Was Ben Affleck Really Da Bomb in ‘Phantoms?’

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25 years ago, a bomb was dropped on Hollywood.

Or, depending on your perspective, yeah a bomb was dropped in Hollywood.

January 23, 1998. That was the day Ghost was released to theaters. Based on the horror novel by author Dean Koontz, Ghost follows a pair of sisters – played by Joanna Going and Rose McGowan – who wander into a ski town in Colorado, only to find it mysteriously empty. Finally, some police officers showed up to investigate; together, they discover that some kind of “Ancient Enemy” – one that may be responsible for similar historical disasters in places like Roanoke – has wiped out the town’s population all of it.

Ghost everything he did was a terrible hit. It contained original material from Koontz (who even adapted his own novel) and came from Dimension, a subsidiary of Miramax, then the hottest brand in genre films thanks to the success of films like From Wake to Wake and the Scream licensing. Ghost actually starred several veterans Scream franchise, including McGowan and Liev Schreiber, along with Peter O’Toole as an eccentric historian (and writer for a highly fictional World News of the week) who was the only one to solve the mystery of Colorado’s disappearance.

But the film had an additional ace in the hole, another handsome young actor named Ben Affleck, who played Ghost‘ the main role of the sheriff called to investigate the missing town. Ghost They arrived in theaters just a few weeks after another so-called Miramax release Goodwill Hunt, which Affleck co-wrote and co-starred with his friend and colleague, Matt Damon. Less than a month later Ghost For the first time, Affleck would be nominated for an Academy Award for Goodwill Hunt‘ writing. Six weeks later, he won his first Oscar.

Affleck has no attention and Goodwill Hunt helped Ghost. The same weekend Ghost debuted, Goodwill Hunt increased to $8.5 million. Ghost ended up with only $5.6 million during a whole run in theaters. And while Goodwill Hunt becoming one of the most acclaimed films of the decade, Ghost it was quickly forgotten.

Or maybe it would have been – if not for Affleck’s frequent collaborator Kevin Smith joking Ghost in his next film. That was in 2001 Jay and Silent Bob strike backwhere Ghost has become one of the running jokes. It features the first time the title characters visit Affleck’s Holden McNeil, a comic book artist who created characters based on Jay and Silent Bob. (Affleck had originally played Smith’s role In pursuit of Amy in 1997.)

In Jay and Silent Bob strike backMiramax is making a movie based on the Holden comic Bluntman and Chronic – basically Jay and Bob as stoner superheroes. When Jay (Jason Mewes) and Bob (Smith) ask who will be playing them in the movie, Affleck asks “It’s Miramax, so I’m sure it’s Ben Affleck and Matt It will be Damon. Jay says he doesn’t know who Affleck and Damon are; Holden explains that they did Goodwill Huntwhich Jay dismisses as “that f-ing movie with Mork from Arc in it.

“Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan either,” Affleck (as Holden) says, “but Affleck was the bomb inside Ghost.”

“Word, b—! Ghost like a mother f-er!” Jay replied.

Then Ghost comes up again later, after Jay and Silent Bob make their way to Hollywood, snoop on the Miramax set, and find the set of Good Will Hunting 2, with Damon and Affleck as fictional versions of themselves. When security guards come to take Jay and Bob away, Jay shouts “Affleck, you bomb in Phantoms, yo!

This throwaway line has had incredible staying power—so much so that when Affleck spoke at Mewes and Smith’s handshake ceremony at the Chinese Theater in 2019, Affleck mentioned it. A case could be made that the only a context that Ghost remembered 25 years after it was released through that line.

But there were Affleck da bomb in Ghost? In honor of the film’s 25th anniversary, I decided to do some serious scientific research – ie I watched the film for the first time – and I found out. And in my professional opinion, Affleck is no two bombs in Ghost.

But someone else is.

First, though Affleck doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of a bombshell Ghost (yo), he’s not necessarily bad in the movie. He does exactly what is asked of him with this film which is slightly silly and not very scary. He plays Bryce Hammond, the clueless sheriff who ends up trapped in an abandoned Colorado town by an ancient evil.

Over the course of the film, viewers learn Hammond’s tragic backstory: years earlier, he had accidentally killed a young boy. His feelings of guilt about what happened have pretty much taken over his life and ruined his career. Yes, if this poor police officer could stop feeling bad about killing an innocent child, it would be a much better job! (This same tragic backstory, which would ever fly today, also used to encourage cop Reginald VelJohnson into A hard deathwho must overcome his guilt and shame by, uh, shooting someone else.)

Affleck’s main theme in Ghost: At just 25 years old when the movie was released, he seems too young and too young to play this tough lawman. Goodwill Hunt it was about boys who were still college age. All the other action heroes Affleck played in the late 90s and early 2000s were young, inexperienced, or in over their heads. (Think of him as a “younger” version of Jack Ryan in The sum of all fears, which was made three years later.) Affleck would be a perfect age to play Sheriff Bryce Hammond today. In 1998, it looks fake.

The person who yes Peter O’Toole is perfectly cast in the film. As the memorably named Dr. Timothy Flyte, 65-year-old O’Toole hits the right note; Deadly heavy. How else should an actor play the part of a trophy that works for him World News of the week who, under questioning by the FBI, defiantly declares that an immortal hell bug hangs out in the sewers under a ski resort? The FBI recruits O’Toole to join them in Colorado, whereupon he delivers more transparent dialogue while walking around in an ill-fitting hazmat suit.

O’Toole completely commits to the character. Which of course makes it more hysterical…

If you are going to watch Ghost – something I don’t necessarily recommend – Peter O’Toole is the reason for doing it. His career is so far gone that he might as well be hanging out in the sewers with the Old Enemy. Ben Affleck’s best days were yet to come; Peter O’Toole was already behind him. But it was still a bombshell Ghost.

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