Ben Affleck's upcoming movie The Way Back hits close to home. In the sports drama, Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, an alcoholic, former high school basketball star who reluctantly returns to his alma mater to coach. Affleck's character also deals with the fallout of how addiction ruined his marriage. The parallels weren't lost on the actor or the film's director, Gavin O’Connor.
“Once we started to prep the movie, [Ben] went into rehab. He sort of fell off the wagon. So now we were prepping the movie while he was in rehab and we thought it was going to fall apart,” O’Connor recalled to the Associated Press. “But he still wanted to do it. When he got out, he was incredibly raw and vulnerable and I think a little lost just in regard to having to confront the demons.”
It wasn’t hard for Affleck to tap into his real-life pain. During a scene in which Jack makes amends to his wife, the actor “had a breakdown.” O’Connor let the camera roll.
“It was probably the second take, Ben just had a breakdown. I’m getting chills thinking about it. It was like the dam broke and everything came out,” the director explained. “I just remember the crew, everyone was frozen, watching him bear his soul. It was obviously real. A lot of things that he probably had to say in his own life, or maybe he had said, I don’t know.”
Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced their separation in 2015 but didn’t officially divorce until 2018. They share three children. During this press tour, the actor has repeatedly called divorce one of his biggest regrets.
The emotional scene remains in the movie, but O’Connor didn’t include the whole take, explaining it was too raw.
“It would be too hard for an audience to watch, too personal,” he said.
Affleck told the AP making the film was cathartic.
“Sometimes just feeling those feelings again purges them a little bit and frees you a little bit,” the Oscar winner shared. “This movie was hard to make. Sometimes it was painful. And sometimes I was embarrassed. And sometimes I couldn’t believe my life had any similarity to this.”
Affleck was fine with the inevitable questions he’d get about parallels between the film and his life.
“Frankly, I get asked about that stuff, anyway,” he shrugged.
“Unfortunately, I had actually lived that life and done the research. I brought a certain perverse expertise because I knew what it was like to feel in thrall to a compulsion that wasn’t good for me,” Affleck added. “I knew how hopeless that can feel. And I knew how enormously frustrating it is. But I also knew something really important which is: People get better. You can get better.”
Affleck noted, “But for the last three years, 99% of my life I’ve spent sober.” However, a relapse in October was captured by paparazzi.
“The times that I’ve relapsed, personally, have been not been because I’ve had some bad thing happen. It’s been when I thought I had it licked,” Affleck explained. “I’m fixed! I’ve been fine! It’s been a year and a half, who cares! I can have a glass of wine! And the next thing, you’re on TMZ and it’s a disaster. That teaches me that it’s just not something I can do.”
While Affleck is grateful for what he’s learned through sobriety, he’s aware of the pain alcohol addiction has caused his family.
“I would not wish it on myself principally because of my children and because it has caused them pain, which I would give anything to change,” says Affleck. “But I can’t change the past. I can go from today. I can make sure today I’m good. That’s what I’ve got. I’m a guy doing good today.”
Ben Affleck calls his divorce from Jennifer Garner “the biggest regret of my life”:
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.