LOS ANGELES — Good Will Hunting — in which they played siblings — fixed the public perception of Casey Affleck as Ben’s younger brother. Casey has since gone on to a solid career as a character actor, most prominently in the Ocean’s Eleven series, but this fall he’s broken out, playing Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Patrick Kenzie in the adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Boston-based crime thriller Gone Baby Gone (directed by none other than Big Ben). At the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, he chats about his big year, his home town, and why smoking crack in your neighbor’s house isn’t always a good idea.
“I feel like I’m a pretty good parent. Never ever would I behave in the least way like the parents do in this movie.”
How are you handling all the attention you’ve been getting? Going to your head yet?
Well, it’s definitely been a good year. I’ve had a lot of years where people didn’t like the movies I did, or didn’t even pay attention to them. This feels nice. On the other hand, you spend so much time saying, “This one isn’t as bad as they say,” to be fair, you have to also respond to good reviews with, “You’re probably not as good as they say.”
But won’t 2007 forever be the year you escaped your big brother’s shadow?
It’s only the outside world that perceives a change. I don’t know anybody who goes through their life thinking, “God, how do I get out of this shadow” — you know what I mean? I’m kind of at the center of my own universe, doing my own thing, and other people have to go, “Wow, you’re great. You’re good now. This must be like a big change.” But nothing feels different for me except that I’m in two movies that people are seeing and responding to — movies that I also like.
I felt I had to point that out since everybody’s going to be thinking it anyway. Feel like a douche for bringing it up, though.
[Laughs.] You are a douche! [Walks to his suite’s balcony.] Mind if I smoke?
Back home in Detroit, my father used to smoke with the van’s windows rolled up. My lungs can take it.
[Casey laughs, but then he starts hacking . . . which he manages to do the whole time he smokes.]
So, what’s the #1 advantage to being directed by your brother?
Then what’s common language for “you’re a dick.”
Uh . . . dick.
How many “you always do this!” Moments were there?
The truth is, actors and directors bicker. There’s conflict, because these are two people who are trying to make something together they both really care about. You’re two different people, though, so you have different ideas. Whether you just met or you’ve been brothers for 32 years, you’re going to fight. The advantage of this was that Ben and I are very comfortable fighting, and nobody’s ego is going to get hurt, you know what I mean?
That’s the advantage to working with your brother, but what’s the real advantage to making a movie in your home town?
A lot of babysitters. No, the real answer is, everything’s familiar. That helps your performance, you hope. You know how people dress. You know what the accent’s like, you know what people’s attitudes are. You walk into a scene, you know if they’ve chosen the right location, is this the kind of bar I’d be drinking at, is this the right part of town? People can sense that authenticity.
Where did you crash?
Started out staying with mom. That was a little too . . . uh, close quarters. So we rented an apartment in Cambridge.
Close quarters because you had your wife and son with you, or was it being home with mom after so long?
Yeah. You come home from work, you just want to veg out. She wants you to sit down at the dinner table and tell her about your day — which I understand and like to do, but not after 16 hours of talking.
Speaking of your family: you’re a father now, and parenting — or the lack thereof — plays a major part in Gone Baby Gone. Did you take anything away from the experience?
I feel like I’m a pretty good parent. Never ever would I behave in the least way like the parents do in this movie, so I never thought, “Oh I see, you’re not supposed to leave them at home while you do crack at your neighbor’s house.”
Finally, I have to ask: I know a few Bostonians here in Los Angeles, and their #1 complaint about this town is the lack of Dunkin’ Donuts. You miss it as much as I do?
[Laughs hard.] I think three-quarters of my days in junior and senior year, I was late because I’d go to Dunkin’ Donuts before school and sit there for an hour. You can’t get better coffee than Dunkin’ Donuts, that’s for sure.