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Cassey Affleck Drawn To Conflicted Characters


Of the two Affleck brothers working in Hollywood, Casey Affleck has a lower profile than his older brother, Ben, even though his work in films such as "Gone, Baby, Gone" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" has won widespread praise from film critics.

Casey Affleck's next film is already creating buzz - but this time with a bit of static. The film is called "The Killer Inside Me" and it's directed by the renowned British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. Affleck plays a laconic, small-town Texas sheriff named Lou Ford, who turns out to be a psychotic sadist.

(Soundbite of film, "The Killer Inside Me")

Unidentified Woman: Why? Why?

NORRIS: The violence against women is so graphic and so realistic that people have been walking out of some of the early screenings. I recently talked to Casey Affleck, and I asked why an actor on the rise would take such a risk.

Mr. CASEY AFFLECK (Actor): What I liked about it was that it had this central character, Lou Ford, who at first glance was the protagonist of the story, who you meet at the beginning and you think, OK, this is the guy who's going to take me through this story. And in one way or another, he'd be a hero, and at the very least a protagonist.

And then you realize, a third of the way into it, that he's completely insane, and that this person who youve kind of linked arms with is crazy and completely unreliable. And it happens subtly and seamlessly, and I liked that a lot.

NORRIS: Did you have any trepidation about making this film, especially the violence - the violence against women?

Mr. AFFLECK: I thought about it a lot. But my fears were allayed when I spoke to Michael. And he wanted to make it very, very realistic and I thought, OK, Im in. Because to do the movie any other way, to depict the violence in a way that wasnt disturbing, would be irresponsible. It would kind of contribute to desensitization of, you know, of our cultural desensitization to violence because it's everywhere - in videogames and TV and movies.

And the audience never feels anything. They never really feel upset. And if you're going to show that stuff, then let people feel something like what it might actually be like to experience that violence in real life.

NORRIS: This is hard to watch. I mean, this is - there are a few scenes in this film that are very difficult to watch. And the British newspaper The Independent poses what I think is a very interesting question about this film.

Does a film fail if the viewer has to turn away, if the violence is so realistic that the audience feels - or actually has to leave the theater, or leave the set if they're watching on the small screen?

Mr. AFFLECK: No. I understand that this movie is very hard to watch, and it's not for everybody, but I don't mind that. I don't mind sending a message out to the world that says, hey, think about what you're going to go and see. It's a movie called "The Killer Inside Me," and there's a book out there that's not as difficult and challenging, and if it's something that you're not up for, then you shouldn't see this movie.

NORRIS: The studio is going to love to hear you say that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AFFLECK: Well, you know, I don't I don't think we were trying to fool anybody. I mean, there's a lot of horrible things happening in a lot of big-budget, mainstream movies that they let little kids go and see, and I think that is really, wildly irresponsible.

NORRIS: As an actor, you seem to be drawn to characters that are a bit like psychological examinations. And in the film "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," you play Robert Ford, and it seems like as actors, there might be two kinds of people: the sort that would pine to play the role of the icon, Jesse James; and the kind that would be happier playing the insecure man who in some ways, wants to be Jesse James but can't quite get there.

How did you become the kind of actor interested in the character who's more at the fringe but has, in many ways, a more interesting psychological profile?

Mr. AFFLECK: Just who I am, all the things that happened in my life. But I'm not sure that I wouldn't have been drawn to playing Jesse James, either, had that been the opportunity that presented itself.

I mean, I like interesting characters, and Jesse James could be seen as just an icon. Everyone knows all about him, and there's nothing more to find out. But the way that Brad Pitt played him was somebody that really is an incredibly interesting character, someone that's not, oh, the hero, the icon. It's someone who feels tortured.

That said, I really do for whatever reason, I am kind of drawn to those people that are conflicted or confused or - that aren't conventional leading man. But I don't know if there's anyone that would say, I just like to play those two-dimensional characters, you know the ones, we've seen them before. And they're not that interesting. I think everyone kind of thinks, like, well, I like to play interesting guys, and when I play the leading man, I do it in an interesting way.

NORRIS: So you've played Robert Ford and Lou Ford, and perhaps next time we talk to you, you'll be playing another character whose last name is Ford. Who knows?

Mr. AFFLECK: Maybe. Who? Tom Ford. That's been done.

NORRIS: Oh, actually - well, now, that's still out there waiting for you. It's yours for the taking.

Mr. AFFLECK: Oh, that's right, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Glenn Ford, maybe that, yeah. Good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. AFFLECK: Thank you.

NORRIS: Casey Affleck, his latest film is called "The Killer Inside Me." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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