Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Former CIA agent Tony Mendez and Ben Affleck playing Mendez in the 1970s in his film “Argo.”

Ben Affleck: The success of “Argo” keeps fueling a mix of highbrow, lowbrow, interesting and dull items about Affleck, but by now the search for new information to keep the actor-writer-director’s name in the media is dredging up mainly fascinating minutiae. For instance, for the 15-year anniversary of “Good Will Hunting,” which Affleck wrote with Matt Damon, Reelz has conjured up a slew of trivia:

Damon and Affleck initially wrote the story as a thriller with Hunting being targeted by the FBI to become a G-Man after being discovered to be a genius. It was Rob Reiner, president of Castle Rock Entertainment, who suggested to the duo to drop the FBI angle … The studio balked at the idea of Damon and Affleck starring in the movie and wanted Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio for the roles. Affleck also wanted Kevin Smith, whom he worked with on “Mallrats” and later “Chasing Amy” to direct, but Smith said they needed a “good director” and that he only directs his own screenplays (Smith was responsible for Miramax picking up the project). Mel Gibson, Michael Mann and Steven Soderbergh were considered.

Affleck, by the way, advised Damon with the script to “Promised Land” written by John Krasinski,  according to the New York Post. But the latest thing written by Affleck is an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he urges President Barack Obama and the U.S. government to appoint a temporary envoy to the Eastern Congo. A brokered peace is needed since the rebel militia M23 has set the country on the path to renewed warfare wrote Affleck, founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative.

Considering the seriousness of that, it seems fairly ridiculous to note that Affleck has apparently asked a hypnotherapist to help him kick the smoking habit he picked up anew on the set of “Argo” – and a little less so to cite producer, entertainment executive, entrepreneur and community activist Moctesuma Esparza in complaining about Affleck’s “white-washing” of Tony Mendez, the CIA hero of “Argo,” who is of Mexican ancestry and from Nevada and Colorado. Affleck, who is white, simply wanted to play Mendez (“I was just greedy for this part” he said in the Los Angeles Times, and fortunately the director and the actor “were sleeping together”), but for some reason had the script saying Mendez was from New York.

“This is classic ‘brown face’ at its worst,” Esparza wrote for the National Institute for Latino Policy. “His ethnicity is stolen from the Latino community at a time when Latinos have been demonized. Our real Latino national heroes, if acknowledged, would dramatize our patriotism and contribution to the United States.”

Perhaps the weirdest detail to come out of the “Argo” coverage this past week: According to ContactMusic, Led Zeppelin would let Affleck use its song “When the Levee Breaks” only if he went back to re-film a scene to show actor Tate Donovan putting a phonograph needle on the vinyl at the correct place. (“When the Levee Breaks” is the fourth and final track on Side B of “Led Zeppelin IV.”)

Casey Affleck: While older brother Ben preps a film about Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, Casey Affleck’s pitch to make a movie about the Boston Strangler has been picked up by Warner Bros., Deadline reported. “Affleck hopes to star as one of the detectives who were part of the Strangler Squad responsible for solving the crime, and he will be exec producer,” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. said, calling it “the most haunting unsolved serial murder story in U.S. history. While Albert DeSalvo was convicted of crimes unrelated to the Boston Strangler case, the public was spun to believe he was the man behind the 13 gruesome murders of women in Boston for over a year and a half. There is still belief that more than one killer was involved, and that DeSalvo was a pawn in a bigger conspiracy.”

Matt Damon: After backing “Argo,” the producing partnership of George Clooney and Grant Heslov are looking to make a 1940s-era “The Monuments Men” with an “Oceans 11” size cast: Clooney himself with Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Craig, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Bill Murray and now, according to Deadline, Matt Damon.

He’s also signed on to another superstar-studded group effort: A climate-change documentary called “Years of Living Dangerously” due to air on Showtime. Also aboard this multi-episode project by James Cameron as narrators are Alec Baldwin and Don Cheadle, the Chicago Tribune said.

Also, despite complaints to Elle last year about President Barack Obama’s iffy first term, Damon told The Wrap that (surprise?) he voted for Obama’s reelection. “Absolutely, I voted for him,” Damon said. “I’m a perennial optimist. So I’m very hopeful that this second term is going be a great one and that we’re going to see who he is and he’s going to make a lot of people’s lives a lot better. That’s my true hope.”

For the record, his Elle comments:

You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better.

“They didn’t ask me to do any fundraisers this time,” Damon told The Wrap.

Mindy Kaling: “The Mindy Project” continues to tweak its formula, with Kaling and her fellow producers and writers moving Anna Camp, who plays her best friend in the sitcom, to “recurring” status from series regular and writing out office-mates Amanda Setton and Stephen Tobolowsky entirely. That makes some room for guest stars, which will certainly include a two-episode stint from fellow “Office” alum, friend, Massachusetts native and “Mindy Project” consulting exec B.J. Novak, according to New York Magazine’s Vulture, and possibly a visit from Reese Witherspoon, according to a Kaling interview with E!

Regardless of the turmoil, the sitcom picked up a Writers Guild of America nomination for best new series, and Kaling’s star continues to ascend. While she’s not in the top 10 of The Hollywood Reporter’s 21st annual Top 100 Women in Entertainment list, she’ll be speaking (along with Sandra Fluke and Kerry Washington) at the ceremony, Indiewire said.

If anything, Kaling’s show has become essential to essayists who need stuff to analyze. This past week included Small Screen Scoop applauding the show for passing on the secret of the “human changing room” (for people who shop with friends at sales where you can’t make it to a dressing room); and Clique Clack complaining that “The Mindy Project” and Zooey Deschanel’s “New Girl” are too focused on vaginas. Writer An Nicholson seems to think vaginas are not funny:

When last week surrounded Jess’ period and Mindy’s gynecology exam, I squirmed uncomfortably and said, “Okay, I hope they don’t do THAT again.” Then, this week they covered reproduction. While Jess and Cece wondered about their reproductive abilities post-age 30, Mindy tried to prevent her adolescent neighbor from having sex (and accidentally having a kid). Don’t get me started about Schmidt seeing Jess’ OB-GYN while Mindy awkwardly talked about babies with a boner-worthy male teenager.

To be fair, An Nicholson, Kaling’s character on the show is an OB-GYN. If she were a taxi driver or even a podiatrist the complaint might be more valid.

Salon’s Willa Paskin knows what Kaling’s character does for a living, although she doesn’t explicitly say she knows Kaling’s real-life mom was an OB-GYN, and wonders at the show’s recent “dismissive” take on midwives in an episode where Kaling fights to keep clients from being poached by a male midwife office upstairs in her office building.

“The midwives were little more than cutie quacks, and all it took to get the dummies – and also audience surrogates! – who abandoned Mindy’s practice to come back was a not-that-convincing lecture. Mindy Lahiri is supposed to be smug, but in this instance ‘The Mindy Project’ felt smug itself – so dismissive of anyone who would throw over Western medicine during childbirth, it didn’t even mount a scathing counterattack,” Paskin wrote.

Paskin noted “Kaling’s personal politics and tastes,” meaning that she self-identifies at least semi-seriously as a conservative, and links right back to Cambridge Day to show the ways, making this item somewhat meta.


Traci Bingham was at the Boston Music Awards as a presenter, and NE Hip Hop got an interview with her; the former “Baywatch” star and Playboy playmate is going to be on Playboy’s “Celebrity Sex Tales” for another kind of interview. Jere Burns is getting a recurring role on A&E’s upcoming “Bates Motel” series, cast as a “mysterious character” with a vital role in the life of young Norman Bates, Deadline said.  Lenny Clarke is out there pitching for the Globe Santa in addition to Weight Watchers. John Malkovich turns 59 on Sunday.