The parallels between Ben Affleck's new film The Way Back and his real life were hard to ignore, especially during the filming. While shooting one scene where his character tied to make amends with his wife, Affleck had a "breakdown," director Gavin O'Connor revealed. In the movie, Affleck plays a former high school basketball player struggling with alcoholism, and finds a chance to redeem himself by coaching the team.
"It was probably the second take, Ben just had a breakdown. I'm getting chills thinking about it. It was like the dam broke and everything came out," O'Connor, who previously worked with Affleck on The Accountant, told The Associated Press. "I just remember the crew, everyone was frozen, watching him bear his soul. It was obviously real. A lot of things that he probably had to say in his own life, or maybe he had said, I don't know."
O'Connor said he kept the scene in the final cut, but felt some of it was too raw. "It would be too hard for an audience to watch, too personal," the Warrior director explained.
Affleck's real-life demons played out in the tabloids in 2018. That year, he went back to rehab and finalized his divorce from Jennifer Garner. The couple, who share three children, broke up in 2015, but it took three years for them to officially split. In the meantime, Garner was by Affleck's side as he struggled to get sober again.
While promoting The Way Back, Affleck has been open and honest about his struggles in interviews with Diane Sawyer and The New York Times. He told the Associated Press that making the movie helped him come to terms with his struggles.
"Sometimes just feeling those feelings again purges them a little bit and frees you a little bit," he said. "This movie was hard to make. Sometimes it was painful. And sometimes I was embarrassed. And sometimes I couldn't believe my life had any similarity to this."
Affleck knew he would be asked about the similarities between the film and his real life, but he embraced that.
"Unfortunately, I had actually lived that life and done the research. I brought a certain perverse expertise because I knew what it was like to feel in thrall to a compulsion that wasn't good for me," he said. "I knew how hopeless that can feel. And I knew how enormously frustrating it is. But I also knew something really important which is: People get better. You can get better."
Elsewhere in his latest interview, Affleck said his infamous October 2019 "slip," in which he appeared drunk on camera and the video showed up on TMZ, taught him he cannot simply think he's "fixed" and able to have a glass of wine. While he knows he has not been perfect, he said he spent most of the past thee years sober.
"It takes time to learn all the things you need to learn. And it also takes time to suffer enough until at some point there's something inside you that says, 'No mas. I give,'" he said. "What it really is, personally in me and what I've seen in others that I want for myself, is a profound sense of humility. You are not stronger than the thing you're addicted to. It is stronger than you. It will always be stronger than you."
The Way Back opens in theatres on March 6.
Photo credit: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Warner Bros