Casey Affleck fires up for Out of the Furnace

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Like any good actor, Casey Affleck thrives on a challenge. “From an actor’s point of view, it was very interesting to get into a character that had such a tumultuous inner life,” he says, calling the Georgia Straight from Toronto. “There were things that he has seen and done that are driving him down a path of self-destruction.”

Affleck is talking about his latest role, in Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace—opening Friday (December 6). He plays Rodney Baze Jr., a troubled veteran whose life gets out of control when he returns to his working-class hometown after four tours in Iraq. The only stabilizing influence in Rodney’s life is his close relationship with his older brother, Russell, played by Christian Bale.

Affleck’s eclectic résumé ranges from working with director Gus Van Sant to the Ocean’s Eleven series. He received an Oscar nomination for his work in 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; that same year, he garnered critical acclaim for his role in Gone Baby Gone, directed by his brother Ben.

This time, in addition to Bale, the cast of Out of the Furnace includes Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Forest Whitaker, and Willem Dafoe.

“Sometimes you see movies with a great cast but they don’t seem to fit together in the same world,” he says. “Here, everyone seemed to fit together perfectly.” Meanwhile, Affleck describes writer-director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) as “a young guy with the wisdom of on old samurai”. When Cooper sent him the script, he was impressed by the mature storytelling.

“There’s an inevitable sense of tragedy,” he explains. “But there’s always a sense of hope alternating with that sense of hopelessness. So, in a weird way, they seem to go together.”

The challenge suits Affleck just fine. “I love taking a risk,” he says. “If I’m a little bit afraid of a part, that’s the first indication that it’s going to be good for me. If I can’t find that element of risk in the material, I always hope that the director is going to be open to taking chances. With this movie, I was lucky enough to have both elements. The material was different, difficult, and a little bit scary. And, as a director, Scott fostered an environment where risk was the common currency. We knew we were going to take risks, even if it meant making mistakes. And that’s the best kind of experience.”

Clearly proud of his work in Out of the Furnace, Affleck is philosophical about the way any of his films are received. “The movie business is very fickle,” he explains. “Some movies that work often don’t get seen and others that don’t work do. It has nothing to do with what I really care about.”

“I always try to remember that the experience is the thing,” he says. “That way, I never lose sight of what I love about making movies.”

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