"Even if you're playing a huge villain, you have to find your way in," says the Gone Girl star

By Jeff Nelson
Updated September 29, 2014 11:00 AM
Credit: Mike Pont/FilmMagic

Ben Affleck knows audiences might not love the person he plays in the psychological thriller Gone Girl – but that doesn’t mean he had trouble getting into character.

“You can’t play a character and not relate to them,” Affleck told reporters Friday at the New York Film Festival premiere of the highly buzzed movie. “Even if you’re playing a huge villain, you have to find your way in; you have to figure out a way to go, ‘I might do that.’ ”

Affleck, 42, stars as Nick Dunne in the drama, based on former Entertainment Weekly staffer Gillian Flynn’s best seller. The story follows a sometimes suspicious Nick after his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes mysteriously missing from their Missouri home, causing both of their marital missteps to come to light in the search.

“With Nick, it’s not hard. He’s written as your average, ordinary person. He’s [me]. He’s a regular guy, kind of [my] age, who then meets a set of circumstances that drive his behavior in certain ways,” Affleck said.

“I think we fool ourselves when we say, ‘I would never do that,’ ” the actor continued. “I tried to identify with Nick as much as I possibly could, knowing that if I didn’t, my performance would be affected.”

And while it may be an awful date movie, Affleck tells PEOPLE there’s a lesson for all couples in it: “What this movie suggests is that we keep changing, and we may keep kind of evolving. We’ve got to keep up with ourselves, as well as keep up with our partner … It’s complicated.”

RELATED: Ben Affleck ‘Could Be a Stand-Up Comedian,’ Says Gone Girl Costar

As for his onscreen partner? While Nick and Amy’s marriage was combative to say the least, Affleck had nothing but nice things to say about Pike.

“It’s the role of a lifetime for a woman. I mean, these [roles] don’t come along every day, particularly for women, which is like, usually you’re just the chick,” he says. “I just watched her. She knew what it was. She worked her ass off every day. She was really committed to it. And she killed it.”

Gone Girl arrives in theaters Friday.

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