Ben Affleck’s new heist thriller, The Town, stars Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner, and Affleck himself. But there’s another imposing character in the movie – the city of Boston. And there’s already buzz that the film may follow in the same Oscar-nominated footsteps as other recent Bay State crime flicks Mystic River and The Departed, not to mention Affleck’s own critically acclaimed directorial debut, 2007’s Gone Baby Gone. When we sat down with the writer-director-star recently, we asked the Beantown native about the city that seems to inspire him. Here’s what he had to say.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve directed two movies in Boston now. Are you worried about being pigeonholed as the Boston guy?
BEN AFFLECK: That was one of the things that almost made me not want to do The Town. I thought, I’m going to be the guy who makes crime movies in Somerville, [Mass.]. I guess from an actor’s point-of-view, you worry about being typecast.
Well, that didn’t seem to hurt Martin Scorsese with New York.
Yeah, but Scorsese won Best Picture for a Boston movie [The Departed]! He’s the king of all movies. You can’t be holding yourself up to Scorsese. He’s a genius.
The climax of The Town is a heist involving Fenway Park, the cathedral of Boston where the Red Sox play. How did you get permission?
People have filmed there before – most notably Fever Pitch. And I was an extra in Field of Dreams there with Matt [Damon] back in high school. We shot 13 days there for The Town, so there was some concern. I have a long relationship with the Red Sox ownership group. I’ve done some stuff with them for the Jimmy Fund charity, and they’re good people. I promised that I wouldn’t actually show the real way money was brought in and out of Fenway Park. The new owners have really opened up the place. They actually have weddings on the field. I think you can get married there for $25,000. So we were shooting with automatic weapons there and we fired off a full mag and, we didn’t know it, but there were some people getting married. People were screaming! They thought they were under attack! I don’t know if we ruined a wedding or if it will end up a great story.
What do you think are the three best Boston-set movies?
The Departed, Mystic River, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
Rank your die-hard fandom with Boston sports teams.
Sox first, then Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins. It used to be the Celts first in the ’80s when I was a kid, because they were so great. My friend had obstructed-view season tickets and we’d go sit behind a post and listen to the game.
Jon Hamm said walking around Boston with you was like walking around with the mayor.
[Laughs] He’s probably exaggerating. People probably know who I am in Boston just because of Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone. It’s a double-edged sword: Being the local boy you definitely get some support and you also…there’s tougher scrutiny.
Would you ever consider running for office there?
I don’t want to hold office. Every day that seems like a worse and worse job to have. Look at the level of political discourse now. It’s very depressing to me. I did a lot of research down in D.C. when I did State of Play [Affleck played a congressman in the 2009 film], and it’s not unlike Hollywood. It’s a one-horse town. Everyone’s jockeying with one another for power, prestige, and image and they’ll stab each other in the back as fast as they can. The only difference is the stakes are a bit higher, which makes it sadder.