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If you gamble, especially on sports, you have a system. Some make bets based on stats, metrics, and meticulous research. Others rely on their eyes. Then there are the ones betting big based of a premonition.
Ask Ben Affleck to tell you his most memorable quasi-sports gambling story and it ends up having everything to do with a vibe he and Matt Damon—way before the two become uber-successful actors and filmmakers—felt after a pit stop in Indiana during a cross-country trek. The famous friends, who grew up around Boston, decided on their way to Los Angeles that they would say what’s up to Larry Bird by rolling up to the Celtics legend’s home in French Lick, Indiana.
“So we drove up to his house, saw his basketball court, and were like, ‘Is Larry home?’” Affleck recalls. “Even though he wasn’t there—or maybe he was there and he blew us off, I don’t know, but we actually never saw him. Then we kept going and we were like, ‘Yo, we were at Larry’s house. It’s a sign.’”
Las Vegas is where the story picks up next and I’ll save the rest of it for below because, hey, we’re running a business here and you’re capable of scrolling. Just know the energy the duo felt when they strolled into a Sin City casino, and that Affleck’s felt numerous times as a well-chronicled card shark, is part of what he channeled in his latest directorial duties that you won’t see in a theater or if you fire up Netflix.
Debuting Monday, you can catch Affleck’s work directing and starring in a spot for WynnBET’s new sports gambling app that features his pal Melvin Gregg, Shaquille O’Neal, Jennifer Lopez’s mom Lupe, and a cast of characters all imploring Affleck to subscribe to their unique betting methodology. You decide who steals the show in the 2:20 spot, but O’Neal’s performance, in particular, stood out to Affleck. Which is great since the king of commercials made sure he brought his A game for the A-lister.
“When they told me Ben Affleck was directing and my main man Melvin Gregg was going to be in there, I said to myself I have to step my game up,” says O’Neal. “So for the first time only, I memorized my lines because I just wanted to bring the energy. Bro, you can’t have a commercial directed by Ben Affleck and you’re stinking it up.”
We caught up with Affleck and Gregg—and few days after that O’Neal, but you can read that interview Tuesday—via Zoom to talk about filming on the casino floor, some sports betting dos and don’ts, their favorite sports gambling stories, and why they believe LeBron James and the new-look Lakers are legit.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben, I’ll kick it off with you. What was the coolest part of directing this spot for WynnBet?
Ben Affleck: I’ll tell you what, it was fun to shoot in the casino and to try to communicate and bring the energy the Wynn people wanted, the way sports betting with your friends can be fun, and communal, and try to give a sense of that energy and electricity that Vegas has, the Wynn in particular. So just communicating the fun of that experience of showing up in Vegas and meeting up with your friends and trying to profile all the aspects of the casino. Shaq was a lot of fun and he was improvising and he had great energy. Melvin, I just love as an actor, and I’m just lucky I got a chance to work with him. Any opportunity I get to work with him and spend time with him I always want to take. It was a great experience. It was a lot of fun.
Before I get to you, Melvin, I did want to ask why you handpicked Melvin. You kind of just laid it out there, but tell me what be brought to this specifically.
Ben Affleck: Melvin’s just a really, really good actor, you know, who I worked with on “The Way Back.” The first day we worked together I was—in the way that you are ever, you know, 10 movies or so—just taken aback and kind of astonished by somebody’s evident talent. That in the case of Melvin, combined with just a very, smart, funny, cool guy who I wanted to be friends with—and who’s talent I admired and career I wanted to be part of. All the positive steps in my career have tended to be gravitating toward people that I think are talented and mooch off their talent as much as I can.
Melvin Gregg: You can’t see, but I’m blushing right now. Thanks, Ben.
Melvin, are you as good at busting Ben’s balls in real life as you were in the spot?
Melvin Gregg: Ben is just a great guy all around. The amazing thing with Ben is you feel the energy around the guy.