Published: April 10, 2013
Ben Affleck returned to acting on Tuesday night, stepping out for his new Terrence Malick film To the Wonder, which premiered at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.
But what really got him was the film’s posthumously released review by Roger Ebert, published online on April 6, just two days after the critic succumbed to a long battle with cancer.
“There will be many who find To the Wonder elusive and too effervescent,” wrote Ebert about Malick’s semi-autobiographical film, which largely does away with dialogue while following a wrenching relationship between a closed-off Oklahoma man, Neil (Affleck), and a French single mother, Marina (Olga Kurylenko). “They’ll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need.”
The film earned Ebert’s last “thumbs up.”
“I did read it,” Affleck told USA TODAY on the red carpet. “I thought it was lovely. I went and visited Roger last summer and talked about Argo. I was in his home, and met his wife and saw how tough (conditions) were after his surgery. I was so moved by the cheerfulness that he had toward this, the sort of way that he bore that burden. I mean, for days after I left — he gave me a copy of his book and I read it, I just was so inspired by that. By a guy who was fighting something that was really debilitating, and was so gracious and warm and loved life.”
It made the critic’s passing an emotional day for Affleck. “It just broke my heart to hear that he died,” he said. “And the fact that he wrote his last review of (To the Wonder); it was viewed through the prism of this wonderful man who was at the very end of his life. And to see the movie through that lens was one of the most powerful things to ever happen to me in my career.”
His co-star Rachel McAdams, who plays Neil’s childhood sweetheart in the film, seconded Affleck’s reaction. “It’s a real honor,” she said. “I read the review. I don’t normally read reviews but it made me cry. It’s a really interesting review to be his last. It’s very apropos in a way. Talking about, ‘Does a movie have to have all the answers? Why not, not quite know what’s out there and what it’s all about?‘ ” She added, “He will be very missed.”