Some degrees of separation: Not entirely random notes about Ben Affleck, Dennis Lehane and Christopher Nolan and blogging

December 19, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 19, 2014

One interesting thing about blogging that I learned this fall is that it helps me make connections — often completely unexpected ones.

I don’t just mean the kind of free-association stuff that happened in my car — well, in my head while I was driving — Wednesday night, which I wrote about yesterday. I mean things like actor-director Ben Affleck’s connection with novelist Dennis Lehane.

I’ve written four different blog posts about Lehane — in December 2012, when I discussed his 2008 historical novel, The Given Day; the following month, when I reviewed Lehane’s 2003 psychological suspense thriller, Shutter Island; in April 2013, with a take on Lehane’s 2010 finale to his Kenzie-Gennaro detective series, Moonlight Mile; and six weeks ago, when I reviewed Live by Night, Lehane’s 2012 quasi-sequel to The Given Day.

How does Affleck come in? About three weeks ago, when I was preparing my post about his 2012 Academy Award–winning movie, Argo, I looked up Affleck’s directing credits. Argo is Affleck’s third feature film. His first full-length movie, Gone Baby Gone (2007), turns out to have been based on Lehane’s 1998 novel, Gone, Baby, Gone.

Oh, and not so incidentally: Affleck has a fourth movie in the works. It’s also based on a Lehane book — in fact, on Lehane’s 11th novel, Live by Night.

Actually, I forgot about this Affleck-Lehane link for a few weeks. It resurfaced just the other day; when I started sifting through some long-neglected browser tab, I caught sight of Affleck’s Internet Movie Database page and it jogged my memory.

By the by, there’s another Affleck who connects with this blog. (The following link is something I learned about when preparing this very blog post.)

I knew that Casey Affleck, Ben’s younger brother, was in a movie I saw recently, Interstellar: Casey has a relatively small role as Tom Cooper, the main character’s adult son. (A different actor fills the role during Tom’s teenage years.) What I hadn’t realized is that Affleck starred in one of his sibling’s films: Casey played private eye Patrick Kenzie in Gone Baby Gone.

Oh, and Casey Affleck has a role playing Morgan O’Mally, a character whom I don’t recall in the least, in Good Will Hunting, the fine 1997 movie directed by Gus Van Sant. Good Will Hunting — which I haven’t seen since it was released — was written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and starred the writers and Robin Williams.

Matt Damon, by the way, has a pivotal role in Interstellar as Dr. Mann, one of the marooned scientists. So that’s at least two movies that Matt Damon’s been in with Casey Affleck. (The two men are never on screen together in Interstellar; I’ve no idea whether they share any scenes in Good Will Hunting, although I’d guess the answer is yes.)

And speaking of Christopher Nolan…

He directed Interstellar, of course. And Inception. And a trilogy of excellent Batman movies. And Memento, a fantastic psychological thriller from 2000 about a man with a memory impairment.

I don’t remember much (the irony here is unintentional) about The Prestige, Nolan’s 2006 movie about dueling British 19th-century magicians — although I distinctly remember reading, and loving, the 1995 Christopher Priest novel on which it’s based — but the movie seems to have been well-received. That’s also true of Insomnia, Nolan’s 2002 Alaska murder mystery starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, which I’m certain that I’ve never watched.

What I’m trying to say here is that writing this blog has helped me realize that Nolan is one of the most inventive and exciting filmmakers of our time. Not to get all fanboyish — there have certainly been things I’ve disliked about Nolan’s recent films — but this is a writer-director with intelligence and style.

So one of my mini-projects for 2015 will be to seek out, watch and write about the other Nolan features that I’ve yet to discuss on this blog: Following (1997), MementoInsomnia and The Prestige.

It’ll make for some interesting viewing, I’m sure. And for some interesting blog posts, too, I hope!

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