Ron Livingston had a breakout role in the movie Office Space, but it almost went to another actor.
In a panel discussion for the 20th anniversary of the movie, director Mike Judge said that when the cult classic was in development stages, studio executives wanted to tap Ben Affleck for the role as lead character Peter Gibbons, the disenchanted office worker. As the New York Post reported, Affleck was an in-demand actor and execs thought he would be great for the role, but Judge disagreed.
“Good Will Hunting just came out, so the [studio] wanted Ben Affleck… I thought, ‘Well, I like him, but he’s tall alpha,'” Judge said.
Livingston has been opening up about the film for its 20th anniversary, telling the Today Show that it was a big deal because it was his first leading role in a studio film. But his excitement about becoming a Hollywood leading man dissipated as the movie was released, and he noticed how the studio put very little advertising and marketing efforts around it.
Livingston said it seemed the movie was getting “dumped under the rug.”
The Band of Brothers actor added in the Austin talk this weekend that the film had a very slow build, growing an increasingly passionate following for its spot-on assessment of office life at the turn of the 21st century.
“You know how they say if you put a frog in a cold pot of water and it’s slowly heated up, the frog boils to death before it ever realized to jump out? It was kind of like that,” Livingston said.
Though the studio chose a more unknown actor in Livingston instead of the more established Ben Affleck, it wasn’t lacking star power entirely. Livingston said he was “kinda starstruck” working alongside actress Jennifer Aniston, who played his love interest in the movie.
“Jennifer Aniston was just lovely,” he said. “Probably the hardest thing about that job was trying to play off like I’m not starstruck by Jennifer Aniston while being starstruck by Jennifer. I’m still starstruck by Jennifer Aniston. So I think she probably remembers me as being, like, just awkward and weird, which is probably not far from the truth.”
Ron Livingston said he has mostly good memories about working on Office, Space and is happy with the popularity it eventually found, but he is still a bit conflicted about one of the movie’s running jokes about character Michael Bolton. The IT worker lamented about sharing a name with the soft rock singer, whose music he hated.
“I sorta always felt bad that this really talented guy who’s just trying to live his life, that we just blindsided him like that,” Livingston said. “But I think he seems to be doing OK regardless.”