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Ben Affleck Discusses 'State of Play'

And a Little Update on Fatherhood and His Next Movies


Ben Affleck State of Play

Ben Affleck in 'State of Play.'

© Universal Pictures
Ben Affleck thinks the relationships between the media and celebrities and the media and politicians are alike in a lot of ways. "They are similar in the pressures that exist. The pressures that are brought to bear on the media side to sell magazines, to sell newspapers, get hits on the website," explained Affleck. "The focus has to be on the thing that sells the most, which tends to be the most sensational, scandalous, headline grabbing. So maybe the temptation is to bend the truth. In the case of entertainers, they will flat make up stories. They will completely use sources that don’t exist, or stuff that is very thinly sourced."

"On the political side, people are a little bit more judicious about completely abandoning journalistic standards. You still have those same impulses to push, find the story, and dig up the most scandalous aspect of it. I think there is the other side that is at war too, which is the side that wants to do good journalism. They want to do good reporting. They care about the substantial stuff. That’s saying to the powers that be, ‘I don’t want to do this all the time. I want to do something interesting.' The Yin and Yang is at play on both sides of entertainment and politics. The only difference really is that with entertainers people feel more comfortable saying, ‘It’s fine. Just print it and run it,’ because they know it’s not the President of the United States. It’s not going to change the world so they figure they can just print it."

Bloggers pick up news stories, comment on them, and the story spreads to hundreds of outlets and reaches millions of readers. That didn't happen when the main source of news was newspapers. Commenting on the impact of bloggers, Affleck said, "Part of the blogging culture that is good is that it’s made the traditional press much more nervous. They become more accountable because they are the ones who are most sensitive to what they bloggers are going to say. Most Americans don’t spend their days worrying what bloggers are going to say. They just read the blogger that they want to read. They aren’t going, ‘Oh, what’s going to come out in the blogs?’ But mainstream media sweats it because for the first time they are actually accountable to someone who is going to write about them and their work. I think that has a very strong impact on mainstream media and how they work. I think it has coarsened the dialogue a little bit. There is a lot of shaming, a lot of finger wagging, and it’s a public, gossip high school mill. Every time a story comes out then 50 people start digesting it, a lot of them are very jaded, so you get all these different viewpoints on it. Ultimately, you have a million blogs and a lot of them are different iterations of the same take on something. There are a few that are really good and smart. A lot of them are just people who want to be ugly about something."

Affleck added, "One of the things that will be interesting to see is that bloggers are sourcing from the mainstream media, the newspapers. So if the newspapers are gone, then bloggers are going to have to do more reporting. I think that will be good actually, and I hope that’s what happens. Conversely, the newspapers have gotten lazy, gotten nervous, and started sourcing from blogs. That I think is dangerous. You could pick any blog. I could start a blog tomorrow. Then I can say, ‘I heard that so and so is an alien.’ Then it's on a blog, it’s out there, and enough of a source to pick it up and start a fire going. Obviously, something as outrageous as that people won’t use, but a lot of false stories got started and had false currency because they were placed in blogs."

On Fatherhood and Future Projects

Affleck and his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, have two children now, and the proud dad says things are going great. "I am very lucky. I feel blessed to look around and see that I’ve got a healthy family and a job. Especially nowadays, you really feel very good."

In addition to staying busy being a dad, Affleck's got a couple of films in the works. One is a comedy from Mike Judge called Extract. "I love Mike," admitted Affleck. "[Jason] Bateman is the lead of the movie. He is spectacular in the movie. If you are a Bateman fan, he has gay rage, and it’s on fire in this movie. This is the third time I’ve worked with Bateman. My wife has down three bids in Bateman. We’re a six-time Bateman household. We’re fans."

"Mike has a very particular sensibility so it’s not just straight down the middle. That’s one of the things I like about it. I think it’s really funny. I haven’t seen the whole thing, just bits and pieces of it. Jason is great. I’m playing a guy who is kind of the worst friend in the world. I’m Jason’s friend, but it turns out I’m really into drugs. I like to give him drugs. I keep trying to get him high. He tells me he’s got this wife, but he’s attracted to this other woman, but he’s married so he’s conflicted about it. Meanwhile I give him some Xanax. I’m telling him, 'What you should do is hire a gigolo to hit on your wife. Then if she says yes, you won’t feel guilty.' He’s high and thinks it kind of makes sense. She immediately f--ks the gigolo. That’s at the very beginning."

So how does the title Extract tie into things? "He owns a vanilla extract plant, basically. It’s very, very funny. Mike is great, a really gifted and smart guy. Jason is terrific. I was just really happy to be in the movie," said Affleck.

And Affleck says he may be reuniting with Matt Damon sometime soon. "Yeah, we were going to do something together the end of this year. Then I took the other thing to direct, so that pushed it off till next year. Supposedly we’re doing this thing next year. I think we will. Matt is always pretty busy but claiming that he’s going to try and slow it down a little bit. He’s going to do the Bourne movie and this really cool Mandela movie he’s doing now. He’s doing the movie that George Nolfi is directing in between. He doesn’t mind taking a year to wait. I would love to, it’s great, and we’re both busy. Matt lives in Miami so it’s hard to get a chance to see him. If we work together its an excuse to hang out."

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