Casey Affleck Interview, Gone Baby Gone

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline recently sat down with Casey Affleck at the Los Angeles press day for his new film, "Gone Baby Gone,” written and directed by Ben Affleck based on the bestselling novel by Dennis Lehane. When a young girl, Amanda (Madeline O’Brien) disappears from her home, a pair of investigators, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan), search desperately for the child in the streets of Boston. "Gone Baby Gone” also stars Amy Ryan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris.

To play Patrick, Ben Affleck turned to an actor he knew without a doubt understood the rhythm and hue of Boston neighborhoods: his brother Casey, who is having a breakout year, also playing Robert Ford opposite Brad Pitt in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Ben also knew he could push his brother in ways perhaps no one else could. "I know him so well, I know every little tic, and I know when he’s being false and when he’s being true,” says Ben. "And one of the things that’s really exciting for me in this film is to show people a side of Casey they’ve never seen before.

As Patrick Kenzie, Casey serves as the audience’s eyes and ears throughout every twist and turn of the story. And being from Boston immediately gave Casey an intimate kind of insight into who Patrick is and how he reacts to this winding series of dangerous and exasperating situations among Boston’s criminal elements. "There’s a huge advantage to playing a role in the place where you are from and surrounded by the kind of people you grew up with,” Casey observes. "I knew the accent, the general attitudes, the way people relate to each other – all this stuff that would have taken a long time to learn if I’d been an outsider.”

Still, Casey took great pains to prepare for the role, spending time working ordinary, everyday cases with various Boston PIs, which gave him a view into how Patrick’s life is transformed by taking on the far more incendiary case of Amanda McCready’s disappearance. "A lot of a PI’s work is really quite mundane, a lot of paperwork and tracking people through databases, so this is what Patrick and Angie would have been doing everyday before they take on Amanda’s case,” he explains.

Amanda’s case is like no other Patrick and Angie have pursued and takes them into moral grey zones they’ve never explored. "What makes this story so unique is all the emotional fallout from the events of the investigation,” says Casey. "The thing that always struck me is that the central question of the movie is, can you do something bad to ultimately do something good – and also, can you do something good that ultimately hurts people? And everyone in the movie, including Patrick, has to answer those questions.”

An accomplished and versatile performer, Casey Affleck is poised to establish himself as a powerful leading man with singular performances in a handful of upcoming projects. Casey recently reprised his role as ‘Virgil Malloy’ in "Ocean’s Thirteen” and appeared in Tony Goldwyn’s "The Last Kiss” adapted for the screen by Academy Award winner Paul Haggis. He currently appears in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Written and directed by Andrew Dominik, Casey plays ‘Ford’ opposite Brad Pitt’s Jesse James and co-stars Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard and Zooey Deschanel. An accomplished screenwriter, Casey recently penned the original screenplay for "Aardvark Art’s Ark,” an animated family film that he will executive produce for Warner Bros.

Previously, Casey co-wrote with and starred alongside Damon in Gus Van Sant’s independent road movie "Gerry.” He has also appeared in Van Sant’s "Good Will Hunting” and "To Die For,” "Hamlet” with Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles, "Ocean’s Eleven” and "Ocean’s Twelve.” Additional films include "Lonesome Jim,” "Soul Survivors,” "American Pie 2,” "Attention Shoppers,” "Committed,” "Drowning Mona,” "Floating,” "American Pie,” "200 Cigarettes,” "Desert Blue” and "Race the Sun.”

Casey Affleck is a sensational actor and we really appreciated his time. Here’s more of what he had to tell us about his new film and what it was like working with his brother:

MoviesOnline: So did you ever think that uttering the line (singing) "I thought I had a double burger” would lead 10 years later to all this?

CASEY AFFLECK: Has it? [Laughter] That’s the thing. I was trying to figure out what exactly brought me here. Yeah… Nope. That was something that I made up in the moment. I don’t know where it came from or why but it was … I probably afterward felt like "Jesus, why was I singing the double burger song?”

MoviesOnline: How was it being directed by your brother?

CASEY AFFLECK: Has he said anything about me yet?

MoviesOnline: We haven’t talked to him yet.

CASEY AFFLECK: No. I don’t know. Should I slam him or should I…? [Laughter] It was real easy. It was great. It was easy mostly because it was…you know…we kind of just spoke the same language, very comfortable saying to one another "I think that’s a terrible idea” or saying like "That’s a great idea and what if…?” We could sort of both build on the other’s excitement or the way that we agreed. We also had a shorthand where we could go like…you know…he’s trying to articulate something and I wouldn’t get it and he’d say, "It’s like the time that we went and saw Frank at the place and we showed up and he was asleep” and I’d be like, "Oh, right, okay. Now I get it.” And those kind of things are really helpful because there’s not a lot of time when you’re doing a movie. Very often it’s like you do a take and then you rush over and go "Now try it like this. You gotta do it a little bit faster and on the second line you gotta do it like this.”
 
And if you can have some kind of master key that creates some common reference, some sort of reference, it’s really easy. So there were a lot of things that made it great, but more than anything, I have to say it was sort of not that special. It wasn’t something that changed our relationship. It wasn’t like a huge difference between the way that we relate to any other director. I would just say that he did it very well. He articulated what he wanted. He was also very inclusive, collaborative, patient, and he would listen to me. He would say, "I want to do it like this” and I would say, "I really want to try it this other way first.” "Fine. Do that.” It was always that attitude and that made me and the other actors and the cinematographer and everyone else I think feel like they were included in the process, that it was their ideas that were on the line as well. And that brings everyone together and makes everyone feel like they all want the movie to be good because it’s their stuff that’s out there.

MoviesOnline: Is he sort of the proverbial big brother – kind of gives you unsolicited advice, looking out for you, kicking you around a bit?

CASEY AFFLECK: He’s not, not really any of those things. He’s a lot better than that.

MoviesOnline: Did you have lots of family and friends coming by to visit? It’s your home and everyone knew where you worked from The Boston Herald.

CASEY AFFLECK: Yeah, they’re all coming by and standing around. There’d be the camera and then there’s all the people in front of the camera and then there’s all the friends and other people that heard about it behind the camera and very often Ben would just say, "Let’s take everyone that’s in front of the camera and move them behind the camera and everyone that’s behind the camera move them in front of the camera” and in that way you’d get a real, a much more…both…you get to employ your friends and neighbors but you also get a more authentic, like actual, literal neighborhood vibe.

MoviesOnline: It felt so authentic. Would that just be spontaneous?

CASEY AFFLECK: He did that a few times, yeah, for sure, and that’s great. That’s kind of what he wanted and I think that worked in the movie. I felt like the one thing above all is he captured a real sense of place. It’s not easy because there’s a way of doing things. You know like conventionally in movies you have to go through the casting director to get extra castings, to get the 100 people who are supposed to be sitting in the park, and what shows up are the 100 people in Boston that do that for a living that are actors. So you get all these kind of (strikes an actorly pose) actors who are sitting there on the benches and they don’t…and it’s exactly the thing you didn’t want. He has a good eye for that and I think that adds up being a real asset.

MoviesOnline: How often do you actually get a chance to go back home?

CASEY AFFLECK: Well pretty often, you know, holidays and stuff, just enough to go home in the summer for a month or so or a few weeks and hang out. I love it and my family likes it. I still have a lot of friends there and it feels great. L.A. is kind of like home to nobody, you know, city of many kind of a place so even though I live there, I never really feel like it’s my home but Boston definitely feels like a home.

MoviesOnline: Being a father yourself and seeing what your character did at the end of the movie, do you agree with that?

CASEY AFFLECK: I don’t know if I would have done that. I don’t think I would have done that but I definitely agree with it. I mean the problem is that it’s required, I think, a considerable amount of wisdom in the moment to make the right choice. I don’t know if I would have had that and been able to put my emotions aside and make what is really in the bigger picture the right decision. I think it’s the right decision because two wrongs, obviously as you’ve heard, don’t make a right. It’s something that you can’t just kidnap a kid from a bad home. It’s not the way it works, you know. That would be total anarchy and the truth is that most of these children sadly who are kidnapped are kidnapped by people who think they’re doing the right thing for the kid. They’ll say, "Well I’m taking him because I’m the better parent” or "I’m taking him because I’m crazy and I think that I can love them in the right way.”
 
You know what I mean? Whatever it is, it’s very rare that you get that kind of bogey man off the street who just wants to do something horrible. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, both cases, you know, but the truth is that most kids are taken by someone they know, a relative or someone who think they’re doing the best thing for the kid and that’s not the case. And the way we need to stop letting children down and protect them better in this country, because we are letting them down and not protecting them, is to intervene before that happens. You know, get in there, Social Services needs to have more power, they need to be able to intervene, parents need to be protected less. So I think that he made the right decision. He also ends up following up and taking care of the kid.

MoviesOnline: Do you think your character regrets the decision he made at the end?

CASEY AFFLECK: Yeah, I think he’s definitely conflicted about what has happened. He shows up and the mother still sucks and no ones doing anything about it and it tears him up inside but he also says it’s not completely out of his control and he knows that and he’s going to stay and watch this kid. One hopes that the real life version of that character would then get involved in the kid’s life and makes sure she has a good life. But yeah, he’s not completely comfortable with the decision he makes for sure.

MoviesOnline: Do you like this kind of moral ambiguity in the script?

CASEY AFFLECK: I think that was always the strong suit, the ending, the kind of moral ambiguity at the end of the movie, and then that was sort of woven backwards throughout all the decisions of characters and moments in the movie. That to me was the movie. "A,” the question of what do you do? And "B,” how do you know what’s right?” That appeals to me for sure.

MoviesOnline: What did you do to delve into the role? Did you go around with private investigators?

CASEY AFFLECK: I didn’t go around with private investigators so much because it turns out private investigators don’t really go around all that much. They spend a lot of time… It’s not so glamorous as it is depicted in movies and that sort of stuff. It’s kind of like they spend a lot of time sitting at their desks, very smart people I talked to, but it’s a hustle. It’s a hard job, long hours, and they sit at a desk and gather information and try to track people down through their records and through this and through that and deliver that information to somebody else and it’s all done on the internet.
 
There’s not a lot of smoking in the shadows or tailing people in cars. That discovery led us to want to depict the private investigators in this movie in that more mundane kind of work-a-day way that you don’t often see which is why when they come to find…you know, when you meet these characters in this movie, they don’t seem like Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown.” You know what I mean? They seem like these people that sit around their house. They’ve got their CD rack and they watch movies and they go to work and they don’t do anything that special. And this case, when it falls into their lap, it’s like a really big deal, very foreign to them. They don’t really know how to handle it, how to go about it, or even to take the job because they don’t feel qualified.

MoviesOnline: Does your character have more of a history in the novel?

CASEY AFFLECK: Well yeah, there’s a lot more information about him and his history in the novel. The movie changed quite a bit from the book. The relationship between the girl changed, what his history is as an investigator has changed. The movie wanted to introduce him at the beginning of his career which I think was a good choice, instead of someone who had been around forever and was weathered and seasoned because that’s someone who has already discovered the kind of moral grey areas in life. You know what I mean? It wouldn’t have been as interesting at the end of the movie if he was someone who had been through this and been broken and put back together a million times, who’d been through divorce, seen people killed. I think that was a really good decision that they made. But yes, in the book he definitely has a history. Did you like the movie?

MoviesOnline: A lot.

CASEY AFFLECK: You did?

[A chorus of yeses from everyone]

MoviesOnline: Did you have much involvement with Ben when he was writing it?

CASEY AFFLECK: A little bit. He worked with Aaron Stockard who wrote it with him, but I came onto it, I was doing "Jesse James.” He came up and gave me the script and asked me if I wanted to do it and then it was about 6 months later that we started shooting. So it was over the next 6 months there was a fair bit of back and forth. The thing about Ben is that he is really comfortable. I don’t think he felt insecure. So he was totally comfortable saying, "What do you think of this?” or hearing or taking my ideas and putting them in the script. There’s a lot of people that might go or feel sort of territorial or like "Man, if I take this guy’s idea and put it in the script, or if he doesn’t like my idea that I suggest to him, what does that say about me as a director or writer?” You know, he’s won an Oscar. He’s had a lot of success. He’s sort of a confident person. I think that that enables him to be as collaborative as he was which was great.

MoviesOnline: What did you think about the delay in England with the release of this film due to the Madeline McCann disappearance? Was there any particular high profile missing child case that was going on at the time you were filming this movie?

CASEY AFFLECK: I wasn’t aware of any case in the couple months that we were shooting this that had been going on, but certainly there’s always something. There’s always some kind of kidnapped child media sensation. I’m not sure why they pick the ones that they pick but it’s usually because they’re white or because they come from a neighborhood where you wouldn’t expect kids to be taken. There are a lot of kids that get kidnapped all the time that don’t get that kind of media attention. I can’t really say why those ones get chosen without sounding horribly cynical. Obviously we did this movie well before the Madeline thing. It’s a sad story, a sad case. It’s horrible, kind of a parent’s worst nightmare, and I hate to even think about it really. I don’t know that much about the details. It was kind of a bigger thing in Europe. It’s just reaching the States now. I don’t know all that much about it. I’m glad that they delayed the release of the movie because I think it was the right thing to do. It was the least that anyone could do. It’s just a movie after all and if it’s going to interfere in any way, or hurt the parents in any way or anything, there’s no question. Just move the movie.

MoviesOnline: "The Assassination of Jesse James” apparently had a lot of different versions or cuts before it finally came out. I wanted to know what you thought of the final version. Also, could you talk about some of the stuff that we might have not seen on screen?

CASEY AFFLECK: My best stuff. [Laughs] No. There are a few versions, not as much as has been reported. Always when a movie takes a long time to come out people go, "The studio’s fighting, the director can’t agree, the stars are taking the movie away” or whatever it is. That wasn’t the case. It wasn’t as exciting or dramatic as that. Andrew is kind of a perfectionist and he just took a long time. I mean it’s absurd sometimes they offer you… You shoot a movie for 4 months, you prepare it for 4 years, sometimes the director’s a writer, a writer-director, and then they want you to edit it in 4 weeks and it doesn’t make any sense. The editing in a movie can be a million different things in post production. So it took a long time because it kind of had to. It was definitely Andrew’s vision throughout. It’s a hand made movie by Andrew Dominik and every last little detail. It would be hubris to say, "Well I think 20 minutes here, we cut out this scene there, the movie would work better.”
 
I wouldn’t want to say that before I sat down with the movie for 4 years like he did, you know, because it’s hard to say what makes a movie. Sometimes you go see a movie, you see two versions of it and you go, "A is better” and a week later you go, "What was I thinking? B is definitely better.” And then with 3 months distance, you then change your mind again and again. It takes a lot of time to really feel like you’ve found something that is the ‘quote unquote’ best version. The stuff that was taken out … It was a 165 page script. It mostly got wittled away here and there, you know, little trims. The scenes themselves stayed intact long, you know. He liked the scenes that played. They start in the beginning, a man walks up to another man, begins a conversation, the conversation ends. Instead of, as you see in some movies, they cut right into the middle of the conversation, to the point of the conversation that tells that point of the story. He just didn’t want to do that so he left the scenes as they were, as far as I can tell, and took out the scenes that he didn’t need without trimming the scenes themselves.
 
You know what I’m saying? Some of the stuff that was taken out was always to me some of the really interesting stuff, you know, what happened to Robert Ford after people in the country turned against him, how he had to go on living once he was despised by everyone. It was like the worst of both worlds. He became super famous, more recognizable than the President of the United States, at 20 and then became despised. So everyone knew who he was and everyone hated him. It would have been different if everyone had hated him and no one knew what he looked like or knew where he was. He could have vanished but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t run away from it because everywhere he went, people would burn down his hotel or they’d hang a dead cat outside his door or they’d run him out of town and they’d try to kill him. He just had to carry on living and I thought that he did it with a lot of dignity. He never killed again, never became a violent person. He was always an upstanding citizen. He kept opening businesses and just tried to live his life. I think that’s kind of admirable and sad and tragic.

MoviesOnline: Did you know Samuel Fuller’s movie, "I Shot Jesse James,” has just come out on DVD?

CASEY AFFLECK: I didn’t know that.

MoviesOnline: Have you seen it?

CASEY AFFLECK: I have not seen it. I wasn’t interested. I hadn’t seen it before I got the part and at that point I didn’t want to watch it.

MoviesOnline: Can you talk about the similarities between your character Robert Ford and your character in this film? They’re both guys that other men pick on and tell them they can’t do that. What appeals to you about that kind of character?

CASEY AFFLECK: Well, I don’t know what appeals to me about it. There are definitely some similarities. I mean there’s one small similarity I guess between Robert Ford and the character in "Gone Baby Gone” which is just that people don’t take them seriously or think that they’re capable of what the character thinks that he’s capable of. Other than that, the character in these two movies couldn’t possibly be any more different. As far as why it appealed to me, it wasn’t that quality necessarily that appealed to me about the characters but it was other things about both. I guess there was a little bit of overlap there. I know what you mean. There is definitely that. It’s a good question but I don’t really have a good answer. I’m not really sure why because I think that the answer is that it wasn’t that quality that appealed to me about the characters. You know what I mean?

MoviesOnline: What do you have coming up?

CASEY AFFLECK: Nothing. I don’t know. I’m sort of doing this stuff for a while. These movies are both going to roll out a little bit.

MoviesOnline: What about "Aardvark”?

CASEY AFFLECK: I’ve got "Aardvark” to get back to which is pretty exciting actually. I’ve never done a thing like that. That’s exactly what I’m working on from now until Christmas,

I’ll probably be doing that. I don’t know. It’s just the holidays and nothing is going to come down the pike yet.

MoviesOnline: It’s definitely your season so I’m sure something else is going to come along soon.

CASEY AFFLECK: Well thanks.

MoviesOnline: Congratulations on both films.

CASEY AFFLECK: Thank you very much.

MoviesOnline: It’s a great performance. I think you’ll definitely be nominated. Is that anything that occurs to you when you do a film?

CASEY AFFLECK: Not really. Not really but I can’t tell you how nice it is that people responded to both movies. I’ve been on the other side of things and been at tables like this that haven’t been so warm so it’s very nice. [Laughter] Thanks a lot guys.

"Gone Baby Gone” opens in limited release on October 19th.

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