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Once upon a time hollywood press conf.

Santa Barbara is covering live from Santa Barbara with pictures and videos.
SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


BEN AFFLECK speaks about his life from child actor to Modern Master filmmaker.

Recently, Ben Affleck spoke in an evening long interview about his life from 8 year-old child actor to great multi-award winning 'Modern Master' at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara where he bared his soul to moderator Leonard Maltin, proving himself to be a modest and grateful multi-talent who realizes that ‘if there is a master, it’s in partnership’.


LEONARD: When you watch an excerpt from one of your films are you thinking about that day or how you felt about the other actor? Or do you assess the movie and maybe if it was rough to shoot or whether it turned out well?

BEN: I have a kind of bifurcated filmography where there’s ten or so movies that I’m totally in love with. I loved doing them. Going back to ‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Chasing Amy’, ‘Goodwill Hunting’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’. I loved doing ‘Armageddon’. You know I felt it could’ve gone heavier in ‘Armageddon’ and a little lighter on ‘Pearl Harbor’. [Laughter] You know, it’s fine it’s great. Thank you! And then the movies I directed ‘Hollywood Land’, ‘Changing Lanes’, and ‘Dogma’ and those I think "Gosh, that worked!" and then the others ones I just sort of want to turn off because you pour yourself into it, you have so much ambition. Every time you work just as hard, you’re dying to make it happen. You know, you just did ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and that was great, and now you’re doing this and nothing seems to be working. So it’s quite frustrating. You know, I called my wife right before the lights went down and I said: “I think they’re going to show some retrospectives.” And she said: “I hope they show the scene where I first met you in ‘Pearl Harbor’.” And I laughed and said: "We’ll see. Maybe some ‘Daredevil’ kung-fu." But I do look at, particularly the movies that I’ve directed, that’s where you get to see all the minutia, every frame, every detail [...] I have this funny story. Sherry Lansing who used to run Paramount was famously good at sort of manipulating the directors. When directors would go to her and say “I need more money to shoot this. It’s $2 million dollars and we need another $1.5m” and she’d say: “Honey, have you ever heard the story about the painter who used to break back into the Louvre to keep touching up his painting?” You know, that’s really brilliant because she’s calling you a master with works hanging in the Louvre and also saying “we’re not gonna spend the $1.5m”. LOL.

LEONARD: When did you get hooked on acting and how did it happen?

BEN: I was young. I was a child actor and people always ask me if I’d let my kids be actors and I respond “my kids have enough problems already.” But I was a child actor. I started when I was eight or so doing some PBS shows. It doesn’t have fans it has its followers. It was for sixth graders kind of math and science curriculum and I always imagine it as kind of those work camps where they showed it to sixth graders no matter what, like ‘Clockwork Orange’ for people strapped down. When I was 13, I met this other kid (who we will hear more from later) wanted to be an actor too so we started auditioning for stuff.

LEONARD: So give us a picture of you and Matt Damon going to NY for auditions. What kind of experience was that?

BEN: Well, it wasn’t pretty. You know, our folks let us fly down to NY from Massachusetts. I was just thinking about that the other day. I was like 14! But we were very responsible and we would go for it and we used to take the Trump shuttle and People’s Express. You could smoke from the shuttle from Boston to NY. And we would go back and forth and get auditions from our agent and spend a reasonable amount of money going there and back so we felt we had a crack at it, and we auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club and I think we read for an early version of ‘Batman and Robin’ and then that was aborted and they made a new one. And then Matt got ‘Mystic Pizza’. He only had a line in ‘Mystic Pizza’ with Julia Roberts. It wasn’t ‘Pearl Harbor’ you know. He didn’t fly anywhere, he didn’t win the 2nd World War. LOL. And so we did stuff like that and it was really nice to have a friend who was in it with you. We had the same goals and we kind of supported each other. We both wanted to get the part but if it wasn’t us we wanted it to be our friend and that really carried us through ‘Good Will Hunting’ and through time just to have somebody kind of to touch base with who you knew.

LEONARD: Is there anything you experienced back then as a kid auditioning that stays in your mind when you’re audition actors for cast?

BEN: I definitely think the best lesson you could learn as an actor is to direct because you see it from the other side and then all of a sudden it’s so clear. Like I’ve never cast anyone who didn’t know their lines. And you know, I used to go in a million times and not know my lines and just not be concentrated and focused. I remember there’s an amount of homework and focus that goes into it so when you’re a director you want to know that person is committed, they’re going to give it their all and invest my movie.

LEONARD: One thing that stays with me about ‘Gone Baby Gone’, made by someone from Boston, and you can tell, and one way you can tell is the faces you cast in the movie. The faces of the people in the bars. No Hollywood casting agent could have cast that movie.

BEN: Yeah, we had real Boston people which for casting was a priority. One thing Matt and Casey and I knew is that those people were out there and we just had to go find them. We did our extras casting in bars at 8:00 in the morning. (Laughter) “Hey, what’s going on?” That was the thing I felt most confident about. I could never try to be a Scorsese or Clint Eastwood but what I can do is be from Boston and try to add some truth to it. I really feel like part of the reason people go to movies is to be taken to a world they have no access to, whether it’s the world of 'The Avengers' or Middle Earth or bars in Boston you’re afraid to go into. And it’s very interesting because you see characters there that are just gnarly guys and you think “Holy shit! This is what 40 years of alcoholism and working with your hands forever and suffering and wasting all your money on scratch tickets looks like.” You’re telling something as a director with one close-up. So that was a huge focus for me and I thought, “If I can succeed in anything it’s here.”

LEONARD: You’ve been talking about ‘Argo’ for a long long time now. But as you move forward and you think about what you want to do next and properties you are looking for, do you think those decisions are affected by being a father of three children?

BEN: Anything I do as an artist, in the arts as a filmmaker, I consider all of it a kind of art. Believe me, the standard for art has gone way down in my house. I think that doing this kind of work does get informed by those kids, by the little paintings they do, the way they look at you and you look at them, and mostly by the way you see yourself kind of reflected off of them into the universe and the way that reflection is very changed from what it used to be in the sense of what my goals and what my desires were, the way I see things in the world. My kids see stuff about their dad on the internet and it makes it profoundly important to me to do work that has integrity and that I’m proud of. It means a great deal. I had a great time in life when I was running around and doing ‘Pearl Harbor’ and stuff and that was fun and a different era for me. And this era, this last 5-7 years is also something new and incredibly rewarding and something that has opened up a whole new door and I wish when I was 17, I would have known that this was what life was about, but maybe I wouldn’t have believed it then. I think the central challenge in our life is trying to make good people. This film, ‘Argo’ is a film I haven’t gotten tired talking about. It’s kind of eerily current. It kind of examines issues that are really the forefront of American foreign policy today because of our relationship to Iran, this sort of intractable conflict and how we got there. What is this sort of degree of oppression inside the Republic of Iran and what can we do about it? And what kind of ramifications does it have and what is the role of our foreign service folks serving us overseas?

LEONARD: The Secretary of State just cited your movie the other day talking about your movie…

BEN: You know how much that cost? LOL! I’m going to be out there handing out Hillary 16 stickers. I think producing has these challenges. In a way, it has been exciting because as a director, filmmaker, actor. As a producer you get to assess some of this holistic stuff and that has been really interesting and has been able to sustain this conversation and makes it fun whereas in the past it gets trying.

LEONARD: I have to congratulate you on being the recipient of the Golden Tomato on Rotten Tomatoes on being the highest scoring film of 2012 so.

BEN: That was really fun. I don’t know if you get a real tomato. I would like one so I could show it off.


…After a two-hour interview with Leonard Maltin, actor Matt Damon presented the award to Ben. He gave a long heartfelt speech to his best friend. He closed by saying:

MATT DAMON: Please welcome, somebody who is undeniably two things: my very old friend and a very young master.

Ben replied to his friend, award in hand:

BEN: Thank you! This is indeed a lot. I want to say thank you to Matt Damon who when he gets this award, will invite me here to give a speech about him. Mine will be a bit more of a roast because so many of the brilliant characteristics of Matt are so blatantly self-evident. Matt Damon actually is brilliant […] I know that Matt’s a genius because I’ve known him for more than 30 years. I’ve seen him do about anything you can do, including when you play sports together I even saw him in the shower, which is why that was such a nice speech because you don’t roast somebody who has seen you in the shower. LOL. But what I’ve seen about Matt is who he really is and what I’ve seen to be his entire range, his emotions, his personality, his life experience, more or less. So when I go to see a movie that Matt’s in and I see a fully realized deeply nuanced completely complicated person who not only have I never met, I’ve never even seen, not for a second, I am humbled and I am completely mobilized. I’ve talked about directors. There are a lot of things I could envy about Matt and the one thing I envied him the most is Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, the Cohen Brothers, a whole shitload of directors who are geniuses… Clint Eastwood twice, Cameron Crowe, on and on… Matt has worked with basically all the great directors who can still get up out of a chair. And the reason why is because they are great directors and they can recognize greatness and they’ve seen it in Matt and so have all of you and so has America and so has international film-going audiences and so have I. I am lucky because I saw it before all of you. So, thank you very much Matt. Now onto my ten page script remarks… I want to thank Leonard Maltin who was very kind to me. He got to remind me of some work and coworkers that Im proud of and he spared me some other stuff and then kind of made it look good. So thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here accepting this award that says: ‘Modern Master’. I certainly don’t feel like a master of anything and I don’t even feel that modern. I have like a 90’s great hits cassette tape in the car. I basically feel like a filmmaker and that’s it. I feel like a filmmaker who tries to forge on past desperation and terror to do the best job they can to try to express myself to relay that scene which to me may seem interesting and powerful and I try to produce movies that I’d ne interested in seeing. In fact, that’s the only metric that I know of while making my own work and making my won judgments and looking at the finished material and thinking “Is this something that I think has any value? Does this feel like a genuine effort?" Sort of like getting married, you have to find someone you’ll still be in love with years and years from now. And I’m lucky with both the right woman and partners over time to work with. I know that this award is really about ‘Argo’ and it’s a movie that has made an impression I guess, unlike any other movie I have ever worked on. The Iranians themselves are producing a sequel to the movie. My first successful franchise! I was really actually pretty thrilled when Grant told me that Clooney was producing. LOL. We’ll see. The truth is I got lucky producing this movie […] I worked with amazing and talented people and while it says my name next to ‘producer’ and ‘director’, in truth I actually did very little in comparison to the sum total that those artists brought to the project. The lesson I learned was partnership, empowering other people not to only do their job but expressing the full range of their skills in their job and to let them understand that nothing that’s worthwhile can be done that isn’t a collective effort. I learned that if you give them support and room, people will kill for you. The lesson I learned, the only real wisdom I have to offer is that if there is a master, it’s in partnership. Thank you!


Transcribed live by Vanessa McMahon


Ben Affleck with moderator Leonard Maltin at 28th SBIFF.

 Ben Affleck at 28th SBIFF

Ben Affleck receiving the 'Modern Master' Award on January 25th, 2013. 

Ben Affleck at 28th SBIFF Ben Affleck at 28th SBIFF

BEN AFFLECK speaks about his life from child actor to Modern Master filmmaker.


Ben Affleck at 28th SBIFF Ben Affleck at 28th SBIFF

photos by Benjamin Schwartz.



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