Ben Affleck adapted Dennis Lehane’s novel Gone Baby Gone for the big screen and makes his directorial debut with the film. The story follows private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan), a couple hired to find missing 4-year-old Amanda McCready. Although they know the neighborhood and even some of the key participants very well, Patrick and Angie quickly find themselves caught up in a web of secrets and lies.
Affleck says his first time as a feature film director was nerve-wracking, very intimidating and, ultimately, really thrilling. After helming Gone Baby Gone, Affleck wouldn’t mind going back behind the camera to direct another movie. But as far as acting in a film he directs, that’s a different story. As of now, Affleck has no plans to act in anything he winds up directing. “I think other people probably can do it who have more bandwidth for it than I do,” explained Affleck. “I think that would be very, very challenging for me and I don't think I would be able to concentrate on it well enough to do any of those things sufficiently well. I would want to continue acting, certainly, if I had the opportunity with the right role, but we'll just have to see if those opportunities present themselves.”
Casting His Brother Casey: The elder Affleck thought he might have problems convincing a studio his younger brother could handle the job. But fortunately for both Afflecks, the problem never really materialized -- mostly due to Dick Cook's involvement. “I anticipated that there would be naturally because he wasn't somebody who at the time was kind of, as you said, had proven himself and had a track record where he's been in a lead and the movie had made money, and so on and so forth. It's that classic catch 22 where you can't get the job unless you've proven it and you can't prove it unless you get the job. But I had this kind of patron really, at Disney who really kind of believed in me as a director, this guy Dick Cook. He had bought the script and said, ‘I believe in you as a director.’ I have no idea why. Talk about not having a proven track record.
The argument that I was prepared to make was that Casey had… Because obviously I figure people would just think this is nepotism, even though I knew it wasn't. I wasn't just going to leverage my one shot as a director on nepotism. That's just foolish. I was making this choice, as I think it's clear to anyone now, on the fact that he's obviously the right guy for the role and was great. But the argument I was going to make was, ‘Here's a guy who just got a really contested role in this movie Jesse James and is going to be really good. It's going to come out and people are going to see it, and he's going to be known for that,’ which has kind of happened from the movie. It was a dice roll because you never really know, but it certainly was a part that everybody wanted. But I really didn't even kind of need to get to that.
I went in and said, ‘This is who my cast is. This is who I want.’ And Dick was like, ‘Great, terrific.’ I just couldn't even believe it. I felt like it was really a very unusual case. And then I was able to -- I was really lucky in that I was able to get Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman. Then all these amazing other actors. Amy Ryan is incredible in the movie and so on and so forth. The long and the short of it is I was allowed to cast the best actors for the role, without regard for box office or whatever.
Now, they made it very clear to me at Disney that I wasn't going to be able to come back and ask for more money. The budget was the budget. It wasn't like, ‘Hey, if you need some more cash for this sequence…’ I had a ceiling and if I ran out of dough, that was the end of it. I had to cut days or just whatever. I was just out of luck. But I had the very rare opportunity of just being able to say, ‘This is the guy who I think,’ and I think they knew that I knew that this was my big chance and that if this didn't work, I probably wouldn't be able to direct another movie. Or at least it'd have to be a DV movie or something. So I got supported on that. Casey got his shot and he sure made good on it.”
Sorting Out the Story: Affleck admitted his view of Gone Baby Gone and the moral dilemmas it poses changed over the course of reading the book. Being a new dad didn’t figure into the picture until right before he was ready to direct the film. “I think my opinions about the moral dilemmas sort of shifted a lot back and forth as I kind of went through it. They went back and forth more times than just because I had my daughter. I think they didn't actually have specifically to do -- being a father made my opinions change from academic ones to emotional ones. In other words, they were like intellectual exercises. And then actually having a child allowed me to identify in an emotional way with children and people who have children. Whereas beforehand, it was harder for me to do that.”
The Media and Kidnapping Cases: Asked if he thinks the media helps or hinders kidnapping cases, Affleck responded, “Well, I think I really scaled back on that from the book, because Lehane really hammers the media in the book. He really goes after some of the -- and I thought I can't do too much of this because people will just -- in a weird way, it was one of the ways that my own hand might start to feel visible in the movie. You might start to go, ‘Oh, okay, here he is taking a shot at the media.’"