Recently, Backstage sat down with some of the stars of “Argo,” Ben Affleck’s latest directorial achievement, which is earning heavy Oscar buzz. Affleck, who won an Academy Award with Matt Damon for scripting 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” was joined by Alan Arkin, who won best supporting actor for his role in 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” Also along for the ride was three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston.
Ben and Alan, you’re both Oscar winners. Do you have any advice for Bryan on handling awards season?
Arkin: No. My advice is to get your mind off it altogether. A good part of me has always resented the fact that artists are put up against each other in competition. I was lying in bed one day after the nominations came out and said to myself, “Has there been one moment at any of these awards that has ever made me happy?” Yes, there is one moment. It’s the moment I find I’m nominated. First of all, it was a surprise; I had no expectation. And second of all, it puts me in the company of people I admire a lot. It’s a wonderful, embracing moment; everything else is isolating. And isolating is against nature.
Didn’t winning make you happy?
Arkin: No. It didn’t make me happy. Losing would have made me unhappy but winning didn’t make me happy. It’s a moment of feeling isolated, feeling you’re special. It’s a moment of untruth because the reality of life is that we’re never isolated. We’re tied in this big mess together.
Ben, were you happy when you won?
Affleck: I was kind of overwhelmed by that whole period of my life. I was very young and didn’t really know what was happening in terms of going from 0 to 100, just trying to make this movie and struggling and struggling and struggling and then making the movie and being sent into this other life I hadn’t thought about and wasn’t prepared for. So I was not even able to define happy or not. I was just moving in slow motion and couldn’t quite absorb it.
Cranston: To echo what Alan was saying, with all the best intentions people would come up to me after the Emmys this year when Damian Lewis won, and the sentiment was appreciated, but the comments started to, quite frankly, irritate me. They would say, “You were robbed!” How do you even grasp that idea? Damian Lewis is a great actor who did a terrific job. If you get the tap on the shoulder that says this group of actors want to recognize you for something, that’s the way you have to look at it. Any actor or director I appreciate working with just focuses on the work.
Affleck: It sounds a little wishy-washy, but I do think it’s true that there are no absolutes, there’s not a best anything, it’s all subjective. It’s what you respond to the most. It’s not like you die and go to heaven and meet God and he says, “Actually, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is better than ‘Gone With the Wind.’ ” Don’t get me wrong, I like celebrating and honoring movies and artists, but there are no absolutes.
Elsewhere in this week's issue of Backstage, we look at 10 colleges in prime locations for pursuing professional job opportunities on stage and screen, and advice on finding a college that not only provides excellent training but also prepares actors for a well-rounded life. Pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands Thursday, Oct. 25, and check the website for additional stories!