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As a return to “respectable” acting work, playing Reeves offered Affleck the challenge of capturing the essence of a character we saw on screen, and creating the George Reeves we never saw at home. “Obviously, George Reeves was an iconic guy because of who he played and that was in some ways tragic for him,” Affleck said. “The onus was on me and on [director] Allen [Coulter] and on the writers to be consistent with who the guy really was because there is a sort of burden and responsibility, even more so because I think of George as a guy who never really got a fair shake. So I thought that it would be the least that we could do here to give him his fair shake. I researched it pretty meticulously and there was tons of research that had been done before I even came on which I was the beneficiary of. Fortunately he left behind a body of work that I could look at and watch. I saw 104 episodes of the television show among other things. If I screw that up, I really have no excuse.”

One thing he learned from Reeves is that the pursuit of fame and success should not be the endgame. “You keep on running on this treadmill and reaching for another movie or another prize or another accolade or someone else to ask for my autograph or another TV appearance. It never gets there. It's hollow. It's like a western façade town on the Universal lot.”

You go, 'Oh, look. It looks like the old west. It's neat.' But if you there and actually open the doors, there is nothing actually inside. It doesn't matter what's inside. It just matters what it's showing you. So that's how it kind of works and I've done that and I'm lucky. I got to kind of see that and then say, 'Okay, well, what do I really want to do?' In the course of that I got dinged up plenty and now there are things that will probably come along that I won't get the chance to do that I would like to.

He can laugh about it now, as he always did. Remember when he went on Leno to read the reviews of Gigli? But director Kevin Smith believes it really does hurt his friend. “I’m sure inside he might be the sad little clown because it’s tough to read that much bad sh*t about yourself. I don’t care who you are,” said Smith. “Even if you’re sitting on top of the world making 15 million bucks a picture, nobody wants to open a paper and read a bad review. And this went beyond bad review. This went into ‘Let’s dissect the dude’s personal life on a regular basis.’”

Playing George Reeves gives Affleck a bit of a chance to rail on the media, even if it is the 50-year-old media. “The way that I got into looking at the character and the things that I identified with him were, among other things, was this idea of being and feeling that you were someone other than what the outside world saw you as, and the injuries that he sustained in some ways from that. There was a kind of, ironically, polite distance then in a certain way. I mean, you were Rock Hudson and everyone knew you were gay, but it just didn't get written about. That's not how it would be now.”

Reeves may have been the first celebrity to inspire a tabloid frenzy, Affleck postulates. “He got into this car accident and none of the articles mentioned him by actual name. 'Superman crashes car. Faints at sight of own blood. Man of steel.' And so on. So it was a kind of wry sort of schadenfruede, slightly smug, detached putting down of people who are supposed to be elevated. I think that was the very first beginning of having idols who seemed bigger than everything and then the treat of it and the perverse thrill was finding out that they weren't really Superman, that in fact they were human, and seeing them be destroyed to prove it and then lamenting them and looking back on the good things that they did.”

To be fair, it’s not just actors who deal with this. “I think that's the most trivial aspect of the media, the evolution of the media like to what degree they treat some celebrities sexual dalliances versus, say, presidential privacy, President Clinton versus Jack Kennedy.”

Whether Hollywoodland rejuvenates his career or not, Affleck now has more important things in his life. “I love being a father. It's wonderful. It's changed my life. It all sounds like platitudes and clichés and that's because they're the truth. It fast became the most important thing in my life and kind of reorganized my priorities instantly in a way that feels really good. I love that. My wife is a spectacular mother, a spectacular everything.”

And at home, he’s definitely not the big star. “Two days ago my wife had to go to work and I was there taking care of the baby and I was trying to make sure everything was going to be okay. She came in and said, 'I'm running out.' And she gave me the baby. And she said, 'Okay, you know how to feed her with the solid food.' I said, 'Yes. I know how to feed her.' She said, 'You take the peaches in the thing and you stir that up and you put that in with a little oatmeal and then put that in with a little bit of the crushed pears.' Then she looked at me and said, in all seriousness, ‘Is this too complicated?' That's my wife. It actually wasn't too complicated, but the fact that she thought it might be speaks to something.”

As Hollywoodland begins its release on September 8, Affleck won’t be paying attention to the box office grosses. He’s on to his directorial debut and raising little Violet, which is all that matters. “I have a family. I'm working on stuff I like. I directed this movie now which was extraordinarily terrifying and wonderful and horrible and great all at the same time. So I'm in a nice place. I don't see myself out in the press and in the papers as much which has been really nice.” / Issue 59 - September 1811
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