Bill Simmons, the sports writer and founder of The Ringer, had Matt Damon and Ben Affleck on his podcast, “The Bill Simmons Podcast” in an episode released Wednesday. The childhood chums, who grew up in Cambridge, discussed their lifelong friendship, dealing with fame, and their upcoming film “Air,” about the Michael Jordan-Nike collaboration, which Affleck directed and the two produced.
Here are six things we learned during the conversation.
Getting older made them want to work together again
“Air” marks the latest co-starring vehicle for Damon and Affleck, the most recent being the 2021 film “The Last Duel.” But the pair said they’re not just eager to act together, they’re going to be working as close business partners for the foreseeable future. Last fall, the duo announced an independent, creator-focused production company Artists Equity, launched with Gerry Cardinale.
Affleck said “The Last Duel” reminded him of how fruitful their collaboration could be. The pair decided to make a concerted effort to work together, given the difficulties of maintaining friendships with age, and considered what kind of paths they wanted to take with their careers.
“It really came out of this kind of longer conversation we were having about what we want in our lives,” Damon said.
For Affleck, that meant working a consistent schedule and providing stability for his children. “Air” is the first film from his and Damon’s new company.
Damon believes he would have crushed Affleck’s role in ‘Argo’
While the two friends have written and acted together before, Affleck had never directed Damon in a film until “Air.” Simmons asked Damon if he ever wondered why Affleck never cast him in the previous four films he directed. Damon said he wasn’t asked to be in the 2010 film “The Town” or the Best Picture-winning, 2012 film “Argo,” joking that he could have played the lead in the latter movie instead of Affleck.
“I could have crushed the lead in that movie, but he took it for himself,” Damon quipped.
Affleck responded: “Could have, yeah, but I would have made less money.”
Simmons then questioned why Damon wasn’t in “The Town.” According to Affleck, it wasn’t an affordable option. “Matt Damon costs what the movie costs,” Affleck said, which Damon confirmed, drawing laughs from both Simmons and Affleck.
“Back then, I was in a Bourne run,” Damon said.
Affleck acknowledges ‘Sad Affleck’ without naming the meme
Affleck spoke to Simmons about the challenges of being a tabloid fixture earlier in his career, and how even now, his mundane moves like picking up a coffee order or taking out the trash is photographed for the world to see.
Damon said that compared to Affleck, he was lucky to not receive the same volume of paparazzi attention, noting the frenzy that surrounded Affleck and his first wife Jennifer Garner.
Affleck clarified a misconception that celebrities want that kind of exposure and that often, they are trying to hide. He then talked about his own experience with paparazzi.
“One of the reasons why ... people always think I look sad or pissed off is because the pictures that you see, it’s self-selecting,” Affleck said. “You only see me at the times where I’m standing there with my kids and five guys are following me and shouting things, which brings a feeling out in you that is not a happy feeling.”
Affleck has been known for his sorrowful expressions, often captured in paparazzi photos as well as in interviews and at award ceremonies. The consistency of his despair is known as the “Sad Affleck” or “Sadfleck” meme, which Affleck didn’t name in the podcast episode, but he has talked about it in the past.
Damon and Affleck shared a bank account in high school
As aspiring actors, Damon and Affleck were so encouraging of one another that they shared a bank account in high school, they revealed to Simmons.
“It was unusual, but ... we needed the money for auditions, for trips to New York, so that’s what the money was for,” Damon said.
But occasionally, Damon conceded, the money was used for recreational activities like playing video games and trying to buy alcohol.
While it might have been a strange choice to share an account, the decision was born out of a mutual support. The attitude was “let’s go out there and like, do this together,” Affleck said.
Damon and Affleck reflect on living together as young actors
In addition to sharing funds, Damon and Affleck lived together for a time early in their careers. Simmons asked the two about the angriest they’d ever been with each other. While Affleck declined to share, he did divulge that Damon used to neglect household chores.
“I do remember one time, me and Casey in Somerville just being like, let’s see how long he can go [without taking out the trash],” Affleck said.
Apparently, the Affleck brothers stopped picking up trash to see if Damon would notice. “Three days later we came home, Matt was playing video games, surrounded by old sushi boxes,” Affleck said.
Getting Viola Davis to act in ‘Air’ made Affleck feel like he made it as a director
The prospect of working with Damon was exciting for Affleck, but the film became meaningful when he got to speak to Michael Jordan, Affleck said. “Air” follows the conception of the Air Jordan shoe and is not a biopic about the iconic athlete. Affleck said he sought Jordan’s approval and input on the story. Jordan gave several points of insight, including his wish for Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis to play his mother.
“The joke we have is that’s like saying you want Michael Jordan for your basketball team,” Damon said.
But it worked out, and Davis plays Deloris Jordan in the movie. Directing Davis was a “lifelong dream,” Affleck said. “I just thought that would mean something for me, that I had made it ... that an actor that important and talented was willing to trust me with their performance.”
In the same way that they had to strengthen their “Good Will Hunting” script to get Robin Williams, which the two spoke about in the episode, they had to ensure the part was appealing to Davis.
Affleck said they told the EGOT winner, “Here’s the best we can do. Come help us, use your voice and experience and make this better.”
“Air” releases in theaters April 5.
Abigail Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.