BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (OPINION) — Ben Affleck tries to play it cool when talking about working with the cast of the new Prime Video movie “The Tender Bar.” He goes into the standard answers in terms of how acting is a collaborative effort.
The collaboration with Affleck in terms of the film based on the Pulitzer Prize winning memoir by J.R. Moehringer came from the likes of Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe and Daniel Ranieri. Affleck finally lets out his fanboy side and admits that the chance to work with Christopher Lloyd was a major bonus.
“When ‘Back to the Future’ came out that ended the debates about what is the best picture ever made,” Affleck says. “Then I saw him (Lloyd). He was the first celebrity I ever saw walking around the streets of Boston.”
Those years he spent being star struck finally reached the point where Affleck got to work with the actor he had admired for so many years. It didn’t hurt that Affleck also got to work with a very good friend with George Clooney directing the production.
Affleck sings praises for the way Clooney runs a film set. What Clooney does is create a very welcoming and safe atmosphere where his cast can work and where every actor is made to feel like they can succeed and take chances.
“One of his (Clooney) many, many gifts is his deep understanding of actors and what it is that will help us be successful,” Affleck says. “His tremendous and fondness for actors shows.”
Affleck is confident that despite the massive amount of success Clooney has had, that he continues to see himself as that young actor from Kentucky who moved to Los Angeles and was willing to do whatever he had to do to make it. That translates to wanting to help others.
Clooney has reached that level where he can pick and choose the projects he wants to direct. Most recently, Clooney has shown a real interest in the complications of families in the recent movies with which he has been associated.
In “The Midnight Sky,” he helmed and starred in the story of a father looking to help his space-going daughter. His latest directing project, “The Tender Bar,” is an emotional examination of a young boy growing up in a world illuminated by the glow from a bar.
J.R. (Sheridan) is a fatherless boy who is being taught the ways of the world by his Uncle Charlie (Affleck) and a colorful assortment of quirky and demonstrative father figures who frequent the bar. As the boy’s determined mother (Rabe) struggles to provide her son with opportunities denied to her. But, she never gets far from the dilapidated home of her supportive father (Lloyd).
At the heart of “The Tender Bar” is the story of a young man looking up to a person who made an incredible impact on his life. Affleck understood that element because he has had several people in his life he has admired. He found his relationship with his own father to have a similar feel to the character he plays in “The Tender Bar.”
“My father, interestingly, was also a guy who was a self-taught guy. He didn’t go to college. He was kind of a similar reverse-class snob,” Affleck says. “But, he was very interested in language and storytelling.
“He imbued in me at a young age an appreciation for that. You didn’t have to be a fancy person or a rich person or gone to a cool school to use language well and understand it. Understand the power of storytelling.”
Affleck adds that he also had a drama teacher who believed in him. It was that teacher’s belief in him that gave Affleck the sense of confidence he absolutely needed to make the move to Los Angeles to start his acting career.
That move came 40 years ago and since then the two-time Oscar-winning Affleck has appeared in a host of acting projects including “Shakespeare in Love,” “Per Harbor,” “Hollywoodland,” “The Town,” “Gone Girl” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” His Oscars were for writing “Good Will Hunting” and as a producer of “Argo.”
Playing the cool uncle put great acting demands on Affleck but when he began to have any doubts, he would just call on the wisdom and experience Clooney brought to the directing chair.
After talking about the cast and Clooney, Affleck smiles and says the general practice with interviews to promote a film is to talk in glowing terms about the cast and crew no matter what the experience was really like. This time was very different.
“It was nice to actually be able to tell the truth,” Affleck says.
“The Tender Bar” will be available to subscribers of the streaming service of Prime Video starting Jan. 7.