Ben Affleck is once again pulling double duty on his latest film, "Live by Night," which he stars in and directs. The film takes you back to those days when gangster movies were all the rage.
"I wanted to make a classic love letter to the gangster movies of the 30s and 40s. And an homage to really the gangster movies of the 60s and 70s," Affleck said in an appearance on "Popcorn with Peter Travers."
"There’s so many amazing films from that era. The sweep and the score and the extras and the design and the cinematography were all designed to sort of like dazzle you and transport you somewhere. And you had this broken protagonist at the heart of it and we had a lot of fun," he said.
Travers asked Affleck to explain the gist of his character.
"That’s the thing about gangster movies. We’re rooting for a protagonist, who by definition, is doing bad things," Affleck said. "So you’re already kind of walking this moral tightrope. And one of the tricks is how well can you get the audience to empathize and connect to this character. And that was one of the really interesting things, experimenting with this movie and just seeing how far this guy could go because he’s a criminal. He's ambitious but he has his own sort of moral code and that’s a complicated thing."
Many dedicated Affleck fans will note that "Live by Night" pushes Affleck's directing credits to more than half a dozen. Travers told Affleck that he exudes confidence as a director.
"That’s all a false facade. I’m terrified," Affleck, 44, told Travers. "Directing is so stressful. It's such a big job. It’s a collaborative job. It necessarily involves a lot of other people and you have to be communicating with them and leading them and helping get the best from them. There’s a lot at stake and it feels like as the director you’re holding the whole thing up on your shoulders. Even though that’s an illusion. You're really depending on a lot of other people."
He jokingly added, "I understand why first time directors, you see them on the set and it just looks like all the blood is going out of their face and there’s kind of a stoned, zombie, disoriented look because it’s just, it’s the terror."
But those newbie days are long gone for Affleck. He's loaded his resume with a wide range of credits from "Batman" to "Daredevil" to "Argo" and "Gone Baby Gone." But few will forget the film that helped launch him to stardom along with his buddy Matt Damon. Travers said it's hard to believe it's been 19 years since the duo won the Original Screenplay Oscar for "Good Will Hunting."
Travers joked about a sequel: "Where's the follow-up movie? Where's the Affleck, Damon script? In 20 years of life since that you two have had, you can’t come up with something to give us?"
"The problem really about being able to write that movie, was a function of the fact that neither of us had a job for a long, long time," Affleck explained. "So it was like we were doing nothing but sitting around the house and we could just talk about our ideas for a movie. And then once we got the movie made and it became successful we had other opportunities. The truth is we got swept into doing other movies that came along because we weren’t living together and out of work anymore. So it changed our relationship a little bit. And we didn’t have the time to sit around and just sort of noodle on something for a couple of years, which is what it took to write that script. But we’ve both gone on. We’re still writing, making movies."
Next up for Affleck: directing the next Batman movie.
"Yeah, the idea is for me to direct the next 'Batman,'" Affleck said. "So we’re in the process now of working on a script."
"Is he going to have a beard?" Travers asked in reaction to Affleck sporting a full beard for the interview.
"I don’t know. I thought I’d audition the bearded look on your show. And when I watch it, I’ll see how it catches the light," Affleck joked.
Travers added, "Nobody else has ever tried that."
Be sure to watch the full interview to hear more about Affleck's projects and what he says about the buzz surrounding his brother Casey's performance in "Manchester by the Sea."
"Live by Night" is in theaters everywhere today.