Q&A: Casey Affleck goes under a sheet for ‘A Ghost Story’

July 20, 2017
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2013 file photo, actor Casey Affleck arrives at the 2013 AFI Fest premiere of "Out of the Furnace" in Los Angeles. Affleck plays the ghost in the new David Lowery film, “A Ghost Story.” For most of the movie he’s silent and cloaked in a white sheet with eye holes as he returns to his home to look in on his still-living partner played by Rooney Mara. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Casey Affleck plays the ghost in the new David Lowery film, “A Ghost Story.” For most of the movie, expanding wide Friday, he’s silent and cloaked in a white sheet with eye holes cut out as he returns to his home to look in on his still-living partner played by Rooney Mara. It’s a weird, wild, sometimes funny and breathtakingly gorgeous film that will leave you thinking about the big ideas of love, life, eternity.

Affleck, coming off of a best actor win for “Manchester by the Sea” and an awards season marred by intense public scrutiny around a past civil sexual harassment lawsuit, is dipping his toes back in the spotlight to promote the film. He spoke to The Associated Press about his year and moving on.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: Congratulations on “A Ghost Story.” It is not a scary film per se, but it has truly haunted me.

AFFLECK: It’s been great how much people have responded to it. Usually you have some sense of what a movie is going to be and this is probably the film that turned out most differently than what I expected.

AP: The ghost costume you have to wear is incredible.

AFFLECK: I can’t think of another single costume in another movie where so much of the movie depended on it working. The sheet looks simple but it wasn’t just a sheet and it was hard to get it to look that way. It was a perfect balance of not being exactly scary, but not seeming silly and also not seeming slapdash.

AP: How did they convince you to be in a movie where you are acting through a sheet most of the time?

AFFLECK: I may be unusual, I can’t say for sure in this regard, but when I heard that I was like, “I’m totally in.” The idea of being hidden somehow was so appealing to me. And David doesn’t have to persuade me. I have so much fun working with him and Rooney and his producers. It was a three-second conversation.

AP: People have really latched on to that long take of Rooney eating the pie.

AFFLECK: There was quite a bit of build up to that. What kind of pie is it going to be? Where is the pie coming from? Who is making the pie? Rooney had strangely never eaten a pie which is the weirdest thing. There are lots of things I haven’t eaten, but you’d think a pie is something you’d have come across at some point.

AP: It’s a fairly contemplative film, do you think it has a broader audience than just cinephiles?

AFFLECK: I don’t really consider myself a cinephile. I have pretty mainstream tastes. I have an appetite for some difficult movies like Tarkovsky movies or Bela Tarr movies. But I also kind of really just love “World War Z” too. And I love this movie. I think it’s really, really moving and romantic and sweet and full of ideas that I wasn’t really aware of.

A good movie tends to bring out all of these ideas from other things that you read and this movie does that in a way that’s really accessible. I don’t think it’s a weird, esoteric, experimental art house movie at all. It’s very touching, just not dumbed down.

AP: You’ve worked with David three times now, what do you think his future holds?

AFFLECK: I think he’s one of our most interesting directors. I would bet that he has a very long career marked by very different types of movies in the same vein as the Coen brothers or Stanley Kubrick. And I bet, just like those guys, there will be a few masterpieces in there.

AP: And you’re directing a feature now too called “Light of My Life”?

AFFLECK: Just finished a first cut. It’s torture. You have to sit there with something you wrote, acted in, were there every day directing. You see the first (cut) and think, “Wow, I’ve made one of the worst movies of all time.” I’ve been reassured by directors who I really love who make great movies that that’s always their experience too.

AP: Finally, the year was coupled with both a professional high in your best actor win and intense public scrutiny of you personally. Do you have any reflections on that experience?

AFFLECK: There were very high moments and there were some difficult challenges. Winning an Oscar was such a high it was an out of body experience. I was genuinely honored by that and the other awards for “Manchester.”

Publicizing a movie is, you know, something that I’m used to. That’s part of my job and I have no complaints talking about the work. The challenges of being spoken about personally in the media were very sobering and they really hurt, especially my family which is what I really cared about.

And it was confusing because it was all so at odds with my core values. The more kindness and compassion we can find for all people, the better all our lives will be. And I believe harassment of any kind is completely unacceptable. Bullying and mistreatment of anyone is totally abhorrent. Everyone should be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else. That’s what I teach my kids and it’s how I try to live my life.

However, I couldn’t and can’t talk about it as it related to me because everyone involved signed something saying we wouldn’t talk about it and that it has been settled to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. That’s all we can say. So I am just trying to move on. Period.

Ultimately, I am really glad that there’s a heightened cultural awareness around those issues. I took my kids to the Women’s March in Vancouver where I was working and there were a lot of people there. It was a family event and I got the sense that this generation of kids growing up, my own included, are going to be filled with a sense of activist empowerment and they’re going to be loud voices for social justice. I think that that might be the silver lining.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr .

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