I have a confession to make. I’m sure I told you already, but I used to fangirl all over Ben Affleck. This was in 1997 after Good Will Hunting came out. Now I’m more into Matt Damon, but back then Ben was my boy. He’s just so tall, dark and handsome and he seemed smart and aware of his image – that is until he started making a bunch of crappy movies and stepping out with J.Lo and that giant pink diamond he gave her. There were a good few years when he was my Fassbender, and I’ll always have a special place for him in my fangirl archives.
So that’s why I’m so thrilled to see Ben looking like a million bucks, having a spectacular career comeback, and looking truly happy with his wife and three kids. Ben has found his groove as a director and he is hot again in so many ways. Affleck covers the upcoming issue of Details to promote his film Argo, based on the true story of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The interview and the photos make me swoon again. He’s thoughtful and well spoken, and it was such a pleasure for me to read. My Ben crush is back! Here are some excerpts:
DETAILS: —but by 2003, you were the star of two potential franchises, Daredevil and The Sum of All Fears, that didn’t go forward. We probably knew more about your romantic life than you would have preferred. And then Gigli. I don’t think a lot of people would have said, “By 2012, this guy will have directed three very good movies.”
Ben Affleck: In our culture, we get very much into shorthanding people. And I got shorthanded as That Guy: Jennifer Lopez, movies bombed, therefore he must be a sort of thoughtless dilettante, solipsistic consumer blahblahblah. It’s hard to shake those sort of narratives. If you were looking at that one-liner on me in 2003, which was definitely the annus horribilis [laughs] of my life—it’s funny how that rhymes with Sacha Baron Cohen’s pronunciation of “ah-noose”—
DETAILS: Well, you were kind of in that place.
Ben Affleck: Exactly! I made a bunch of movies that didn’t work. I was ending up in the tabloids. I don’t know what the lesson is, except that you just have to find your compass.
I liked Sum of All Fears. Daredevil I didn’t at all. Some movies should have worked and didn’t. At a certain point, it’s just up to the movie gods. Anyway, this image becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I just said, “I don’t want to do it anymore. This is horrible. I don’t want to be in this spotlight, this glare, in this way. It’s tawdry, it’s ugly, it’s oppressive, and it’s inane. So I’m going to try to get away.”
And most of the way I did that was by not acting. I said, “I’m going to steer myself toward directing. I’m going to do something that takes me toward a place where the work that I do is reflective of what I think is interesting dramatically.”
People bring up 2003, and I get it. Jennifer Lopez, and Gigli, and all this shit just kind of blew up. But, you know, in 2003, Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois! Okay?
DETAILS: A lot can happen.
Ben Affleck: A lot can happen. And a lot has for me. Maybe not as much as has happened for Barack Obama! But you know, it really does feel like ancient history.
DETAILS: I was fascinated that you chose to play the 1950s TV Superman, George Reeves, in Hollywoodland. Because he was, among other things, an actor frustrated at the limits of being a superhero.
Ben Affleck: You know, putting on the uncomfortable, cheesy suit—I understood that. And I understood what it was like to feel limited by perceptions and having ambitions to do things that were more interesting.
And also, I got married, and I got older. And had kids. You know, the current of the river of life moves you downstream anyway. But I definitely reject the narrative that says, you know, Bad Guy Turned It Around. My life isn’t Behind the Music. I wasn’t a criminal!
DETAILS: Since Good Will Hunting, the pairing of you and Matt Damon in people’s minds has never quite gone away. Did you ever feel, “This comparison is not helping”?
Ben Affleck: It’s interesting. At the time, I didn’t even realize that it was being used to promote a movie. I was 25, and I was naïve enough to think, “Well, Entertainment Weekly is just really interested in this!” And, you know, we really were friends and roommates, and we did write the movie together.
I started to realize that people conflated us, or particularly me, with the characters. People assumed that I was the amiable, dim-witted friend, right? [Laughs] Which wasn’t exactly what I was going for! Matt and I have had a friendship for 25 years. We don’t get wound up about that stuff. You learn to roll your eyes.
When I was doing The Town, I’d tour the actors around Boston. I was with Blake [Lively], and I saw Matt’s childhood home. And I said, “Oh yeah, that’s where Matt grew up.” And she said, “Who?” And I said, “Matt Damon.” And she said, “Oh my God! You know Jason Bourne?!” She really didn’t know. And I thought, “There it is. The first age of people who are adults who missed the whole Matt-and-Ben propaganda campaign!” Mostly, it just made me feel old.
DETAILS: You’ve got three young kids now, so I imagine you’ve had to learn to conserve your resources.
Ben Affleck: Absolutely. Anytime you think, “I’m wasting my time here,” the first thought you have is “I could go home and be with my kids.” Now, you may go home and be with your kids and very quickly start thinking, “I wonder what’s on the work front?” Because running around after three kids is very trying. Now everything has to compete with being with my family. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home dad. Work is very important to me. I like to work. So does my wife. But I need my work to mean something to me in order for me to not be home with them.
The thing about Blake Lively gives me pause, but Ben has told that story about her before. I think he meant that as a young person she didn’t have the same cultural references as he did and he found that surprising. (I think those two got a little too close on set, but I have no idea whether it went beyond that.) Matt Damon said something similar about a young Starbucks barista he met – that she only knew him from his most recent movie and that he realized there are so many young people like that. We’re old, I’m in Matt and Ben’s generation and I feel it every time I look at Facebook and decide not to get too involved. I liked the Internet when it was more recreational and required less of a commitment from me, you know?
As for Ben using Obama for a comparison – he quickly backtracked and realized that he’s not saying he’s achieved anything on that level. In his way, in his industry, he’s getting there. I really want to see him on top, and I want to see Argo do well. Here’s the trailer, it’s a very ambitious mix of humor and drama and it looks amazing. I’m going to get Kaiser to go see this with me so she can explain the complicated parts afterwards. I’m not even kidding.
Note by Kaiser: I’d really like to see Argo, and I think the film will probably benefit from it’s (now) surprisingly topical nature. In the wake of the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, many are referencing the American embassy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, as well as the fall of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 (which is the fertile ground in which Argo is set).
Ben and Jennifer Garner are shown out with their daughter, Seraphina, on 9-12-12. Adorable! Credit: FameFlynet Photos from Details credit: Mark Seliger