Ben Affleck Explains Why He Was Nervous Directing His Buddy Matt Damon

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Written By Maya Cantina

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have made incredible careers for themselves individually, but for many fans, they will always be linked, considering the huge way they came on the scene together following Good Will Hunting. The pair have worked together on and off ever since, but it turns out that making 2023 movie release Air was something very different, because it was the first time Affleck had directed his lifelong friend.

Speaking with Michael B. Jordan (who also made the transition to directing for the first time recently with Creed III) for Variety, Affleck says that all his work with Matt Damon, on both sides of the screen, had been easy because the two had been on equal footing. But with Air Affleck was going to have to be the boss and direct his friend, and his friend had also worked with some heavyweight directors before. Affleck explained…

It’s interesting. During the course of our friendship, we had written together, we had acted together — that’s very, very comfortable and easy. I realized that I’ve [directed] these movies, and he hasn’t seen that part of me. Before we were shooting, I was like, ‘Matt has worked with Spielberg, Scorsese, the Coen brothers.’ So now in his mind, he’s going to kind of be holding me up against these other experiences.

It had to be at least a little intimidating for Ben Affleck to realize that Matt Damon would be comparing him to some of cinema’s heavyweight directors. Affleck is no slouch as a director, several of his films have received high praise for his work behind the camera, but that doesn’t mean he is going to see himself on that level.

The good news is that there were apparently no problems between the two. Affleck says that Air’s cinematographer even talked to him about the fact that, after the first few days, Damon “trusted” Affleck as a director. That certainly had to feel good for Affleck. Our own Air review called out Affleck’s direction and Damon’s performance among the film’s highlights

Actors often talk about how different directors approach films, and there are clearly a lot of different strategies, it certainly would have been awkward if Affleck’s style didn’t mesh well with Damon, the fact that they’re friends would have only made things harder for them. 

Since it appears that Affleck and Damon worked well together in this environment, one has to wonder if we might see it again in the future. Many directors have actors they work with regularly, like Scorsese’s collaboration with De Niro, and Wes Anderson’s regular list of collaborators, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Affleck start to build his own group of players and see Damon become one of them.

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