Even before ‘‘State of Play,’’ his new movie celebrating the watchdog role of newspapers, Ben Affleck was partial to print. He grew up a reader of The Boston Globe and can’t imagine his hometown paper going out of business.
‘‘I was definitely shocked to hear about the Globe,’’ the actor told us, referring to The New York Times Co.’s threat to shutter New England’s newspaper of record unless it gets concessions from the paper’s unions. ‘‘I fundamentally misunderstood what was going on. Boston.com has 5.6 million
readers a month, and yet this hugely successful newsgathering operation is going out of business.’’ (For the record, Boston.com had 5.7 million unique visitors last month.)
Affleck, who’s in town filming ‘‘The Company Men’’ with Kevin Costner
, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper, has been thinking a lot about the fate of newspapers since filming ‘‘State of Play,’’ in which he plays an
up-and-coming congressman who tangles with a tenacious reporter played by
‘‘Part of the erosion of newspapers is about new media, but part of it is newspapers’ own fault,’’ Affleck said. ‘‘I think the public has felt let down by The New York Times and others for not asking the tough questions, whether about the Iraq war or the subprime issue. The job of the fourth estate is to stand outside the vested interests and say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t viable.’’’
In ‘‘The Company Men,’’ Affleck plays a corporate hotshot whose six-figure salary vanishes when he suddenly loses his job. He said reading about the Globe’s travails has been good research for his role in the downsizing drama.
‘‘It’s kind of symbolic,’’ he said. ‘‘Whatever happens _ tragic events, mismanagement, economic crisis _ who’s asked to foot the bill? The workers. They always come to the people who are working.’’
Yesterday, Affleck and Costner were again filming scenes in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury. Costner plays a construction worker who lends a helping hand to his laid-off brother-in-law, played by Ben.
‘‘It’s a story that revolves around what’s going on now without being didactic,’’ Affleck said. ‘‘It’s not an Upton Sinclair adaptation, but the themes have to do with the American worker’s relationship to the companies that employ them.’’
It’s one of several projects he’s working on. The Cambridge-bred actor just wrapped a promising comedy called ‘‘Extract’’ directed by ‘‘Beavis and Butt-head’’ creator Mike Judge.
‘‘I took a big swing... I mean, I like Mike Judge a lot, and he said, ‘If it’s not good, that’s OK because no one will see it,’’ Affleck said, laughing. ‘‘But that never seems to happen with me.’’
He’s also getting ready to direct and star in the big-screen version of Chuck Hogan’s Charlestown-based book ‘‘The Prince of Thieves.’’ That’ll roll at the end of August, which means he’ll be around for almost the entire Red Sox season.
‘‘I want to go see the Celtics and Bruins, too,’’ Affleck said.
The Bruins? All of a sudden, he’s a Bruins fan?
‘‘I’m a total bandwagon jumper,’’ Affleck said, ‘‘and the Bruins are really good this year.’’
Caption: Ben Affleck talking to brother Casey while directing "Gone Baby Gone."
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