Throughout his career, Ben Affleck has worn many hats in the world of film, managing to generate accolades and acclaim for virtually all of his different cinematic pursuits. After acting in an array of supporting roles in films like Dazed and Confused and Mallrats throughout the early-to-mid 90s, he and his childhood friend Matt Damon wrote and co-starred in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. Shot on a modest $10 million budget, the film went on to be a critical and box-office smash upon its release in December 1997, garnering Affleck and Damon Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and catapulting them to serious showbiz consideration.
Having been embraced by Hollywood, Affleck would flirt with awards contention again with his supporting role in Shakespeare in Love, which would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. His status as a leading man was then solidifed when he appeared in high-profile adrenaline-pumping flicks like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and The Sum of All Fears, as well as assuming the lead role in the big-screen adaptation of the Marvel Comic Daredevil.
It is from around 2006 on that one can sense a shift in Affleck’s career. It was then that he began to focus on more mature and substantial work, going on to receive a Best Actor nomination at the Golden Globe Awards for his performance as George Reeves in the Hollywood detective story Hollywoodland. The next year saw him taking up screenwriting again as well as making his feature directing debut with Gone Baby Gone, an adaptation of the Denis Lehane novel that follows two Boston detectives (one of whom is played by Affleck’s real-life brother, Casey) investigating the kidnapping of a four year old girl. The movie received widespread acclaim and Amy Ryan, playing the mother of the kidnapped four-year-old, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards.
Affleck would return to Boston as well as the director’s chair with The Town. An adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, the film saw Affleck playing a criminal who finds himself conflicted when he falls for the bank manager he and his gang of fellow bank robbers had stolen from. The movie was met with significant acclaim upon its release in September 2010, particularly for its exciting action sequences and performances by its ensemble cast, one of whom, Jeremy Renner as Affleck’s crime partner Jem, would go on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
His third and most recent time in the director’s chair has very much proven to be the charm. Since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and its commercial release last month, Argo has been met with practically unanimous praise, rising to the forefront of awards contention and considered by many to be a current frontrunner for Best Picture. Inspire by true events, the breathlessly entertaining thriller winds the clock back to the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. After the U.S. embassy has been stormed, six staff members have secretly taken refuge in the home of a Canadian ambassador. Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a CIA operations officer who concocts a wild plan to get the six staff members safely out of Iran in which they must assume the roles of filmmakers scouting locations for a new science fiction film. The elaborate scheme has Mendez, acting as a producer, having to create a fake film studio and enlist a veteran Hollywood producer to ensure the plan’s veneer of legitimacy.
2012 has also seen Affleck play the lead role in Terrence Malick’s enigmatic new film To The Wonder, which screened at Toronto and Venice and is set to be released next year. If his recent output is anything to go by, Affleck shows no sign of losing steam in any area of filmmaking he graces with his presence.
Spend “An Evening with Ben Affleck” tonight at the Walter Reade Theater, featuring a special screening of Argo at 6:30pm with an extended Skype conversation with Affleck, followed by a screening of The Town at 9:30pm. Save when you make it a double feature!