Ben Affleck Talks Up Cast at 'Live by Night' Premiere

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Ben Affleck

“I just got really lucky and got all my first choices for this movie,” he said.

The Live by Night cast assembled Tuesday evening for a special screening of the film at New York's Metrograph theater, the Lower East Side venue brimming with excitement as guests rushed in from the cold. The crime pic is Ben Affleck’s fourth as director, following 2012’s Oscar-winning Argo. On the red carpet, the cast in attendance praised his steady hand and voice, with Affleck returning the kind words.

Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper, Sienna Miller and Chris Messina, part of what Affleck called the best cast he’s ever worked with, were all on hand for the festivities. “I just got really lucky and got all my first choices for this movie,” said Affleck, who also stars in, adapted the screenplay and produced the film. “So I was incredibly grateful that these people agreed to be in my movie. I’ve got a phenomenal cast.”

The event made the most of the Metrograph's quaint space, with a reception featuring specialty cocktails held in the upstairs dining area following the screening. Vogue's Anna Wintour and CNN's Brook Baldwin were among those in attendance.

For most of the cast, Live by Night was a reunion with Affleck. Cooper starred in 2010’s The Town, while Messina had a role in Argo. Even Miller references her history with the actor and director, saying her first-ever screen test in Los Angeles was with Affleck for John Woo’s 2003 film Paycheck, and that he’s been championing her from afar ever since. “He casts people that he trusts and he likes and lets everybody do their job,” Messina said.

Cooper agreed: “I hope he was comfortable knowing that he could trust me to come to the set prepared because I certainly realized the responsibility and the workload that he was taking on as producer, writer, actor,” he said, “You look at preproduction, the shoot and postproduction, it can really take three years out of your life. And God knows, he may have spent more time on this.”

Live by Night is based on the 2102 Dennis Lehane novel by the same name and follows Joe Coughlin, a veteran following his own rules in the Boston and South Florida crime scenes.

Affleck says he was drawn to the moral ambiguity of the work, something that appealed to him as well with 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, which also was adapted from a Lehane novel. “It was a morality tale and a complex one,” he said. As for his vision as director, Affleck said he was trying to tap into the gangster films of the '60s and '70s and to add to Warner Bros.' legacy of them.

“I was absolutely looking to pay homage to those great classic films that made me fall in love with movies,” said Affleck. “Film noir has flavored this a lot. This film is very rich with influences from other directors. This is about trying to do things the way I have seen them done.”

Throughout the evening, the cast gave glowing descriptions of Affleck as director — Fanning said that there was uniform respect on-set. Messina, meanwhile, said that Affleck seemed even more relaxed and at ease than on Argo.

“I think the bottom line is you want to trust your director and team,” he added. “You don’t want to question where they’re putting the camera or what direction they’re giving you. And when you can trust someone immensely like Ben, you’re kind of free.”

Live by Night opens in select theaters on Christmas, with a wider release set for Jan. 13.

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