Ben Affleck has been open about his struggles with alcoholism throughout his career. The Way Back is, in many ways, a deeply personal film for the actor, who plays a high school basketball coach struggling with sobriety and attempting to piece his life back together. And, according to the director, one moment was so personal for Ben Affleck that he had a breakdown while filming it -- and they could not include the full scene in the movie.
According to director Gavin O’Connor, Ben Affleck filmed The Way Back while he was in the early stages of his own recovery. The director said the actor went to rehab while he was preparing for The Way Back. And while he was initially concerned that they would not be able to complete the film, his vulnerability in those early days ended up informing much of his performance.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the director revealed that filming one key moment, in which Ben Affleck’s character Jack Cunningham makes amends with his wife, caused the actor to break down:
It was probably the second take, Ben just had a breakdown. I’m getting chills thinking about it. It was like the dam broke and everything came out. I just remember the crew, everyone was frozen, watching him bear his soul. It was obviously real. A lot of things that he probably had to say in his own life, or maybe he had said, I don’t know.
While the scene remains in The Way Back, director Gavin O'Connor told the AP he made the decision to cut some moments out for the theatrical release:
It would be too hard for an audience to watch, too personal.
Though no one can know for sure what exactly Ben Affleck was feeling at that moment, Gavin O'Connor believes that he probably felt some parallels with his own life -- particularly where his divorce from Jennifer Garner is concerned. And in his own conversation with the AP, Ben Affleck acknowledged that he brought a lot of his own history to his performance as Jack Cunningham:
I knew how hopeless that can feel. And I knew how enormously frustrating it is. But I also knew something really important, which is: People get better. You can get better.
Ben Affleck also made it clear that his experience with sobriety has taught him a lot about how to survive the ups and downs of addiction:
What it really is, personally in me and what I’ve seen in others that I want for myself, is a profound sense of humility. You are not stronger than the thing you’re addicted to. It is stronger than you. It will always be stronger than you.