Ben Affleck is still on the combined promotional trail for The Tender Bar and campaign trail for that movie and/or The Last Duel, neither of which have serious hopes of major awards nominations. He follows his LA Times interview with a new Entertainment Weekly cover story, with an interview conducted by his friend and Last Duel co-star, Matt Damon. There’s plenty of friendly teasing, including ganging up on their mutual friend George Clooney (Affleck: “Tequila and coffee, that’s no joke.” Damon: “He’s got you in the morning and in the night.”). There’s some discussion of Affleck’s most famous bomb, Gigli, a movie about which he continues to be gracious even while acknowledging that it’s bad, and Armageddon, a movie he will never rip harder than he did on the DVD commentary track.
What sticks out most to me isn’t the talking around Jennifer Lopez, or Affleck once again mentioning Justice League as an (obvious) low moment in his career, it’s the way these two actors and filmmakers, who have been working since the 1990s and the days when adult-oriented dramas could be blockbusters, talk about streaming. The Last Duel, their adult-oriented drama released last year, bombed at the box office. And while, of course, the pandemic is part of that, but they actually discuss if the audience shift to home viewing is permanent. Damon notes that Duel is finding its audience on demand, and Affleck says, “…to see that it did well on streaming, I thought, ‘Well, there you go. That’s where the audience is.’” He also says, “I think movies in theaters are going to become more expensive, event-ized. […] And there'll be 40 movies a year theatrically, probably, all IP, sequel, animated.”
You know who would have a good handle on the state of movies and theaters? Ben Affleck. He’s been a Movie Star, he’s currently in a character actor phase, he’s starred in blockbusters, he’s made critically acclaimed dramas that have also been popular hits, he’s made bad movies that have bombed and good movies that have bombed. He’s been on every side of the equation, and seen all the ups and downs, and he’s calling it—movie theaters will exhibit a smaller crop of bigger movies. Everything else will be on streaming. He doesn’t even seem that bummed about the prospect, just practical, like, “go where the audience is”. He notes that Argo would probably be a limited series for streaming if made today.
I am liking this fourth-or-whatever comeback version of Ben Affleck. He seems affable. He seems settled. He seems like he’s got a good handle on the lows, professionally and personally. He got through an interview without saying anything about Jennifer Garner he’s going to have to explain later. I enjoy Matt Damon and Ben Affleck ganging up on George Clooney, and I sort of wonder where Brad Pitt stands in all of this now. That’s really the only thing missing from this very friendly chat sesh—the gossip. They’d NEVER do it, but wouldn’t you LOVE to hear the sh-t Matt Damon and Ben Affleck talk off the record?