In writer-director David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” Casey Affleck plays a quiet, gentle man sent to prison after taking the rap for shooting a cop to protect the real criminal, his wife (Rooney Mara). It’s a quiet, complicated role full of the kinds of contradictions that really get Affleck going as an actor — even if he’s only just now realizing that.
Your character in this Texas-set story is almost the polar opposite of the one you played in “The Killer Inside Me.”
The character in “The Killer Inside Me” was a sociopath serial killer, and this guy is, like, the gentlest romantic. In “The Killer Inside Me,” he seems like a dull but sort of vaguely charming good ol’ boy, but he’s actually a total lunatic. Whereas [this character] is perceived as being a violent criminal and he’s actually a very good-hearted man. That’s interesting. I guess I am drawn to characters for whom their internal life, their fantasy about themselves, is at odds with whom they really are or how they are perceived by others.
Do you make any sort of moral judgment of these characters?
No. I mean, there’s no one in the movie that’s a bad person, is there? I feel like David [Lowery] was really careful about showing the human side of everyone, the light and the dark. I think that it’s supposed to be about that romantic idealism of youth that can be reckless without regard for consequence and what happens to that attitude when the person matures into adulthood.
Do you think it’s important for a director to know when to get out of the actors’ way?
I think it is. I can say it myself. I directed once, and I felt like oftentimes I would imagine the way a scene was going to go, and when it wasn’t going that way the impulse was to get in there and start manipulating the details so that it more closely resembled the way that I had envisioned it. And knowing when to do that and when not to do that is part of what makes a good director. And David has a natural gift for that — the wisdom to know when to put a fingerprint on something and when not to.
How much does facial hair factor into performance? And did you and Ben Foster have a mustache-off?
There were no mustache-offs, no competitions. But the director has a whopper of a mustache. He looks like a bald Tom Selleck. And the two producers look like ZZ Top, so there’s a lot of facial hair happening.