The Ben Behind the Headlines

John Woo, Ben Affleck, ...
Image credit: Paycheck Set: Douglas Curran

GETTING A CLUE Affleck takes a cue from Woo on the set of ''Paycheck''

Have you polished the shine off the best-screenplay Oscar yet?
You can't help but feel like an asshole putting it up anywhere, because it's like, Remember: I have an Academy Award! They give you this Oscar sweatshirt, and it says, NOMINEE '97. Of course, you can't really wear that, because then you're the biggest jackass in the world. But I do have it in my drawer, and one of my knucklehead friends was sleeping over and asked, [deep voice] ''Hey, can I borrow a sweatshirt?'' And he comes out with my Oscar sweatshirt on, and I was like, [hysterical] ''Are you out of your MIND! TAKE THAT OFF! You're getting it dirty!''

It seems like about a year after the Oscars was when you started to get dinged in the media.
We were these golden boys, but we could feel the urbane, sophisticated intelligentsia starting to go, ''F--- these guys! We're over them.'' And then you go, ''What did I do?'' It was Gwyneth [Paltrow] who taught me that who the press are talking about in the paper is really someone different. They don't really know you. It's an image -- a projection.

When celebrity happens that quickly, who is telling you what the hell to do?
That's the thing. Nobody. There's no guide to it. That's why you see so many train wrecks. Look at Michael Jackson. Here's a guy who, talent-wise anyway, should be a national treasure. But he seems to be nuts now. Let's face it. It's sad. I really benefited from having someone to go through it with, that I could look at and say, ''Is this insane?'' I'm also good friends with Kevin Smith [director of Affleck's upcoming ''Jersey Girl'' -- his other movie costarring She Who Must Not Be Named], and it's been helpful to have him in my life because he's good at putting things in perspective and f---ing with you endlessly. Which is nice.

Do you ever look at Matt or does he ever look at you and go, ''Hey! How the hell did he get that role?''
Yeah. Probably more me looking at his stuff. Particularly after ''Good Will Hunting,'' when Matt was the more sought-after. I would have killed to have done ''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' and ''All the Pretty Horses.'' Take ''Paycheck.'' They talked to Matt about it and he said, ''You know, I can't do another amnesia movie [after ''The Bourne Identity''], but you gotta get Ben for this.''

Let's talk ''Project Greenlight.'' Own up. You knew that your two novice directors, Kyle and Efram, were gonna screw up royally. You had to.
Absolutely not. Kyle and Efram's shorts were all really funny. It was Kyle and Efram working with other people that they weren't great at.

Is there going to be a third season?
Every year we have to beg and plead again. One of the problems is that Chris Moore, understandably, wants to be a movie producer and not a TV villain. If HBO doesn't want to do it, which is a distinct possibility, we'll have to go somewhere else. I think ''Greenlight'' is one of the things I'll be most proud of, looking back. I admire what Redford did with Sundance. The Institute has contributed in an important way to the art of making movies, and I think, in a much tinier way, ''Greenlight'' can have a legacy of opening the door a little for independent movies.


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