Ben Affleck Reflects on Being a Recovering Alcoholic While Playing an Alcoholic in The Way Back

Ben Affleck opened up about his character in The Way Back during a roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter.

By Elyse Dupre Feb 24, 2021 8:48 PMTags
Watch: Ben Affleck Talks Parallels of His Life and "The Way Back"

In the movie The Way Back, Ben Affleck's character learns about second chances.

The actor plays Jack Cunningham—a former high school basketball star who walked away from the sport only to return to the game as coach of his alma mater's team. Throughout the movie, viewers learn about the pain Jack has experienced from his battle with alcoholism, the end of his marriage and the loss of his child.

It's a project that resonated with Affleck for many reasons. "I'm a recovering alcoholic and I played an alcoholic in the movie," he said in a recently published roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter that took place in January. "It's really about grief and losing a child, which, thank God, I have not experienced, and is probably the worst thing you can experience. But also, a lot of it is about alcoholism." 

Affleck has publicly discussed his own battle with alcoholism and his sobriety journey in the past.

"Alcoholism, in and of itself, and compulsive behavior, are not inherently super interesting, but what is sometimes interesting is what you discover about yourself in the course of recovery and trying to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, how you want your life to look and what kind of ethics you want to live by," he continued. "So yes, I'm an alcoholic. Yes, I had a relapse. Yes, I went into recovery again. And then I went and did that movie."

Ben Affleck: Movie Star

Like his character, Affleck has also gone through a separation. In 2015, he and Jennifer Garner announced their decision to divorce. The former couple—who married in 2005 and share children Violet, 15; Seraphina, 12; and Samuel, 8—officially filed in 2017 and finalized their split in 2018. 

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"But for me, the movie was much more about the fact that—whether it's having lived enough years, having seen enough ups and downs, having had children and divorce—I'm at a point now in my life where I have sufficient life experience to bring to a role to make it really interesting for me," he said. "I'm not good enough to just invent it from whole cloth, you know? I didn't have to do research for the alcoholism aspect of the movie—that was covered. It was the Daniel Day-Lewis approach to that!"

In fact, Affleck—who has also written, directed and produced a number of his own films—says it was an "easy adjustment" to return to acting in a movie made by someone else—in this case, director Gavin O'Connor and writer Brad Ingelsby.

"Although some things were hard about it, it was also kind of cathartic and reminded me why I love and started acting in the first place," he told THR. "Even with things that were emotional or upsetting in some way, I was thrilled and exhilarated at the end of the day."

And these days, he's putting extra thought into which projects he wants to pursue.

"I'll be 50 in two years," he said at one point during the discussion, which also featured Sacha Baron CohenDelroy LindoJohn David WashingtonSteven Yeun and Gary Oldman. "I have three children I want to spend time with, I have a life that I really enjoy, and I want to really love my work and tell these kinds of stories, with characters that are as rich as the ones that you all portrayed."