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Paycheck (2003)

Remember the future.

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Old Jul 8, 2006, 06:31 PM   #1
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1,988 flights since Dec 2002
Location: Planet Earth
Paycheck: Interviews

Ben Affleck

By Thomas Chau in New York City

Ben Affleck has had an interesting year so far, both professionally and personally. While it started with innocent tabloid pictures and articles about his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, it later became a circus frenzy with rumors of a breakup and their critically-bashed megabomb, “Gigli.” Still, though, he proves that he has the megastar power with the success of “Daredevil” back in February. He also proves that he still finds himself taking risks by being involved in the filmmaking process with the second “Project Greenlight” series to which he produced.

Now, he’s ending the year with an explosive bang, where Affleck is teaming up with director John Woo and Uma Thurman for “Paycheck.” The movie, a sci-fi action movie based on the story by Philip K. ****, is being released on Christmas Day. Affleck plays Michael Jennings, a man who is hired by businesses to develop high tech items and gadgets, and then has his memory erased in order to protect the patent of whatever product he developed. When an old friend, played by Aaron Eckhart, asks Jennings to dedicate three years of his life to a top secret project, he agrees. But when he wakes up, he finds nothing is the same, and that the only clues that can reveal anything about the past three years are 19 mysterious items that he sent himself.

The better half of "Bennifer," with a good sense of humor for the press, was in New York City for a press conference and below is what he had to tell us about “Paycheck,” as well as a lot of things going on with his life.

Q: So Ben, what kind of frame of mind do you have to be in, in order to put yourself in a sci-fi action role?

BEN: Yeah, that was a stretch. You know, I fool around with computers a lot, mostly breaking them instead of fixing them. I know a little bit about that but most of this guy was a guy who was trying to discover himself and didn’t remember three years of life. I used to drink a bit, so I know what it’s like. It was mostly about trying to find things I could identify with about this guy and there were some things, in terms of making trade-offs with his work and being very focused on that. Still, like any science-fiction feature movie, it requires a lot of imagination as well.

Q: What about this film was different for you?

BEN: For one thing, John Woo was directing in which, for my money, is close to a guarantee as you can get that it’s going to be elevated. Also, the fact that it was based on a short story by Philip K. **** who’s an extremely smart, compelling writer who also, I think, kind of transcended the science-fiction genre in his previous work. “Total Recall,” “Blade Runner,” and “Minority Report” – all of which have been more substantive, intelligent, thoughtful movies rather than just simply show a lot of visual hysterics. In that sense, it’s smarter and the logic holds up and I think people will be surprised and say, “This will be an interesting, provocative story.” It’s a tricky thing with expectations of movies. When it’s too high, they’re almost doomed. But there’s a nice thing about exceeding expectations that tend to work well for movies. I hope that will happen with this one. I feel very good about it.

Q: You said that this was an interesting, provocative movie. In your own words, how would you describe that?

BEN: Well I think it’s provocative in the sense that it asks thought provoking questions. What is the nature of existence, for example? Are we just the sum of a collection of memories? Or is the whole greater sum of the parts a sense that we have a soul? Why do we want to know the future so badly? Throughout history and memory cultures, whether it’s palm reading or tarot cards or tea leaves or the Psychic Friends Network, we’re constantly trying to divine our own future. It asks the question, “Is that a good thing for us?” Does it mean that we’re trying to calm our own lives or does it mean that we’re not enjoying our lives as they happen? All of which I think are interesting and provocative questions that don’t get asked in your typical Hollywood thriller.

Q: Talk about working with John Woo and your expectations.

BEN: One of the things that I expected about John Woo would be that he would be this kind of a macho, shoot ‘em up, aggressive, testosterone-fueled guy because his movies were so high-octane.

Do people use that quote about movies all the time? Does anybody really know what octane is? It’s like some additive that prevents pinging due to excessive lead.

Anyway, actually he’s the sweetest, gentlest, quiet man. A man of few words. A man of enormous kindness and empathy. I heard he’s never even shot a gun himself. I realized that he sees movies as a choreography of a dance. A relationship between the performers and the camera. The movement is always synchronized to a particular response to an audience that he’s trying to get, be it suspense or suggest love or make the audience feel sorrow. It’s all elaborately designed and quite graceful. It was a real education and for somebody who would like to be a director, I learned an enormous amount from John.

Q: How about working with Uma Thurman?

BEN: No complaints there! There’s nothing like waking up after three years and discovering that you have no memory of your life, then finding out that Uma Thurman’s your girlfriend? It’s started off well!

She’s my age and she’s been successful and working for quite a bit longer than I have. The way conducts herself is exemplary as a pro. She’s on time, she never complains. She always asks questions but it’s always focused on making the movie better. It’s never about the subtext of “I’m insecure, I want attention so I want to create drama.” She’s an exceptional actress and obviously of great beauty. You hate her yet?

And…I got to ask her about “Kill Bill.” Like what her real name is in “Kill Bill,” what happens in the second one, and why they beeped it out. Of course, I can’t divulge any of that to you.

UGO: So what are your own views about the future? Do you believe there is such a thing about a predetermined future?

BEN: No I think we have free will. I think we’re able to choose and make our own fates. I think it has something to do with karma, and something to do with God, and something to do with us and the choices we make. I’m glad we have, both in us, the choice to do well and the choice to do things poorly.

UGO: So if you could look into a crystal ball and your own future, would you choose to do it?

BEN: I do know that I wouldn’t want to see the future if I could because I would just obsess all the bad things that would happen to me and probably lose the appreciation for the good things [because] I would know about them already.

Q: If you could erase from your memory a certain chunk of time, what would that time be for you?

BEN: I, since I was young, have had a lot of experiences that were certainly trying for me. I don’t think I would want to erase any of it because ultimately, I think it makes me who I am. I think for other people, it makes them who they are. I know I’ve been through a lot, even this last year, which was marked by a lot of tabloid hysteria and a lot of entertainment press overexposure. I wouldn’t want to forget [it] because it provided me with a pretty unique perspective on culture, media, and the world which is valuable, because it’s a part of who I am. Just because things are a little bit unpleasant doesn’t mean you should necessarily have to forget it.

Q: Was your character’s love for the Red Sox in the original script?

BEN: In the original script, my character loves the Mets. (Laughs) I couldn’t abide that personally and I made the argument to John that I also thought [the Red Sox] worked better in a movie about the future and erasing painful memories. The only teams that really make that joke work are the Cubs and the Red Sox and I’m biased. (Laughs)

Q: What’s the status of “Project Greenlight 3”?

BEN: It’s going to Bravo. I don’t know if there’s a press announcement yet but it should basically be there. We locked in some really great sponsors, including Hewitt Packard, and we’re talking to some more. Bravo’s really aggressive in trying to do it and they really get the spirit. We’re going to make some changes to the contest this year. This year, it’s going to be more like the Hollywood Greenlight. With “Greenlight,” I think what we’ve kind of shown is how people have made the true process of making an independent movie. We’re going to show what it’s like how to make a movie in the studio system this year. So it’ll have different demands and constraints on the filmmakers. Chris [Bender] didn’t want to do it this year so we need a new bad guy. So we figured the movie studio is a good bad guy. The movie studios are the ones who are saying “You have to do this, you have to have these commercial constraints. You can’t play this. No, this joke is too smart.” [These are] all the things that you get from studios who think that dumbing a movie down appeals to a mass audience. There’s a lot of stuff that we haven’t worked out but it’s really exciting and something that matters a lot to Matt [Damon,] me, and Chris. Who knows? Maybe people will go to this movie this year. (Laughter) Everyone always asks about “Greenlight” but did you guys buy any g*ddamn tickets for the movie when it came out? (Laughter)

Q: We have to ask the question about “the wedding”…

BEN: It’s legal now in Massachusetts. Matt and I have set a date and we’re getting married on New Years Day! I like to call it a commitment ceremony. It’s non traditional. I’m not sure what side of the aisle I’m going to be on but I tell you what, when you find out, it’ll tell you something about my intimate life. (Laughs)

Other than that, I’ve discovered - one of the many lessons I’ve learned in this year of being exposed to the press more than I have in the past – that it’s a story that’s big enough on it’s own and doesn’t need my help. It’s not something I’m going to talk about too much because I would like it to sort of die down a little bit.

Q: Are you still officially engaged or what?

BEN: We’re still together and I’m ... I'm officially not going to tell you anymore. (Laughs) That is my official answer. I feel like the Pentagon. (in a deep voice) That’s national security. It’ll happen at an undisclosed location.

Q: Since “Good Will Hunting,” has it been difficult to find a project that has as much honesty in the script now that you’ve had a string of successful blockbuster pictures?

BEN: That’s a very interesting question and a very astute one. What happens a lot of times is that people get in a situation where they do movies in a certain way and then they get to some level and they’re afraid to go down. They’re afraid to take risks outside of that genre because then, they would have lost what they have achieved by taking risks. Something I’ve really tried consciously to do is to do different kinds of movies, [like] Hollywood movies, which I like, and are fun action thrillers, and stuff like that, but to vary those with movies that are risky. Some of those movies have worked, in my opinion, like “Changing Lanes” or “Jersey Girl,” and some haven’t, like “Gigli.” One of the things that I liked about the train wreck of “Gigli” was that it was evident to me that I was still taking risks. I was still trying to do those things. But in terms of honesty, I think what you’re talking about his material and I just haven’t found a writer with a screenplay that’s as good as “Good Will Hunting.” That’s a joke! Write that down! “Affleck’s an *******.”

Q: You’ve had a good sense of humor about “Gigli” and we’re coming up on the Razzies…

BEN: Which I’m sure we’ll sweep! (Laughs) Can we bet on that? I hope they send me a real trophy. I hope they just don’t give me a piece of tin to put up on my mantle.

UGO: Being that you’ve been in two sci-fi/fantasy movies this year, if you could have one superhero power, what would you choose and why?

BEN: Well, sometimes I think invisibility wouldn’t be that bad. I used to get asked that question and I always picked flying. And now, well, I’m thinking there may be something to this invisibility thing.

But I watched “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” on pay-per-view last night and it occurred to me that the guy had to be naked all the time in order to be invisible, which I think is a health hazard, as well as probably inconvenient and cold.

Spider-Man has cool powers because they’re kind of subtle but I think you have to opt for the Superman thing. You never want to be like Batman cause he had no powers. All he had was a suit and gadgets.
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