Ben Affleck‘s latest movie, The Way Back, focuses on the redemption of an alcoholic high school basketball coach struggling to overcome his past and confront his addiction. Affleck himself was confronting his own alcoholism and landed in rehab just as pre-production began. The role was so important to him that in a way, he took it into rehab with him.
Production was thrown in doubt early on
The Way Back director Gavin O’Connor recently sat down with the ReelBlend podcast to discuss the upcoming movie, due out on March 6. During the wide-ranging interview, the subject of Affleck’s rehab came up — it’s something Ben Affleck himself has discussed as well, so no one was speaking out of turn. O’Connor revealed just how important it was to Affleck to make the film, even as he dealt with his own very personal problems.
“When Ben was in rehab, which was right when we started prepping the movie, he went to rehab and I didn’t know if the movie was going to come to an end,” O’Connor says. “We had just started prepping and I couldn’t reach him for a couple of days, which was weird, and I knew something was up, and we all saw what happened,” the director continues. O’Connor finally got in touch with Affleck after he got out of detox and asked the actor if they were going to be able to make this movie or “go on this journey together,” as O’Connor put it.
Ben Affleck took a basketball with him to prove it
The actor’s answer was a strong affirmative. In fact, it meant so much to Ben Affleck to continue, “he actually went in with a basketball under his arm. When he went to rehab he took a ball with him because he still wanted to make the movie,” O’Connor reveals. According to O’Connor, Affleck told him, “‘I really want to do this, Gavin, we gotta figure this out.’ So I worked it out with his agent and the studio where we were going to be ok.”
The paparazzi hounded production from the beginning
Preparation for filming began while Affleck was still in rehab, so the director would meet with the actor for a few hours each day outside the rehab facility, usually at Affleck’s house. O’Connor explains, “Ben was getting furloughs out of rehab with a sober buddy, and we would meet at his house,” adding that the attention Affleck was getting from the gossip media was astounding.
“There was paparazzi everywhere. I was like ‘oh my god’ they’re aware of this little movie we’re making. It just became very clear to me, the subject matter we’re dealing with, now that he’s in rehab, and he’s going to get out just as we start to shoot. Obviously, this is going to become a thing that we have to deal with. That’s when it hit me when I saw… it was just so much paparazzi outside his house,” O’Connor says.
Luckily, as the basketball shows, Ben Affleck was serious about shooting the film and his role in the project. He was willing to be an open book about his sobriety, including his brief lapse in that sobriety around Halloween last year. O’Connor concludes by saying, “It’s Ben’s life, so he’s the one that has to uncover more and reveal more about himself. Fortunately, he’s ok talking about it.”