Robert Rodriguez Says Ben Affleck Is Similar to Old Hollywood Stars Who Lived Off ‘Steak and Cigarettes’

Director Robert Rodriguez has always been inspired by the likes of director Alfred Hitchcock, particularly the Master of Suspense’s mistaken identity features like “North by Northwest” and “The Wrong Man.” But it was the 1958 film “Vertigo” and its story of a police detective (James Stewart) being drawn into a mysterious world involving two women who look the same (played by Kim Novak) that inspired Rodriguez’s latest feature, the noirish feature “Hypnotic.”

“What I loved about the idea was it reminded me of what we do as filmmakers without making a movie about filmmaking,” Rodriguez told TheWrap. “This would be a cool way to make a movie about filmmaking because it’s what we do. We create a hypnotic construct for the audience to buy into and invest in emotionally.” Like Hitchcock’s film, “Hypnotic” follows a police officer, played by Ben Affleck, lured into a world of mentalists, including that of a woman named Diana (Alice Braga).

That Old Hollywood approach continued with how leading man Affleck played the character of Roarke. For Rodriguez, he compares Affleck to the late actor James Caan in Michael Mann’s 1981 feature, “Thief.” “It’s a throwback to some of the old movie stars. They lived off steaks and cigarettes,” Rodriguez said. “He [Affleck] has a gravelly voice, badass Lee Marvin-type look to him.”

Ben Affleck, Alice Braga
“Hypnotic” (CREDIT: Hypnotic Film Holdings LLC)

The fact that Affleck himself is a filmmaker was a “blessing” to Rodriguez, who said most actors turned directors aren’t there to handle the movie, they just want to act. “He just gets it,” Rodriguez said. “He knows what you’re trying to do. He feels your pain. He knows we’re trying to do this fast.”

In one particular scene, Rodriguez had to get in tight on Affleck’s face when he is crying. The tears and the shot had to be captured quickly, especially as the child actress Affleck was working with couldn’t be on set for long periods of time.

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That rapidity was also necessary from a storytelling perspective, with “Hypnotic” being vastly different than some of Rodriguez’s other features which employs what he calls “dream logic.” “Dream logic doesn’t have to make sense beyond the moment you’re watching it,” he said. Thus, his movies have kids playing spies and wearing jetpacks or, in the case of his 2007 feature “Planet Terror,” having a woman’s leg be a machine gun. “How does it fire? Who cares,” he said.

But “Hypnotic” couldn’t be like that. The production worked with a 55-day schedule that ended up being truncated to 34 due to COVID shutdowns. On top of that, production hours were cut from 14 to 10, and with multiple locations being utilized, a typical day would actually be more like a six to eight-hour shooting day, the shortest production Rodriguez had worked on since his 1992 debut feature “El Mariachi.” For Rodriguez, “it was just that kind of a production where it’s flying by the seat of your pants. Every scene was ‘How are you going to do this?'”

“As we started losing money on the budget because of the COVID shutdowns, I had to go very ‘Mariachi’ in my approach because we had to shoot so fast,” he said. “The lack of resources because of the COVID shutdowns helped make the movie better… It was that kind of a thriller where you could get away with fudging some of it as long as it makes sense at the end.”

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