Actors becoming directors is more and more common these days, as many of the festival and awards season movies of 2023 shows us – we’ve had films from Greta Gerwig, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pine, Viggo Mortensen, Anna Kendrick, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Keaton, and let’s not forget actor-director Taika Waititi. One of the most successful actors to move behind the camera is Ben Affleck, who won the Best Picture Oscar for Argo.
Ben Affleck is an unusual example, because he is a huge Hollywood star who is best-known for acting, but his two Oscars are for writing (Good Will Hunting) and for directing/producing (Argo). In terms of critical acclaim, he probably belongs more amongst the best directors than the best actors. Speaking at a SAG Foundation event discussing one of the best Ben Affleck movies Argo, in 2013, Affleck talked about what he learned about acting, from being a director.
“The best lesson I learned about acting from being a director is obviously, yes, the better the material (the script) to start with, the better you’re gonna end up with – you can’t take something that’s terrible and make it genius somehow, magically. You can screw it up, but you can’t do it the other way.”
Affleck continued; “But I noticed that there’s a tendency amongst us actors to feel like we have to come in and tell the whole story. You know, sell the whole story, direct the movie, look at me, here I am!”
Affleck concluded; “Paradoxically, the best acting is when you just lean back. The direction I would give to actors is ‘don’t do my job (as the director) for me, just do your job, relax.’ The story has such momentum just on its own, that its kind of telling itself. I found myself doing it later (as an actor), and thought to myself, ‘now I know better,’ so it was really very helpful.”
Affleck made his directorial debut with thriller movie Gone Baby Gone in 2007, before following it up with The Town in 2010. His 2023 movie Air was well-reviewed, with a 93% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Our own Air review describes Affleck as “a confident director,” and adds that “when Affleck as a director hits the mark, he can strike gold.”