In the age of pop culture idolatry, Fitzgerald’s “there are no second acts in American lives,” feels more and more mistaken than it already does. Even cancel culture never really cancels anyone permanently (see Mel Gibson), and there’s something in American culture where we’re always rooting and ready to embrace a comeback (within reason. Ben Affleck seems like a prime example and he’s about to be on his third act or second comeback depending on which way you want to look at it. Affleck’s career in super terse terms goes a little bit like: talented actor squanders Academy Award-winning career (an early Oscar for co-writing “Goodwill Hunting”), for Bennifer/”Gigli” days of fame, Us Weekly covers and complimentary bad acting choices. Affleck goes away however and reinvents himself as a terrific writer/director—three great thrillers in a row—and his film (“Argo”) wins the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2013. Affleck then squanders the goodwill earned from this second act by starring in largely loathed superhero movies as Batman, loses his mojo and his directing and finds himself at the bottom of the tabloid barrel again after a struggle with alcoholism. Those days seem almost behind Affleck though and he’s gearing up to get back to what he’s best at, directing. Deadline reports that Affleck will write and direct a film about the making of the seminal noir movie “Chinatown,” starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.
Titled “The Big Goodbye,” Affleck will write and direct an adaptation of the Sam Wasson book “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood,” and is set up over at for Paramount.
“Chinatown” is well-regarded as one of the best movies of the 1970s and is considered an all-time crime and noir classic that also helped usher in an auteur-driven era of filmmaking that overtook the commercial efforts of the studios for most of that decade. The 1974 movie was directed by Roman Polanski, starred Nicholson, Dunaway and John Huston. “Chinatown” was also produced by famed Hollywood exec Robert Evans who had a Midas Touch for much of the 1970s, and made films like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Love Story,” and “The Godfather.” His larger-than-life career was chronicled in the doc “The Kid Stays In The Picture,” based on his own memoir about his rise and fall in Hollywood. “Chinatown” was nominated for 11 Oscars at the 47th annual Academy Awards and won Best Screenplay for legendary writer Robert Towne (incidentally, Towne has been plotting a prequel idea with David Fincher for Netflix).
While he’s attached himself to several projects over the years (“King Leopold’s Ghost” being just one random example of many), Affleck’s last directorial effort was 2016’s “Live by Night,” but it was largely seen as a misfire, and an effort made during his time trying to juggle Batman duties at the same time. Affleck had also considered directing “The Batman” movie, but the ugliness of fandom and the toxicity of Batman soon convinced him otherwise and he let Matt Reeves take over the directing chores and soon vacated the superhero role altogether (fan rumors that Affleck is coming back as Batman thanks to Zack Snyder’s Justice League”—which he could end up doing some reshoots for as a favor to his director friend—are unfounded and honestly, extremely misguided).
Affleck just received some of the best reviews of his career for his acting turn in “The Way Back,” and it now seems like he’s finally going to put his directing career back in first gear. Next for Affleck is the thriller “Deep Water” and Ridley Scott‘s period pic “The Last Duel,” but don’t be surprised if he turns away from acting and dives fully back in his directing career after that. [Deadline]