Ben Affleck has put his director hat back on for the eighth time with the new crime drama Live By Night. It's an exciting look at Prohibition-Era gangster life in South Florida, starring a stacked cast including Affleck, Chris Messina, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Saldana, Siena Miller, and Chris Cooper. The film, set in the 1920s and 30s, is a historical drama about a number of very real elements of American history, but is Live By Night a true story?
The film, though it's definitely historical, isn't based on a true story. It is, however, based on an award-winning crime novel published in 2012. The novel, written by Dennis Lehane, is also titled Live By Night, and follows the same general plot as the film. Main character Joe Coughlin is the son of a prominent Boston police officer but chooses to become involved in organized crime — bank robbery, mob dealings, rum running — that lead him to, among other places, South Florida and Cuba. Lehane's novel won an Edgar Award (given out for mystery and crime books) for "best novel of the year" in 2013, beating out another book that would eventually star Affleck: Gone Girl.
According to an interview with The Washington Post, Affleck first encountered the book when it was sent to him by Leonardo DiCaprio after his Affleck's Best Picture Oscar win for Argo. After that success, he said, “It was sort of pick what you want to do and this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a classic Warners picture.” Affleck's driven, matter-of-fact attitude seems to have been clear to Lehane as well, who described his approach to translating Live By Night from book to film as “no-muss, no-fuss.”
When it comes to directing, Affleck definitely veers toward the gritty and realistic, with movies such as Gone Baby Gone, Argo, and The Town under his belt. He seems like he'll be a great fit for a brooding, rough-and-tumble sort of crime drama, and it's also exciting to see him tackle the historical elements of Live By Night. Argo is the only feature film he's directed that wasn't set in contemporary times, and he and his team did a fantastic job representing the very specific sort of 70s vibe of the era. The rich setting of Prohibition-era South Florida will surely give him a lot to work with, and should especially yield some awesome costumes thanks to the great, Oscar-nominated Jacqueline West.
True story or not, I, for one, am excited about the opportunity to see Affleck apply his "no muss, no fuss" approach to the mobsters of the Prohibition-era.