Ben Affleck‘s film The Way Back follows the story of a recovering alcoholic — something the actor tapped into from his own life.
In the drama, the actor, 47, plays Jack Cunningham, a former basketball phenom who suddenly walked away from the game. Years later he’s asked to coach the basketball team for his alma mater. In building the underperforming group’s spirits up, Jack is forced to wrestle with his own demons and face his alcoholism which has destroyed his life.
Affleck’s costar, Will Ropp, told PEOPLE at the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Sunday, “Everybody was very transparent from the beginning that he was in rehab at the beginning of the film.”
Ropp added, “He had to have a sober liaison that would bring him to set and that would bring him back from [the] set.”
Affleck spoke about the film and his character, telling PEOPLE at the premiere, “There are some things about this character I really could connect to — being a recovering alcoholic, going through family strife, a divorce.”
“You try to bring your own life experience to the parts that you can use your imagination on the other parts,” he continued.
He also noted that “one of the beautiful things about a movie that allows for expression of genuine feeling” is that it has the potential to make an impact.
Calling his experience making the film “cathartic,” Affleck said he hopes audiences can walk away feeling uplifted by the very human story.
“The potential for a movie like this is to really inspire somebody, to move somebody,” he said. “Sometimes you do movies, you go, ‘Okay, it’s a thriller. They’re thrilled. And then they go home and they’ve forgotten about it.’ My goal with this was to make something that would feel enduring and lasting.”
“Not everybody is going to come in and think it’s great,” he added. “But for those who do, and for those who may be moved by this, the idea that you can face hard things and get better, I’m really proud of that.”
The Way Back opens March 6.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.