Before Ambulance, before Transformers, Michael Bay gave cinemagoers one of two theatrical tales about a planet-killing asteroid (not the new Netflix one), Armageddon. A big movie, with an iconic soundtrack and even more iconic cast, it is one of the clearest examples of all Michael Bay can bring to cinema. Ben Affleck was one member of the ensemble cast and SYFY reports a shocking explanation Bay gave Affleck for the film’s plot.
For those who are unsure about the antics Ben Affleck and co. get up to in Armageddon, the plot plays out thusly; a planet-destroying asteroid is headed for earth and NASA tasks Bruce Willis’ crack team of oil drillers to drill a big hole in the asteroid and nuke it to smithereens. The plot is as much a Michael Bay movie as any movie could be. However, as you can hear on the bonus commentary of The Criterion Collection release of the 1998 movie, Affleck found it odd that NASA would train oil drillers to go to space, rather than oil drillers instructing the highly trained astronauts at NASA how to drill. Affleck mentions the conversation he had with Michael Bay regarding this topic in the aforementioned bonus commentary: “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 f**k up,” Affleck said. “So that was the end of that talk. [Does Michael Bay voice] ‘You know, Ben, just shut up, OK? You know, this is a real plan.’ I was like, ‘You mean it’s a real plan at NASA to train oil drillers?’ And he was like, ‘Just shut your mouth!'”
The feisty back and forth between Ben Affleck and Michael Bay is representative of the outrageous and goofy premise Armageddon so gleefully explores. It, perhaps, is a wonderful metaphor for Bay’s filmmaking, big, bold, brash, and most definitely unapologetic. That by no means is a negative, his films are delightfully raucous and perfect for big-screen entertainment. The fact that Affleck and Bay’s conversation features in the bonus material for the movie, shows that both parties certainly didn’t feel as if the disagreement was worth parting over. After all, actors have dropped out of projects for ‘creative differences’ on numerous occasions, but not Affleck, which is just as well, as his character serves as the emotional heart of Armageddon.
In a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, Ben Affleck reflects on another weird revelation whilst making Armageddon. For Affleck, the film represented the first time he was involved in a massive blockbuster and he wasn’t prepared for some of the things the film’s production would entail. As well as the aforementioned oil drillers spat, Affleck recalls Michael Bay’s insistence the film’s stars, particularly Affleck, appeared sexy; “Michael had a vision of a glistening male torso in the oil, and he was like, “That’s going to go in the trailer and sell tickets!” And you know, what can you say? We could have made, I think, 400 Chasing Amys for what we made Armageddon for.” As much as Affleck comments on conflict or confusion regarding his time on Armageddon, in the same Entertainment Weekly piece, he recalls the production being fun and coming at the right time for him and his career.
At the end of the day, when it comes to Armageddon, Ben Affleck did well to cede to Michael Bay’s direction, however harsh it may have been delivered. The film ended up being a massive hit, grossing over $500 billion worldwide. As well as this, both Ben Affleck and Michael Bay have used their differences to forge successful careers in their own right. Probably just don’t ask Bay questions all the time.