It's common knowledge that The Way Back, the new movie starring Ben Affleck, is a bit of a blend of fiction and reality for the actor. Affleck has had real struggles with alcohol, which makes the fact that his character in the film does the same, feel that much more real. However, the fiction and the reality of The Way Back came even closer together when the actor entered rehab just before filming on the production was supposed to begin. There was even a question as to whether or not the movie would actually be able to happen.
Director Gavin O'Conner says that it's actually thanks to Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck's ex-wife, that the film still moved forward as planned. He says the studio had largely given up on the movie, but the actress called the director personally after Affleck went into rehab in order to explain just how much Affleck wanted to make the film, and to ask O'Conner not to kill the movie...
So, what happened was, just as we started prepping the movie, Ben fell off the wagon. So he ended up going to rehab, and I didn’t know if the movie was over. The studio certainly thought the movie was over. His ex-wife Jennifer Garner called me up, and told me that when he went to rehab, he took a basketball with him. She said, ‘Gavin, he’s asking you, please don’t pull the plug on the movie, he really wants to do this.'
Ben Affleck had been signed on to star and produce in The Way Back, which was called Torrance at the end of 2018 when production got underway, prior to going to rehab, so it was perhaps simply an odd coincidence that the actor went from recovery into making a movie about a man in need of recovery.
On the one hand, it feels almost fated that these things fit together so well. At the same time, there's also the fear that playing a man dealing with alcoholism could be too real for somebody still dealing with those real life issues, that perhaps a relapse could be possible. Gavin O'Conner tells 34th Street that Ben Affleck couldn't see anybody from the outside for 30 days after he entered rehab, but once that was allowed, he got together with the actor to figure out how to move the project forward while still allowing Affleck to heal.
We spent half a day together and figured out a way to do this that will work for him, because most importantly he needed to recover and needed to get his sobriety on track. That overtook everything. And then he got out the day before we started shooting. So we had a very raw, vulnerable guy showing up for our first day of shooting.
While the studio may have once thought the movie was dead, it went forward after all, and today most critics are praising Ben Affleck's raw and vulnerable performance.