Recently, Ben Affleck seemed to be better known for his romantic involvements than his talents on screen. But with Hollywoodland (available now on DVD), the actor is changing all that. The fact-based flick, detailing the mysterious death of ‘50s Superman George Reeves, earned Affleck great reviews and a Golden Globe nod (for best supporting actor). More importantly, this dark Tinseltown tale reminds audiences that Affleck was delivering fine performances — in films such as Chasing Amy and Good Will Hunting — long before "Bennifer" ever hit the tabs.
TVGuide.com: Hollywoodland is based on the life and death of TV's original Superman. Were you a fan of the show?
Ben Affleck: As a kid, it was on our UHF station in Boston, and when I was home sick from school it was still in reruns and I got to see it. I knew it was older, but I liked it. It looked a little quaint and anachronistic, but George Reeves' charm overcame the dated elements of it. He, quite literally, winked at the audience. He had this connection to children that said, "You and me are in on the secret to all this." I know that as a kid, I liked that.
TVGuide.com: What was it like putting on the Superman outfit?
Affleck: In the course of my research I got deeper into how Reeves felt about the suit: He felt humiliated by it. I made the suit a representation of shame and thwarted ambition. By the time I was wearing it, it wasn't about being a caped crusader, it was about bearing the scarlet letter of shame, that [Reeves] wasn't a serious actor [because he] was doing a kiddie TV serial.
TVGuide.com: What was it like playing a real person?
Affleck: I have a lot of respect for George. I felt he didn't really get a fair shake in life, so I wanted this to be a movie where he got a fair shake. I didn't want to exploit him or do anything frivolously. But as an actor, I do think you have an obligation — it's not like you're doing a Stalin biography — to be about truth.
TVGuide.com: Did you try to get his voice down?
Affleck: I watched all 104 Superman shows, some more than once. Then I had them broken up and edited out just his lines, put them on an iPod and grouped them by year. Then I associated each year by his emotions, so it was, like, all the angry lines from 1951, and I'd listen to them over and over again. I was able to put together a complete George Reeves voice-emotions bible, and I pounded it into my head. I didn't even have to think about George's voice, it was what I heard when I woke up in the morning. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: You also gained some weight to look more like Reeves.
Affleck: I put on about 25 to 30 pounds. The body types were different then — a heroic body type was barrel-chested, whereas in today's body-conscious era, it wouldn't even work for a thug. Now you have to be on about 15 different drug cocktails and a workout regimen to be a superhero. Back then, [Superman] was just on booze.
TVGuide.com: How do you think George Reeves died?
Affleck: I believe that, sadly, George Reeves took his own life that night out of depression. The circumstances of his life had turned pretty grim.
TVGuide.com: Did you have any depression from not winning the Golden Globe?
Affleck: I didn't think I would win, and I was right! But I ran into the guys from The Office, my favorite show, at the party afterwards, so it was a big TV moment for me to talk "Office politics" with the cast.
TVGuide.com: No reality shows?
Affleck: I'm not big on reality TV. I'm not into watching people get humiliated, and I know that's a big part of what's appealing about those shows. I don't like venality or hurtfulness. A lot of the shows are designed to create conflict, and I find that offensive, and the decline of television.
TVGuide.com: Enough promoting Kevin Smith, let's talk about your latest production. How is it being a dad?
Affleck: How is it? Being a dad [to daughter Violet, 2] is as good a thing as I've ever found in my life — if you haven't done it, you should, it'll change your life.
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.