The year that George Clooney turned 36, he starred in the forgettable The Peacemaker and the unforgettable (in a bad way) Batman and Robin. Based on those massive duds, it would have been hard to predict that only eleven years later, Mr. Clooney would not only have an Oscar, but also be one of the biggest movie stars in world. We bring up George Clooney’s 36th year because we couldn’t help but think of it when we read about Ben Affleck’s next project.
The much-maligned actor, who turned 36 just a month ago, has signed up to star in and direct The Town. Warner Brothers has an existing script for the film, which is based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, that Mr. Affleck will also re-write. The Town centers on a bank robber who falls into a star-crossed love affair with the manager of the bank he just robbed. Needless to say, things don’t go well.
That sounds a little bit like Out of Sight, the Steven Soderbergh gem that started George Clooney on his Cary Grant career track. Since his 36th birthday, Mr. Clooney has clearly taken a more active interest in the roles he’s playing, eschewing effects-heavy franchise tent-poles like Batman and Robin in favor of rewarding parts in films that are actually good. What a concept!
We can only hope Mr. Affleck is finally headed in the same direction. For too long, his mix of everyman charm and subtle sadness has been buried under an avalanche of bad press and worse films. Like Vincent Chase, Mr. Affleck has spent a good amount of time in Hollywood jail because of his poor decisions. But with The Town, plus his role in the highly anticipated screen adaptation of State of Play and a part in the new Mike Judge film Extract, it’s clear that Mr. Affleck has started taking his career a little more seriously and, as a result, his sentence appears to be almost over.
Look, we’re not going to sit here and actually say that Ben Affleck is going to have the same success that George Clooney has enjoyed. That would be insane. But are we going to be surprised if in eleven years Mr. Affleck becomes the guy you get when George Clooney can’t do your movie? Not in the least.