Interview | Casey Affleck Talks Out of the Furnace
In Out of the Furnace Casey Affleck plays Rodney Baze, a PTSD suffering military man who finds himself engaging in bare-knuckle fights to pay off his gambling debts. Such an intense role required an actor who was equal to its requirements, and following a compelling turn in David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Affleck gives another impressive performance.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the actor on behalf of This is Fake DIY ahead of Furnace’s UK release this week, and Affleck tells me how he has developed as an actor and the meaning of the tattoos Rodney wears. Additionally, he discusses what it was like working with Christopher Nolan on upcoming sci-fi epic Interstellar. Have a read below.
Amon Warmann: You’ve spoken before about wanting to act more but waiting for a good script. When something like this lands on your desk, how quick is your decision making process?
Casey Affleck: When I read a good script I just get excited by it, regardless of what the role is, and then I just think about whether I can do anything good with the part. If I can, that’s all there is to it. You also think about whether or not the director is someone you’d be willing to work with.
AW: One of the aspects I found really interesting in the brother dynamic is that Christian’s character is in jail and when he returns it’s to a different version of his brother. As cinemagoers, we can chart your on-screen development pretty well. Looking at where you were when you first started compared to now, what’s something that has changed which we maybe haven’t seen?
CA: Good question. One thing that I’m more willing to do is act for the director. To put it another way, once you’re working on a movie you have to put yourself completely in the director’s hands and allow him to push you in ways you don’t want to be pushed, that make you uncomfortable, and to do things in scenes that you don’t necessarily think are right. If you’re not running the play that the coach has called you’re just going to mess everything up because you’re just one part of a team.
I used to have my vision of what I wanted the part to be and what was important about it and I would try to execute that and incorporate the director’s input into my idea of what it should be. Now I think that I like to be more of service to the director.
AW: I noticed in your fight scenes that your character had a few tattoos, one of which I think was in Arabic. Is there a story behind each tattoo?
CA: Some of them didn’t end up being seen, but each one of them was very specific and most of them were taken from photographs with soldiers. The one in Arabic was the name of a city in Iraq. A lot of these guys would have places where they fought tattooed on them so there are names of places with dates. Then there are the more traditional ones with US Army symbols, name and rank, stuff like that.
AW: How many tattoos did you have in total?
CA: I can’t remember exactly, but it was probably around 10.
AW: On screen you and Christian really come across as brothers, especially in the way Russell looks out for Rodney, and being someone who has three older brothers that really resonated with me. Who would you say is the person who’s been looking out for you most in your life?
CA: Probably my wife. Sometimes I get obsessed with the part that I’m playing, thinking about it endlessly, wanting to talk about it endlessly. To anyone else it’s a bore much of the time, but she puts up with it and gives great advice.
AW: I really like your performance because you really get us into the headspace of your character. How draining is it playing a character such as this, and how hard is it to get rid of that mind-set?
CA: It’s tricky to go from a total immersion with a group of people on a job to change gears completely, come home and be more domestic. It’s a little abrupt those changes because it’s so cold turkey…I’m not one of those people when once they’re home, everyone keeps calling me by the characters’ name or something, that’s just crazy. I’m usually pretty sick of being on a movie by the time it’s over.
AW: Would you say that in this regard this is one of the tougher characters you’ve had to play, because you’ve played intense characters before.
CA: This part was a little bit tricky because there was some physical stuff involved. We looked at a series of photographs with soldiers before they went to war and when they came home. A lot of them looked wiry and gaunt and that’s what the director Scott wanted me to look like. That took a bit of changing in diet and exercise. The character is also uptight, anxious, and angry so a lot of the scenes had that feeling to them. After a while, it starts to permeate your own feelings and moods, so for those two reasons it was harder than say the Ocean’s movies, but it was infinitely more rewarding as well.
AW: Later this year you’ve got Interstellar of course which we’re very much looking forward to. Just how secretive is that project and what’s it been like to work on it?
I think if you’re working on something you want to finish it and then show it to the world. If you’re a painter you don’t take snapshots of it half done and then post them online, so I completely understand that secrecy. That part of it wasn’t what made the biggest impression though. The impression that I was left with after working on that movie was that Nolan is an incredibly smart, talented guy who is a master of his craft right now, and on top of it finds time to be a sweet and approachable man, and that’s saying a lot. I was very impressed.
AW: I know you’re also writing a movie about a guy called Josh Hamilton? Tell us more about that…
CA: That’s something I wrote because I really love the story. It’s about a young man who was a sports prodigy and he got into a car accident, he was hurt and his life spiralled downward. He went from having his first drink to experimenting with cocaine to spending years being hooked on crack. After ruining his entire life he turned things around and now he’s playing professional sports again and I thought it was an amazing story and I also liked the character himself. I thought he was a really sweet, interesting guy and so I thought it’s a nice way to keep your brain alive between movies and to push yourself by writing screenplays.
This article was originally published at This is Fake DIY.
You can read my review of Out of the Furnace here.