Ben Affleck opens up to the NYT: ‘The biggest regret of my life is this divorce’

Ben Affleck is starring in the film The Way Back, where he plays an alcoholic who goes back to coach his high school basketball team. It’s out March 6th so I guess this is the start of promotion for it. The director, Gavin O’Connor, also worked with Affleck on The Accountant and it’s a relatively low budget movie compared to other projects he has in the works. It’s also, of course, personal for Affleck. The last time we really talked about him was in October when he got caught out by the paparazzi drunk at a Halloween party. He had announced one year of sobriety in August. After that he and Jen circled the wagons, did some family photo ops and leaked some stories to the press about how they’re co-parenting. It was standard crisis control for them, Jen has been covering his ass for years, and he knows it.

The NY Times has a new profile with Affleck where he opens up about his alcoholism, talks about the fact that he lied about his back tattoo (more on that here, he eventually admitted it was real, but didn’t cop to lying about it before this), and says he regrets his divorce. Here are some excerpts from that, with more at the source.

On his alcoholism
“People with compulsive behavior, and I am one, have this kind of basic discomfort all the time that they’re trying to make go away. You’re trying to make yourself feel better with eating or drinking or sex or gambling or shopping or whatever. But that ends up making your life worse. Then you do more of it to make that discomfort go away. Then the real pain starts. It becomes a vicious cycle you can’t break. That’s at least what happened to me…

“I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart. This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems…

“Relapse is embarrassing, obviously. I wish it didn’t happen. I really wish it wasn’t on the internet for my kids to see. Jen and I did our best to address it and be honest…

“It took me a long time to fundamentally, deeply, without a hint of doubt, admit to myself that I am an alcoholic. The next drink will not be different.”

On his divorce, regret and shame
“The biggest regret of my life is this divorce. Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing…

“It’s not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures — the relapses — and beat myself up. I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret. But you’ve got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward.”

On telling Extra his back tattoo was fake
“I resented that somebody got a picture of it by spying on me. It felt invasive. But you’re right. I could have said, ‘That’s none of your business.’ I guess I got a kick out of messing with ‘Extra.’ Is your tattoo real or not real? Of course, it’s real! No, I put a fake tattoo on my back and then hid it.”

[From The NY Times]

I could definitely relate to the first part about compulsive behavior. I’m trying to channel that into healthy things like exercise and meditation but it’s easy to go overboard with just about any activity. As for the rest of the interview, Affleck is saying the right things but they ring hollow to me. Maybe I’ve just been following him for too long. He has been highly complimentary of Garner before, especially about her parenting, but he doesn’t really say much about her in this interview. It’s not like he’s owning up to his mistakes as much as saying he’s moved on from them and wants us to also. I do think he’ll get a comeback. He’s a powerful white dude. Plus it’s not like he hurt his kids or drove drunk or anything.

Ben Affleck signs for a few fans leaving The Greenwich Hotel in NYC

Ben Affleck signs for a few fans leaving The Greenwich Hotel in NYC

photos credit: Backgrid

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57 Responses to “Ben Affleck opens up to the NYT: ‘The biggest regret of my life is this divorce’”

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  1. Lowrider says:

    Ben will get a comeback easy. Brad Pitt hurt his kids and got a standing ovation and an Oscar.

    Ben will be okay with Hollywood.

  2. grumpyterrier says:

    “No, I put a fake tattoo on my back and then hid it”. lolol I love that he’s shading Extra. Media ask so many stupid questions.

  3. Case says:

    Well, all I can say is I’ll take this type of interview any day to some alarming stuff I’ve been reading about who used to be my favorite band, Green Day. Their lead singer had a very public meltdown a few years ago following a long struggle with alcoholism and a pill problem. He was sober for several years, things seemed great. Now with the new album cycle he’s saying he’s “not really sober anymore” and totally downplaying how messed up he was back then so he can justify partying again. It’s sad to see an addict allowed to be in denial like that by those around him, so good for Ben for finally coming to terms with the fact that he’s an alcoholic and that the next drink will lead him down the same path as the last one did.

    • Erinn says:

      OH NO.
      I didn’t know that. That’s really a shame. My husband and I were watching videos a few days ago where he let some kids come up on stage to play with them – it was just heartwarming. I really like Billy Joe. I hope he’s not in too rough shape, and that he has some people around him who care about him and his well-being. This bums me out. I’ve been wondering about Tom Delonge (formerly of Blink 182 fame) for a while too – he seems like he might be back on pills. His whole Joe Rogan interview from a while ago was just SO sloppy – and really pumped up. And then he’s getting a divorce and has started rolling out a new girlfriend. Tom was never my favorite (big Mark Hoppus fan), but it’s super sad to watch.

      I can only imagine it’s awful enough to be dealing with addictions as a ‘regular’ person. It must be so much worse going through all of that in the public eye. The pressure is just crazy on a good day. I know that celebrities have so much more money and access to help than the average person, but addiction doesn’t care about that.

      • Case says:

        Yeah, it’s really just sad and disappointing. They’re awesome performers (they call people up to play with them at almost every show, and usually give a guitar away, too!) and they seem like good guys, but the fact that seemingly his band mates, management, and family are allowing him to promote a new album and tour while dealing with these issues again is just such a bummer to me. You can’t make an addict get help if they don’t want it, of course, but damn. I wish someone in his inner circle would say “hey, we’re not gonna go out on tour unless you’re healthy.” And maybe they all believe he is healthy, IDK. But largely, addicts shouldn’t go back to any addictive substances, even if his main problem was pills or whatever.

        It’s unfortunate because they’ve been my favorite for so long, but in light of him openly not staying sober, I’ve pulled back a bit. I don’t want to watch things go bad again — I turn to music for happiness and comfort, not that.

      • M says:

        Yeah, recovered/ing? alcoholic here. I have so much sympathy for these people. One of the hardest things about getting sober is that all the mistakes follow you and you no longer have your go-to escape lever to rely on anymore, you just have to face them and you don’t really have developed coping skills. I “went back out” for about a year a while ago and it still kills me to run into people that I met during that time and know that they probably remember things about me that I don’t remember about myself. Can’t imagine the pain of knowing that all of that is public knowledge. Shame is one of the hardest things to navigate sober and there’s no amount of money that can shield you from it.

    • Mireille says:

      Oh I love Green Day! My sister and her colleagues ran into Billy Joe and his son once many years ago in NYC. He couldn’t have been nicer. I really wish him well and hope for the best for his health.

  4. whatWHAT? says:

    well, he looks much healthier in these pics than he has in a while. less bloated anyway.

  5. Annaloo says:

    Good luck, Ben. Good luck, Jennifer. Hope you guys are ok

  6. Originaltessa says:

    He uses Jen for good press. As long as it seems like he still cares for her and didn’t (cheat on, gaslight, emotionally abuse, humiliate) her, then he’s golden. It reminds me of Brad playing nice with Jen A for the forgiveness of the minivan majority. As long as that person seems to still like him? Everyone should!

    • Scollins says:

      Yes he has his ex-wife to thank for covering for him these years. She wants to protect their kids, completely understandable. Just because a person stops using doesn’t always mean he becomes automatically a good guy. We’ll just have to see. Just know that he’s a privileged white male in HW which equals a million + 1 passes.

  7. lucy2 says:

    For his sake, and his kids, I hope he’s finally reached a turning point and things improve for his health.

    • KLO says:

      Me too! He is a dad and the kids need him to show them that he can get his shit together and be there for them. Also, it would be horrible to throw away his career. Many people would kill for his achievements.
      I personally think he is very talented and I hope he finds what he is looking for to be happy and grounded for the sake of everyone involved.

      Hoping for the best.

  8. Scollins says:

    Deleted, already been said.

  9. Sophie says:

    I feel like Ben is caught in this never ending cycle of: self destruct, redemption struggle, maintain, and then back to self destruct. He’s good at the redemption part of it, which is why he has been able to bounce back professionally in the past……but it just seems like an exhausting way to live. But how do you break it? Is this cycle because of his alcoholism, or is the alcoholism a symptom of this cycle?

    • Originaltessa says:

      It’s real. I know people who do this irl. They get close to having something, be it a degree, a job, a relationship… and then blow it all up on purpose. It’s psychological. Not feeling worthy, or like an imposter in their own life, so they don’t go through with it…

    • MC2 says:

      This cycle is a true human behavior pattern in many instances of unhealthy patterns & addictions. It’s akin to the cycle of an abusive relationship (I would argue that active alcoholics have this relationship with alcohol) which is tension building, incident, reconciliation (ie- the honeymoon period) and then calm….all to repeat itself again. If the addiction or unhealthy behavior pattern is not dealt with, the cycle is not broken & goes on ad infinitum.

  10. Carolnr says:

    I noticed that Ben said “This divorce is ( not was)my biggest regret. It sounds like he is still coming to terms with the divorce. I think that filming his latest movie brought out alot of emotions & was very cathartic for him. Unfortunately, there are consequences to some actions in life & sometimes some do not realize what they have lost until it is gone….

  11. Aa says:

    His father’s addiction sounds like it was really rough for everyone involved. It’s positive that Ben is talking openly about this, it seems obvious that his pride prevented him from admitting to it for a long time.

  12. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I’m not going to slag off on him. It’s clear his struggle is real and ongoing and I wish him the best in his battle to stay sober. And I will say this about Ben: at least he didn’t drunkenly take a swing at his kid on a private plane and then launch a three year smear campaign against his ex-wife. 👀 He and Jen seems to be co-parenting well, he’s allowed to be around his children and he has never said a single ill word about her to to the press. Imagine that.

  13. Courtney B says:

    I’d recommend reading the whole article. He goes more into addiction and it’s effects. Plus he mentions relatives who committed suicide or died from an overdose. Sounds like a wide family history of mental illness and addiction, not just his dad.

    • Kosmos says:

      I remember when Ben was a new actor and he was absolutely known for his partying ways. I was surprised when years later he married someone like Jennifer, who was so authentic and centered about things. Then he imploded his perfect life with unfaithfulness and alcohol and maybe more. He said he didn’t want his kids to suffer for his issues, but they already have. Ben has known for years that things could go this way. He had everything, yet he still couldn’t keep it together. I saw him on a talk show last year and he was ranting and raving quite inappropriately, which was rude to the other guests. I thought, wow, this guy is out there and he’s an angry man inside, maybe a hurt man inside, too. I don’t know how Jennifer was able to deal with him all these years. I’d like to see him mellow out and be free of his demons.

  14. Writermarie says:

    This was an interesting interview. I read the full piece and the writer speaks to Gavin O’Connor as well. He talks about how Ben had a meltdown on set after he scared his co-star who played his sister (because of the way he reacted in-scene).

    I like Ben, always have, but I don’t feel like he is actually taking his sobriety seriously. I feel like most of what he says also “rings hollow” for me too. For instance, does he actually believe what he’s saying? I can’t tell from the interview. He does mention that it was “therapeutic” to work on the film, which I do believe. A few years back, I wrote a screenplay about alcoholism and it was very therapeutic for me to write. (I’ve been sober 14 years in Jan).

    I hope he does have a comeback, he’s a great filmmaker. He briefly talked about “Ghost Army” which I will be excited to see go into production. I also hope he stays sober for himself and his family.

    • ravynrobyn says:

      @ WRITERMARIE-CONGRATS ON YOUR**14**YEARS OF SOBRIETY! What an achievement. I hope you’re as proud of you as I am (I know I’m just an internet stranger, but I am a fellow human being with a food addiction and serious addiction issues on both sides of my family). 《《HUGS》》

    • Mireille says:

      Thank you for sharing and congratulations on 14 years sobriety!

  15. Whatever Gurl says:

    Having a dad who is an alcoholic, the constant cheating on their mom (but no smear campaign so applause?), the lies, the secrets—that is abuse. It’s emotional abuse.

    The what-about Brad is getting old.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      The what-about Brad is getting old?? Clearly it’s not. He just won an Oscar last time I checked.

  16. Meg says:

    I really enjoy his quotes here. The compulsive behavior comment really hit close to home I even have a hard time doing adult coloring books which are supposed to be relaxing! Lol he seems honest here but not seemingly too rehearsed or acting like he owes us an explanation on his sobriety which he doesn’t as you pointed out he didn’t drive drunk, ever that I’m aware of. Correct that if I’m misremembering.
    Just refreshing responses. He’s looked inward clearly. Flawless no but none of us are

  17. Sarah says:

    This guy sexually harassed/assaulted at least three women IN PUBLIC.

    • lucy2 says:

      I have definitely not forgotten that.
      I hope a part of his sobriety is also some serious self reflection about those actions, and sincere apologies to them.

  18. Blerg says:

    I dislike that he blames the heavier drinking on the unraveling marriage, which places him in a “victim” role and minimizes his other gambling/womanizing issues. The marriage unraveled because of his own poor behavior, which predates 2015-2016.

    • Helen says:

      he’d also been to rehab quite a few times before that period. notably, all the way back in 2001.

      i hope he truly believes that “The next drink will not be different.” (hope for that matter that a couple of people in my own family take this thought much more seriously – the downplaying cycle of alcoholism is exhausting)

      i cringe deeply at the thought of his kids watching his summer 2018 intervention videos, especially the incoherence in the car when they stopped at jack in the box. i hope he keeps remembering them being witness to that kind of thing and keeps putting his sobriety at the forefront.

    • Kosmos says:

      He was drinking heavily and partying long before he met Jennifer. That was the normal for Ben and he was known for being a party boy. I would think more that his issues brought about other issues for the marriage and for Jennifer. Any marriage will need work, no doubt, but he was married to a wonderful woman. He can’t blame her. The nanny wasn’t going to fix anything, but just make things worse, which it did. Pay the consequences, Ben. I think the general feeling years ago before his marriage was always that he was not the marrying type, mostly due to his drinking and partying ways. So today, I’d like to see him beat this, yes, but I wish he didn’t go on and on about his horrible past and every detail of his life. That’s personal.

  19. Annie says:

    “I drank relatively normally for a long time.“

    Sis you know that’s a lie. You didn’t turn into an alcoholic in 2015. The alcohol problems have been going on for many years. Since I was a teenager, I’ve reading a lot about Ben’ Affleck’s alcohol issues. Alcohol doesn’t become a problem only when you get a divorce or you lose your job or you get arrested for a DUI, or an accident happens, etc. It’s already a problem that has been building up for a long time. When you feel the need to drink heavily every other day. When it’s no longer something you do socially. It’s what you do to make it through the day and you never know when to stop. Every day you hurt someone around. And then it leads to more terrible consequences until you finally acknowledge you have a problem.

    He talks a lot about his marriage and how this affected *him* still. I hope privately he thinks about how this hurt Jen and his children. Plus their own embarrassment with the nanny and all the other instances of cheating.

    People like Ben can’t be in relationships and especially not with other addicts like his ex.

    • ShazBot says:

      Yeah, I really hope he is on the way to living well and healthy, for him and his kids.

      But he’s either not as far along as he’d like to believe, or is assuming none of us have a gossip memory…at all? I completely think it is nobody’s business how he deals with his past behaviour/apologies etc, especially because he has kids and their friends who are on the internet and he doesn’t need to go rehashing all the horrible things he’s done, but then just say that and don’t give any of these quotes because that’s what’s making it ring hollow.

    • osito says:

      I want to start by saying that I agree with everything you’re saying, but I think that he truly believes that the way he drank was normal when it wasn’t. Given his familial history with addiction, suicide, and mental illness *and* our society’s normalization of alcohol abuse, he probably really thought that he wasn’t behaving any differently than anyone else who didn’t completely abstain. And who knows what his crowd was really like in H-wood and as a teen in Boston — he may have been behaving exactly like the people around him, making the “typical” assignation of his behaviors that much murkier. I say this as someone who comes from and currently lives in two cities that are known for partying and having a very high rate of alcoholism per capita, and as someone who recently confronted her own problematic drinking. The quantity and frequency of my drinking was exactly the same as what I witnessed growing up and that of my peers. I thought my behavior was absolutely normal. I thought everyone hated the way they felt when they woke up, or barfed a couple of times a month, or counted a shot and a beer as “1” drink. I often smell colleagues sweating out alcohol (especially after a big game the day before, or on Mondays, or Fridays because Thursday is a big nightlife night where I live). I’ve bonded with people over hangovers, and have hit up happy hours that turned into late night hangs three or four times a week, if not more. A lot of my friends still assume I’m either hiding a pregnancy or have become somewhat weird or sensitive because I don’t really drink anymore — that’s how normalized the drinking culture is where I live. The truth is that I didn’t like the way I felt, and wanted a change, so I decided to quit smoking and drinking for a month. It‘s been six months, and while it isn’t a panacea, I generally feel better.

      I was high functioning enough for the vast majority of the people around me to think that I was *fine*. I was just like them! It even took me a while after I stopped to even acknowledge that what I had been doing, and the ways I had been living my life, weren’t healthy even if I was mirroring how all of my friends behaved. So when Affleck says that what he was doing was normal, I don’t question his belief that it was. I sincerely hope that he evolves his thinking about “normal” and “functional,” though.

  20. Chickaletta says:

    Yeah at least he didn’t get violent with one of his children then spend the next however many years dragging his ex-wife to prop himself up. …. (sips tea) but that’s none of my business.

    Ben has been in a lot of movies I love so I have a soft spot for him. He obviously really, really REALLY needed to get his sh*t straight and it sounds like he is starting to, so good for him.

  21. Carolnr says:

    Ben talks about having a compulsive behavior disorder…using eating, drinking, gambling, & sex to get rid of basic discomfort, which he said makes life worse , so you do more , which ” makes that discomfort worse . ” Then you do more of it to make that discomfort go away.”
    “Then the real pain starts.” “It becomes a vicious cycle you can’t break.”
    Ben does make reference to cheating without actually saying he was unfaithful in his marriage to Jen.
    This was a very candid raw interview. I found it interesting that he granted this interview to the NY Times. Didn’t they run alot of negative articles about him?

  22. Chloe says:

    I think this was also the piece where the director said Ben had a massive breakdown after filming the scene where his character apologizes to his ex wife. I know it’s dumb but I’ve never been able to stop hoping Ben and Jen would work it out somehow, even knowing what horrible things he’s done.

  23. Barbara Owens-DeWitt says:

    He is a man. A white man. A rich white man. He will be fine. He is fine. Now, same story but it’s a woman. A mother. A rich white woman who happens to be a mother. She is not fine. She is dragged and feels the gasps, “how could she?” (pearls clutched) while he is applauded. So bored with this same old story.

  24. Amelie says:

    He’s had a comeback before. Didn’t he go to rehab around the time of his failed engagement to Jennifer Lopez? He became super overexposed during that relationship and was in a bunch of terrible movies. He took a break and then came back with Hollywoodland which was branded as a “comeback” and then went on to direct Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town and it was lauded as his big return. He got married, had a few kids, and then my guess is he was freaking out about just how well his life turned out and how he turned it around. A lot of people will self-sabotage because they don’t think they deserve to have a good life. I feel like this applies to Ben.

  25. sassbr says:

    In that interview he said he declined The Batman to maintain his sobriety. Idk about that, why would they want him back to do that character after his two outings were such a disaster? I guess he’s powerful enough that he could have done it if he wanted but I think he quit before he got left behind on that one.

  26. iconoclast59 says:

    Ben, if you regret the divorce, then why did you do everything you could to blow up your marriage?

    Jennifer gave Ben chance after chance after chance. He reciprocated by looking like he was being held hostage every time they were photographed together, by using his “Argo” Oscar acceptance speech to whine about how “hard” it was to be married to her, and of course by cheating on her.

    You can’t blame all that on the alcoholism. My theory is he never forgave Jen for “trapping” him by getting pregnant before they were married. Ben conveniently forgets that it took 2 to make that baby.

    I hope he learns and grows from this experience, but Lordy, I’m so tired of these man-babies.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      I appreciate that you put “trapping” in quotes.

      that’s something that bothers me SO MUCH. no man can be “trapped” with a baby. if he doesn’t want to procreate, there are ways to prevent his sperm from reaching the egg. I don’t care if the woman says she’s on the pill, or has an IUD etc and is lying…the man STILL has a choice to protect himself (from STDs and an unwanted pregnancy) by using a condom.

      just like men cannot be stolen, men cannot be “trapped”.

  27. JoJo says:

    I’m guessing he does regret hurting Jen, but I read it more as he regrets blowing up the family in general and hurting their three kids as a result. The kids always seemed to be the one thread holding them together. I also note the words he used about his drinking. He pretty much admitted that their marriage was already falling apart when he started drinking more heavily again. It’s always easy to look back through a different lens and wrap it all up in a neat little box of “If only I didn’t drink so much” when, in reality, they seemed to be plagued by problems from the beginning. I agree with what another poster said above – some of this rings a bit hollow as he seems to pull out this messaging when he’s promoting a movie. Like he wants people to know, “Hey, Jen and I are good and I regret everything, so it’s ok for you to like me too.” That said, they all seem to be on a more peaceful path at the moment, so I hope that continues.

    • ScotiaGirl says:

      JoJo the marriage was in trouble because Ben was cheating on her left right and centre. She was head over heels in love with him. He didn’t want to “be his father” and leave his kids. And when she started protesting his cheating he started drinking and gambling because he knew he was destroying his family like his father but couldn’t help himself or stop. He realized after he lost her what he had and how much she protected him and what he had done to his kids in the process.

      I loved them together and always hoped he would come to his senses and realize how much she loved him and that he loved her too and the whole family they created and would clean up his act and get it together. I would still love them to get back together if he truly is committed this time. But although Jen might have had high expectations and been hard to live with, who wouldn’t be with all his side pieces, it was 95% Bens actions and indiscretions that ended the marriage. It was more on him then her.

  28. Her says:

    The last paragraph of this writeup is interesting. Does Ben Affleck owe a blog getting hits from his actual interview radical honesty?

  29. Scorpio ♏️ Rants says:

    I am not cutting him a lot of slack but I will sheepishly admit I have a hidden soft spot for him. I’ve got little logical explanation for that.

    Jennifer loved and supported him through a lot of stuff and had way more patience than I ever could. Having 3 kids together will do that. He really blew it. No one ….literally no one…..will ever have his back like that again, And he blew it.

    The only way he can ever repay it is by not blowing another chance ever and staying sober.

  30. North of Boston says:

    “Plus it’s not like he hurt his kids or drove drunk or anything. ”

    How do you know?
    How do you define “hurt” as it relates to his kids?

    Personally, I’m thinking ditching your wife so you can bang your kids’ nanny is in fact a “hurt” to your kids. And that’s just when people are watching and taking pictures. And when we weren’t looking, what was he like in the privacy of his home, with his kids, with his wife?

    I’m not giving BA a pass just because he’s all “ooooh poor me, my dad drank, my dad was an alcoholic…. oooh poor me, I’m an addict too” He’s made a lot of decisions day after day, he’s taken a lot of actions, day after day that involve putting his kids last, behind his immediate desires to play poker, to get a giant tattoo, to bang a young person who was working as a caretaker to his children.

    As a human being, sure I can have empathy for him and wish him well, but him positioning himself as a victim or as someone taken advantage of, worthy as giving him lots of slack and permission to do whatever, because he’s in the public eye? Cuz he’s a rich guy who has been given every opportunity and chance to work again and again no matter how his projects crash and burn, no matter how his relationships crash and burn because of his own immature behavior? Nope. Not gonna happen.

  31. a says:

    People are focusing on him saying his drinking became a problem in 2015 but I think he means that’s when it became a problem again.

    After drinking issues in his teens and 20s (his mother sent him to a camp for trouble teens when he was 15 due to his drinking, rehab in 2001), he probably did drink relatively normally for a while. From blinds, we know he binged at parties sometimes. However, Jennifer talked about them drinking wine together and about Ben and Matt drinking beer while watching football.

    He seems to get really bloated when he drinks so it’s fair to assume it was more under control (if not entirely healthy) early in his marriage.

  32. JB says:

    Nah, I’m not falling for any of this. This person lies–and has lied–constantly. He’s not being truthful about anything. He’s probably got another vice now (he seemed out of it during his ESPN interview, maybe pills) and he’s still prowling the dating apps for young women. Almost every project that he’s been in over the last several years has flopped. He was fired from Batman and he’s still lying about it. I get the sense that his chances of being a leading man are running out and he’s really desperate for this Lifetime-esque movie to do well. His comments about his ex marriage are aimed at the minivan majority. He’s pathetic.