Ben Affleck brought his directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone,” to the Variety Screening Series on Monday night. Joining the budding helmer were “Baby” stars Casey Affleck and Amy Ryan.
The pic follows the disappearance of a little girl and the moral choices faced by the detectives throughout the investigation. It was fitting that the Boston-born actor set his directorial debut in a city that embraced its hometown hero.
“This was sort of an experiment for me so it was important to get it right. For my first time out, I just wanted to focus on the actors and the performances,” said Affleck. “I wanted to shoot real people from the neighborhood so I tried to find techniques to get people to not be self-conscious.”
Filming in Dorchester, Boston’s largest and most diverse neighborhood, Affleck set out to capture the local color onscreen. “I took a ‘Field of Dreams’ approach. I knew once we put the cameras down that people would come, and we wound up casting a lot of nonprofessional actors. But if I didn’t have actors like these two then I wouldn’t have gotten the performances out of those other people.
Like “Mystic River,” the film is based on a book by Dennis Lehane, though Affleck hopes auds will avoid comparisons.
“We’re not trying to compete with a titan of cinema like Clint Eastwood. We’re just trying to do our own thing.”
While drafting the script, which Affleck co-wrote with Aaron Stockard, the duo decided to make the main character younger in order to “put a fork in the road of his life.
“So I called the best actor I know who’s that age and from Boston, who knows that world,” Affleck said, while looking at his younger brother.
“But he wasn’t available,” joked Casey.
The film was set to premiere in the U.K. weeks ago, but its release was postponed in the wake of the Madeleine McCann kidnapping.
“Some might try to exploit that type of thing but Disney U.K. wanted to err on the side of good taste,” the director explained.
“We get so involved in these cases on television, but then we ignore the problems right in our own living rooms. Lehane actually goes much further in the book with his critique of television and its place in American society and culture. The media takes victims and revictimizes them to sell newspapers,” said the director.
Though the story ends on a hopeful note, the otherwise bleak film forces, its characters to make tough decisions about right and wrong.
“My character is stuck in a lose-lose situation. Either way, it’s not a happy ending, but I never felt like we could’ve done it any other way,” said Casey Affleck.