Q&A: Casey Affleck

Best known as Ben’s brother, Casey Affleck has had a pretty good career in his own right, including an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Now he’s starring alongside Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace, out December 6, playing a PTSD-addled Iraq vet who mysteriously disappears. Up next are a series of Boston projects and, who knows, maybe even something on rent control in Cambridge.

You’ve had a lot of highly acclaimed roles in under-the-radar movies and some supporting parts in big ones. Is this the sweet spot? A big role in a big movie?

You know, I thought Jesse James was a big movie. After all, it had Brad Pitt and it was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. And I don’t know if it made its own craft service at the box office. So you really never know. But even if this one just goes away and no one sees it, it’s something I’m really proud of. It’s reinvigorated me a little bit. It’s made me love acting again. Working with Christian was so, so incredible. It lit a fire under me.

I’m contractually obligated to ask: How was Christian Bale on set?

Oh my God! From the very first scene we did, I felt like he sort of anchored me in reality and made me better—and he was 100 percent a gentleman and a pro and really considerate. And just a damn good actor.

You grew up in Central Square, right? Make it home much?

I try to as often as I can. I wish I could live there. But for the time being, I’m out here to get work, and the kids are in school. But I still tell myself that I’m going to be moving back home pretty soon. Is Brookline Lunch still there?

Yeah, I was there a couple of weeks ago. It’s great. I read an interview your brother gave once, and he started going off about how Cambridge changed after the end of rent control.

It’s true. We heard a lot about rent control when we were growing up, and I didn’t totally grasp it. But sure enough, it totally changed the whole character of the city. Especially Central Square, which had been a very diverse working-class community and then got pretty quickly gentrified. All the families we knew sold their places and moved out of the city. But it still feels like home. If there’s anywhere in Cambridge that’s retained some of the character, culture, and color, it’s there.

If it’s any help, the Gap there closed a few years ago. 

Thank God. You know, at a really young age, we were out there roaming the streets. We were a single-parent household, and my mom worked until the early evening. We were taking the train, walking around the whole city by eight, nine years old. Now, you don’t see kids doing that as much. Even though it was definitely a hairier place back then.

You have a lot of Boston projects coming up, right? A Boston Strangler movie?

Well, it’s partly born out of a desire to be back in Boston—let me just come up with some jobs that I can bring back to Boston. I had read several books about the Boston Strangler and felt like it was a story that was ripe to be remade into a movie. I don’t have any agenda in terms of making some point about the actual case—it’s a studio movie and it’s going to be, I’m sure, full of inaccuracies. I’ll be playing a sort of amalgamation of the detectives, different people who worked on the case. I just think that it’s a good, exciting story and I want to see Boston in that period on screen.

Are you and your brother and Matt Damon still doing a Whitey Bulger movie?

Yeah, they’re working on that script now. That’s sort of their project. I haven’t really been too involved. Ben wanted me to play Billy Bulger, but I don’t know too much about what’s going on. But I would love that. I mean, what a great story, and Billy is such a fantastic character.

Okay, anything else before I let you go?

Well, yeah, I grew up going to the Harvard Square movie theater, which they recently closed. So many Harvard Square landmarks are gone—the Tasty—and of all the places there should be a theater, it should be Harvard Square. And so I’m rallying people I know from Cambridge, Matt and my brother and a couple others, and trying to find someone who would partner with us to reopen that theater as a not-for-profit place. But we have yet to be able to find someone who’s willing to take the reins or partner with us.

So you need an investor?

Well, it was bought by the owners of the Charles Hotel, and I think we need them to let the building be used without charging an exorbitant amount of money, because it’s a nonprofit effort. We’re just trying to hold on to one little aspect of what Harvard Square used to be.