By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com October 12, 2012 at 12:15PM
This time a decade ago, Ben Affleck was approaching the nadir of his career. 2002 might have seen him star in two well-regarded hits, "The Sum of All Fears" and "Changing Lanes," but the following year saw him headline three disappointments, "Daredevil," "Gigli" and "Paycheck," followed up the next year by the equally dreadful "Jersey Girl" and "Surviving Christmas."
But within a few years, Affleck had managed to turn things around by taking control of his own destiny: after a well-received supporting turn in "Hollywoodland" in 2006, Affleck made his directorial debut in 2007 with the Dennis Lehane adaptation, "Gone Baby Gone," a showcase for his brother Casey, which picked up excellent reviews. Three years later, he was back behind the camera again with another Boston-set crime thriller, "The Town," in which he also gives one of his best performances. And when that film became a sleeper hit, Affleck was suddenly in demand as a filmmaker as much as he'd ever been as an actor.
Any question as to Affleck's longevity as a director has been answered this year with "Argo" -- a political thriller by way of Hollywood satire that's become one of the best-reviewed films of the year. With the film heading into awards season as a serious front-runner, its director is cemented as an A-list filmmaker, and yesterday, he signed on for another Lehane adaptation, "Live By Night," which the trades have suggested would be his next project. But with no script ready yet, could one of his many other projects slip in? And even if "Live By Night" comes next, what else is on Affleck's dance card? We've delved into Affleck's slate to investigate which of his directorial projects we might see in the next few years, and which might never happen at all. Read on for more.
"Argo" might mark new territory for Affleck, seeing him step away from his hometown of Boston, the setting of "The Town," "Gone Baby Gone" and his Oscar-winning screenwriting debut "Good Will Hunting." But Affleck isn't planning on leaving Beantown crime pictures forever, and one of the projects on his slate could be the Boston crime drama, as he's been attached to a biopic of the city's legendary crime overlord Whitey Bulger for a year or so at this point.
Bulger (who's previously served as inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in "The Departed" and for TV series "Brotherhood" -- as in the latter, his brother was a Massachusetts state senator) rose to power in the 1980s, in part because he was serving as an FBI informant. But soon his power became too much for the authorities to ignore, and he went on the run in 1994 after a crackdown of his gambling operations, eventually being captured in Santa Monica last year and indicted on 19 counts of murder.
The film, set up at Warner Bros., is written by "Boardwalk Empire" showrunner Terence Winter, and would star Damon as Bulger, with Affleck directing and possibly playing Bulger's FBI liaison John Connolly, and Casey Affleck as Whitey's politician brother Billy. And the first non Kevin Smith-related reunion of Damon and Affleck since "Good Will Hunting" seems to be a real passion project, with Affleck saying recently "If there was a movie that me and Matt were meant to do together, this has gotta be the one."
That said, it looks very unlikely to be the director's next film. When we spoke to Affleck at the NYC premiere of "Argo" the other night, he told us of the Bulger project "My guess is honestly, [it'll be] the movie after next. I'll probably find something that's in better shape to do next until we got that one ready, and then we'll go ahead and fire that one up," adding that the script "needs a lot more work." Affleck seems committed to the film, but it sounds like he may take something else on first. Whether it's "Live By Night," which doesn't yet seem to have a script, remains to be seen.
One good contender for that slot is "Tell No One," an adaptation of Harlan Coben's best-selling thriller about a doctor, still grieving from the murder of his wife, who discovers evidence that she might still be alive. The source material was previously adapted by actor/director Guillaume Canet for an all-star French-language version that proved an international hit back in 2006, and a U.S. version has been in the works for a while ("Star Trek" writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci wrote a script a few years back), but Affleck gave the project a new lease of life when he became attached last summer.
He brought along his "Argo" writer Chris Terrio to pen the new adaptation, and producer Kathleen Kennedy told us last year that there's no fear of another version so soon, saying "I don't do usually do remakes, but this was also a movie that wasn't seen by a lot of people in the U.S. It's an absolutely fantastic movie, but at the same time, there was a bit of a flaw in the third act in terms of how everything wrapped up, so it just felt like perfect remake material."
At the time, Kennedy suggested that it could be the director's next film, saying that after "Argo," "he'll segue onto this, and we'll talk more about it." But a pulpier thriller like this isn't necessarily the natural successor to an acclaimed, awards-touting film like "Argo," and Affleck suggested it wasn't that high on his priority list, saying this week that it was "secondary stuff" and that "I'm not sure when it'll actually happen." Unless it comes together faster than the Lehane adaptation, it sounds like this may not happen any time soon -- and given the increasing scope of Affleck's projects, we can see him falling off the film altogether.