Also Credited As:Benjamin Géza Affleck
|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Music|
|Benjamin Géza Affleck on August 15, 1972 in Berkeley, California, USA|
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Ben Affleck was born on Aug. 15, 1972, in Berkeley, CA. He was raised in the liberal academic city of Cambridge, MA, where his mother Chris taught elementary school. His father Tim was active with the influential Theater Company of Boston and made a living as a bartender, mechanic, and janitor, among other jobs. The couple gave birth to another future actor Caleb, better known as Casey, in 1975 before divorcing in 1984. Both talented sons began their acting careers while they were young, with the elder brother debuting in a local independent film at the age of 11. Around the same time, he had already become best friends with his neighbor Matt Damon, who also loved Red Sox baseball and dreamed of becoming a movie star himself. Before he was even a teenager Affleck went on to appear in commercials for Burger King and in 1984, was cast in "The Voyage of Mimi" (PBS, 1984), an educational show filmed aboard a whaling ship in Mexico that gave Affleck his first taste of the exotic life of an actor on location. In 1986, he starred in the ABC Afterschool Special, "Wanted: The Perfect Guy" (1986), playing a son trying to find a suitable husband for his single mother (Madeline Kahn).
At Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, Affleck became known as "that kid on TV," and, to his teachers, "that kid who isn't interested in doing schoolwork." Affleck was an admittedly unfocused student, though he was a voracious reader with nearly perfect SAT scores. Damon's good grades, on the other hand, got him into Harvard, but when Affleck graduated in 1990, he lasted barely one semester at the University of Vermont before heading to Hollywood. The move netted him a role as Patrick Duffy's son in "Danielle Steel's 'Daddy'" (NBC, 1991) and his big screen debut in "School Ties" (1992), in which he was one of the football-playing anti-Semitic gang. Still baby-faced enough to play high school age, he made several appearances as a strapping football-player in "Against the Grain" (NBC, 1993) and was cast as a Texas high school senior who terrorizes freshman students in Richard Linklater's classic, "Dazed and Confused" (1993). His early roles as a teen bully belied Affleck's quick-witted, bantering, buddy persona that would soon win over movie audiences of both genders.
Around this time, Damon showed Affleck an idea he had begun working on for a screenwriting class - a story about a pair of best friends in the working class neighborhood of South Boston. Neither actor was thrilled with the roles they were landing, so they decided to write the type of movie that they wanted to act in. The script for "Good Will Hunting" was complete within a year, and when the actors gave copies to their agents, they were stunned to find a bidding war erupting in less than a week. Castle Rock initially bought the script, but there was no forward movement on production. During that time, Affleck began what would be a long-running association with filmmaker Kevin Smith, who tapped his wiseguy townie charm in "Mallrats" (1995). When Castle Rock eventually passed on "Good Will Hunting" a year later, Smith recommended it to Harvey Weinstein. Miramax promptly bought the script. But first Affleck re-teamed with Smith, who wrote him a leading role as a comic book artist in love with a lesbian in the charming film festival fave, "Chasing Amy" (1997).
"Good Will Hunting" finally premiered in December 1997 and Affleck was wildly entertaining as the tried-and-true best friend of Damon's unambitious janitor who is torn between worlds when he is discovered to be a mathematical genius. The film's coming-of-age theme, career highlight performance from Robin Williams, and the dynamic chemistry of Damon, Affleck and their ball-busting pals won over audiences and critics alike, with the film receiving 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, which the duo took home. Even before the awards ceremony, however, detractors were lined up to contest that these two virtual and handsome unknowns had actually written such an affecting work. Affleck did not take the accusations seriously, but his quip that he and Damon were going to end up like Milli Vanilli with their award repossessed did not help matters.
With an Oscar on the mantle, scripts flooding in, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow on his arm, Affleck was living the movie star life of his childhood dreams. Surprisingly, his follow-up to "Good Will Hunting" was the Michael Bay film "Armageddon" (1998), where he co-starred as a hotshot oil driller in a crew selected to save the world from an asteroid. The film was lensed prior to the release of "Good Will," and though it did well at theaters, it was an unexpected second act for an actor who had established himself with a film of considerably more emotional depth and artistic merit. Switching gears again, Affleck donned tights to play a wastrel actor in Elizabethan England in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) alongside girlfriend Paltrow. He appeared as a bartender in the ensemble cast of "200 Cigarettes" (1999) before reuniting with Damon in Kevin Smith's "Dogma" (1999), a controversial satire of the Catholic Church that proved to be a PR headache for Smith, Miramax, and all involved - though critics generally appreciated the subversive humor. Affleck returned to box office movie star land with the stylized romantic comedy "Forces of Nature" (1999), playing a stressed out groom-to-be attracted by the world of a free-spirited Sandra Bullock.
Affleck kicked off the new millennium with the disappointing thriller "Reindeer Games" (2000) and anchored the testosterone-fueled "Boiler Room" (2000), faring better in the latter role of a slick Wall Streeter coaching new recruits. In the overwrought "Bounce" (2000), Affleck's co-starring role as the hard-drinking ad exec whose life undergoes a complete change after a brush with death was unfortunately diminished by he and co-star Paltrow's off-screen pairing. She had reportedly encouraged him to accept the role to flex what she felt were his untapped acting muscles, but by the time the film opened the high profile couple were history. The newly single Affleck found a hobby to take up his leisure time: politics. As the 2000 presidential election drew near, he was a common sight at rallies, public speaking events, and talk shows, where he openly supported the Democratic ticket and encouraged young adult voters to get out there and make a difference. An investigation conducted by The Smoking Gun web site the following year actually found no evidence that Affleck voted that year or any time during the previous eight years. Despite this embarrassing gaffe, Affleck's interest in politics and his presence on news and political talk shows carried on unabated, and the actor repeatedly expressed interest in someday running for Congress himself.
Back on the big screen, Affleck reunited with director Bay in 2001 for the big-budget box office bloat, "Pearl Harbor," playing one leg of a romantic triangle involving his best friend (Josh Hartnett) and the nurse they both love (Kate Beckinsale). In Kevin Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), Affleck appeared as both Holden, the character he played in Smith's "Chasing Amy," and as a parody version of himself, the Hollywood actor. Later that year the Hollywood Actor version of Affleck checked himself into a 30-day program at Malibu's famed Promises rehab facility for alcohol abuse, echoing his father's own bout with alcoholism while Affleck was young. Tim Affleck had subsequently become sober and taken a job as a rehab counselor in Palm Springs, CA following his divorce. Admirably, Affleck realized his problem and took pains to clean up his act - despite the embarrassing headlines.
Affleck's return to the screen following his newfound sobriety resulted in one of his most compelling performances. In "Changing Lanes" (2002), he played an arrogant, high-powered attorney whose random traffic encounter with a struggling father (Samuel L. Jackson) sets in motion events that radically derail both their lives. With his confidence at a new high, Affleck next took on the weight of a struggling film franchise by essaying Tom Clancy hero Jack Ryan in "The Sum of All Fears" (2002), with the character retrograded back to a green CIA analyst who becomes embroiled in a nuclear calamity. The film was one of the weaker adaptations of Clancy's work, but audiences accepted Affleck in the role and delivered a strong box office. At that point, it was Affleck who was opening a movie, while Damon toiled away in slightly edgier fare that lacked a general appeal - like "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000) and "All the Pretty Horses" (2000). It was understood that Ben was the star; Matt was the actor.
Even as Affleck was offered an increasing succession of leading roles in major motion pictures, he had not lost interest in the behind-the-scenes world that first put him on the map. He and Damon teamed up as executive producers on the series "Push, Nevada" (ABC, 2002), a unique mystery game show that was "pulled" after only a few low-rated episodes. That year, they also launched the Project Greenlight screenwriting competition with Miramax and HBO as co-sponsors. A documentary series chronicling the search for the next great independent filmmaker was aired on HBO, and was so successful that a second season aired the following year. But for all the buzz brought on by he and Damon's latest partnership, his rehab stint, and his film roles that year, nothing generated as much media in 2002 as Affleck's blossoming relationship with pop culture phenomenon Jennifer Lopez. The two met in late 2001 while filming "Gigli" (2003) - when Lopez was still a married woman, to dancer Chris Judd. After filming, they began dating - but only officially after Lopez separated from Judd. It was then that Affleck became the victim of total media overexposure; some of it, no doubt, brought on by himself and his bling-happy girlfriend. But the press also pursued relentlessly, naming them collectively as "Bennifer." The glamorous Bentley-driving couple announced their engagement in November of 2002. After snagging one of the most desirable women in the world at that point, Affleck, as a likely result, was named 2002's "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine.
As Affleck's media presence increased on the cover of every tabloid in the world, his acting credibility took a nosedive. In 2002, he took a starring role in "Daredevil" (2003), an adaptation of a lesser-known Marvel Comics superhero. Affleck was generally considered miscast as the blind lawyer whose enhanced radar senses lead him to fight crime. The film did moderately well at the box office, but was clobbered by "Spiderman" (2003) and the spate of similar genre films popular at the time - by which "Daredevil" suffered in comparison. The film did, however, pair Affleck with future real-life leading lady Jennifer Garner. But at the time, he was still traipsing around town in a Rolls Royce with Lopez. When the pair finally appeared onscreen in the much-delayed but anticipated release of "Gigli," it suffered lethal reconfigurations to accommodate the public's expectation of romance between Lopez and Affleck, although Lopez's character was written and initially shot as a confirmed lesbian. The mob action comedy was the victim of bad buzz for months before its release and proved to be one of the biggest box office losses and Razzie Award winners of all time. To say "Gigli" was a stinker was a great understatement.
The pressure of constant scrutiny and Affleck's gradual decline from Oscar winner to the butt of late night TV jokes came to a head with the announcement that he and Lopez's engagement was off. Publicly penitent over the creative failures of "Daredevil" and "Gigli" and the overexposure of all things "Bennifer," Affleck tried to rally at the end of 2003 with "Paycheck," a John Woo-directed sci-fi thriller based on a Phillip K. Dick premise, with Affleck playing a brilliant computer engineer whose short term memory is erased to protect government secrets. Competently made and a modest hit at the box office, "Paycheck" nevertheless did little to diffuse Affleck's tabloid headlines. In early 2004, the Affleck-Lopez romance was officially kaput, followed by the unfortunately timed release of the couple's second onscreen pairing, Kevin Smith's romantic comedy "Jersey Girl" (2004). The film's marketing team tried to downplay Lopez's small role in the middling film, which was not nearly the commercial, creative or critical disaster "Gigli" was. Affleck played a hard-driving, city-dwelling publicist who finds himself a widowed father suddenly trapped in the suburbs and unexpectedly getting a second chance at love. Despite an admirable effort from Affleck, the film suffered from guilt-by-Bennifer-association, spelling box office doom for Smith's passion project.
Getting his act together, Affleck the political pundit returned to the podium again during the 2004 election year - this time channeling his energy into campaigning on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry. And this time as a registered voter himself. While Kerry lost the election, Affleck's own losing streak continued with the dismal holiday comedy "Surviving Christmas" (2004), which cast him in his first "wacky comedy" role as a successful but unhappy businessman who pays a family to provide him with a warm Christmas experience. Meanwhile, at long last, Damon swept past his best friend to mainstream leading man status after appearing as spy Jason Bourne in the highly successful and lucrative "Bourne Identity" (2002) and "Ocean's Eleven" (2001) franchises.
In between films, Affleck embarked on a lower-profile, slightly less controversial romance with "Daredevil" co-star Jennifer Garner. Despite questions of when the first spark occurred, it was apparent to all who knew Affleck that this Jennifer was a better match for the down-to-earth actor. Soon, Garner was appearing alongside her beau at Red Sox games. It was not long before the couple ultimately became pregnant and were married in June 2005. Their daughter, Violet Anne was born Dec. 1, 2005, with a second daughter, Seraphina Rose joining the family on Jan. 6, 2009. With his new domesticated life, Affleck seemed on his way to putting those embarrassing years behind him. His acting career received a much-needed boost with a strong performance in the celebrity biopic/crime noir, "Hollywoodland" (2006). In it, Affleck played original "Superman" actor George Reeves, whose own fall from grace ended in an apparent suicide surrounded by mysterious circumstances. Affleck took the De Niro approach, packing on a few pounds to give his character the necessary heft and world-weary appearance, and for the first time in years, his acting was recognized with a Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Affleck followed up with a supporting role in the wannabe hip action-comedy "Smokin' Aces" (2007), but that role was quickly forgotten in the face of "Gone Baby Gone" (2007), Affleck's directorial debut for which he also adapted the screenplay from bestselling Boston writer Dennis Lehane's novel. In the film, brother Casey Affleck was cast as the detective lead in the thriller about the disappearance of a young girl. Critics gave the dark, moody film overwhelmingly positive reviews, many echoing the sentiment that apparently Affleck's greatest talent was behind the camera. Film critic Richard R per said of the pairing of the Affleck brothers, "It's a career highlight for both of them."
While promoting the film's fall 2007 release, Affleck was again eager to address the 2008 presidential elections, voicing support for Democratic candidate Barack Obama and critiquing the incumbent administration on Fox News, MSNBC, and "Real Time with Bill Maher" (HBO, 2003- ), among others. In fact, in various interviews, Affleck began expressing interest in one day running for Congress in his home state, and it was not hard to see that among Hollywood talents, Affleck was one of the few taken seriously as a knowledgeable, articulate interview subject by cable news outlets. He returned to movie screens in 2009 shortly after his candidate of choice, Barack Obama, took the oath of office, with a role in the ensemble romantic comedy "He's Just Not That Into You" (2009), in which he played a long-term boyfriend averse to marriage. He had the opportunity to step into the role of congressman, albeit one under investigation for the suspicious death of his mistress, in the thriller "State of Play" (2009), based on the British miniseries of the same name. Included in the film's acclaimed cast were Russell Crowe, Dame Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman, who would also team up with Affleck later in the year in Mike Judge's factory-set comedy, "Extract" (2009).
The year 2010 proved Affleck's skills behind the camera were no fluke, when Affleck co-wrote, directed and starred in the crime thriller, "The Town," shot again in his beloved Boston. Playing a tortured bank robber wanting out of a lifetime of crime after falling in love with one of his robbery victims, Affleck enjoyed a career resurgence and a respect that stuck this time. Co-stars John Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Chris Cooper sang Affleck's praises as a sensitive, thoughtful and collaborative director and reviews boded well for his second feature film and his career prospects in general. Meanwhile, as he began preparing his next film, Affleck and Garner welcomed their third child, Samuel, into the world in early 2012. Later that year saw the release of Affleck's third directing effort, "Argo" (2012), a political thriller based on the so-called Canadian Caper - a joint CIA-Canadian operation that freed six hostages during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis by posing as film production for a fake sci-fi movie. Affleck played real-life CIA officer, Tony Mendez, who plans and leads the precarious operation. Once again, critics swooned over the director's work, which made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival before being released to theaters in October 2012 and taking the top spot at the box office. By year's end, Affleck, to no surprise, received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director.
By Susan Clarke