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Ben Affleck Reflects on Armageddon, Michael Bay, and Body Oil

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A glistening Ben Affleck wears a dirty undershirt in front of some pipes in Armageddon.

Screenshot: Touchstone Pictures

All the news about Ben Affleck nowadays seems to be about how miserable he was playing Batman and shooting the Justice League movie. So it’s almost heartening to hear something else about him, even if it’s basically about Armageddon director Michael Bay making sure the actor was sexually objectifiable enough to star in the blockbuster.

The reminiscence comes from Entertainment Weekly, a small part of a large interview conducted by Affleck’s friend and cohort Matt Damon, in which the pair discusses Affleck’s career as an actor and director to promote his newest film, The Tender Bar. First off, there’s the revelation that Affleck didn’t realize how dumb Armageddon’s premise was until some point after he shot the movie:

“This was real Hollywood, which I felt like I had never seen. They dug out two stages of Disney for huge asteroid craters, and I didn’t even think about the fact that the basic premise of the movie was totally absurd. Why are they training oil drillers to be astronauts rather than astronauts to be oil drillers? You would think the learning curve would be somewhat more steep on the oil-drillers-to-astronauts route.”

Too true, Ben! It’s something that occurred to many of us the minute we saw the first trailer! And it’s clearly something his kids have realized as well:

“It’s funny because that’s the one movie of mine that my kids have watched and they’ll kind of all admit to liking, even though they relentlessly mock it and me. ‘What are you, driving a tank on the moon?’ But they had fun, you know what I mean? They won’t even watch The Town. So there you have it.”

I find this very funny indeed, but I’m also happy that Affleck’s kids can mock him for making this very loud, unfathomably dumb movie, but they still choose to watch it over an Academy Award-nominated film he directed. And I don’t mean that in a mean-spirited way; I think The Town is a very good movie and actively dislike Armageddon, but somehow I’ve still seen the latter many more times than the former.

Anyway, the real revelation is how… concerned Michael Bay was that Affleck was properly sexy for the movie:

“And I was a little naive about the opinions people would form about me. Or Michael [Bay] and Jerry [Bruckheimer]’s focus on aesthetics, like, ‘You guys gotta go to the tanning bed!’ They made me fix my teeth and work out and be sexy. Be sexy, how do I do that? ‘Go to the gym!’ Running in the gym and putting oil on my body and stuff, and it just turned out to be a long-form version of one of those male topless calendars, in a garage, carrying a tire, kind of greased up. Michael had a vision of a glistening male torso in the oil, and he was like, ‘That’s going to go in the trailer and sell tickets!’ And you know, what can you say?”

Not much if you’re a young actor who gets called upon to star in a major blockbuster with a budget of $140 million. But Affleck doesn’t seem bothered by it, which is nice. Besides, after seeing various female stars get utterly ogled by the camera in Michael Bay’s other movies, I’m honestly kind of happy there was a bit of gender equality in the director’s lasciviousness, if only briefly.

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