“Ben, I love you!”
An overwhelmed Casey Affleck blurted out those three little words during the tail-end of his Best Actor Oscar speech. Unlike the random namechecked publicist or agent, absolutely no context was needed. Ben. We all know Ben. In that moment, millions at home — save a few New York Yankees fans — felt pure happiness for the brothers Affleck.
Their story is insane. Two working-class brothers from Cambridge, Massachusetts, with zero family showbiz connections managed to hit it big-with-a-capital-B. Sure, they’re both handsome as hell. But, come on, so are 90 percent of young white dudes that come to Hollywood with stars in their eyes. More than 20 years later, the brothers have never been more in-demand. Casey, 41, stars in A Ghost Story, an avant-garde meditation on grief for which he’s covered in a white bed sheet (the Sundance Film Festival hit opens in NYC and L.A. on July 7.) Ben, 44, is also covered up in his new project — the low-budget indie, Justice League (opening November 17). He plays Batman.
They’re both probably major good times at a Boston bar. But which Affleck has had the more impressive career? MaraMovies sizes ‘em up. Caveat: As someone with two siblings, I believe it’s super-wrong to pit brothers up against each other. Let’s do it anyway!
’90s Starter Film
Ben — School Ties (1992)
Casey — To Die For (1995)
To Die For is a witty jet-black media satire courtesy of Gus Van Sant; School Ties is the best football movie of the ’90s featuring rampant anti-Semitism. Each movie features an Affleck, though they probably have three speaking lines combined. Casey, as a ne’er do well high schooler hired by Nicole Kidman to kill her husband (Matt Dillon), gets the slight nod. The logical reason: Thanks to School Ties’ stacked cast, poor Ben is only the fourth cutest prep school student onscreen. Sorry/not sorry! Winner: Casey
Ben – Gone Baby Gone (2007), The Town (2010), Argo (2012), Live by Night (2016)
Casey — I’m Still Here (2010)
Solid. Great. Excellent. Meh. Despite that Live by Night misstep, Ben has become increasingly skilled behind the camera. (Still can’t believe he was snubbed for Argo.) Casey directed his then-brother-in-law, Joaquin Phoenix, in the sleazy faux documentary, I’m Still Here. This resulted in two settled lawsuits involving ugly accusations of sexual harassment. No-brainer. Winner: Ben
Ben — Two Oscar wins (1997 Original Screenplay, Good Will Hunting; 2012 Best Picture, Argo)
Casey — One Oscar nomination (2005 Best Supporting Actor, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford); One Oscar win (2016 Best Actor, Manchester by the Sea)
Perhaps you’ve heard…? Childhood pals Ben and Matt Damon got their break by cowriting the screenplay for Good Will Hunting, a drama about a math genius/janitor and the rich British student who loves him. Their behind-the-scenes resumes could have (and should have) peaked right then and there. But Ben one-upped his best friend by adapting, directing and coproducing the Oscar-winning Argo. That said: He had to share both awards. And he’s never been nominated in the acting category. Casey nabbed the pinnacle achievement for his craft on his first try. In this rare case, one is bigger than two. Winner: Casey
Would You Like Franchise With That?
Ben — Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), The Batman (2018)
Casey — Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
Ben’s Batman saga is a work in progress. Though Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a dud, he has nowhere to fly but up. Casey’s work as one-half of the brothers in disguise in the uneven Ocean’s trilogy was more of a delightful trifle. Can you recall one of his scenes from Ocean’s Twelve? Winner: Ben (though he owes me one for not delving into Daredevil.)
Ben — Clerks 2 (2006)
Casey — American Pie 2 (2001)
Not even the presence of an Affleck could save these sequels from inevitable disappointment. I’d love to tell you all about Ben’s role as “Gawker Guy” in his friend Kevin Smith’s unnecessary follow-up to Clerks, but I spent the summer of 2006 obsessing over The Devil Wears Prada. Casey cameos in American Pie 2 to once again dispatch crucial advice to his younger bro (Thomas Ian Nichols.) The wisdom: Spend the end of the summer in a lake house. Brother knows best! Winner: Casey.
Ben — Gigli (2002)
Casey — Triple 9 (2016)
This is intended as a compliment. Failure is good for the soul. And movie bombs don’t get more nuclear than Gigli. Go figure that a big-budget confection focusing on a mobster with a heart of gold (Ben), a tough-talking lesbian (Jennifer Lopez) and a mentally challenged teen (Justin Bartha) didn’t do gangbusters at the box office! The debacle nearly derailed his career. The stakes were considerably lower for Casey’s dreadful thriller, which grossed a measly $23 million. This would be OK for an indie. Not for an epic crime yarn with an ensemble that included Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie and Norman Reedus. Casey was second-billed. Winner: Ben
Affleck Insurance Card
Wasn’t that fun? Casey has indie cred and an interesting oeuvre. Bet you forgot about To Die For. He’s never turned in a bad performance. But he’s not Ben. So-so acting skills be damned! He has the ability to appeal as an accountant, an adulterer, a thief, a CIA agent, a superhero, a romantic leading man, an astronaut and a deadbeat. Put it this way: If the two starred in a project tomorrow, there’s no contest which brother would get top billing. Please, someone, make this movie happen. Overall winner: Ben
Who’s your pick? Comment below!
Also published on Medium.