Ben Affleck Talks About The Pain And Catharsis Of “The Way Back”

NEW YORK (AP) – Among the many stories that impacted Ben Affleck in his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, one especially resonated with the actor. Recovery is usually described as a process to remove a harmful habit from life, but a man presented it in a more positive way: he said he stopped drinking so he could be a free man. “It is one of the most moving things that they have stayed with me, ”said Affleck. “The desire for that freedom, in order to be responsible with my children.” After several turbulent years, Affleck, 47, is trying to recover his life and reorder his career. In their new movie, “The Way Back,” both missions converge powerfully. He plays a former basketball exastro who returns to train his high school team in the Gavin O’Connor movie that premieres on March 6. The tape has obvious similarities to Affleck’s life. It is about a man struggling with alcoholism, divorce and disappointment in middle age. It is also about the hard road to recovery, a road that Affleck has undertaken with some stumbling blocks the last three years. “I don’t know all the answers, I’m only an expert in my own falls,” Affleck said. “But interestingly, the more expert you become in your falls, the less likely you are to repeat them, I have noticed. This is how my life has improved. I have a better relationship with my children now than three years ago and I have a better relationship with my ex-wife, I think, than three years ago. I think I’m a better actor. I think I am a more interesting person because most of my growth has come from pain. ”Affleck smiles. “You realize that you never succeed and all your craziest dreams come true and you say: ‘I have to change something!’ It is when you stumble upon an obstacle that you say: ‘OK, let’s be really honest.’” And the Honesty is what Affleck practices now at a level rarely seen in Hollywood, not to mention someone whose good and bad moments have been talk of the tabloids. In an interview this week, Affleck was clear and sincere sipping his battle for sobriety and the origin of his problem with alcohol. He met The Associated Press at a high school in New York after recording a special with Barbara Walters and shortly before the New York Times published an intimate profile about him. Occasionally his voice broke, but most of the time he spoke seriously and bluntly. It seemed freshly freed from a burden. Doing “The Way Back,” he said, helped him. “Sometimes just feeling this again purges you and frees you a little,” Affleck said. “This movie was difficult to make, sometimes it was painful, and sometimes I felt ashamed. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that my life had any similarity to this. ”When the script by Brad Ingelsby came to Affleck, it was titled“ The Has-Been. ” The actor was proposed to direct. After his success with the Oscar-winning “Argo,” the last thing he directed was the thriller of the era of Prohibition “Live by Night,” an ambitious film about gangsters that had a modest result at the box office. Affleck felt immediately connected to the character of Jack Cunningham, a stellar ex-athlete whose alcoholism, isolation and pain improved after his reluctance to return to basketball. If he did, he would be asked about the parallels with his life. “But honestly they ask me on that subject anyway,” Affleck said with a shrug. “Unfortunately, I had really lived that life and done the research. I was an expert in a perverse way because I knew how it felt to be in bondage to a compulsion that was not good for me, ”said Affleck. “I knew how helpless that can feel, and how enormously frustrating it is, but I also knew something very important that people can improve. You can get by. ”Affleck called O’Connor to lead. Both had previously collaborated on the 2016 thriller “The Accountant” (“The Accountant”), and O’Connor (“Warrior”, “Miracle”) has shown his pleasure in addressing larger issues through sports dramas. But until they started working on “The Way Back,” O’Connor was unaware of the extent of Affleck’s problem. Read more “Once he started preparing the film, he went to rehab. He somehow relapsed, so we were preparing for the movie while he was in rehab and we thought that everything was going to spoil, ”said O’Connor. “But despite this I wanted to do it. When he left, he was incredibly open and vulnerable and I think he was a little lost just in terms of having to confront the demons. ”Affleck said his alcohol problems got worse when his marriage to Jennifer Garner was disintegrating. Garner and Affleck, who have three children together, separated in 2015 and divorced in 2018. In those years Affleck had several rehabilitation attempts. Last October he was captured in a drunk chamber in what he later admitted was “a stumble.” “At the time I relapsed, personally, it was not because something bad had happened. It was when I thought I had it under control, ”said Affleck. “I am cured! I have been fine! It has been a year and a half, who cares, I can have a glass of wine! And the next thing is that they see me in TMZ and it’s a disaster. That has taught me that it is something I simply cannot do. ”Accepting that has been a sobering path for Affleck. His record, he acknowledges, has not been perfect. “But in the last three years 99% of my life I have spent sober,” he said. “It takes time to learn everything you need to learn. And it also takes time to suffer enough to have something inside you say ‘No more, I give up’, ”said Affleck. “What it really is, personally in me and in what I have seen in others that I want for myself, is a deep sense of humility. You are not stronger than what you are addicted to. That is stronger than you, will always be stronger than you. ”All that pain, and more, entered“ The Way Back ”. For a scene where Jack asks his wife for forgiveness, O’Connor told Affleck that he was just going to leave the camera rolling. “It was probably in the second shot, Ben just broke down. My skin bristles at the thought. It was as if a dam had broken and everything came out of it, ”said O’Connor. “I remember the film crew, everyone was frozen watching him bare his soul. That was obviously real. Many things he probably had to say to his own wife, or perhaps he had told him, I don’t know. ”The scene remained in the movie, but O’Connor didn’t keep everything. It was too raw. “It would be too hard for the public to see her, too personal,” said O’Connor. For Affleck, doing “The Way Back” was not just dealing with his own alcoholism, but that of his father, who stopped drinking when the actor had 19 years, but that childhood experience always affected Affleck’s image of his father. Affleck realized that he had carried that great burden ever since. “And I wasn’t doing anything right,” he said. “He was hurting me.” “He was what we call a very low drunk. He had to get very very low before he could be sober, ”said Affleck. “Unfortunately those were very formative years for me. So I know how important those years are now for my children. Those are the most critical life years. I want to be there for them as much as possible. ”Affleck has concluded that his father was doing his best. He said his grandmother, too, committed suicide with barbiturates and alcohol at a hotel on Sunset Boulevard. His uncle, his father’s brother, was addicted and shot himself. “Every time I see less the difference between the substance you use to medicate yourself and the simple fact that you are medicating yourself,” Affleck said. O’Connor recognized Warner Bros. president Toby Emmerich for approving “The Way Back,” a rarity. In today’s Hollywood: an intensely personal adult drama by a great studio. It was made with a relatively low budget of $ 25 million, and clearly represents a crucial moment for Affleck. A year ago the actor left behind the role of Batman after several films of the “League of Justice.” The new Batman movie, which was originally going to be directed and starred by Affleck, will now be made by Matt Reeves with Robert Pattinson as the protagonist. “When I had the opportunity to direct and star in the independent Batman movie, I realized that I didn’t He felt passion for her. And if you don’t feel passion for something, A, it probably won’t be a good movie. And B, that movie definitely deserves to be made by someone for whom his passion and his lifelong dream is, ”said Affleck. “My tastes have changed, I am interested in other types of movies.” His new path, which he says with humor “is obviously not the most profitable one can be in,” is to make human stories with pain and redemption. He has been busy. His brief passage through New York was after filming “Deep Water”, an adaptation to a Patricia Highsmith novel with Cuban actress Ana de Armas, and before the production of “The Last Duel,” a medieval story of revenge directed by Ridley Scott Affleck wrote it with Matt Damon _ their first script together since “Good Will Hunting” and Nicole Holofcener. The battles with alcoholism never end, but gradually they can be easier to win. For now, at least, Affleck feels that he has grown up, is more humble, more honest and feels that he is closer to being free. “I would not wish it to myself mainly for my children and because it has caused them pain, and I would give everything for change that, ”said Affleck. “But I can’t change the past, I can move forward from today. I can make sure I’m fine today. That’s what I have, I’m a guy that’s fine today. ”___ Jake Coyle is on Twitter as