I’m an unabashed Ben Affleck fan. These days, I’m certainly not the only one. But there was a time at the beginning of this decade when he was a punchline, tabloid fodder, and his movies were critical and commercial bombs. I’m a loyal fan. I defended him then to many. Luckily it was just a minor blip. This weekend, the second film Ben directed “The Town” was greeted with rave reviews and the bonus: it looks like a hit. It’s expected to debut at #1 with 25 million.
From the time in ’97 that I saw his performance in Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy”, followed by his co-writing debut with buddy Matt for “Good Will Hunting” that would win an Oscar for both of them, I (and many others) thought he was a real talent. We were about the same age and in addition to being talented, Ben seemed like “good people”. Well, Ben and Matt both did. After their big break, they were the hottest items in Hollywood. True to form they wanted to give others the same kind of break they got and launched “Project Greenlight” on HBO. The winner would get to direct a film and they gave 3 aspiring filmmakers that shot. That was Ben’s first foray into TV. In addition to his altruistic ambitions, It was good TV.
(Technically speaking Ben’s first foray into TV was acting in an early 90s NBC series called “Against The Grain” but I’m focusing on his producing here and these TV productions were after he was a “Movie star”)
What impresses me about Ben goes beyond his talent. Ben has used his celebrity for good. He’s quite intelligent and anyone that sees him on Bill Maher or in his appearances at the Democratic convention can see he knows his stuff. I also think he has a very healthy sense of humor about himself. I remember 3 days after “Gigli” opened and bombed at the box office, Ben appeared on Leno (a booking that probably happened many weeks before). Many stars would have cancelled that appearance, but Ben showed up and actually read all his bad reviews and laughed about them. Who does that? Uh, no one.
Back to his TV career: His second foray was a reality show he and Matt sold to ABC called “The Runner” which even years later sounds like an original idea. After 9/11, the project was deemed to difficult to pull off and was scrapped.
In 2002 Ben produced and created “Push Nevada” a primetime series for ABC in the vein of “Twin Peaks” but with an added twist: There’d be clues to solve a mystery and the winner would receive a million dollars. Ben co wrote the pilot. But Ben also proved what a smart producer he was by creating a distinctive series and also adding a fresh element to it.
With his directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone”, he directed Amy Ryan to an Oscar nomination. His latest film is a critical hit and looking like a commercial one. He’s a good storyteller who attracted names like Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner to be in his second film.
If I were a network head I’d court Ben to create and produce another series for TV. Clearly he’s smart, has good ideas, and would probably attract talented people. He’s also co-written 3 critically acclaimed films and some episodes of television – no small feat. It’s been almost 10 years, I’d be curious to see what kind of stories Ben could bring to the small screen. I’d imagine whatever he does, it would be fresh, unique and good.
Oh and I have a feeling Ben’s a fan of the medium himself. He’s talked about his love for LOST. But in “The Town” which he also co-wrote, there’s a scene where his character tells Rebecca Hall’s character that he’s proficient in crime solving from his love of all the CSIs. He goes on to say how he watches all of them “Miami, NY, also BONES”. In a serious film, it got a big laugh in the theater.
Ben it’s time to come back to TV!