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Rich Cline talks with Ben Affleck and John Woo ē page 1 of 2
B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
paycheck Ben Affleck has surprisingly little of the Hollywood aura about him. With his tall, hunky build and athletic presence, he comes across as more like a swimming champion than a movie star. Heís also charming, funny and surprisingly vulnerable. But maybe thatís because he was in the middle of the Jennifer Lopez storm, afraid of what the next question might be. As a result, he seemed guarded, sticking to the subject at hand, avoiding any personal comments at all. Affleck is obviously a really nice guy and very approachable, but today heís extremely wary. Meanwhile at his side, John Woo seems almost like his guru ó diminutive and thoughtful, but also articulate and quite funny. And he tends to ramble on if he gets the chance.

On making a sci-fi film...
Woo:
I like to watch sci-fi movies but most of the time Iíve never wanted to make one because theyíre always so dark ó the future always seems cold and without much hope, a lot of cold, grey tones, a lot of steel, you know? So I tried to make it different, I tried to make it more human, warmer. But most of all, I really liked the script. It had a lot of great suspense, great surprises and also a very good love story, so I found it interesting. But I didnít see it as a sci-fi movie, as it was so human. And also, it has a very good theme, of man controlling his own destiny.

On the chance to work with Woo...
Affleck:
I have been a fan of Johnís since first seeing his work ó Iím not sure if it was Hard Boiled or The Killer ó but Iíve had posters of those movies ever since. So this was a chance for me to work with somebody I had admired for many years, who I think is personally responsible in a lot of ways for elevating the way that a particular genre of movies were made. It was a very easy decision. Just getting to work with John and getting to work in an actual John Woo movie, that by itself was a big deal for me. And doing that action stuff definitely fulfils a kind of adolescent fantasy. But I liked ultimately that it was about a guy who wasnít a superman but was more of a real person. Many of the action elements were intellectual in a way. In the sense that they were trying, with big stakes and at high speed, to unravel a logic puzzle. It was definitely fun.

On seeing into the future ó and foreseeing the past couple of years...
Affleck:
[Long pause] I certainly would have been very pleased to get the chance to work with John and to do this movie, which was really pleasant. Itís interesting, one of the things this movie talks about is this notion of whether or not itís a good thing to see the future or to try and erase the past. Interestingly, as people weíre forever really anxious to see whatís going to happen. I think itís probably, as suggested in the movie, an unhealthy desire. I think itís a good thing that we donít see the future, otherwise weíd dwell too much on the negative things maybe. And itís also important to remember the good and the bad in our lives; it builds character. And of course if you couldnít remember any of the past youíd just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Some people do that anyway.
Woo: Well, I think that to be able to see into the future wouldnít be a good thing, because it would take away hope. Also, if some other country could predict that theyíd be attacked, theyíd start a war right now, so there would be a lot of confusion and misery.

On erasing some of his movies from his memory...
Affleck:
Itís interesting. Yeah, there are a few! Itís funny because often in the experience of making a movie the things that you learn ó or the things that I have learned ó are not necessarily mirrored in the final product. Iíve had some interesting and valuable experiences where Iíve learned a lot on movies that didnít work out very well. Unless youíve got a great director that you can really trust, like John, itís a tricky proposition and one never really knows. Itís hard to make a good movie. But in some ways you learn more from failures than from things that work, because theyíre just more pointedly instructive in that way. Itís hard to say. I might be depriving myself of something valuable by erasing those things.

On filming the motorbike chase scene...
Affleck:
I loved the motorbikes! It wasnít all stunt guys in those sequences. I loved the stuff I got to do, and loved it even more when you saw everything else that was in the scene all cut together. I like to ride bikes, so that was fun. It was fun to be on the tow rig with Uma. And itís a lot easier to do motorcycle stunts when youíre actually being held up by an iron pipe, so you donít have any fear of falling over. That helped me look like a better rider, definitely.

On being haunted by the movieís themes...
Affleck:
Itís interesting. You canít help but absorb a little bit of what you are doing. I found that during this movie I had these really weird dreams, and I think it had to do with trying to ratchet myself up in a state of both ignorance, in terms of this characterís life, and frenzy. So I guess a little bit of that bled over.

On putting doves into each of his movies...
Woo:
Ha ha! Yeah, I didnít want to use it again at the beginning, but when we shot the scene with Ben, heíd seen himself dead, you know, so all of a sudden I got the idea of cutting to the dove flying in through the door, to make it more of a spiritual moment. I just couldnít help it ó itís hard to change my own character.   more...

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© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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