Ben Affleck Gushes About Working With George Clooney, Plus What They Have In Common As Directors

Ben Affleck and Tye Sheridan in The Tender Bar
(Image credit: Amazon)

I interviewed Ben Affleck earlier this week during the virtual press day for The Tender Bar, and one of the topics we discussed was his experience working with George Clooney, given the similarities in their careers.  As Affleck explained, he took a lot from his time with his fellow filmmaker in the making of the film, and he was actually taken somewhat aback by what they shared in common. Said the actor/filmmaker,

In the making of the new film The Tender Bar, two of the movie industry’s most successful actor-turned-directors had the opportunity to collaborate like never before. Ben Affleck and George Clooney previously had the chance to work together on Argo, as the latter was a producer on the Academy Award-winning feature, but with the new coming-of-age drama they had their first opportunity to meld minds as performer and filmmaker (with Affleck in front of the camera, and Clooney behind it). To say the least, it’s an interesting team-up, and for Affleck it turned out to also be an impressive learning experience.

You know, it's interesting because George describes his process of learning to direct in much the same way that I felt about mine, which was really trying to learn from good directors, and pick up what you could. And that's surprising because George seemed so intuitively sharp and great at this job.

Watching George Clooney’s past directorial efforts – which is a filmography that includes titles like Good Night, And Good Luck, The Ides of March, and last year’s Midnight Sky – Ben Affleck evidently perceived that he was simply a natural filmmaker who achieved a great deal from instinct. In actuality, though, the two men found common ground in their approach, as they both lean heavily on what they’ve learned from collaborations with other talented directors.

 As Affleck continued, I got the sense that he continued his personal habit of learning from the best in the making of The Tender Bar, as he made it sound like he really studied George Clooney’s method during their close collaboration. He worked to define what it is about Clooney that makes his style work, and he explained that part of it is a superior understanding of story, but also an ability to make small changes that end up having big effects:

At the heart of it, I think is two things: One is a real dramatic intelligence. He's very smart about how to tell stories, frankly, which sounds easy and obvious, but it really isn't. And one of the things he's great at is lending the benefit of his expertise and his experience to the actors. And principally me. I benefited so enormously from these little touchups and tweaks and tunings that George would do. You turn one screw a little bit this way and change the whole thing. And he's brilliant about that.

The Tender Bar is based on the memoir of the same name by J.R. Moehringer (adapted by William Monahan), and it tells the story of the author’s path from childhood to becoming a professional writer. Ben Affleck plays an exceptionally prominent supporting role in the movie as Uncle Charlie – a mentor of J.R.’s who teaches him the most important lessons in life and makes sure that the kid stays on the right path.

Ben Affleck clearly appreciated the opportunity that he had to work with George Clooney in the making of the film, as their time together apparently only positively enhanced his opinions. Affleck explained,

I knew he was smart and a funny, great guy, and a storyteller from life and then from producing together on Argo. And then with this, it was like this whole other side where I not only appreciate his intelligence in that way, but I really got to understand and look back at his movies and think like, 'God, like I could see how textured and nuanced these performances are and how self-effacing they are and yet how really masterful.'

The Tender Bar, co-starring Daniel Ranieri, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, Max Martini, Rhenzy Feliz, Briana Middleton and Christopher Lloyd, arrives in theaters this Friday, December 17, and will be available to stream on Amazon Prime January 7, 2022. To learn more about all of the big movies that are presently scheduled to come out next year, be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Calendar, and if you’re in the mood for a Ben Affleck marathon, head over to our streaming guide for the actor.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.