“I had been in a state of watching old movies and feeling nostalgic for old Hollywood. I read this and immediately thought, this could be an homage to the great Warner Bros. gangster movies,” Affleck, 44, tells PEOPLE in the magazine’s new issue. “It has big themes like redemption, betrayal and true love.”
Affleck now stars, directs and produces the mobster movie (DiCaprio is also a producer), which hits theaters Dec. 25 and also features Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Elle Fanning.
The film centers on Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston policeman, who joins the criminal world. Affleck jokes that he took on the lead part because he had “an in with the director.” But he adds he couldn’t resist such a juicy role. “Inside Joe is where all the real drama is happening. Being at the center of that as an actor is really interesting.”
For more on Affleck and his new movie check out this week’s issue of PEOPLE on stands now.
The Batman v Superman star admits pulling off a major production like Live By Night was a challenge, but says he loved making a film that took place in the 1920s.
“The most fun was coming to work in another world,” says Affleck. “Seeing the room fill up with extras in these period clothes and just feeling transported.”