During Deadline’s Contenders movie panel for Warner Bros’ The way back, Ben Affleck spoke about how close the role of alcoholic basketball coach Jack Cunningham was to his own life.
“I knew myself as a recovering alcoholic that people would draw a conclusion about the similarities to my life and the movie, so I didn’t want the movie to be fake,” he says. “There are millions and millions of people who struggle with compulsive behaviors and addictions, so you have some responsibility. You have to do it in a genuine way, because these are important issues in the lives of many people.
Yet this film is not remotely the story of Ben Affleck. This is a former high school basketball star whose life and marriage implode after the loss of a child who finds himself slipping into alcoholism and finally tries to find redemption as coach. There aren’t easy answers, but it allowed for the kind of role that doesn’t often come from the big studios anymore, and the star couldn’t resist.
“It’s my taste,” Affleck says. “I grew up realizing the great cinema of the 70s. Most of them were character dramas and the studios were making them then. They don’t do them as much anymore. This is what excites me and interests me most as a filmmaker, writer and actor.
He adds that he loved the script and thought he could trust director Gavin O’Connor, with whom he had worked before. Accountant. “It gave me the opportunity to explore a very wide range of experiences and emotions,” says Affleck. “The character went through a tragedy. It’s a movie about getting back to the things that are really hard, those things in our lives and how you deal with them.
Check back for the panel video.