the tao of Ben


So a few days ago im watching the Hollywood Reporter’s Director’s Roundtable. This was pre Oscars and it had acclaimed directors like Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant,David O Russell,Quentin Tarantino, Tom Hooper and Ben Affleck.

As i watched it, something occurred to me that hadn’t before. Ben Affleck was sitting in the midst of critically acclaimed directors, most who had started or already had successful films before or while he was still building his career as an actor(Van Sant even directed him his Oscar award-winning screenplay “Good Will Hunting”)

These directors were making critically and commercially acclaimed films; Three Kings,Pulp Fiction,Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,Finding Forester , while Ben was the being punchline of comedians and late night show hosts, and was known more for who he was dating and his bad films.

Most of them have been directing for close to 20 years, most since the 80’s or early 90’s already had major respect as directors. BEN, with just three films , not only sits in their midst and shares equally with them, but is nominated in the same category as some of them, with less than 10 years as a director. Amazing right?(Ben went on the win the DGA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement and Best Motion Picture at the Oscars)

Some young directors tend to get worried or anxious when they haven’t made a feature film yet, especially when they see friends and colleagues gathering acclaim for theirs. But , going by Ben’s directing career, it’s not how soon, but how well.

Between 2007 and 2013 he’s made three stellar films,(that is after 20 yrs as an actor) and has been approached to direct many more. He’s living the dream of many directors in that he is spoilt for choice, he chooses his projects and is in high demand for others. With just three film, he has more respect and clout, than many others in Hollywood who have been around for 20+ years , with 30+ films, whose names we’ll never know or films we can’t remember. When it comes right down to it, at the end of the day, a director will be judged by their body of work, when the novelty of how young he started wears off. Besides, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and others are still directing well into their 60’s- 80’s.

Starting early is great, but not the be all and end all. If you don’t make your debut feature in your twenties or very early thirties, it’s not the end of the world, (Affleck was 35 when he made Gone Baby Gone,Clint Eastwood was 41 when he debuted with “Play Misty for Me)what matters is what you make , when you actually do make it. As the Bible says “the race is not for the swift”.

What do you guys think? Any examples of other directors that stared later than most, but proved to be equal or even better than those that started before them? PLEASE leave a comment below,Thanks.


4 comments on “the tao of Ben

  1. Great piece, Olu.

    And a very inspiring reminder that success is not how early but how well. I’ve been studying film Directing for two years now, and I’ve since learnt it shares one quality with great screenwriting. Oftentimes, the best works in film are made by those who’ve aquired the maturity — through experience — to see life from deeper layers than are obvious. Some of the greatest screenwriters wrote for ten years before penning their masterpiece. It’s the same way with Directors. Granted, there are many exceptions to this claim — Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese — but the majority of Directors hit thirty before churning out great work. Ben took a rarely travelled road. He reworked his reputation for poor film choices into one as a great storyteller. And it couldn’t have come at a better time than now, with age and the requisite insight & wisdom that should follow.

    I’m truly happy for Ben who I’ve never given up on since Good Will Hunting became one of my favourite films of all time. I predict that his Directing acclaim will be coupled with acclaim as an actor again, and that, with his controversial casting as Batman in Superman/Batman. He knows fans are upset about his getting the role, and I trust that he’ll put in the same work that’s made him one of the Directing greats into blowing the part out of the park.

  2. Great piece….I was wondering a few days ago also about Ben Affleck’s career. The thing I noticed is, everyone will have his time. (I digress a little bit but please allow) Myself and Segun(Movie Pencil) were just having a little debate on my blog about Robert Downey Jnr, how the washed up box office virus became the most bankable actor who gets a share of opening day sales in Marvel’s Avengers, in the midst of other stars in the movie…as long as you do what you do, and you do it well and you know when you are getting better…(because that’s what Affleck has shown….he only gets better since Gone Baby Gone)…you will one day get the recognition you deserve. Still a bit too early to tell, but it seems Neill Blomkamp is another kid on the block to look out for…only time will tell.

    • District 9 was a brilliant film, i personally think it was one of the best films of that year (same year as Avatar). Elysium seems to be another great movie. I feel if he doesnt allow Hollywood to permeate his creativity he could really have a great body of work by the time he retires.

      Everybody has got their time, though its very tough, but i think the key is to stay in your lane,ignore the other lanes,no matter how fast or flashy they may be, and just run your own race; cos at the end, in this movie race,if you do good,you’ll always have your own crowd applauding when you cross the finish line.

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