Any budding screenwriters could take more than a few hints from the career arc of Ben Affleck. From Oscar-winning wonderboy, Hollywood's next big thing, to much-mocked star of flops like "Paycheck," "Gigli" and "Surviving Christmas," to critically-adored director of terrific Boston crime flicks "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town," Affleck's had quite a ride, but he's firmly back on top now, to the extent that he's got the lead role in Terrence Malick's as-yet untitled next film.
But Affleck isn't going straight back into the starring roles: he's deadly serious about his directing career, turning down both the chance to helm "The Man of Steel" and to star as Tom Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby", in favor of his next directorial outing, "Argo." At the same time, he's not resting on his laurels: the film, produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, from a script by Chris Terrio ("Heights"), sees him break out of the Boston crime milieu for a based-on-fact tale about a C.I.A. plan to rescue a group of diplomats from Tehran after the 1979 Iranian revolution by claiming that they were part of a Hollywood movie crew. And it looks like Affleck has found his first cast member.
Variety reports that Alan Arkin, the Oscar-winning veteran star of "Little Miss Sunshine," among many, many others, has signed on to the film, in the role of Lester Siegel. Siegel is a former O.S.S. spy, now a movie producer, described as "equal parts bookie and rabbi" -- which sounds about perfect for Arkin, somehow. The actor's casting suggests, as previously suspected, that this will be lighter in tone than Affleck's previous directing work, and if that's true, he's got a perfect first actor in Arkin (who'll appear in "The Change-Up" and "The Muppets" before the year is out). The film's not far from shooting, so we'll likely see this in the fall of 2012, and more casting should follow soon.