5 things we learned from the oral history of ‘The Town’

The Ringer spoke to Ben Affleck and numerous others involved in making the 2010 Boston crime drama.

Ben Affleck Jeremy Renner The Town Fenway Park
Ben Affleck as Doug MacRay and Jeremy Renner as Jem Coughlin in "The Town." Claire Folger/Warner Brothers Pictures

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of “The Town,” Ben Affleck’s Oscar-nominated crime thriller about a group of bank robbers in Charlestown who target Fenway Park for one final score.

Featuring a star-studded cast including Jeremy Renner (“The Avengers”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Rebecca Hall (“Shameless”), Blake Lively (“Gossip Girl”), and Chris Cooper (“Little Women”), the movie grossed more than $150 million worldwide and immediately cemented its place in the Boston crime movie canon.

To mark the occasion, Alan Siegel of The Ringer, the sports and pop culture publication founded by “Boston Sports Guy” Bill Simmons, published an oral history of the film, talking to everyone from Affleck and Hamm to producers, co-writers, and costume designers.


The revealing retrospective features a number of fun facts, including who was originally supposed to play Affleck’s role and what the Cambridge native thought when a certain Boston publication wrote a critical review of the movie.

Here are five things we learned from The Ringer’s oral history of “The Town.”

1. The movie was originally supposed to be 3 1/2 hours long and star Brad Pitt instead of Affleck.

Before Affleck stepped in to direct, Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction”), who recently directed Affleck and his girlfriend Ana De Armas in “Deep Water,” was attached to the project. According to cowriter Peter Craig, Lyne was so enamored with “Prince of Thieves,” the book “The Town” is based on, that he asked for a $90 million budget and expected the film to be 3 1/2 hours long.


As the film progressed toward production, Lyne added Brad Pitt in the lead role, and toyed with the idea of telling the story as an erotic thriller, according to Affleck. Ultimately, studios balked at Lyne’s ideas, and the project died until it was later revived by Affleck.

2. Rebecca Hall’s character didn’t have a Boston accent — she had a Marblehead accent.

Affleck didn’t want Hall, who plays Claire Keesey, a bank teller who lives in their neighborhood and is taken hostage by the group during a robbery, to sound like the other Charlestown residents in the movie. Instead, Affleck gave her an audio recording of a woman from Marblehead reading all of her lines so that she could practice.


“Marblehead is a little chi-chi,” Hall said. “It’s more general American but with a kind of East Coast, sort of slightly privileged vibe. I was doing that.”

Affleck said that after “The Town” came out, a review in the Boston Phoenix, the now-shuttered alt-weekly, slamming the film’s Boston accents.

“I was only comforted by the thought that no one with a Boston accent has ever actually read the Boston Phoenix,” Affleck said. “If the Herald said that, I might’ve taken it more personally.”

3. The Bruins wouldn’t let Affleck wear official team apparel in the  film.

According to Affleck, the Bruins had a policy to not allow licensed apparel appear in a film that involved “swearing or violence.” Instead, costume designers stayed up until 3 or 4 a.m. stitching together a jacket with a logo that passes for the spoked B on first glance.


“I’m like, “Why the f*** do you think people go to hockey games?” Affleck said, regarding the Bruins’ decision. “Swearing and fighting. It’s like 50 percent of why people buy tickets.”

Jeremy Renner, Slaine, Owen Burke, and Ben Affleck in “The Town.”

4. The film also almost featured John Cena.

In the film, the part of Affleck’s pal Albert “Gloansy” Magloan is played by local rapper Slaine, who had never acted before landing a role in Affleck’s 2007 film “Gone Baby Gone.” During casting, Affleck also met with another local to potentially play Magloan: WWE wrestler turned movie star John Cena, a native of West Newburyport.


According to producer David Crockett, Cena got physical with Affleck when the pair met.

“They’re both from Boston and they’re doing the whole Boston thing, and Ben being Ben, in a very playful way, tries to like, wrestle him,” Crockett said. “But John is obviously a much bigger guy. The way John tells the story is, ‘Of course I do two [moves] on him and I’ve got him and he can’t move,’ and [Affleck’s] like, ‘alright, alright, alright!'”

5. The scenes filmed at Fenway Park interrupted a wedding and woke up Jonathan Papelbon.

It took Affleck and Co. 13 days to complete filming for the big heist scene near the end of the movie at Fenway Park, which involved lots of gunfire, stunt drivers, and general mayhem. In one instance, filming caused a disturbance for a couple who were getting married at the park at the time.

“Someone was getting married,” co-producer Chay Carter said. “And someone had forgotten to tell them that we were downstairs shooting. So all of a sudden, while they’re getting married, they hear gunshots at Fenway. Then they realized that we’re shooting a movie. It was kind of a moment for them.”

In another instance, former Red Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon came out to complain about all the noise film crews were making.

“The day that we’re shooting the shoot-out with Jeremy [Renner], where he gets killed out in front of the McDonald’s behind Fenway — when you do these stunts with cars, you have to really clean the streets immaculately because these drivers are precision drivers,” Affleck said. “They’re stopping at an exact certain point and if they go too far, people’s lives are at stake — it’s a very serious thing.

“But the machines they use to clean the streets are very loud and we were cleaning the streets at like 7 in the morning and out of this apartment building comes Jonathan Papelbon,” Affleck continued. “He’s like, ‘What the f*** are you doing? You woke me up.'”

Get Boston.com's browser alerts:

Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.

Jump To Comments


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com