AFFLECK: I haven’t abandoned it, but I look at working in politics again with a more jaundiced eye. Hillary does excite me, in the same way the potent symbolism of the first African American president was what thrilled people about Obama. It’s similar with Hillary and gender equality. The idea that 100 years after women got the right to vote, to have a woman president would be exciting.
PLAYBOY: You’ve been approached to run for office and told you could win. How seriously did you consider it?
AFFLECK: I don’t give it serious thought, because it would take me away from what I consider to be the prime of my storytelling career. I feel more in touch with that and what I want to do than I ever have. I wouldn’t step away from that for anything. I also know people are probably bullshitting when they tell you that you can win. It turns you into a professional fund-raiser. I don’t know what the future holds when I’m 55, 65 or 75. Right now it’s about making movies I believe in, that I think will thrill and entertain and be meaningful to audiences.
PLAYBOY: When you played a congressman in State of Play, one of the politicians you patterned your character after was Anthony Weiner.
AFFLECK: Which goes to show you how sharp my dramatic instincts were. I was tuned in.
PLAYBOY: How surprised were you when he was undone the first time, came back and had his Gotham mayoral aspirations dashed when it was exposed he was still sexting, under the moniker Carlos Danger? Are politics more of a shark tank than Hollywood?
AFFLECK: Yeah, D.C. is a little more of a shark tank than Hollywood because I think there’s a zero-sum game at play. You have to be out for me to get in, and the harder I hit you, the better it is for me. In Hollywood I’m a great believer in the idea that there is room for many people to succeed. There are a lot of long lives in this business.
PLAYBOY: Let’s reminisce about a few of your movies. Tell me what pops into your mind. Dazed and Confused?
AFFLECK: That’s where I learned that an actor could contribute to a movie beyond reading lines. Richard Linklater sent a note to all the actors that said, “If this movie is produced as written, it’ll be a massive underachievement.” We were all 19 and 20 and down in Austin, and all the actors started to write their own ideas and their own little scenes. It demystified the process for me in an important way. And I was in Austin with all those young people that summer, and I was the only person who didn’t have sex.
AFFLECK: You tell me. Maybe it was the hairdo.
PLAYBOY: Your character was so loathsome you didn’t get laid?
AFFLECK: You know, I can’t explain these things.
PLAYBOY: Next: I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three Picture Deal at Disney.
AFFLECK: That was the first thing I directed. I was into directing student-film shorts. My friend Jay Lacopo had written this untitled 12-page screenplay. I gave him a title and he said, “You direct it.” I thought, Well, I don’t understand screen direction, but sure, I’ll direct it. We shot that for a couple of days and——
PLAYBOY: And you’ve been living it down ever since?
AFFLECK: I don’t know. It’s pretty good, actually. Some of my best work.
PLAYBOY: Chasing Amy.
AFFLECK: One of the best experiences I’ve had. We all lived in Kevin Smith’s house. We rehearsed it like a play. We shot on 16 millimeter. I got the chance to do the kind of acting I had never done before. Not knowing if anyone would ever see this cheap movie was freeing. It didn’t seem like a movie, more like people running around with a video camera.
AFFLECK: My introduction to big-budget Hollywood. I went from Chasing Amy a year before to being in a movie that cost $150 million, or whatever it was. We shot for 100 days with cool indie actors like Billy Bob Thornton, Owen Wilson and Steve Buscemi. We had fun.
PLAYBOY: Is that the first time you really made money? How did you handle it?