New Again: Casey Affleck

Since Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea premiered at Sundance last year, it’s been lauded by critics and audiences alike for its restrained portrayal of a grief-stricken man (Casey Affleck) and his extended family. Peppered with surprising humor and full of striking performances by its actors, including Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, and Affleck, Manchester is certainly deserving of the accolades it’s received thus far. 

In honor of the Oscar-bound film, we decided to revisit the below feature on Affleck. In the comparatively innocent days of 2000, before the serious allegations of sexual and verbal assault brought to light since 2010’s I’m Still Here, Affleck spoke to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebeck and let us put tree frogs on his face. 

Casey Affleck: Actor Making Leap From Little Brother to Big Deal
By Alex Trebeck

ALEX TREBECK: This might be a stilted conversation, Casey, because I’m used to giving answers and getting questions in return—and now we’ve gotta do the flip side.

CASEY AFFLECK: That’s exactly what I want. I’m tired of answering questions about myself. I thought you’d give me the answers and I could come up with the questions.

TREBEK: All right, the answer is: three reasons why this young man allowed himself to be photographed with frogs on his face.

AFFLECK: [laughs] What are desperation, ambition, and insecurity?

TREBEK: Three pretty good reasons. How did it feel to have frogs on your face?

AFFLECK: They were three tiny, incredibly slimy frogs which I was certain were poisonous because I’m kind of a hypochondriac. I was lying on the ground and it felt like being operated on, because there were these unfamiliar sensations, a very uncomfortable position, and about 30 people standing over me with bright lights and saying “Don’t move!” As they look the pictures, one of the photography assistants told a story about how his dog once licked a frog and died because the frog’s skin was poisonous.

TREBEK: And this came just after you had licked one of the frogs.

AFFLECK: [laughs] These creatures were putting their little frog paws in my mouth and my eyes and on my nose. It took like four days for my imagination to stop running wild.

TREBEK: I’m one of those people who believe that exotic animals should not be kept as pets. Do you keep any exotic animals?

AFFLECK: Just a brother. [laughs] No, although growing up I had an insane dog named Pepper who always used to run away. Some bartender three towns over would call up and say, “We have your dog here.” Pepper was totally bananas; he used to sit staring in the middle of the street, just waiting for cars to come. I thought maybe he was a human trapped in a dog’s body who hated it so much he was trying to kill himself.

TREBEK: Are you living in New York or commuting between New York and Los Angeles?

AFFLECK: I live in New York full time. I can’t live in L.A., because I fear people think I’m a vagrant there. If you show up in L.A. with your shirt inside out or socks mismatched, people start putting change in your cup. In New York, as long as you’re not peeing in someone’s doorway, everyone thinks you’re a gentleman. I feel like my behavior goes over better on the streets of New York.

TREBEK: Well, you’re from that side of the country. You grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That’s a good place to walk around. Are you into sports?

AFFLECK: I was for a while, back when I was 5’1″. I was really short in high school. I was stuck on the bench in the baseball team, so I just thought I’d try out theater, and that was the last time I did sports. I haven’t exercised in seven years.

TREBEK: Oh, you’re like me. Welcome to the club. Have you got a girlfriend, Casey?

AFFLECK: Yeah, there’s someone that makes me very, very happy.

TREBEK: I won’t ask you to name her, just in case there are two or three others out there who think that they might be the one. 

AFFLECK: That’s not my style. She knows she’s the one.

TREBEK: Speaking of commitment, you’ve got a new movie coming out called Committed. What’s that one about?

AFFLECK: It’s about a woman, played by Heather Graham, whose husband inexplicably disappears, and she goes out West to try to track him down. I play her brother, and I go with her.

TREBEK: I understand you’re in Toronto now, working on another movie. I grew up there. Give me your impressions of Toronto.

AFFLECK: I don’t want to offend you, but I think it’s the most successful experiment in taxidermy.

TREBEK: [laughs] Really? Is it boring?

AFFLECK: It’s very boring; that’s the problem.

TREBEK: Are you having trouble finding young people in Toronto to chum around with?

AFFLECK: No, I don’t get too much time to chum around actually, so I haven’t been looking. I was here when I did Good Will Hunting [1997] and a couple years before that To Die For [1995], and I did a lot of exploring then—Bruce La Bruce is a Canadian filmmaker who knows how to find a good time here. All the people are very nice. I only make fun of it because I feel like I’m too neurotic and unhealthy to live here. Right now I’m here working on a Gus Van Sant movie called Finding Forrester. That was the one I came on your show for. I’m not acting in this movie. I was going to take the whole winter off, but after a month of not working, I got really antsy. Gus asked me if I wanted to come try out this new thing, which was to edit the footage on the set on the very day that they shot it.

TREBEK: Are you interested in directing or producing films?

AFFLECK: No. Sitting at a desk and staring at this screen for hours on end doesn’t make me happy—although I do get excited when I like the scene.

TREBEK: Obviously you haven’t settled into a niche with regard to the roles you’ve accepted: You were in American Pie, Hamlet, To Die For. What kind of acting career do you see yourself creating?

AFFLECK: I’d like to never be able to get pigeonholed, which is difficult to do. You’re encouraged to do the same kind of movies. But I would like to keep doing different things. Sometimes I feel like every movie I make could be the last. I know that’s not really the case, but if I think about it that way and I’m very careful, then maybe I can build a career, movie by movie, that I’m happy with.

TREBEK: Good luck, Casey. And I hope you discover the wild side of Toronto. I’m going to be up there soon, and I’ll look for you.

AFFLECK: All right, see you then.



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