Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Killer Inside Casey Affleck

RECENTLY I spent some time with Casey Affleck, who appears in Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of the Jim Thompson noir novel, The Killer Inside Me.

I don’t often write about actors – I’m not usually that curious about their inner worlds the way I am with novelists, musicians, or directors – but Casey Affleck is so strong, and so elusive, in his films that I welcomed the chance to sit down with him.

Here is my story. Found him quite a smart, if reticent, cat -- very interested in science-fiction and early Vonnegut. Winterbottom calls him "the reluctant actor." I'd call the film a stylish, often gripping and in some ways misfired.

Casey and I spoke about a lot of things I didn’t have room for, including his love for Vonnegut's early novel The Sirens of Titan, which he has wondered about adapting for years.  

We did the interview at a coffee place in Pasadena called Jones, where the air conditioner directly above where Casey was sitting began to rumble and shake like something out of Naked Lunch, dripping green liquid on his newspaper and dangerously close to the actor's cup of tea. I thought it was something out of Candid Camera.

I really enjoyed meeting Winterbottom, who has directed at least one of my favorite films -- the Manchester UK chronicle "24 Hour Party People." Winterbottom is as revved up and enaged -- and promiscuous in his filmmaking -- as Casey is reserved and choosy. When I asked the director if he was frustrated that after a decade and a half in the business he had not worked his way up to a recognizable style or a big-budget movie: "Because those films," he responded, "are boring."

At the end of the interview I asked Casey what kind of body of work he wanted to look back on in 10 years. “Number one, time with my family. Number two, 10 science-fiction movies,” he said, laughing. “Number two, a variety of work with people I respect, doing things different from each other – a movie set during the Hundred Years War, then go and do a movie about a guy who works at Jones. Really mix it up. I don’t know, it sounds almost impossible.”

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