Some or many would assume, seeing those two names, that they’d be featured in Variety’s Actors on Actors series. Not this time, not this year. This year the two were paired for the Directors on Directors series and it makes perfect sense.
Ben Affleck directed himself in Air and Michael B Jordan directed himself in Creed III and both films came out in 2023 and also? It turns out that they are friends. This, I don’t think, was widely known before their interview was posted yesterday. But as MBJ shares off the top, Ben reached out to him years ago after seeing him in Fruitvale. He was a fan, he could see that MBJ’s career was about to pop off, and he called to offer his support and, if MBJ ever needed it, his advice, because he knew that MBJ’s life would change profoundly; having been through it himself, Ben let MBJ know that he could be a resource for him any time. And they kept in touch from there.
It’s a good conversation. There’s a lot of mutual respect and curiosity. Ben is a talker – as we have discussed in the past, he can talk for hours, he will not shut up. But not necessarily just about himself. He loves directing so you can tell how much he’s enjoying talking to MBJ about his directorial experience to the point where the two get pretty nerdy about. Which is great for those of us who are nerdy about people showing their work. For example, when you’re directing a film in which you also star, how much “coverage” do you give yourself? Ben tells MBJ that one of the best pieces of advice he’s been given by other actor-directors is not to shortchange your own performance. Because some directors might be tempted to put more energy into the other actors, to be a “hero” and not come across like you’re just trying to put yourself onscreen as much as possible – but that can create the opposite imbalance that doesn’t serve the story.
I also love what Michael says about how a big part of directing is just understanding people and their love languages – which is actually true of any leader! In his case, for his first feature film, it’s not just about where you decide to put the camera and how you want to light a scene, it’s also about establishing excellent communication channels with all the talent on production, and not just those in front of the camera. And communication is fluid, it is different for everyone. He learned on Creed III that his camera operator required fewer words than someone else on set – and as a director it’s his job to know how best to communicate with your team to get the best work out of them.
Ben says it took him longer to figure out that skill and it goes back to how much admiration he has for MBJ, to have taken on this responsibility, and succeed, so early on compared to what his path looked like. And there’s an extra responsibility that Ben acknowledges that he didn’t even to carry – which is representation. For Michael B Jordan to direct a movie and run his production company, it’s a symbol for a lot of people in his community and more space that he’s creating for people in his community. Ben very rightly recognises that this is not his reality. And, by the way, this is when he finds a way to bring his wife into the conversation.
“I find this job incredibly difficult, and I never once have to think about, “Who else am I bringing with me?” I see it with my wife. People see me, they go, “I like that movie. You’re an actor.” But when they approach her, it’s like, “You mean something. I haven’t seen somebody like me, or from where I’m from, doing what you do.” That’s not a part of my experience. It’s beautiful the way you convey it.”
So he’s not just a mentor in this conversation but also an observer, a witness to a process, and a willing one. This is a glimpse of who Ben Affleck is among his peers – we know him as a celebrity, obviously, but as we have always reported here at LaineyGossip, there is a disconnect between how Ben is perceived as a star and how he’s regarded in the industry. There’s a lot of goodwill for him in the industry, across multiple segments. And that’s one of the reasons why his film, Air, has actually been included in some of the nominations. Ben has been campaigning behind the scenes. This appearance in Variety is also considered campaign work. He already has Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations. Very interested to see if there will be more.