Ben Affleck recently went on a press tour to promote his new movie, The Way Back, but according to the film's director Gavin O'Connor, the movie almost didn't get made. O'Connor told 34th Street magazine in an interview published this week that Affleck relapsed just as filming began, but some intervention from Affleck's ex-wife helped the project continue.
"Just as we started prepping the movie, Ben fell off the wagon," O'Connor recalled. "So he ended up going to rehab, and I didn't know if the movie was over. The studio certainly thought the movie was over. His ex-wife Jennifer Garner called me up, and told me that when he went to rehab, he took a basketball with him. She said, 'Gavin, he's asking you, please don't pull the plug on the movie, he really wants to do this.'"
"He had about a week of detoxing, because he really went off the deep end, and after a week, I was able to go see him," the director continued. "We spent half a day together and figured out a way to do this that will work for him, because most importantly he needed to recover and needed to get his sobriety on track. That overtook everything. And then he got out the day before we started shooting. So we had a very raw, vulnerable guy showing up for our first day of shooting."
The Way Back stars Affleck as a former high school basketball champion who is estranged from his wife and is becoming an alcoholic when is offered a coaching position at his old high school.
"Obviously the character is dealing with his disease and Ben was struggling with the same disease," Oconnor said. "This was gonna become art–imitating–life, life–imitating–art. All these blurred lines, it was very delicate, so I needed to really just trust that Ben was gonna be willing to go there. Once he was willing to assure me that he was gonna be brave enough to do that, then we decided to go on the journey together."
The director explained that some scenes were "painful" for Affleck to shoot but were ultimately beneficial to the film.
"It's almost a counter–intuitive thing with acting, because he's doing scenes that were obviously painful," he said. "Really intense and dark and bleak and suffering. And capturing that, to watch him do that was hard at times, but it also was euphoric, because that's your job as an actor, is to access these emotions and to go to places that are honest and deep and truthful. So, it always felt really good, even though it was painful, because he was doing his job really well."
Photo Credit: Getty / Taylor Hill