Some of the best-loved George Clooney movies are in the Oceans franchise, where he collaborated with Matt Damon. But it’s less well-known that he also recently worked with Matt’s best buddy, Ben Affleck – on the low-budget independent drama The Tender Bar. Affleck was so drawn to the role of a bartender who helps raise his nephew that he sent a long email to Clooney, begging for the part.
When Ben Affleck found out that his fellow actor-turned-director George Clooney was making drama movie The Tender Bar (based on a popular book), he begged him for the role of Uncle Charlie. While it may have slipped under-the-radar, it’s actually one of the best Amazon Prime movies of recent years.
“He wrote me a three-page email about everything he knew about this character. I think there are parts of his father that he related to in it. It just felt like Ben really wanted to do this and was ready to do it. And he really showed up – the first guy on the set; he knew everybody’s lines. He’s a consummate pro,” Clooney told Matt Damon in a 2021 interview.
In a separate interview with EW, Clooney reiterated that Affleck wanted the role so badly he agreed to do it for basically no money; “he sent, like, a two-page email that went on forever about why he’s exactly the right guy and how he’s going to kick ass and he’ll do it for nothing.”
The Tender Bar is based on JR Moehringer’s memoir about growing up on Long Island with an absent father. His mother’s brother Charlie (played by Affleck) takes on the role of a father-figure to his nephew. Daniel Ranieri plays JR as a young boy, and Tye Sheridan plays him as a teenager, with the story spanning 1973-1986.
The reason Affleck wanted the role so badly was the personal connection he felt to the character; “There were a lot of similarities for me personally with this movie. My dad worked at a couple of bars…My parents were divorced, so my brother and I, we’d often go see my dad at his work like many people do. Parents work, so I spent a lot of time being close to my dad at the bars,” he said at the movie’s premiere (via Vanity Fair). Clooney also had a personal connection to the movie, as he “lived above a bar exactly like the one in the movie with my Uncle George” during the summers.
Affleck was in the fortunate position to be able to take the role in the passion project for almost no money, as he’s already made his fortune from starring in bigger budget Hollywood studio movies. Both Affleck and Clooney have discussed in interviews how you have to go to streaming services to get low or mid-budget drama movies made these days, while the studios focus on established IP and franchises.
Ben Affleck recently made the sports movie Air, which, like The Tender Bar, is an Amazon Original movie and saw him directing his old friend Matt Damon for the first time. George Clooney’s next directing project is also a sports movie, The Boys in the Boat – which will be getting a theatrical release on December 25, 2023 – it will be interesting to see how it fares at the box office.