ben affleck

Ben Affleck in ‘Argo’

*The first time in 2000 that I first interviewed Ben Affleck, who was promoting his film, “Reindeer Games” that starred Isaac Hayes, Gary Sinese, Clarence Williams III and Charlyze Theron.

Ironically, Ben’s brother, Casey Affleck, was promoting his movie, “Drowning Mona,” the same day in the same hotel. That day it was obvious the two had a great future ahead of them. “Goodwill Hunting” proved not to be a fluke for Ben when the critically acclaimed and awards nominated “The Town” became a hit in 2010. The extraordinarily entertaining and much anticipated thriller “Argo” not only directed by Ben Affleck, but he stars in it. The tasks were not difficult for him, he admitted. “You really just rely on a good screenplay that’s rooted in reality, and you rely on good actors, where their performances are so credible. We got really lucky because most of what happened in this movie is extremely compelling and the characters were very interesting.”

On the fears of making the film, Affleck said there were none.

“We were in L.A. for a lot of it. So, on a lot in Burbank you feel very removed, and also, it turns out that there’s like a million Iranians in L.A. and they’re all on our side. They call it Tehrangeles, and that’s where we got all our extras from. It was actually this incredibly warm environment of support, people who really liked it. We felt, I thought, quite safe in Turkey.” He went on to say, however, “[The world] is still a very dangerous place. There are some real parallels going on with the Arab Spring, from Tunisia to Egypt to Syria, places where the unintended consequences of revolutions are playing out and where the west, the Canadians, the British, are having to examine what our role has been historically, what the result has been in of our involvement. So, I think it’s definitely relevant on a sort of global, political level.”

For more reasons than one, filming in Turkey had memorable moments, especially in the Hagia Sophia where four thousand lights were replaced. “I was really moved by that and I wanted to profile it as a mosaic of Christ, which has been uncovered in a place that was for centuries and centuries a mosque,” Aflleck explained. “It’s now a museum and I was really moved and transported by it.”

Marques Houston drawn to ‘Battlefield America’

marques houston

Marques Houston in ‘Battlefield America’

With “Battlefield America’s” familiar scenario, Marques Houston was asked what drew him to this particular project that is now out on DVD?

“At first I wasn’t going to be in it,” he says, “but the thing that really attracted me to the script the most was the real life situation, the real life element to it. I feel  like there are so many underprivileged kids out there who don’t get the opportunity to do things that they want or follow their dreams. Also, it shows how community centers and outreach programs play a part in helping these kids find what they’re looking for, find their niche and find their place in life. All that was in the story. In addition, my character Sean Lewis gave me an opportunity to play someone that I’ve never done before. I’ve done comedy before. I did ‘You Got Served.’ But in this one, Sean Lewis is a marketing director, and he comes from the world of big business. It gave me the opportunity to go in an entirely different direction, totally stepping out of my box.”

From reel to real, Houston has spent time visiting kids at the YMCA and various other youth centers. “I like to just kind of give the kids a little inspiration and talk to them about their goals. I’ve run across so many kids that get so excited when an entertainer visits because they come from broken homes, don’t have families and don’t parents to look up to. Some of the kids have parents on drugs, or they have been abused so I try to do what I can to inspire them because everybody needs a hero, everybody needs someone to look up to. So I think this movie imitates that real life situation where my character ends up giving these kids the fight that they had in them all along, the importance of team work and believing in yourself so that you can achieve your dreams.”

Houston has returned to the studio but he will never lose sight of acting career. “Music will always be a part of me, but I am definitely focusing on acting and producing,” he avows.

All things Bond have reached a fever pitch

halle berry

Halle Berry as ‘Jinx in Die Another Day’

With “Skyfall” soon to be released and 007 celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, all things Bond have reached a fever pitch. Included in the celebration is the fascinating documentary, “Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007,” airing on EPIX through Nov. 11th. Barbara Broccoli, daughter of the late Albert R. Broccoli (aka Cubby), was at the Crosby Hotel in New York recently to talk about everything Bond. “…The Untold Story of 007” centers on producers Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and author Ian Fleming’s behind the scenes dealings that launched one of the longest running onscreen spy franchises, with exceptional Bond footage and incisive interviews.

Asked what dictated Bond’s transformation over the years, Broccoli says it had to do with the times.

“The two major things are the situation within the world; the other is the actor playing the role. Both of those decisions will influence the direction the series goes. For example, when we were making ‘Die Another Day’ with Pierce Brosnan, which was an incredibly successful film, 9/11 happened. When we went to write the next one, we were really struggling to find a direction to go in because we felt Bond couldn’t be frivolous. He couldn’t be too fantastical because the world situation had turned so serious. So that was why Michael and I decided to make “Casino Royale,” which was the original first book, the coming of age story. Cubby and Harry didn’t have the option when they got the rights from Fleming and it was kind of the Golden Fleece. When we got the rights we thought we needed to do it and I think it was an appropriate decision at the time to take Bond in a much more serious direction and go back to Fleming’s books and that’s why the casting of Daniel Craig reflected that. He brought a lot of humanity to the role and you get to see more of the inner turmoil and conflicts within him. It’s a much richer portrayal and appropriate for this time in history in the 21st century.”

Explaining Bond’s longevity, Broccoli mentioned a number of elements. “It’s a combination of Ian Fleming, obviously, who wrote this extraordinary character, this complex character that has been able to change through the generations,” she offers. “I think a lot of it is also the actors that have portrayed James Bond. They carried it forward. And the audience, our fans, because we make the films for them and find they come to the movies with a tremendous amount of good will and have kept us going.”

Syndicated columnist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]