Ben Affleck on 'Argo' SAG Award Nominations, Alan Arkin and Proving Doubters Wrong
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Wednesday began with a very good wake-up call for Ben Affleck.
The actor-director received a 6 a.m. phone call from his wife, Jennifer Garner, informing him that his Iran Hostage Crisis drama, Argo, had earned two Screen Actors Guild nominations, for best ensemble cast and best supporting actor (for Alan Arkin). The film, which Affleck also stars in as CIA agent Tony Mendez, tells the true story of the unlikely rescue of six Americans stuck in hiding after the Iranian student mob overtook the U.S. Embassy in 1979. Already having grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office, the movie is considered a leading contender this awards season, with SAG a significant stop on the road to gold.
THR spoke with Affleck on Wednesday morning (after his call from Garner, of course).
The Hollywood Reporter: Congratulations on the nomination.
Ben Affleck: Thanks very much. As a SAG member, it’s really special for me to have the whole cast honored. We have more than 100 speaking parts in several languages, and everybody brought something really special. It felt like this true story had a lot of resonance, so it was just wonderful to see. We had a couple thousand extras, and I felt like they were part of the ensemble, and they really added to it with their performance at the protest scenes and others. It’s really exciting. I love actors.
THR: Where were you when you found out? Did it wake you up?
Affleck: I don’t like to get into a thing of like, call me or don’t call me, and then you wake up and you’re depressed because you didn’t get any awards. So I kind of figured I’d get up when I got up and check my e-mail and find out. And then my wife, who’s in New Orleans doing a movie, called me at like six in the morning, and was like "Congratulations!" Which is actually a nice way to hear about it, from my wife.
THR: Like you said, you’ve got such a big ensemble. What’s the secret to casting such a big group?
Affleck: Part of it is getting lucky, because with the bigger roles, I got all of the people that were my first choice, they said yes. I credit the material with drawing people in. And I don’t claim to know the secret. I had a great casting director, Lora Kennedy, and I guess the only thing I could think of is that as an actor, I’ve always paid a lot of attention to acting, and I’ve always been really interested in actors and acting and respecting them, and thought a lot about what kind of environment I’d like to have if I was on the set, if I were a director. And out of respect for actors, I try to provide them a really comfortable, relaxed environment where they can take risks. And then this ensemble I do think is wonderful, and I think it’s to their credit, not mine.
THR: Was there anyone you just had to have to make the movie happen?
Affleck: Well, Alan Arkin, who I congratulate on his nomination, it’s well deserved and he’s one of our great actors -- he was so right for that part that I felt like it would be really depressing if I didn’t get him. And we did, so that was really exciting. And John Goodman looks just like John Chambers, has the same attitude and sense of humor and physical appearance, so it couldn’t have been more perfect. And sometimes in movies you just get lucky and things fall into place. A lot of the cast, the fact that they were available and they were interested, things just sort of fell into place in that way. I was doing a story about a group where there was a huge representation of them in Los Angeles, the Iranian-American community, so I was able to really draw from a rich sample. I got fortunate in how a lot of actors were kind of inspired by this true story and the resonance of it and the irony of the fact that it’s current today in a way, because it deals with Iran and so on.