thing that happens

where it’s really hard to be bad

around people that are really good.

They kinda make everyone better than they would be.

And that’s, I think that was the case for me

and for Zoe Saldana and Christian Bale

and Woody Harrelson it, you know,

there’s something about Christian,

who I did most of my stuff with,

that is just, he’s so good.

Whatever he’s doing it sort of rubs off

on other people around him.

When I started that movie,

I remember on my first day of shooting that movie,

we were doing a scene where I went to visit him in prison.

So we did one scene in the morning

and then I felt like it kinda sucked

and I told him that I didn’t feel

that I had done a good job.

I said, It was my first day, which is always really hard.

And then I felt sort of lost.

And he said, Oh, lost is great.

Like lost is a good thing to feel.

And that was sort of the perfect response

and it made me just relax and also gave me some insight to

how he works and how to be a better actor.

[rock music]

Manchester by the Sea

[dramatic orchestral music]

[dramatic orchestral music]

I really didn’t create that character.

I just sort of stepped in

and tried to do what I could.

Bring to life what Kenny would’ve created

and everything he writes is done so carefully

and with such detail.

And there are a lot of people,

writers who would like you to not change lines.

And there are some that really want you to improvise

and change things and they’re more collaborative.

I think for good reason, Kenny’s very, very, very specific.

And I don’t think that there’s one single um or uh

that I said in that movie that wasn’t scripted.

Um,

[exhales loudly]

I don’t have anything big to say.

It’s okay.

The script was.

at one time over 300 pages.

When I read it it was,

I don’t know, 180 or 90.

He has so much material and

he just compacts it into,

eventually, down into a normal size screenplay.

But the result is that it stands

with meaning and it’s really carefully done.

He’s of those people that knows every movie

back to the 1930s

and he can reference certain scenes and moments

in movies that you’ve never heard of

and you go back and you watch them

and they really help to play the scene that you’re playing

in the movie right now.

I would say that I just sort of followed his lead

as much as I could

and everyone in that movie was so good

but working with Michelle Williams

you stop thinking about yourself,

you’re just trying to

keep up with her and react to her

in the moment because she’s just incredible.

Yeah, I did watch it,

I was forced to watch it.

It was at the Sundance film festival,

which is a great festival,

but they like people to stick around.

See they sort of introduce you beforehand or whatever

and then I went and sat in a seat that had my name on it.

I wasn’t sitting with the rest of the people,

I don’t know where they were in the movie.

So I was sitting next to a stranger

who at the end of every scene,

you know, you’re shoulder to shoulder with a stranger,

she would be watching the movie

and then just sort of look at me,

turn and look at me as if to say like,

what’d you think about that?

So it was a really strange experience.

And I didn’t wanna say like, you know, whisper, like,

would you mind not looking at me

and just watching the movie?

So it just went on like that for the whole two hours.

So I did watch the movie

but I had that happening.

[rock music]

A Ghost Story

You know, David called me up and said,

Do you wanna do something?

Kinda make a small movie on our own for 20 days?

And I just said, Yes.

I don’t think that I read anything.

Eventually I did read something

but it was just an outline.

I think it was a 10 page outline

that describes what happened in it.

But I would’ve said yes without that.

Those are my favorite people to work with

and they’re just, I love meeting new people

and it always brings something new out of you

when you go on to a set and there’s a bunch of new people

and you can kind of leave who you were behind

and just allow yourself to be someone completely new.

That’s fun.

It’s like going on a new summer camp or something.

But I would also say that I’d be,

I’d have no complaints if people said

you’re just gonna work with that same group

over and over from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

and A Ghost Story

and The Old Man and the Gun,

just some of my best friends in the world.

And they’re also people who,

I always feel like I’m being challenged

in the nicest possible way

to be a little bit better than I am.

It was the best experience.

I don’t know why there’s something about making,

being able to be an actor and make choices,

that to play a scene, but not be seen.

That’s universal to humans

when they put on a mask,

they feel kind of free.

Free of being seen,

free of, something is happening psychologically

that makes you lose your self-consciousness

in a way that works as an,

it’s good for being an actor.

I loved it.

[rock music]

Light Of My Life

The first thing that I wrote for Light Of My Life

was a bedtime story that I had told my kids

and I thought like, oh, that’s a pretty good story.

And I went and I wrote it down.

And I think my oldest son was

five.

So that was when, 11 years ago.

And then I started writing down other little stories.

And also other conversations that I would have with my kids.

Things spring up on you

in little moments or fights the kids get into

or things you think suddenly happen

and you think it’s supposed to be a teaching moment

and you’re supposed to teach the moment.

And you don’t always say the right thing.

And then that night you’re sitting there thinking about it

and just think, like goddammit, why didn’t I,

why did I say that?

Why didn’t I say this other thing?

Sometimes I would write down those conversations too

because I thought that they were really interesting

and I just wanted to remember them.

As I sort of collected them,

collecting them into a kind of story about

a father and two boys.

And then I pieced together a story,

I thought it’d be pretty boring

and so I wanted to give it some sort of like backdrop

that was gonna be some story with a spine

that might be kinda suspenseful or hold people’s attention.

And also I love those movies.

I love kind of a po-apocalypse movies and road warrior

and things like that.

And then I told my kids about it.

And my kids said, immediately,

they had no response for whether or not it was good or bad

or are they interested?

They were just adamant.

They said, Don’t.

They were like, You’re not gonna make that into a movie,

are you?

And I was kinda like, Well,

I was planning on it.

And they said, You cannot make a movie about us.

So I changed it then from two,

from a father and two boys to

a story about a father and a daughter thinking that

that would relieve them of their anxiety

about being embarrassed

that their dad had made a movie about them.

So then I wound up with a dad and a daughter.

In this story

about a young girl–

Don’t make it about me.

I’m not making it about you.

Then rest of the writing came out of

just imagining the circumstances of

some giant pandemic has spread across the globe

and destabilized everything

to the point of

sort of lawlessness.

But trying to imagine what that would be like realistically

in a world where people

don’t wanna give up on everything.

I just thought like,

if a pandemic came people probably wouldn’t just like

immediately make their cars look like Mad Max

and just go running into the streets in tribes.

And I think that they would probably,

there would be a certain level of normalcy

that would be sustained.

Like their comforts and their things and their houses

and their TVs and their routines that they have.

And so I started to build the story around that, sort of,

well, how do you combine those two things?

It’s a pandemic that has killed half the population

and destabilized all the governments and infrastructure

but that you’re still a parent.

You still have a kid and you’re still hoping to

kinda raise them in a way

that they can be happy, healthy people

and take care of themselves.

You know, there are some things that you get to decide

and there are some things that you don’t [bag shuffling]

But what do I decide?

You get to decide, what kinda attitude you’re gonna have

when you have to do things that you don’t wanna do.

Then I used all of those stories

and conversations that I had written

between me and my own kids

and then sort of tailored them to a world that had

just gone nuts a little bit.

I remember sort of calling David Lowery

as in the middle of a very,

of what I felt like was a very complicated sequence.

I had one day to shoot all of the action in that movie,

which takes place near the end.

And I hadn’t really worked it out.

And his advice, he said, If you make a little doll house

and you get little action figures,

you can stage all of the action

and you can shoot it with a teeny tiny,

like your phone or something.

And then you’ll know how you wanna do it.

And which I did that, the best advice I got

and the best thing I did to prepare.

It helped me, I didn’t know exactly how to

kinda piece all that stuff together.

[rock music]

The Old Man and the Gun

So I’d done Manchester by the Sea

and I had no,

nobody thought that we would be promoting that movie

for that long or that it would have

that kind of successful run that it did

that will require our attention.

So I was supposed to be making

Light Of My Life

and I had to go back to help promote the movie

while I was making Light Of My Life,

which was really weird.

It also meant that I wasn’t able to do either one

with the same level of sort of focus

that I would’ve liked but whatever.

When I started shooting Light Of My Life

David Lowery was gearing up to do Old Man and the Gun.

So the minute I wrapped Light Of My Life

I got on a plane and then, you know,

the next day I was in Cincinnati filming.

And I had never done that.

Usually when I work, I do a movie

and then it takes me another year to find a movie to do.

I just had never had the kinda career

where people have been waiting to work with me,

while I’m still doing something else

and that I can just kinda roll into them.

So I didn’t really know what that was like.

It was hard to adjust from just doing,

just finishing one movie that was so all consuming

because I had written it

and I was acting in it and I was directing it.

And there was only two people on the movie.

To then sort of just trying to forget about that

and go get on a plane and go to Cincinnati

and shoot The Old Man and the Gun.

And it was too bad because The Old Man and the Gun

was something I was so excited about.

Robert Redford had been,

like it was for anyone who’s ever worked in movies

and not worked in movies,

so many of them, he was a hero of mine growing up.

And for as long as I can remember.

I remember being a very little kid watching The Sting

learning all the lines and imitating his gestures

and you know, same with The Natural.

He’s just done some of my most favorite movies.

And then, you know, I get to go and work with him.

And on top of it, it’s his last movie that he said,

and on top of it, he’s playing a bank robber,

which he is maybe one of the most beloved outlaws

ever in movies.

So it was just a huge treat for me.

I was really excited and I was bummed

that I sort of felt like I had no time to prepare for it.

[rock music]

Our Friend

When I read this script

and I talked to Gabriela Cowperthwaite who directed it,

I realized that she just wanted

to make her own version of this story.

What was important to her was that

the things that were meaningful about the story

be conveyed in a way

that was effective and moving for the audience.

And that she didn’t care so much about

how similar I was to Matt Teague.

But Matt had written an article

about his experience with his wife when she had cancer

and raising his two kids

and with his friend helping them out.

And that article was pretty informative.

I mean, it was, there wasn’t a lot left out.

So I felt like I had a lot of Matt already going into it,

both in the article

and in the way that Brad Inglesby had written the screenplay

that I had plenty.

And knowing that Gabriela wanted to then,

wisely had decided that it was her responsibility

to make a movie that works with this story

and not make a movie that is as accurate as it can be

to every little thing that had happened in their life.

But that didn’t work.

No one would wanna see that.

So what she wound up making was something that was accurate

and that also is quite moving.

So she made the right choice.

But I didn’t feel like I had to mimic or portray someone

in the way that if you’re gonna play Kennedy

or something you wanna,

people are pretty familiar with what he’s like

and that playing that role is gonna require sort of

having people believe that you are him.

I didn’t have that responsibility.

It was a movie about people

who were showing up for one another.

And you know, someone said

that like a great friend is someone

who is there with you when there is,

he would rather be anywhere else in the world.

And that’s what Dane is.

This is a story of Matt Teague,

who’s losing his wife.

And it’s a story of a woman, Nicole,

who is a mom and has been so many things

and has also, there are so many things that

she didn’t get to be in life

and she knows that she only has

a certain amount of time left

and their friend who comes into their life

to help them at that time.

And that’s why it’s called Our Friend.

That was just touching to me.

I just like that, relationships are very important to me

and I liked it, what this movie said about relationships.

And it wasn’t just the character Dane,

played by Jason Siegel, who kinda shows up for everybody.

It’s everyone.

Dakota Johnson’s such a great job playing Nicole.

She’s showing up for her family.

She’s going through a really, really tough time.

And she is showing up for her kids

and for her husband too,

who kinda crumbles at times,

in a way that’s just beautiful.

I mean, I remember when I had someone in my life

who was in their nineties,

who was dying and I sat with them

and I would see that everyone

who came to say goodbye to them

ended up needing to be comforted.

And there he was, sort of frail

and in the last moments of life comforting each person,

one by one as they came to him.

And I just thought like what an amazing,

that is the strength and wisdom of somebody

who’s lived 90 years on earth.

They can’t even move a muscle in their body

but they have this great inner strength

to be there for other people

to help them through that moment of saying goodbye.

And Nicole in this story had that strength

after only four to 30 some years.

And so that’s what makes her such an incredible character

and Dakota did such a good job playing it.

She had to portray the painful journey

of having a terrible disease.

And also she had to play the character

who was by all accounts in real life,

the kind of person who just lights up a room

and reminds you of what a gift life is

without ever having to say it

and make you feel instructed or lectured.

Just by being around her people remembered

how much fun it was to be alive.

So she had to be that part

and also be showing people what it was like

to be dying of cancer, a really hard part.

And I thought she did a great job with it.

[rock music]

The World To Come

When I had done The Assassination of Jesse James

by the Coward Robert Ford, I met Ron Hansen,

who was the novelist that that movie was based on his novel.

And then I read all of his books

and he’s just one of my favorite writers.

And I became friends with him.

And I asked him, about eight years ago or something,

if there was, if he wanted to write a screenplay,

if there’s something else that he wanted to do.

And he sent me two stories.

One was about a baseball player in Cuba.

And the other was about two women

who fall in love in the 19th century on a farm.

Now I had been to Cuba when I was a little kid

and I’d grown up playing baseball.

I still play baseball, I love it.

And so that felt perfect to me.

But when I read the story about these two women

in the 19th century on a farm,

I’ve never lived in a farm.

I’m not from the 19th century, not a woman

but it was such a moving story that I just felt like

that was the one that I wanted to be a part of.

And I was planning on directing it.

And Ron and Jim Shepherd, who was the author of the story,

together, they wrote the screenplay.

And it took about six years cause they both have other jobs.

So they’re doing this on the side

and they’re not getting paid.

And it’s one of the best scripts that I’ve ever read.

It became clear to me that

it was a great opportunity to find a female director

and have her direct the movie

but it definitely felt like the right thing to do.

And Mona Fastvold came on.

She had made one other movie, Sleepwalker,

and she just took to it immediately.

And she made the brilliant choice of casting

Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby.

Those are the first two people cast

in really hard parts to play.

And Mona was so right.

They were just perfect for it.

So then we had to figure out

how to raise the money and for,

as just someone who’d only done one other movie

and with actresses who at that time,

it was harder to get financed.

And so now they are being recognized as for

their talents and for all the things that they are.

We just stuck with it

and finally we got the money to make it

and we went and shot it and Transylvania,

which was really interesting

because it was mostly the two of them

every day.

They had the bulk of the work.

I had days off here and there

’cause I was acting in it as well.

So I would trip around

and go look at all the vampire stuff in Transylvania.

Jacquelyn isn’t real but

he was very loosely based on some real person.

But the castle that they have for tourists

as Dracula’s castle,

isn’t even the place where that guy ever lived.

I was bummed about my Transylvania experience in that way

but it’s a really beautiful country

and it did make me wanna do a vampire movie.

Looking back I realize that the things that came my way

had something to do with the kind of person that I was.

And when I got to a point in my career

where I could choose work,

which isn’t always the case,

it sort of comes and goes,

nothing recedes like success.

There were times when I got to pick parts

that I wanted to do

and there are times when I didn’t.

When I was choosing the parts

I thought I was picking them for one reason.

But very often looking back I realize that

they were still sort of picking me

and it had to do with sort of

who I was in a way that I didn’t even really realize.

.

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