Skip to main content

Deep Water’s Ben Affleck Feared His Performance Wasn’t ‘In His DNA,’ But The Director Knew Otherwise

Adrian Lyne and Ben Affleck behind the scenes of Deep Water
(Image credit: Hulu)

In the making of Adrian Lyne’s Deep Water, both of its stars had specific anxieties that they faced while developing their performances. For Ana de Armas, it was a concern about how audiences would receive her character – the actor playing a selfish and vicious viper of a woman in the aftermath of her star-making, charismatic turn in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.

For Ben Affleck, however, the concern went deeper. According to the film’s director, Affleck expressed fear that his performance as the vulnerable and cuckolded Vic Van Allen in Deep Water was not something he felt was “in his DNA.” Lyne, however, knew differently.

I interviewed Adrian Lyne virtually last week prior to the release of Deep Water on Hulu, and during our conversation we spent time talking about his experience working with Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas both individually, and as an on-screen couple. The filmmaker told me that he expressly wanted a turn from Affleck that he had never seen before, and apparently it was a challenge that the star wasn’t wholly sure he could overcome. Said Lyne,

I was very excited to see Ben Affleck in a different way. I didn't want him to be outgoing and sort of ebullient, which I'd seen before. In this movie, I wanted him to be sort of vulnerable, almost childlike. I wanted you to believe that he was obsessed with these snails. And so, a vulnerable man. And he would say at times during the movie, he would say, 'This isn't in my DNA,' but it was in his DNA because he did it for me!

In Deep Water, based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, Ben Affleck’s Vic is a wealthy, retired tech designer who is married to Ana de Armas’ Melinda Van Allen – though they have an unconventional relationship. Wanting to maintain a stable family life for their daughter, Trixie (Grace Jenkins), he permits his wife to carry on extramarital affairs. While she is regularly off drinking and seducing young bachelors, he stays at home minding his snail farm.

It objectively is a very different kind of character and performance than we typically get to see from Ben Affleck, and Adrian Lyne shared how he helped evoke the turn from the actor. The filmmaker said that the chemistry tests with Affleck and Ana de Armas were not conducted in a cold, empty soundstage, but instead at his own home so that he could see the potential co-stars in a real domestic environment. Lyne explained,

What was interesting was that I tested them my house in Beverly Hills. They came around and it was good working there – we were doing a test there, because I'd use the bathroom, I'd use the bedroom, I'd use the terrace or whatever, so it wasn't a sort of an antiseptic thing in a studio. And so it was very interesting just watching the chemistry between them, me the fly on the wall.

Continuing, Adrian Lyne recounted a specific moment from the test – one that began with Ana de Armas interacting with Ben Affleck while he was off camera. But that didn’t remain the case through the read, as Affleck found himself drawn in to join her in the scene:

There was a scene I remember, when she's sitting on the edge of the bed and she's putting lotion on her legs, and she's pissed off at him. And he's kind of wry and sort of dealing with it. And she's sort of semi-flirtatious. It's a nice mix between them. And so at one stage, after three or four takes... He was off camera, and he was intrigued with what she was doing, and he said, 'I'm going in.' Because he wanted to be part of working with her, for me to see that, you know? And so that was exciting, just seeing the start of the chemistry between them.

Should Deep Water (opens in new tab) ever get a home video release, one hopes that the recorded chemistry tests would be made available as a special feature. For now, audiences can enjoy their on-screen chemistry by watching the actual film, which is streaming exclusively on Hulu as of this past Friday (if you don’t have a subscription it’s extremely easy to get one).

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.