Chasing Amy's Ben Affleck
Indranath Neogy--The Tech
By Jonathan Litt
Ben Affleck, the star of Chasing Amy, played a minor role in Richard Linklater's 1970s retrospective Dazed and Confused. That might be a promising portent given the recent success of Dazed alumni like Matthew McConaughey, Renee Zellweger, and Parker Posey. As much as the Dazed blessing may be on his side, however, Affleck's success has come as a result of talent, dedication, and hard work. Throw in good looks and a little bit of serendipitous luck, and a star is born.
He is currently back in his hometown of Cambridge as part of a promotional tour for Chasing Amy and to begin production on his new movie shooting here, Good Will Hunting, which he co-wrote. Affleck will also star in it, alongside Robin Williams and Minnie Driver. MIT will feature prominently in the movie, but more on that later.
Affleck can succinctly be described as affable and not just for the sake of alliteration. (I'm sure that affluent is something he can count on calling himself in the near future as well.) More than anything he exudes a humble air of excitement about his current success. Proud of his accomplishments, but aware of the fragility of success in the movie industry, he seems perfectly content to live in the moment. With his laid-back and humorous personality, he also seems makes friends very easily, especially ones in the right places.
Take Kevin Smith, for example. Affleck met Smith when he landed the part of the manager of "Fashionable Male" in Smith's second movie, Mallrats. They became close friends, and soon thereafter Smith decided to write a role specifically for him - what became the leading role of Chasing Amy. This is especially flattering considering that the role is in many ways Smith's attempt to characterize himself.
Chasing Amy is Affleck's favorite role to date, partly because of this reason. He said, "This is a very personal movie for Kevin Smith. It was one of the things that made it mean more to me and made me really want to do a good job for him. It deals with issues that are important to Kevin in his life, not in literal ways, but in metaphorical ways. He wanted something with more soul, more of his real life. Kevin is really kind of a romantic." The result is a commanding performance on screen by Affleck and a movie that people generally agree is Smith's (and Affleck's) best one so far.
Affleck originally wrote the script to Good Will Hunting with his friend and fellow actor Matt Damon as an opportunistic venture because they were having trouble finding appealing projects to work on. Kevin Smith, who considers himself a writer even more than a filmmaker, complimented Affleck and Damon by saying that the script to Good Will Hunting is one of the most fabulous scripts he's ever read.
Roughly, the plot is about a young, undiscovered mathematical genius from Boston and his relationship with his psychiatrist, played by Robin Williams. Without giving too much away, I can say that the movie involves several key scenes at MIT involving a series of math lectures. The scenes will be shot on a soundstage, but keep an eye out for several exteriors being shot within the next few months.
The movie takes place around Boston because Affleck is a Boston native himself. He went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, and his parents still live in Cambridge. He pursued acting as child and teenager, although he never thought that it would take him as far as it has. His brother Casey is also an actor, with his most well-known role as one of the two teenagers in Gus Van Sant's To Die For. (The other teenager is another famous actor brother, Joaquin Phoenix.)
It was through this connection that Gus Van Sandt eventually signed on to direct Good Will Hunting. Van Sant brought his pal Robin Williams into the project, and voila, Affleck is now an integral player in a full-fledged, high budget motion picture. Affleck says, "If someone had asked me five years ago what I would think about starring in a movie I wrote with Robin Williams and Gus Van Sant directing, it would be like someone asking me if I wanted to fly."