If you're one of those people who likes to listen to commentary tracks, you know that it's rare for that decision to pay off. But not all commentaries are boring, self-congratulatory chatter. If you're lucky, you'll be treated to Arnold Schwarzenegger giving a play-by-play explanation of the entire movie, or Mickey Rooney losing his damned mind. You might also stumble upon Ben Affleck throwing massive shade at one of the (many) terrible movies he has been in, or John Cleese utterly ruining one of your favorite comedies with his crotchety old bastardness.
6 Ben Affleck Hates Armageddon More Than You Do
Armageddon was the first movie about the end of the world that also tries to be a blue-collar comedy romp. In 151 minutes, it turns a ragtag team of oil drillers into astronauts and makes Michael Bay into the most-hated director on the internet (a title that has had precisely zero impact on his box-office returns). There was some tension on the set between Bay and star Ben Affleck -- Affleck would routinely complain about how dumb the plot was and how nothing made any sense, and Bay would routinely respond with, "Shut up, Ben Affleck." Obviously, both men had a point.
"Plots are for directors that can't afford explosives, stupid."
On the movie's DVD commentary track, Affleck gets to tell this story without any interruptions from Michael Bay, which results in him spending minutes mocking the entire premise of the film. It goes from funny to bitter to funny again, like a story about your high school wrestling career: "I asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the fuck up. So that was the end of that talk."
Bay would then cast himself as a NASA scientist.
In the film, Bruce Willis' character starts berating NASA on the shoddy "tranny" (transmission) on their equipment, and Ben has to stifle laughter: "See, here's where we demonstrate that because Bruce is going to tell the guys that they did a bad job of building the drill tank. Because he's a salt-of-the-earth guy, and these NASA nerdonauts don't understand his salt-of-the-earth ways. [laughing] ... Like somehow they can build rocket ships but they don't understand what makes a good tranny."
His distaste for the movie cannot be expressed by merely pointing out how dumb it is, though. Affleck begins to make fun of absolutely everything on-screen, like he's having a gradual mental breakdown while watching it. He starts making fun of Billy Bob Thornton for his grunty simpleton role in Sling Blade (like, a whole bunch). He starts making goofy noises to mock the stuntmen during the film's action sequences, which creates one of the most awkward moments in DVD commentary history:
Ben: "Stunt acting is always fun to watch. [doing mock voices as stuntmen dive away from an oil rig disaster] Whoooaaah! Arrrghhh!"
Bruce: "My stuntman, Terry Jackson, was almost killed on this film. He was hit in the head with a big piece of pipe. The only thing that saved his life was the fact that he had a hard hat on."
OK, the actors weren't in the same room during the commentary, so he wasn't saying that directly in response to Affleck. Bruce Willis has witnessed the near-death of so many stuntmen that it's probably how he begins every sentence.
But Ben Affleck is far from finished with this movie. He recounts an argument wherein an incredulous Michael Bay asked him why he'd never learned how to pretend like he was floating in acting school. Affleck told him most acting training does not, in fact, include "weightless mime." Affleck points out that he had to lick Liv Tyler from a rickety platform while stagehands swarmed below them ready to catch them if they fell, which sounds like some kind of mid-'90s merit badge. And to add to the tension, there was a lot of talk on the set that Affleck's character may be cut entirely. By the time the movie ends, it feels like you've just spent two and a half hours in a group therapy session with Ben Affleck.
5 Tom Clancy Doesn't Understand Why The Sum Of All Fears Is So Stupid
No, this article isn't going to be all Ben Affleck movies.
Tom Clancy is the acclaimed author of several million stories of military intrigue, famous for his intense research. He worked hard to make sure every detail is as authentic as possible. So he was very qualified to know the many, many ways the Ben Affleck/Morgan Freeman trivia question The Sum Of All Fears is bullshit. And since he wrote the book on which the movie is based, he was even more qualified as an expert on all the correct information from his story that the filmmakers decided to change. Because the universe occasionally wishes everyone to share in its infinite joy, Tom Clancy was inexplicably asked to record a commentary track for the movie, and in it he is not shy about pointing out how much he hates it.
"And you're gonna pay me to do this? Seriously?"
During a scene in which Freeman's character grills Affleck's, Clancy says: "This is bullshit. No, if the CIA was paying that much attention to its employees, Aldrich Ames would not have gotten 12 men killed."
Yes, he outright says, "This is bullshit." And not just once, either. Later, when a character is dying of radiation poisoning from an encounter with nuclear bomb parts: "This is bullshit, by the way. Unless he was one of the machinists, which is how I do it in the book. You can't get sick just from looking at a sphere of plutonium." Hey, did we mention that the director of the film is sitting right next to him? This is the sort of thing that gets us out of bed every morning.
That's the thing about getting the opinion of someone who sort of knows their shit; he's not just pissed at plot stuff like the decision to include cartoonish neo-Nazis in the film -- Clancy takes issue with the quality of a satellite photograph and the fact that a weapon has the wrong proportions. And he also points out that the CIA would be spending its time collecting actual geopolitical intel, rather than gathering information about a man's "dick size."
At the time of the recording, Tom Clancy was an older man who'd spent countless hours researching these minute details for his book, and he truly can't understand why a movie would ignore all of his hard work in favor of dumb wrongness. His genuine confusion is almost adorable. His crankiness only gets worse as the film goes on; when American stealth bombers are spotted by the Russian military, it's clear Tom Clancy is well and truly done with this goddamn shit. A genuinely exasperated Clancy starts talking to director Phil Robinson like a child:
Clancy: "How the hell do they know the stealth bombers have just lifted off?"
Robinson: "Well, don't they have radar, satellites?"
Clancy: "The whole point of stealth, Phil, is you can't see them on radar at all."
Robinson: "Well, the satellites don't pick them up?"
Clancy: "If the satellite's overhead at that particular moment. They only do that twice a day."
"Goddammit, I told you to launch before or after 4:02. You've doomed us all."
Incredibly, the director won't just leave this alone, or admit it was done for plot reasons. Instead, he just keeps talking out of his ass:
Robinson: "Taking off, though, don't they have a thermal-"
Clancy: "[interrupting, angrily sarcastic] If you had a KGB guy on the ground with a cellphone, sitting in his car, watching the airfield, yeah."
To a man like Clancy, the film's numerous errors are so basic and obvious that he simply cannot grasp how anyone allowed them to happen. The entire conversation sounds like it could have taken place during the very first preproduction meeting, yet here it is, etched forever in stone as the commentary track to a finished feature film.