ART IMITATES LIFE IMITATES ART, ETC. Local hooligans Owen Burke (above, left) and Slaine talk about playing local hooligans on screen for Ben Affleck’s upcoming The Town.
Owen Burke had been out of the joint for just six months when he got the call: someone wanted him to read for a part in Ben Affleck's blockbuster bank-heist flick The Town
"Who the fuck is this?" he asked.
Burke barely remembered cutting the long queue for an open casting call at Charlestown High School, back when he had been released from South Bay Correctional Center. He was 19, coming off a six-month stint for "some ugly charges" he picked up as a minor, and he'd figured there was nothing to lose.
Fast forward to a sweltering September afternoon in the shadow of + Fenway Park, where his mug will be projected on the Green Monster during this week's red-carpet premiere. At the age of 21, Burke finds himself starring in one of the fall's biggest films as Dez, the baby in a gang of bank-robbing Charlestown degenerates.
Casting like this is why Affleck's Boston films are so authentic that locals quote them. (Or maybe the mutterings of the vagrants at your sketchy corner pub just sound like Gone Baby Gone zingers.) Affleck, a Cambridge native, stacks his scenes with locals who know the landscape — so that Hollywood bigs like Jeremy Renner have ever-present role models for how to drop vowels and get reckless.
"There were a lot of motherfuckers who I never thought I'd see on a movie set," says Burke, "including me."
For The Town, actor/director Affleck has also brought back criminal-minded Boston rap heavyweight Slaine, a Southie-Roslindale native who made his film debut as coke dealer Bubba Rogowski in Gone Baby Gone. Like young Owen Burke, Slaine first wowed casting directors at an open audition. He returns to the big screen as a cocaine cowboy named Gloansy.
In The Town, Gloansy is the getaway driver in Affleck and Renner's crew. So it seemed appropriate to have Slaine roll us around for a tour of the town behind The Town — which is more than just a movie if you grew up a juvenile delinquent in the Hub.
Charlestown High School
Burke was looking for a solid job — or at least something to do — after his release from South Bay, when the casting call went down just across the street from his family's house on Elm Street in Charlestown.
"The line was all the way to the bridge," says Burke, "so I went home, and my father told me to go back and wait. But I didn't want to — I didn't think they'd pick anyone from around here."
He cut the queue by hopping in with a friend, read just a single line, and the rest was history. "It wasn't like I was going out for the role of my life," he says. "It's not like this was something I pursued."