During Deadline’s Contenders Film panel for Warner Bros’ The Way Back, Ben Affleck addressed just how close to his own life the role of alcoholic basketball coach Jack Cunningham actually comes.
“I knew as a recovering alcoholic myself that people would make a conclusion about similarities to my life and the movie, so I didn’t want the movie to be false,” he says. “There are millions and millions of people who deal with compulsive behavior and addiction, so you have a certain responsibility. You have to do it authentically because these are important issues in many people’s lives.”
Still, this movie is not remotely the Ben Affleck story. It is about a one-time high school basketball star whose life and marriage implode after the loss of a child who finds himself spiraling into alcoholism and finally trying to find redemption as a coach. There are no easy answers offered, but it did allow for the kind of role that doesn’t come around often from major studios anymore, and the star couldn’t resist.
“It is my taste,” Affleck says. “I came of age becoming aware of the great cinema of the ’70s. Most were character dramas and studios were making them then. They don’t do them as much anymore. This is what I feel most passionate about and interested in as a filmmaker, writer and an actor.“
He adds that he loved the script and felt he could trust director Gavin O’Connor, with whom he had previously worked on The Accountant. “It gave me a chance to explore a really broad range of experiences and emotions,” Affleck says. “The character has gone through tragedy. It’s a movie about recovering from the things that are really difficult, those things in our lives and how you deal with them.”
Check back for the panel video.