Considering the guns, glamour and guts of director Ben Affleck's bank-heist second film, The Town, the good humor and relaxed vibe at the film's press conference in Toronto Friday came as a nice changeup.
Hear how Affleck, Jon Hamm and the film's other stars kept things light and right…
Case in point: One reporter asked Jon Hamm why he chose to come onboard the film—and asked Gossip Girl Blake Lively if it was true that she and TV co-star Penn Badgley had a bet as to whose film would open to better box office next weekend. (Badgley plays the boy-next-door in Easy A opposite Emma Stone.) Hamm offered that, "I don't have any sort of calculus to choose any films roles. I responded to the story of this, and I really wanted to play the character. Once Ben signed on I became much more interested."
But Hamm didn't stop there, faking out the press corps by answering Lively's question too, he deadpanned, "I have a bet with Penn Badgley on whose release will open bigger … and I hope I win."
While the Mad Men star displayed his SNL-honed comedy chops, Affleck explained that he wasn't aiming, with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, to begin the kind of career-defining geographical work that, say, Martin Scorsese did with New York: "I do not have any Boston-related stories in mind for the future. I'm not looking specifically to have a career in making stories about Boston, I just happened to find two stories set in Boston and probably being from there helped me a little bit."
British actress Rebecca Hall, meanwhile, praised Affleck for being both a director behind the camera and a fellow actor in front of it: "He definitely separated the two distinctly. I think he had to, otherwise [they're] almost opposing head-spaces. I think a director has to think about the bigger picture and how… to make that work, while an actor generally obsesses over the details of their character, necessarily, to find the truth of that. To do both at the same time can be a bit of conflict of interest, almost, perversely. But I think what he did miraculously was to balance the two…and allowed for a fun environment, and it was generally just a joyous thing."
Meanwhile, Jeremy Renner—in his first big-movie role after The Hurt Locker put him on Hollywood's radar—offered that, as a Californian, he was worried about nailing his character's Boston accent. "I had the hardest time, I think. It's difficult, and I'm not from the region. And I thought it's one of the most important things I had to overcome. It doesn't matter how good Ben is or how good any actor is, or the story is, if the accent sucks, [my character's] going pop out and he's going to pull people out of the movie."
Renner laughed, recalling Affleck's laid-back directorial approach: "Ben didn't help me at all, initially. I called him up and said, 'When do I get that accent coach?' He's like, 'Yeah, we're not doing those…but I've got this little tape for you, with some criminals talking.'"
Jon Hamm didn't have to wrap his tongue around New England vowels—but, as he explained, he did have to wrap his head around the determination and dedication of the real-life law enforcement agents he met to play an FBI man on bank-robbery detail: "Their job is to stop bad people from doing bad things. They were very clear about that. So that was very helpful for me."
Toronto gets to visit The Town tonight at the premiere, but if high-octane robbery and high-risk romance sound like a must-see, don't worry—The Town opens nationwide next Friday.
See Hollywood's annual migratory flight north with our 2010 Toronto Film Festival: Star Sightings gallery.