Ben Affleck: Why no longer co-starring with Kristen Stewart in Focus
Kristen Stewart and Ben Affleck were set to star in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's con-artist comedy Focus (after first choices Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dropped out). In fact, Kristen Stewart herself confirmed her participation in Focus after the Internet had been abuzz with rumors for several weeks. But shortly after Stewart's announcement, Ben Affleck was out of the picture. But why, oh, why did Affleck drop out? (Photo: Ben Affleck.)
Rumors created by and for imbeciles notwithstanding -- e.g., Ben Affleck's jealous wife Jennifer Garner made obedient husband leave project following the casting of husband-stealing temptress Kristen Stewart -- it seemed pretty clear from the get-go that the actual reason for Affleck's dropping out of Focus was a scheduling conflict. After all, the formerly potential Best Director Academy Award contender has been keeping busy this awards season, and he has several new projects in the works including an adaptation of Denis Lehane's (partly) Boston-set, Prohibition Era crime novel Live by Night, which Affleck is also supposed to direct (like Gone Baby Gone, another Boston-set Lehane adaptation).
Live by Night vs. Focus schedules
At the National Board of Review Awards held in New York City last Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Berkeley-born, Boston-raised Ben Affleck, winner of the NBR's Special Achievement in Filmmaking Award for Argo, told MTV.com's Josh Horowitz that "I'm trying to meet [the Live by Night] schedule [...] so I can have it released at the right time. And I just hadn't gotten enough writing done; it became clear that if I took [Focus] and was in Buenos Aires for three months I was going to miss the deadline. I had to choose between getting [Live by Night] out when I wanted to or doing [Focus]. Reluctantly I chose the latter [sic; Affleck clearly meant he chose "the former," i.e., Live by Night], but I love those guys, I love Kristen. I was really excited to work with her. I think the movie is going to be fabulous. I'm sure they'll find a great guy for it."
Curiously, Kristen Stewart's name is no longer to be found in the IMDb's cast credits for Focus. Of course, that doesn't mean she's out of the picture. Any IMDb editor could have taken her name out. In fact, nothing has been said since Affleck's departure. No rumored new Stewart co-star has been bandied about so far, either -- at least that I've seen -- even though Focus is supposed to begin shooting in April. Admittedly, there have been casting suggestions aplenty, including Argo co-producer George Clooney, Ben Affleck's Boston pal Matt Damon, and, needless to say (and though much too young for the role of a veteran con artist), Kristen Stewart's pal Robert Pattinson.
Also worth mentioning is that I'd no idea that Focus is to be shot in Buenos Aires. At least that's what I understood from Affleck's remarks. And if so, here's wondering if Focus was in any way inspired by Fabián Bielinsky's intricate Buenos Aires-set, con-vs.-con thriller Nueve reinas / Nine Queens (officially remade as the little-seen Criminal in 2004).
Ben Affleck vs. awards-season competitiveness
Ben Affleck, by the way, claims he hasn't become prey of awards-season competitiveness. Affleck told Josh Horowitz he tries "to focus on honestly being glad that I'm here and get invited to stuff like" the National Board of Review Awards. That's a good thing, considering the Academy Awards 2013 nominations announcement made (very) early this morning -- Affleck, a shoo-in for a Best Director nod, was bypassed. Even so, the former Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, and Gigli star, and Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting co-screenwriter is still in the running for Oscar 2013, as he's one of the producers of Best Picture nominee Argo. Also, minutes ago Ben Affleck was named the Best Director winner at the Critics Choice Awards ceremony.
Kristen Stewart next movie projects
As for Kristen Stewart, her other movie project is the long-rumored Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, which was confirmed about a couple of weeks ago. We'll have more on Snow White and the Huntsman 2 in an upcoming post.
And in case you're wondering, Ben Affleck's upcoming Live by Night has no connection whatsoever with either Twilight vampires or They Lived by Night, Nicholas Ray's 1948 film noir starring Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell.
Ben Affleck photo: Details magazine.