On the set of a film, the director is king. He or she is the one who ultimately calls all the shots and makes all the decisions, and while different filmmakers allow different amounts of opinion on their sets, the final call in basically every situation is there. As such, you might see why a director might be nervous about casting an actor who is also a filmmaker -- fearing that they might try and be a bit too forceful with their thoughts. This was a concern very much at the forefront of Gavin O'Connor's mind when he was first starting to make The Accountant and was looking at Ben Affleck to star -- but it wound up being a situation that fully defused itself in the first phone call between the two men.
Gavin O'Connor shared this story with me late last week when I sat down to talk with him during the Los Angeles press day for The Accountant. Curious about his working relationship with Ben Affleck, I asked if he had to change his personal approach when working with an actor who is an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right -- and O'Connor explained that he didn't really have to thanks to a conversation he had with Affleck during pre-production. Said the director,
So, Ben I think is the first actor I've worked with that's not only a director, but a really good director. So, our first, our first conversation that we had on the phone, which was a long talk about the script and the character and what my intention is with the film, and what I want it to say, and we're making sure we're aligned... One of the first questions I asked him on the phone, I said, 'Look, I'm a big fan of yours as an actor, and as a director,' and I said, 'Let's just have this conversation now, so that we don't run into problems later. I can't have you directing. It's my movie, respect everything else... and he was like, 'I'm just showing up to be an actor in your movie.'
In fact, it seemed that Ben Affleck was actually more than happy to not be sitting in the director's chair for the making of The Accountant, as he even promised Gavin O'Connor that he would be happy to just leave set whenever stuff would start to fall apart:
He even said, 'You know, what's great is when shit starts going wrong and fucking things are falling, I'm going to just walk back to my trailer, and you can deal with it!'
It seems that this wound up being a smart start for the work between the two, as it immediately established the important hierarchy that would exist on set -- and apparently it led to the two men being happy working together. They say communication is the key to any relationship, and this is a prime example.