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Ben Affleck’s Nod to Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee

A different kind of conversation flow is possible when a fellow filmmaker rather than a journalist interviews a Hollywood director. Witness the Interview magazine Q&A between Ben Affleck, whose critically hailed Argo opens tomorrow, and Gus Van Sant, the man who guided him through 1997′s Good Will Hunting.

Affleck admits he watched a number of classic American movies for stylistic research purposes. Cassavetes was instrumental for the California scenes, while 1982′s Missing greatly helped inform the Iran sequences. As far as the cloak and dagger stuff, he told Van Sant he reached back to arguably the best film ever made about American print journalism:

“I wanted the CIA stuff to feel like All the President’s Men (1976) – not the sexy CIA, but the CIA where papers are piled up on desks and there’s cigarette smoke everywhere. Bryan Cranston’s character in Argo is also a bit like the Ben Bradlee role played by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men. I thought that if what we did reminded people of movies from that era that were in the collective consciousness, then the subconscious would believe that our movie was actually taking place in the 1970s.”

Affleck’s next comment is the kicker. When Van Sant reveals he too likes to refer back to key cinematic signposts when making a movie, his former young charge responds: “Oh, good. That makes me feel like less of a hack if you do it, too. [laughs]”

Too bad Affleck didn’t ask Van Sant about such inspiration points for the latter’s Matt Damon drama The Promised Land, coming out in December. Bradlee, executive editor of the Post from 1968 to 1991 and currently a vp at-large for the paper, turned 91 in August.

[Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.]

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