What did Ben Affleck have to say about his Best Picture win for “Argo” at last night’s Oscars? Here’s a bit of the backstage interview with reporters that included his thoughts, as well as those of his co-producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney.
Ben, obviously you put a lot of work in the film as you were making it, but then after it’s taken on this life of its own in your story, it’s been so tied to your personal journey. Did you think that was something that was going to come out of making this film, this sort of redemptive comeback story that’s been part of the narrative here?
(Ben Affleck) I was excited about making the movie. These guys had a script, I really liked it, I called them up and said, will you put me on the movie? I wanted to do the movie and I wanted to work with them. That’s what I thought would happen … I did the movie, we all worked really hard, and I hoped that people would like it. I didn’t think it had a more meta approach to it than that. I was excited to make it and excited to work with these guys and the cast we had, and I was willing to let the chips kind of fall where they may, as long as we thought we did something we were interested in.
Obviously at certain points we thought that other films might win this. Could you describe when exactly you felt a tipping point in your favor?
(George Clooney) Michelle Obama.
(Grant Heslov) Tonight.
(Ben Affleck) When they gave us the trophies I was confident that we would win.
(George Clooney) I’m completely confident.
(Ben Affleck) I didn’t second guess, is this a prank?
(George Clooney) He did look at the envelope.
(Grant Heslov) Even as I was giving the speech, I didn’t think we could win.
(Ben Affleck) Once Grant let me talk, I felt good. I didn’t get too much into the Oscarology and the pontificating. And the guys who do that stuff and report on it, which is great, and people like it and they’re interested in it. And I hope people are interested in the Oscars because it helps our industry and helps make better films, but it doesn’t help me to read up on that stuff. So I was thrilled for Billy, I was thrilled for Chris, and when it came along, I was thrilled for these two guys.
I’m from the American Foreign Service Association in Washington. Your movie and also the comments you’ve made and all of the awards ceremonies has really raised the image and the profile of the Foreign Service, something that we don’t get very often. We don’t get much play. But I would like to invite you, all three of you to the plaque ceremony that we have in the Department of State on May 3 where we honor fallen Foreign Service officers.
(Ben Affleck) I don’t know that we can come, but we do have, all of us, a tremendous respect for what the Foreign Service sacrifices and goes through and that we, I think, gained further appreciation for as we shot the movie and visited the State Department. I know Secretary Clinton a little bit and Secretary Kerry a little bit better … I’ve really picked up an appreciation for what the State Department does, what our Foreign Service does, what they sacrifice.
How cool was it to have the First Lady announce that you had just won an Oscar?
(Ben Affleck) I was sort of hallucinating when that was happening. In the course of hallucination, it doesn’t seem that odd when some other oh, look, a purple elephant, you know, Michelle Obama … But it’s natural because the whole thing is so unnatural.
Honestly, I was just asking these two guys outside, was that Michelle Obama? The whole thing kind of alarmed me at the time, but in retrospect, the fact that it was the First Lady was an enormous honor and the fact that she surrounded herself by service men and women was special and I thought appropriate. Anyway, it was very cool.
(Grant Heslov) And I’m a big fan of the bangs.
Congratulations, gentlemen. Ben, throughout the awards season you’ve been very humble about what we feel…
(Ben Affleck) Yeah, forget that. No more humility.
Being left off the Best Director docket … how has that changed with all of the recognition that you’ve received and where are you with that now?
(Grant Heslov) I wasn’t aware you were left off. Were you left off?
(Ben Affleck) I didn’t get nominated as a director. Grant, you didn’t…
(George Clooney) I wasn’t nominated as an actor in a movie.
(Ben Affleck) No shit. That’s a crime, folks. Honestly, you know how I feel about that? Naturally, I was disappointed, and a lot of people said, this is something that’s going to happen. But when I look at the directors who weren’t nominated as well, Paul Thomas Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow, just amazing, Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino … these are all directors who I admire enormously. So, it was a very tough year.
(George Clooney) You were in good company not to be nominated.
(Ben Affleck) Exactly. I was on the bench.
(Grant Heslov) You’re glad you weren’t nominated.
(Ben Affleck) You know what, you’re not entitled to anything. I’m honored to be here. I’m honored to be among these extraordinary movies, and I’m really, really honored to win an Academy Award. So this is not something I’ve spent a lot of time second guessing or worried about it.
Any reflection, at this point, about making films about true life events? In your movies, you played a cameo of President Carter and the politics that was involved there, yet the film drew a little bit of flack for some of its treatments of New Zealanders and blending characters and the run down the runway at the end. Do you have any thoughts about how to approach these things now?
(Ben Affleck) Let me start by saying I love New Zealand and I love New Zealanders. And I’m tempted to end there. I think that it’s tricky … you walk a fine line. You do a historical movie, and naturally, you have to make some creative choices about how you’re going to condense it into a three act structure. It’s not an easy thing to do. You try to honor the truth of the essence, the sort of basic truth of the story that you’re telling.
You know, I’m really proud of the movie. I’m proud of the people that worked on the movie, the story that we were telling was true and that we told was true. It’s not an easy thing, but it’s, I think, constructed as well as it could possibly be. But the complete credit goes to Chris Terrio rather than me.
Ben Affleck’s Onstage Acceptance Speech:
Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much. I know eventually that thing is going to start quickly so please forgive me if this is a little bit quick. I want to acknowledge Steven Spielberg, who I feel is a genius and a towering talent among us.
I want to acknowledge the other eight films, there are eight great films, who have as much right to be up here as we do. I want to acknowledge them for what they did and thank them and many of them who didn’t even get nominated this year. I want to thank Jack McNiece, Jerry Speck, Marty Brest and my brother and my mom and dad and Patrick Whitesell and Tony Mendez, who let us do his story. Thank you.
Thank you to everyone in the movie, on the movie, who worked on the movie, did anything with this movie. I want to thank Canada. I want to thank our friends in Iran living in terrible circumstances right now.
I want to thank my wife who I don’t usually associate with Iran. I want to thank you for working on our marriage for ten Christmases. It’s good. It is work but it’s the best kind of work and there’s no one I’d rather work with on it.
And I’d just like to say, I was here 15 years ago or something and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all and really I was just a kid. I went out and I never thought I would be back here. And I am, because of so many of you who are here tonight, because of this Academy, because of so many wonderful people who extended themselves to me when they had nothing to benefit from it in Hollywood.
You know what I mean, I couldn’t get them a job. I want to thank them and I want to thank what they taught me, which is that you have to work harder than you think you possibly can. You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard but you can’t hold grudges.
And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up. Violet, Sam and Sera, this is for you.