Ben Affleck looks distinctly ill at ease.
Portraying Nick Dunne—a man attempting to put out the dragnet for his missing-and-presumed dead wife Amy (played by British actress Rosamund Pike)—during a key scene in the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling crime thriller Gone Girl, Affleck has swapped his usual movie star luster for, well, flop sweat. In a sequence that was screened by director David Fincher exclusively for an EW cover story hitting newsstands Friday, Affleck’s Dunne faces a candlelight vigil for Amy crawling with TV cameras, police detectives, and somber neighbors in the sequence, and he appears less like a grief-stricken husband than a shifty dude trying to seem grief-stricken.
“I may not behave the way the cameras want me to,” Affleck tells a crowd that already views him as the prime suspect. “If you need to mock somebody, mock me. But please don’t turn this investigation into a circus.”
“Where’s your wife, Nick?” responded a voice from the darkness. “What did you do to your wife?!”
Affleck, of course, knows the searing glare of the spotlight all too well, having comprised, along with J-Lo, the celebrity entity “Bennifer.” To hear him tell it, portraying a guy who’s being hounded by the press and second-guessed by a judgmental public hardly required extensive prep.
“It wasn’t something I had to do a lot of research for,” Affleck says with a weary smirk. “I knew what it was like to have the tabloid world paying attention to me and ascribing negative motivations to whatever I might be engaging in. I knew what it was to be cast in a soap opera I had no control over.”
According to Fincher, Affleck’s intimate familiarity with being misunderstood by the Fourth Estate— moreover, with “what it’s like to be hunted”—factored heavily in his casting.
“We knew we needed somebody who was charming and could be seductive, who could be a ladies man, a guy’s guy, a frat boy,” Fincher says. “But most important, [someone] who had the wits and experience of knowing that situation. The gift of having Ben Affleck is that this is a guy who knows. He knows what a lose-lose situation is and understands what’s funny about it, however sad.”