BEVERLY HILLS, California — Whether you love him or hate him — and plenty of people do both — it's hard to deny that [url id="http://www.mtv.com/movies/person/380/personmain.jhtml"]Ben Affleck[/url] has engineered one of the more fascinating Hollywood careers in recent memory. And in addition to his time spent as a top leading man, an Oscar-winning screenwriter and a critically acclaimed filmmaker, the 36-year-old has spoken in the past about his political aspirations.
Now, with the new film "State of Play" hitting theaters, Affleck finally has the chance to play a politician. So, has it made him more or less likely to become one in real life?
"It felt good," Affleck said of giving press conferences and presiding over hearings as Congressman Stephen Collins, the embattled centerpiece of the political thriller that co-stars Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams. "I really liked that it was like any role that has an opportunity to do a lot of research. It was so rich with stuff to go explore. I didn't know to what extent people in Congress would be open to cooperating with me. I made some phone calls to some people, saying, 'I'm playing a congressman and would you be open to me coming into your office for a second?' And they were really welcoming."
As it turns out, one of those members of Congress that met with Affleck would soon go on to become Barack Obama's chief of staff. "I met with a bunch of congressmen, and I did get to have lunch with Rahm [Emanuel] when he was in Congress, not when he was chief of staff for the president of the United States," recalled Affleck, who has also done some high-profile campaigning for Obama over the years. "[Emanuel] was at a lunch and was like, 'Yeah, sure, come by — I'm at a meeting over here.' So I came by and joined him for lunch, and he gave me a fascinating dissertation about Congress — how it works, how party politics work, how the DNC operated, fundraising.
"Rahm can give you a full breakdown on modern democracy in 35 minutes," laughed the star. "It was pretty impressive. He's a pretty impressive guy, and he doesn't pull any punches."
But, as Affleck's character learns in the film, when you're a politician you can't make a single misstep. And although he had once expressed an interest in leaving Hollywood and joining the political game, Affleck told us that he has since decided to leave legislating to the folks in Washington.
"I don't think so," Affleck said of a life in politics. "I like what I'm doing, I like this job. I like directing, writing movies.
"What I discovered from doing ['State of Play'] is that you have to be very tough," he said of those who make a living in Washington, insisting that he'll instead focus his considerable influence on other ways to help the country. "For an actor, one of the things that's most effective for you to do is pick something that you really care about, like a cause or philanthropy or charity and focus on that. I have three things: Operation Gratitude with the troops, Feeding America for people who can't afford food in this country, and trying to work on the humanitarian crisis in Congo.
"I work on those specific things, and try to raise money for them and dedicate my time to them and actually can accomplish something," Affleck said of his goals to give back. "Whereas politics is a much more tougher, compromised road."
Check out everything we've got on "State of Play."
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