Editor in Chief
On Saturday, January 26, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), Ben Affleck received the Modern Master Award. It was presented by his childhood friend Matt Damon, and the interview was conducted by film critic Leonard Maltin.
The Modern Master Award is the most prestigious award SBIFF offers. Past recipients have included Christopher Plummer, Jodie Foster, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Diane Keaton, Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges, Peter Jackson, George Clooney, Will Smith, and Clint Eastwood.
Affleck has directed three of his own films, has won an Academy Award, and two Golden Globes. He is incredibly critically acclaimed, earning the Golden Tomato from RottenTomatoes.com for the highest rated film of all time. He has worked with the most talented and amazing filmmakers of today, and gets to know them, too; He gave an impeccable impression of Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman, it turns out, does not really like to be directed.
Ultimately, Affleck is a great guy; he’s so normal, especially when he talks about his kids, and very funny.
“Directing is monumentally complicated, and is a function of the amount of time you pay to it. It would be great to go to a movie I’m not in. I could just eat Fritos and sit at the monitor and just say, ‘That’s good!’”
Matt Damon grew up with Affleck in Massachusetts; they began to see films together in their teens. Soon enough, they started flying to New York City and auditioning for roles. They’ve remained best friends thoughout the years; their camaraderie was touching, especially when Affleck made eye contact with Damon in the audience and they referenced Good Will Hunting, the film they wrote together, or movies they saw thirty years ago.
Affleck seemed surprised by his success; he is very humble without being insecure, and cited multiple influences whenever complemented. That didn’t stop Damon, when it came to presenting the award, from giving true and beautiful praise.
“You cannot make a great movie by accident,” said Damon. “Anybody who makes a great movie is a great director, period. Please welcome somebody who is undeniably two things: my very old friend and a very young master.”
“Nothing that is worthwhile can be done without a collective effort,” said Affleck in his acceptance speech. “The lesson I learned — the only real wisdom I have to offer — is that if there is a mastery, there is in partnership.”
“One question completely off topic: you’ve spent the last nineteen months just talking about Argo,” said Maltin, “You’ve been talking about it a long long time now-”
“Bored some people here tonight!”
“But as you move forward and you think about what you want to do next… do you think those decisions are affected by being a father of three children?” asked Maltin.
“I think that doing this kind of work does get informed by those kids — by the little paintings they give you, by the way they look at you, by the way you look at them — but mostly the way you see yourself reflected off of them into the universe, and the way that reflection is very changed from what it used to be in a sense of what my goals were and what my desires were,” said Affleck. “It makes it profoundly important to me to do work that has integrity and that I’m proud of. This last seven years is something… new and something incredibly rewarding and something that’s opened a whole door. I wish I could have known at fifteen that this is what life is all about. This is what it means. I think a central challenge of a lifetime is to make good people.”
Since this article was written, Argo won the Academy Award for Best Picture.