Monday 11 February 2013

From Good Will Hunting to Argo – how Ben Affleck became Hollywood royalty

Ben Affleck has had a unique career since crashing through the metaphorical doors of Hollywood with the screenplay of Good Will Hunting (1997). Most recently he has experienced unprecedented success with Argo, based on the 1980 CIA-Canadian operation in Iran - winning countless awards for his flawless direction and nominated for his second Oscar.

To celebrate the release of BAFTA award-winning Best Film, Argo on November 7th, we take a retrospective look at the movies that have made Ben Affleck a distinctive talent in front and behind the camera.

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Tired of being cast in forgettable supporting roles, Ben Affleck, and friend Matt Damon, decided to write a screenplay for a movie they could star in. Good Will Hunting tells the tale of a remarkable, but troubled young man working as a janitor at MIT who solves a mathematical problem that students have found impossible, invoking interest from the academic minds who had previously ignored him. The film was nominated for 9 Oscars and both Affleck and Damon brought their mothers along to the ceremony to see them win their first Academy Award.

Armageddon (1998)
In Michael Bay space adventure Armageddon, Ben Affleck got the chance to star alongside film legends’ Bruce Willis, Will Patton and Steve Buscemi. The film allowed Affleck to play both romantic lead and action hero as a maverick deep core driller, whose team is recruited by NASA after an asteroid threatens to destroy earth. Ben Affleck admitted that he once questioned director Michael Bay on the plausibility of the plot, particularly on whether it would be easier for NASA to train astronauts how to drill rather than training drillers to be astronauts, Bay apparently told him to shut up.

Pearl Harbor (2001)
Ben Affleck teamed up with Michael Bay once again in Pearl Harbor, based on the events that preceded WWII. The wartime epic is told through the eyes of childhood friends Rafe (Affleck) and Danny (Josh Harnett) who are skilled pilots in the US Air Force but whose loyalties to each other are tested when Hawaii is attacked. Pearl Harbor was Affleck’s first blockbuster in which he played the lead and was a box office hit, despite getting mixed reviews. The action-packed film cost $140,000,000 to make which roughly equals the amount of damage caused in the actual attack.

Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Moving behind the camera for the first time, Ben Affleck chose his favourite novel Gone Baby Gone, a gritty Boston-set crime thriller to hone his creative skills. Casting brother Casey in the leading role, the film follows a private detective as he tries to locate a missing girl by delving deeper into a world of drug dealers and corrupt cops. Affleck made a deliberate choice not to cast professional extras for authenticity so every extra is either a local actor or member of the general Boston public.

The Town (2010)
Ben Affleck’s second stint as director ensured that the success of Gone Baby Gone was not a fluke. The Town tells the story of a set of friends from notorious neighbourhood Charlestown who, after robbing a bank, realise that the bank manager lives in their area of Boston. They contrive to put her off the path by befriending her as she considers helping out the FBI with identifying the criminals. As part of researching the role, Affleck and co-star Blake Lively visited bars in Charlestown to hang around with locals, while Jeremy Renner took this one step further and surrounded himself with actual convicted bank robbers from Charlestown to help portray his role.

Argo (2012)

Branching out from the familiarity of Boston-based dramas, Ben Affleck most recent film Argo is a politically-charged spy thriller. Charting the events of the 1980 CIA-Canadian exfiltration mission in Iran, Affleck manages to intelligently show how a fake movie was used as a cover in an effort to safely remove 6 US nationals from Tehran. Balancing a high level of intensity with clever humour, Affleck has established himself as the most exciting young director of recent years and looks to be returning the director to where his career began and where it should remain, on the Academy stage.

Argo is on Blu-ray and DVD from 4th March

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