‘State Of Play’ Makes Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck Look At Reporters In New Light

Crowe, Affleck and Rachel McAdams inhabit the world of newspapers in the political thriller.

BEVERLY HILLS, California — In the past, they’ve dealt with incessant questioning about what it’s like to date J. Lo, Meg Ryan, Ryan Gosling and others. They’ve had their bad moments dissected, their missteps mocked and their most private moments captured by reporters and photographers all over the world.

But now that they’ve made a movie about journalism, how do Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams feel about those who’ve made their lives so miserable for all these years?

“I feel the same way,” a defiant Crowe laughed recently, discussing his upcoming role in “State of Play” as an overworked, underpaid newspaper reporter. “I respect somebody like [my character] Cal, who has a certain ethical code. … But I think the lines between journalism and politics and news and entertainment have been blurred for a long time.”

Although “Play” is a political thriller, the April 17 film is built around three characters with distinctly different outlooks: Cal McAffrey the old-school journalist, Della Frye the young Internet blogger (McAdams) and secretive politician Stephen Collins (Affleck).

“I definitely think it will be the last movie about a newspaper,” Affleck said of the film’s depiction of a circulation-challenged daily called the Washington Globe. “This is a movie made around the time that the Internet destroyed newspapers, which is happening now. … All the newspapers [are falling] apart, and the Internet is going to take over, for better or worse.”

And, according to Affleck, it might be for worse. “It could be this completely biased, rancorous, ugly noise that takes the place of journalism,” he warned of a world where blogs become our primary news source. “And you don’t know what is true and what isn’t.”

“What I realized while making the movie is that journalists are working for someone, and they have to sell a sexy story,” McAdams said. “People want to see these sexy, juicy stories, and sometimes the truth is skewed a little bit in that. … It’s really complex. They are kind of like superheroes, having these double lives.”

That aspect of journalism is also explored in the film, as Crowe’s McAffrey is an old friend and former college roommate of Affleck’s Collins. And when the congressman is embroiled in a scandal, the reporter must decide whether his loyalty lies with his friend or his editor.

“I have friends who are serious journalists, who over the years could have very easily, at certain points of fame, made extra money by telling a couple tales out of school,” Crowe explained. “And they haven’t done so, and we have remained friends.”

“I definitely have a more full understanding of the pressures journalists face,” Affleck said. “My previous conversations with journalists were all one-sided. Even though I wasn’t playing a journalist, the story is about empathizing with a guy who is a journalist.

“[I now realize] that journalists are ambitious and competing with each other inside institutions and that the institutions themselves have to compete with one another to stay afloat,” he continued. “I never understood those dynamics very well, so I’ve gained an appreciation for that, and it changed the way I saw things.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “State of Play.”

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