In his new movie, "Out Of The Furnace," Casey Affleck plays Rodney Baze Jr., a bit of a lost soul who, after serving time in the U.S. military, returns to his small Pennsylvania town and finds himself entwined in a violent, illegal, bare-knuckles boxing syndicate that's run by a terrifying man named Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). It's a path that Rodney's older brother, Russell, (Christian Bale) warned him against.
When Affleck called for this interview, he was in a quite wonderful mood -- dishing out jokes and even pushing the interview well past its set end time. He wanted to keep talking -- about his role in Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar," an esoteric Q and A about "Oceans 12," and even his brother's recent casting as Batman.
Casey Affleck: Where are you?
New York City.
Everybody is in New York. I was just in New York, I could have done this in person.
I was supposed to go to a press lunch that you were at on Wednesday, but I couldn't make it.
Oh, you missed out, man! That was one of the best press-related experiences I think I've ever had.
Now I feel bad.
It was pretty cool. We had a little place setting for you that said your name and everybody just came by and spat on it. They thought you were so rude that you didn't show up [laughs].
I'm sure that's true.
Have you seen the movie?
I have. It's very bleak.
Yes. That's one observation I would agree with.
It feels like at any second something bad is going to happen.
It does have an sense of impending doom. It also feels, to me -- I only saw it once a long time ago -- it also felt peaceful. Is that the weirdest word to say? You know, it's such a violent movie and I hate violence in movies. I hate violence more in real life. I hate watching it -- I hated watching all of these real fights I had to watch for this part.
You had to watch real bare-knuckle fighting?
Yeah, these terrible, gruesome... I hated it. They were these real, illegal bare-knuckle fights. But the movie does -- I think it's because of the photography -- the aesthetics of the movie [were] somehow calming in this really weird way. Maybe it's just me.
After the movie a couple of us wondered what Harlan DeGroat's CinemaScore would be for "Midnight Meat Train," which we see him watching at the drive-in movie theater during that first scene that takes place in 2008. I'm not sure he liked it very much.
[Laughs] "Midnight Meat Train"!
That's the movie he's watching.
I know. I know. It's so weird. But what other movie would DeGroat go out to?
I'm looking at the top 10 movies of 2008 right now. "The Dark Knight" is number one, and that won't work because Christian Bale is in this movie.
Are you seeing what else we could have used?
I don't think anything other than "Midnight Meat Train" works. DeGroat's not going to pay to see "WALL*E." What about "Gran Torino"?
[Laughs] Maybe? He might have just gone to the drive-in to go to the drive-in. I don't think he's like a very discerning cinemagoer. You know, I think he might have shown up if it was "WALL*E." If "WALL*E" was showing, he might not have known what it was -- if he hadn't seen the trailer on iTunes and he just went.
I always heard threats that there might be backlash for making "I'm Still Here" with Joaquin Phoenix. Was there any actual backlash? Was anyone actually mad?
I think that people were. I think there were some people who felt inexplicably irritated, I guess might be the word.
Yeah. I think they felt kind of... I can't explain it. But there were people who expressed irritation that the movie was being made. That the whole concept just sort of rubbed people in this weird way. You know, and I sort of once felt like, OK, that's an indication that we're doing something that is interesting. That it's different. People can't put it in a category in their mind, so it's bothering them. And on the other hand, I sort of felt like I don't ever want to leave people with some bad feeling. I don't like that feeling. I'm not one of those people who can easily just sort of shrug off having angered somebody. And people were angered. Because they thought that not only just like in the media -- but people that were in the film in one way or another sort of felt like they had been... Put it this way: Joaquin's character was so horrible and obnoxious. To the point that he and I thought that this was a totally unbelievable, absurd satire.
I feel a turning point was getting Letterman to go along with it. I think that convinced a lot of people.
It may have been. I don't know. That was pretty deep into the whole experience. Even people who we told, we said, "You have to understand, this is just a performance. He's playing a character, but we're doing it in the real world so it has the appearance of being a documentary. We're trying to make as realistic of a faux-documentary as we can" -- just because we thought that was the funniest context for the performance.
I feel sci-fi is upping its game lately as we've seen with "Gravity." I'm looking forward to "Interstellar." It feels like this is really going to be something...
I hope it's going to be something. I'm a huge sci-fi fan.
I didn't know that.
Oh, yeah, I love it. Five years ago, I feel like no one was making science fiction. You couldn't get a science fiction movie made if you had a great one. And then, suddenly, the winds shift and then everyone's doing it, which is great -- which is awesome. And I'm excited about this one. You know, there are some classic films that I would love to see made, but it's hard. If they make a few huge ones, sometimes people get sated and then they start thinking, Alright, no more science fiction. Do you have any westerns?
Is it weird for you that your brother is Batman? Like as a sibling type thing.
I don't know. It didn't strike me as that. I honestly don't think it's that big of a deal. People seem to have gotten pretty excited about it, but I'm like, "What? I don't know why..." It's certainly cool for me, but I don't see why it would be cool for anybody else. Like, really, isn't there any news in the world?
I think for the most part people were happy.
Well, that's good. I think he's perfect for it. He'll be great.
I asked Steven Soderbergh a similar question. In "Ocean's 12," Tess knows that she looks like Julia Roberts. Does Virgil Malloy know that he looks like Casey Affleck?
What?! Who plays Virgil Malloy?
[Laughs] I don't know, your question... I don't understand the question. What happens? Tess did something?
In "Ocean's 12"...
Which one was 12?
The one in Amsterdam.
Tess, played by Julia Roberts, pretends that she is Julia Roberts to get access to a museum. Does Virgil Malloy know that he looks like Casey Affleck?
[Laughing] Oh, I see. That's very, very funny. Man, I didn't see the movie. That's a great question. That's a very meta way of thinking about the film. What did Steven say?
That he thought about taking the joke further than he did.
Well, I remember saying on some improvisation on a train platform outside of Amsterdam, I was talking to George Clooney and he was asking me how old I thought he was. And I said something like, "It doesn't matter, you're the sexiest man alive three times, or something," And that just killed the whole improv right there. And everyone was like, "Aw, no, you can't say that!" So, that would have been in line. We could have done a whole running gag about everyone looking like someone else -- basically being those people. That's "Ocean's 14," though.
Listen, let me ask you something, just be honest with me, is this a positive piece about the movie?
Honestly, I did like the movie. But this is more of a Q&A than a piece about the movie. Like, my question, then your answer...
But maybe your question could be like, "Because you're so amazing in the movie, what do you think about such and such?"
And then you answer and make me feel bad about not coming to nice press events.
[Laughing] I'll just give you questions. "Because this movie is a gigantic blockbuster and obviously so incredibly well made, what did you think about ...?" That's how it should be framed.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.