In his new film The Way Back, Ben Affleck plays a high school basketball coach struggling to pull himself out a lifelong battle with alcoholism. The parallels to Affleck’s own life are clear, and the actor has been surprisingly candid about wanting to explore his own demons with this performance. SheKnows exclusively spoke with Will Ropp, who plays high school basketball player Kenny Dawes alongside Affleck in The Way Back, on the red carpet for An Unforgettable Evening, a fundraiser hosted by the Women’s Cancer Research Fund. Ropp broke down what it was like to shoot this film — and how Affleck surprised the whole cast with a wrap party in Vegas.
“When we wrapped, Ben took us to Vegas. That was very cool,” Ropp recounted. Many of the cast members are young men like Ropp, playing his fellow basketball players, and they were thrilled for the chance to party in Vegas. But Ropp assures us Affleck had his own agenda.
“He was completely sober, drinking cappuccinos the entire time,” he said.
Of course, we pressed Ropp for details on what it was like to work with Affleck up close — and it sounds like he genuinely inspired the rest of the cast. “He was such a role model throughout the whole process, he really just showed us. He led by example,” Ropp said. “That’s something that we all took out of the whole process was that if you lead by example, you’re steering the ship in the right way, you’re leading the ship in the right direction.”
“I think it’s going to be a great film,” he added. “It’s very powerful. When I saw it, I teared up, I think it’s very inspirational. I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of things out of it.”
SheKnows caught up with Ropp at the red carpet for WCRF’s An Unforgettable Evening, their flagship fundraising event for over 20 years. WCRF is a program of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and works to support research that can help with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and metastasis of women’s cancers.
For Ropp, this event holds a special place in his heart. “I lost my mother to colon cancer when I was 13,” he shared, “and she was my role model, and she always will be. Since her passing, I’ve had so many women in my life just step in and become a mentor to me and a mother figure in some way…I have so many women in my life that I really admire.”
“I think any type of cancer is extremely difficult thing to have happen in your life,” he added. “And I’m here to support any and all causes in that regard.”
The Way Back hits theaters March 6 — don’t miss it.
— Reporting by Kate Durocher
Click here to see more celeb dads who are leading by example.