Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall attended a special evening in London to promote their new film, The Town which hits UK cinemas this Friday.
We were very impressed with the film, when we see a film is going to be 2 hours plus, we, as journalists often worry, but I'm pleased to say, I didn't check my watch once.
It's certainly the best heist film I've seen in a while. I think this is the Heat (1996) of the decade. I believe that Affleck is in his peek of his career, this is his greatest performance, directing, writing and acting. The film is brutal yet it also rips right at your heart.
The Town is the tale of four men, thieves, rivals and friends, being hunted through the streets of Boston by a tenacious FBI agent and a woman who might destroy them all. It's based on a book that won the 2005 Hammett Prize for excellence in crime writing.
What was it that drew you to the role Claire?
(Rebecca Hall) : I think he phoned me up and said something very flattering (laughs) but it was mainly reading a good script that was a very simple, rare combination of, a good narrative, that pulls the heart strings, is gripping and has good, complex characters, and also I was completely fascinated by the idea of how someone could pull off acting and directing at the same time. I was under the impression that no-one could do both but annoying Ben did.
Do you think the fact that Ben is an actor and a creative added any more ambiance on set?
(Rebecca Hall) : I don't think it was the fact that he's an actor that added a creative ambiance on set, I think he's just a really good director, I don't think it makes any difference that he is an actor, I think he's just a really talented director. I think the directors that are great in that environment are the one's that make actors feel at ease and relaxed and capable of producing their best work. He was very good at separating the two, being in the scene and being supported by him as an actor and then looking at the monitor with him as a director, but I think he had to be good at separating them otherwise the whole process becomes very confusing.
Were you initially hesitant to be in the movie as well as directing?
(Ben Affleck) : Well I had directed one movie before, and when i did that i felt I couldn't do both,and it would be too much work and because the task of being a director seemed really daunting the first time around. In terms as my approach as an actor being in the movie and trying to direct other actors, i didn't try and pretend that I bring huge gifts to directing but I feel very confident in saying that i love actors, i admire them and I pay close attention to them, and I understand what I would like as an actor is to have a good experience on set and to have an atmosphere where I feel comfortable taking risks, where i feel protected by the director, and given the freedom to make all kinds of choices and not feel rushed, and that's the kind of atmosphere I wanted to create for the other actors. For example with Rebecca, I'm not going to tell how to act, she knows how to do her job and she's great, it's more about just trying to foster an environment where she has the best chance at the greatest success and its the same for the other actors, so i guess that's where being an actor can help, because I understood what other actors might like.
Did you ask the advice of other actor/directors like Sean Penn and Kevin Costner?
(Ben Affleck) : Yeah I consulted about as many as would talk to me, and it was very interesting, some would say don't do it, I hate actors, but for the most part people had interesting things to say, and when you look at the giants of the industry you realize it can be done, not that I'm comparing myself to them, but at least they're examples that its possible.One older guy even said to me,think of it this way; have you never looked over at the director when he's in the directing chair and though.."well, if he can do it?!" One example of the experience of acting and directing at the same time that was consistent, was the way in which you can become very self aware as a director when it comes to your scenes as an actor, so you rush it along, and then when it comes to the editing room, and you don't have the material, but that didn't happen this time, Rebecca will tell you!
What advice do you have for budding directors and film makers?
(Ben Affleck) : When i was struggling to be an actor and a writer in the 90's, (when Rebecca was 4) one of the biggest hurdles was the cost, of the equipment, of the crew,but nowadays with all the different types of visual aids,everyone has the opportunity and all you need is a video camera and a laptop and you can make something. Try to pick your own material and you can then use that as your calling card to try an advance rather than going about it the more traditional way.
Can you talk a bit about the style that you shot the movie in, its very gritty and realistic and you said you were inspired by recent Italian film Gomorrah, a film about the Neapolitan Camorra crime gang?
(Ben Affleck) : Gamorra is a good example because it feels incredibly real. Even if the film takes place somewhere I've never been, when i watch the movie, i get the feeling that that is exactly how it probably is. I wanted to take a similar approach with this. The film stock we shot pretty traditionally, but with this it was either all about the types of close ups you see, where i was hoping you would be able to see this sort of nuanced, glandular acting on the part of the performers, so it was very intimate or else a sort of macro approach at times so you can textualize the people in their environments. I did the security camera footage so that the audience would subconsciously feel that it was more real, because I think people are so used to seeing crime and violence through that prism, black and white security shots with no sound. I didn't want to place a camera where a person wouldn't really naturally be watching, i wanted the camera in with the action, i think the way action works the best is if you are with the character.
On the subject of reality, you loaded the film with real criminals, and spoke to real criminals and police, what do you think that brought to the movie?
(Ben Affleck) : It was difficult because being ex criminals they weren't allowed to hold or use guns and we had to go to a lot of trouble to ask for exemptions on this rule and try persuade judges and probation officers that they weren't real bullets being used, so it was difficult in that respect. We also spoke to people about the crimes and robberies they commited, how they were carried out, what kind of cars they had a what there apartments were like and real stories, so we used the research to make it as real as possible because I didn't want to start making things up and telling an imaginary story about robbers.
Ben Affleck Image Gallery
Rebecca Hall Image Gallery
Casey Affleck Image Gallery
THE TOWN HITS UK CINEMAS THIS FRIDAY