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The Other Affleck

Casey Affleck has been living in the shadow of his brother, Ben for the past 15 years. But now, his moment of glory has arrived. With two big back-to-back dramas; The Assassination of Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone, the laid-back low-profile actor is set to let the real drama begin. As 2008 looks to be a good and busy year for Affleck, FACES tracks down the new leading man and shows you that he really has it in him.

Born baby born

If you think the younger Affleck isn't as famous as his brother because he is less talented, think again. The American actor is also credited as writer, editor, producer, director, advisor and screenwriter in many films - stretching his capabilities beyond that of Ben's. Born Caleb Casey Affleck-Boldt on August 12, 1975 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the second son of Timothy Affleck and Chris Ann Boldt grew up in quite an unstable home as a child. His father worked odd jobs as a drug counselor, social worker, bartender, auto-mechanic, janitor and actor (with the Boston Theatre Company) while his mother was a school district employee and teacher.

During his childhood, the animal-loving boy had a number of pets from cats to turtles and snakes to guinea pigs. When his parents divorced and both sons were whisked away to Cambridge by his mother, it wasn't really all that bad. His mother could be credited as the one who got both her sons to take an interest in acting, although they decided to pursue their education first, for something to fall back on.

Delving into films

In 1987, Affleck made his TV debut in Lemon Sky and three years later, gained notice for his role as Bobby Kennedy in the miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts. After completing his studies at Cambridge Ringe and Latin School, Affleck moved to Los Angeles to get a career boost and landed himself in Gus van Sant's dark comedy, To Die For alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Nicole Kidman. He then attended the George Washington University but later transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he chose to live with his grandmother. The young man of Scottish-Irish descent loved diversity - majoring in physics, astronomy and Western philosophy all at one go!

"I don't think journalists have much impression of me. I haven't really done all that many interviews, partly by choice and partly because no one's been all that interested."

In 1996, Affleck was cast in Race The Sun along with Halle Berry but unfortunately, the movie was deemed a flop. He returned the following year with a small role in Chasing Amy and a notable supporting appearance in Good Will Hunting, a film with an Oscar-winning screenplay, famously written by his brother and childhood friend Matt Damon. The movie rocked the big screens so much that it literally kick-started the careers of the young talents involved. Affleck went on to star in Desert Blue, a small but successful underground film that also cast Christina Ricci and (then rising star) Kate Hudson.

Committed to being contented

Although his brother's star was rising and he was making a lot of money from movies, Affleck chose not to bank in on the success and family name. He took time off to pick his roles carefully and only took on those that would broaden his acting horizons, like character roles in independent films. He didn't care that he was far from being an A-list celebrity - as long as he's happy with his choices, he's contented with life. In 1999, Affleck appeared in 200 Cigarettes alongside Desert Blue co-stars Ricci and Hudson as well as Courtney Love and his brother Ben. The film didn't do much for his career but gained him and un-credited appearance in American Pie. He said, "I don't think journalists have much impression of me. I haven't really done all that many interviews, partly by choice and partly because no one's been all that interested."

The next couple of years were spent taking on more noticeable roles in films like Drowning Mona, Committed, Hamlet and Attention Shoppers. Even if the road to fame and success may be taking quite a while, Affleck didn't seem to mind at all. After all, he had shared the big screen with big names such as Bette Midler, Jamie Lee Curtis, Neve Campbell, Danny DeVito, Luke Wilson and Wes Bentley, among many others. Around the same time, he started dating his best friend, Joaquin Phoenix's sister, Summer.

The soul survivor reigns

In 2001 Affleck appeared in Soul Survivors and American Pie 2, and because of his many takes on small projects that add up big time, he was invited to join the star-studded cast of Ocean's Eleven and its sequels. In addition, the vegan who bears almost no resemblance to his brother worked up a new link to his name by teaming up with Matt Damon to write the film Gerry in 2002. The movie gave him public interest and more began to take notice of what's coming up next. Along with his rising factor, he was invited as guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Entertainment Tonight. On 31 May, 2004, Affleck and (then) fiancée Summer became the proud parents of a son, Indiana August.

That same year, Affleck appeared in Ocean's Twelve with the big shots once again, and thereafter he starred in Lonesome Jim and The Last Kiss. Maybe a lot of his movies don't ring a bell, but Affleck's consistency and notability in the film industry has much to be credited for, and he's also got his family's support should all else fail. He said, "My family would be supportive even if I said I wanted to be a Martian, wear only banana skin, make love to ashtrays and eat tree bark. My mom has a good way of engaging me in conversation about the choices I make, listening...being objective and open minded, and respecting those choices so long as they don't put me in danger."

Finally, he's arrived

Affleck tied the knot to his long-time sweetheart in June 2006 before completing his three mega movies, all scheduled for release last year. Ocean's Thirteen, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Gone Baby Gone would ultimately give him the thumbs up for any film now. 2007 was indeed a year of sweet turnings for Affleck. In line with the releases of his movies, he quickly garnered Golden Globe, Oscar and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Supporting Actor and has even won a few other film awards for his portrayal as Robert Ford.

In his brother's directorial debut in Gone Baby Gone, Affleck appeared as the main protagonist, Patrick Kenzie, a private eye with close eyes to the mean streets of Boston. His professionalism and success in bringing his on-screen character to life brought his brother to say, "He's not afraid to do it. He isn't self-conscious and he really is one of those actors who would make you look good. Even if you're tangling around a little, he wants to work it with you. He's not just a soldier you march forward with (like the best actors are), but when you point the camera at him, he just makes your movie better."

Read on for an interview with Casey Affleck provided exclusively to FACES courtesy of Buena Vista Colombia Tristar Films.

Unlike some of his more camera-ready peers, Casey might well be the world's most ill-suited celebrity. There's a notable lack of enthusiasm when he's asked to dissect his characters. He'd rather offer food and drink and talk about life in New York or favourite movie endings than talk up his films. Yet that laid-back exterior belies a fierce and focused dedication to his job.

You played the creepy hanger-on in Jesse James who idolized Brad Pitt's outlaw, only to stab him in the back after James mocks him. Was it a breeze going through the audition?

No way, I fought hard for the part. It's a coveted role. A complicated, tough role. I had to audition repeatedly and there were some outstanding competitors such as Shia LaBeouf.

How do you select your films? Any specific criteria?

I'm pretty picky, but I don't do smaller stuff because I like smaller stuff. I do something I like, wait for something else I like. Sometimes that meant two years, I'll be broke and I have to take the best of what's available. More often than not, it gets to the end of the line and I don't find anything I love and I have to do A, B or C. And I hate doing it.

How does it feel doing Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone?

Clearly good. When I read Jesse James, I was heartbroken by the end. You don't even realise how mean everyone was to him. I loved that he carried himself with such dignity. He still keeps going. With Gone Baby Gone, the overall message definitely spoke to me since I'm a soon-to-be father of two. This tenacious Patrick hunts for a missing child and he has to make a wrenching decision that changes his life. Children aren't looked after in this country. We really let them down. There needs to be a lot more caretaking.

How is Gone Baby Gone special to you?

Aside from the message it delivers, its definitely got to be Ben writing and directing it. Also, the film is shot in Boston, where we grew up. We know the place inside out, neighbourhoods and all. It's like taking a walk down memory lane together.

With Ben directing it, weren't you worried it might affect your relationship with him since he is family when things get tensed up on set?

I decided it was a good match, and not because we agreed on anything. I felt there was something in there for me to do, and we could disagree comfortably and didn't hit a wall. And that was the biggest asset to the movie and our working relationship.

So how do you both deal with disagreements on set?

We had a shorthand. When we didn't agree, there was no pressure. We talked about it. There was a level of communication that made it easy. Ben would say, "Do this thing like Mr. So-and-So" and I would understand what it meant. It feels like anything else we were doing, like picking a restaurant and we both have different dietary habits.

Yes, I remember now that you''re a vegan.

I've cut dairy from my diet 10 years ago because I didn't like how I felt after consuming it, and I eventually cut all other animal products. I miss egg and cheese but the more you're willing to look into it, the easier it is to put down. It sometimes can be hard when you're traveling. Ben's no vegan though.

Your wife must have a large selection of recipes for vegan food. Do you cook at all?

*Laughs* I'm the household chef who can just do it all. I can put something together. Summer, my wife doesn't know [how] lucky she is.

You're a relatively low profile person. Does it bother you that paparazzi will be chasing you around now that your popularity has increased?

No, I lead a generally quiet life and I can't quite imagine that'll change. My family isn't pursued by paparazzi nearly to the degree of my famous family members and colleague. I'm not the person they'll follow around to get a picture.

What else has changed from making these two recent films?
Definitely my career choices. I'm being even more selective! I don't ever want to do a movie I really don't like. I don't want to go into something knowing that the script sucks, that the part is clichéd and that the director doesn't have insights into human behaviour. I don't ever want to do that again. It's humiliating.

( Republished with permission from FACES. To check out more reviews and event updates, visit www.faces.com.my )

MySinchew 2008.04.03



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