Ben Affleck Biography
Ben Affleck’s story is, without doubt, one of the great rags-to-riches tales in recent cinema history. Along with his childhood buddy, Matt Damon, he was a struggling actor, in the final stages of being consigned to Hollywood’s dustpile. But together they fought back. Bucking the system, they wrote their own screenplay, attracted their own finance, and produced and starred in their own movie. Within a year, Good Will Hunting had taken off, in 1998 earning them both an Oscar and propelling them into major roles in such mega-blockbusters as Armageddon and Saving Private Ryan. Or so the story goes. In fact, the saga stretches back a good twenty years.
Benjamin Geza Affleck was born on the 15th of August, 1972, in Berkeley, California, the family very soon moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a rich area of Boston, near the prestigious Harvard college. He has one brother, Casey, also an actor. His father, Tim, was an actor and director who’d worked and partied with such luminaries as Dustin Hoffman, and joined the Theatre Company Of Boston. His mother, Chris, was a schoolteacher, and would be the dominant parental figure in his life (she was his guest when he picked up his Oscar).
But it was his dad’s influence and connections that got him started in TV, VERY early in his life. He appeared in ads for Burger King before hitting double-figures and, by 12, had appeared as CT Granville in the cute and educative mini-series The Voyage Of The Mimi. At the age of 12 though, he suffered an emotional setback with the divorce of his parents. Tim had “a severe, chronic problem with alcoholism” which eventually broke the couple up. He left for the Recovery Center in Palm Springs, got back on his feet, and now works counseling others in Rehab.
Young Ben’s dreams of an acting career did not depart with his father, for he had begun a far more crucial and inspiring relationship some years before. At age 8, he’d met and befriended one Matt Damon, a boy two years older than himself. Together they attended Little League, played Dungeons & Dragons and video baseball, and on Saturdays watched Godzilla and kung-fu double-bills. And they acted. While at the Rindge And Latin High School, they were members of a group who won a drama award from the Boston Globe, but their ambitions stretched far further than this. They even started a joint account for when they’d have to travel to auditions.
It must be assumed that much of the ambition, drive and organisation stemmed from Damon. Affleck already had his foot in the Hollywood door – he’d appeared in Wanted: The Perfect Guy alongside Madeline Kahn, and Hands Of A Stranger with Armand Assante, both TV movies, as well as The Second Voyage Of The Mimi – but it was Damon who possessed the work-ethic. Once he won entry to Harvard, Affleck’s school career began to slide.
His high B average did not gain him a place at Harvard with his buddy, and instead he enrolled at the University of Vermont. He lasted one semester, deciding to eschew his studies in favour a more practical approach to job-winning. He wanted to take off for Hollywood and his mother OKed this – as long as he stayed with friends of hers in Echo Park, and continued his studies at the Occidental College at nearby Eagle Rock. He submitted to her demands and took up Middle Eastern Studies (for a year, at least).
Throughout the early Nineties, it really didn’t go that well for Affleck. He appeared in Danielle Steele’s Daddy, starring Patrick Duffy, and scored an uncredited role as Basketball Player #13 in the film version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Then there was a TV series, Against The Grain, and A Body To Die For: The Aaron Henry Story where he played the title role of a football star engaging in steroid abuse. It appeared that he had the looks for decent leading roles, but just couldn’t break out of the dodgy TV ghetto. So, instead of endlessly cold-calling Steven Spielberg’s office, hungry for glamour parts, he slipped into the world of independent cinema.
First, in 1992, there had been School Ties. By now, Damon had left Harvard and joined his friend Affleck in LA and, despite debuting alongside Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza, he too was finding the going tough. Having both appeared as extras in Field Of Dreams, they here featured with Brendan Fraser and Chris O’Donnell in a tale of campus anti-semitism in Fifties America. They’d all become stars eventually – but not yet.
With no offers coming in, Affleck took a part in Richard Linklater’s independent classic Dazed And Confused, a brilliant comic study of Seventies teens, where the debuting Matthew McConaughey stole the show as an unashamed serial seducer of schoolgirls (“I keep gettin’ older, they just stay the same. Yes, they do”). Affleck also tried directing, with the sensationalist, satirical I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her On A Meat Hook And Now I Have A Three-Picture Deal With Disney. It’s better than it sounds.
This step into independent film not only secured Affleck the little work he would receive in the mid-Nineties, it also made him the contact most responsible for his later success. In 1995, he appeared in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats. Smith had already scored big with his seriously amusing Clerks, and this new movie took us into the dark heart of the American mall, with an array of disdainful girls, dopey boys and, of course, that now-famous dynamic duo Jay and Silent Bob.
Here Affleck was excellent as the slick manager of Fashionably Male, who seduces Shannon Doherty, to the chagrin of her would-be lover. Indeed, so impressed was Smith that he set about writing his next movie around Affleck – Chasing Amy, about a charming cartoonist (Affleck) who falls for a lesbian (Joey Lauren Adams) and, well, you can guess the rest.
Before this – aside from bumming around LA with Damon and crashing on his couch FOR YEARS – Affleck would nab a big part in Glory Daze, a kind of Gen X frat-pack party, and in Phantoms, a miserable plague-zombie-type thing from the pen of Dean R. Koontz. His scenes were cut entirely from Office Killer. It really seemed his only hope was to star in a Kevin Smith film every couple of years and be spotted by someone important – hopefully someone who hadn’t seen Glory Daze or Phantoms.
But Affleck did have something else going on. Back at Harvard, Damon had started writing a story during one of his English classes, but had shelved the idea for a year or so. Picking it up again, he’d decided to turn it into a screenplay and enlisted Affleck’s help. Between them they’d thrown dialogue around until the play was complete. Called Good Will Hunting, it involved a super-bright denizen of proud but poverty-stricken South Boston who, via his job as janitor at the extremely prestigious MIT (a job, not-so-coincidentally, once held at Harvard by Affleck’s father), wins a passage into the upper echelons of academia. The pair had been hawking the script around since 1992 but, though Castle Rock had sort-of gone for it, they wanted artistic control over the project – which meant Damon and Affleck would not be the stars.
This is where Affleck’s connections came in. Kevin Smith loved the script and, being hip and important enough to do so, took it to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. Suddenly, it was on. Robin Williams came onboard, as did director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For), and Damon and Affleck found themselves not only starring in their own film, but also $600,000 richer. The film would gross over $130 million and win them that coveted Oscar, but Damon and Affleck were hot property even before it opened. Damon became Private Ryan, while Affleck starred in the Bruce Willis comeback vehicle Armageddon, which itself grossed over $200 million.
Now the parts came flooding in, and Affleck rapidly improved as an actor. He joshed about as an angel (once more with Damon) in Smith’s Dogma, played a slick and ruthless dealer menacing Giovanni Ribisi in The Boiler Room, and starred as an ex-con forced by psycho Gary Sinise to arrange a Christmas heist on a casino in Reindeer Games (on-set he was accidentally knocked unconscious by football star Dana Stubblefield). Then there was Bounce where Affleck swaps his plane ticket, sees the plane crash and falls in love with the swapee’s widow (Gwyneth Paltrow, Affleck’s real-life long-time on-off girlfriend). There was Billy Bob Thornton’s Daddy And Them, and then Affleck’s first major action epic since Armageddon – Pearl Harbour, where he played the romantic lead, opposite Kate Beckinsale.
Pearl Harbour, riding a wave of American nationalism, was a big earner, but savage reviews meant that Affleck, for a while, was seen as finished. Nothing could have been further from the truth. With his very next picture, Changing Lanes, where a slight traffic accident with Samuel L. Jackson grows into a full-blooded feud, he was a surprise chart-topper once more. Those who’d counted him out called it a fluke, said that his arrogant decision to take over from Harrison Ford in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series would see the end of him. Wrong again. The Sum Of All Fears, though its plotline (Ryan trying to stop terrorists from blowing up the Superbowl) caused it to be delayed in the wake of September 11th, was another massive hit, and meant that both Affleck and Matt Damon had topped the charts playing characters called Ryan.
After this came a low-budget comedy, The Third Wheel, which Affleck co-produced with Damon, both having cameo roles. He co-wrote a TV series, called Push Nevada. Then came Daredevil, latest in a string of super-hero movies, where Affleck starred as Matt Murdock, a man blinded by radioactive waste but still able, due to his other now-enhanced senses, to foil villains with his acrobatic stunts and ninja-type abilities. Co-incidentally, Kevin Smith had earlier written some of the Daredevil comics, and would appear in the movie as a laboratory assistant.
Following Daredevil was Gigli, another starring role, this time alongside such heavyweights as Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Here Ben played a thuggish low-life who’s paid to kidnap the psychologically challenged son of a prosecutor about to try a Mob boss. Not thinking he’s up to the job, the Mob send in lesbian assassin Jennifer Lopez to help out – with inevitable results. Well, inevitable if you believe that lesbians are really just straight girls who haven’t met the right guy.
Affleck would get on well with Lopez. Very well, indeed, being as she’d just ended her 10-month marriage to dancer Cris Judd. For the tabloids, the combination of Hollywood hunk and curvy Latino superstar was just too much. They came down on the couple like characters created by Ray Harryhausen. First it was good, just unbridled excitement at this ridiculously glamorous love-match. But then reviewers began to lay into Gigli, calling it one of the worst films of all time, and the film bombed in spectacular style.
In the US, it created a new record when its takings dropped 81.9% on its second weekend. On a budget of $54 million, it took just $6 million at the box office. In the UK it was removed from every cinema in the country after one solitary week. And this a film not just starring a proven action hero and a pop princess with major movie hits of her own – it was furthermore directed by Martin Brest, renowned helmsman of Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and the Oscar-winning Scent Of A Woman. What could possibly have gone so wrong?
Now different questions were asked. Was the relationship destroying Ben’s career? Was Lopez dragging him too far too quickly from his previous laddish existence? Had Jennifer persuaded him to make the L’Oreal shampoo advert that had so damaged his tough-guy image? Was a lap dancer who accused Affleck of performing a sex act upon her at a party at Christian Slater’s house just trying to make a quick buck? The press furore grew to extreme heights when it was announced that Affleck and Lopez were to marry, and grew further when, in September 2003 the ceremony was called off. Affleck would now publicly describe his life as being like “a car wreck”.
The press-fest must have made it hard to concentrate on his work, of which there was still plenty. Next he appeared in John Woo’s hi-octane thriller Paycheck, based on a Philip K. Dick story. Here he played a computer engineer who’s hired to spend three years on an invention that can see into the future then, for security reasons, he has his memory of the work erased.
Unfortunately, as well as his memory of this, his multi-million dollar payment goes missing and, possibly even worse, all thought of a relationship he’s enjoyed with Uma Thurman – not something a chap would want to forget. All he has are 19 objects left to him by the pre-wipe Ben. Can he work out what’s happened while Woo’s usual pyrotechnics explode around him?
In its theme, Paycheck was close to Matt Damon’s recent The Bourne Identity, but Affleck’s effort was not so well received. He moved on to reunite with Kevin Smith for Jersey Girl, based on Smith’s own experience of fatherhood. Here Affleck was a workaholic music promoter who fathers a child during a whirlwind romance then, after disaster strikes, is left as a single dad, living with his father back in New Jersey. Would his young daughter and video shop girl Liv Tyler help him find himself? You betcha.
Jersey Girl should have been an easy ride but it wasn’t, for the woman with whom he enjoys a lusty and productive affair at the beginning was none other than Jennifer Lopez. Again the press built up to go bananas. The public was wound up, too. During filming thousands would line the streets, drowning the news vans, antennae and paparazzi, itching for a glimpse of the illustrious duo.
The producers, fearing what had become known as “the Gigli effect”, decided to play down Lopez’s involvement in the movie. After all, Affleck said, she was only in it for 15 minutes. It was all a major pain for Smith, this being his most autobiographical effort to date.
Claiming he and Lopez would never act together again, Affleck moved on to Surviving Christmas, where he played a lonely record executive dumped by his girlfriend at Christmas. Advised by a therapist to seek solace by visiting his former family home, he asks to join in the celebrations of the current residents, including parents James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara and smart scientist daughter Christina Applegate. That’s right, it was wacky comedy with a good heart.
Like an old-school movie-star, we recognize Ben Affleck immediately but know very little about him. He loves motorbikes and owns five of them. He smokes Camel Lights and enjoys Diet Coke. He loves novels and poetry, his reading having always been encouraged by his mother. He loves a drink – a little too much as, in 2001, he had to book himself into the Promises Rehab Center in Malibu, Charlie Sheen kindly driving him over there. He loves his job, but hates that he can’t spend much time with his friends.
Having been dumped by Famke Janssen, he had no one steady for ages, and devoted some of his spare time to political and humanitarian issues. He campaigned for Al Gore against George W. Bush and also, along with Damon, visited Harvard to speak out for a new minimum wage. There’s also the Internet company he runs with Damon, LivePlanet.
With his wages having risen from $20,000 for Danielle Steele’s Daddy to $12.5 million for Bounce, he need never work again. But he will. He’s now one of the most sought-after leading men in Hollywood. Unfortunately, though, due to ongoing press reaction to his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, he’s in danger on being considered a celebrity rather than an actor. Having done more than most to reach the top, he must struggle even harder to stay there.~ Dominic Wills
Affleck had a brief but high-profile romance with actress Gwyneth Paltrow following her breakup with Brad Pitt. He began dating actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, whom he met on the set of Gigli.
In 2002 it was announced that he was engaged to Lopez, and the relationship between the two received enormous attention by the entertainment media. Both subsequently lost fans and credibility, probably due in part to the saturation of Affleck/Lopez interviews and projects, and especially after the notorious failure of Gigli, which in part was due to the negative publicity which led to the couple being dubbed “Bennifer”. They broke up in 2004, with both blaming the media attention.
In 2005 he proposed to his Daredevil costar, Alias star Jennifer Garner after nine months of dating. In May 2005 it was announced that Garner was pregnant, and they were married on June 29, 2005. Garner gave birth to a baby girl named Violet Ann Affleck on November 30th 2005.
Affleck is also an avid poker player, regularly entering local events. He has been tutored by poker professionals Amir Vahedi and Annie Duke. He won the California State Poker Championship on June 20, 2004, taking home the first prize of $356,000, and qualifying him for the 2004 World Poker Tour final tournament.
In 2006 will begin directing his first feature Gone, Baby, Gone based on the Dennis Lehane novel about two Boston area detectives investigating the kidnapping of a little girl.
Affleck made what could be considered a comeback with the September 2006 release of the critically acclaimed George Reeves noir biopic Hollywoodland, directed by HBO TV-series veteran Allen Coulter. His performance was well-received; Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, in review of the film, wrote: “The irony is that Affleck’s battering at the hands of fame has prepped him beautifully to play Reeves. He knows this character from the inside: the surface charm, the hidden vulnerability, the ache of watching a career become a joke and being helpless to stop it.” Claudia Puig of USA Today wrote that Affleck gives a “strong performance”. For his performance, he was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and won the Supporting Actor of the Year award at the Hollywood Film Festival, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.
Following the success of Hollywoodland, he appeared in the 2007 action film Smokin’ Aces. In the film, Affleck plays Jack Dupree, a bounty hunter. Smokin’ Aces received mixed reviews from critics, and was a box office failure. Also in 2007, Affleck made his directorial debut, which starred his brother Casey, with Gone Baby Gone, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay, about two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl’s kidnapping and how it affects their lives. Based on the book by Dennis Lehane, it opened to rave reviews in October 2007.
When asked why he decided to direct the film, Affleck said: “Directing a movie was really instructive for me. I think I learned a lot about writing, and a lot about acting, and I learned how all the pieces fit together from the inside. That was really valuable. It was a good thing.” The film received critical acclaim. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly noted that Affleck “shows excellent instincts” as a director. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com wrote, “As a director, Ben Affleck may turn out to be quite good with actors, But he may need to work harder at shaping material, and at making his characters emerge as rounded, believable people.”
In 2009, Affleck returned to film, starring in three features, He’s Just Not That into You, State of Play, and Extract. In He’s Just Not That into You, a romantic comedy, he was part of an ensemble cast that included Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, and Jennifer Connelly.
The film generated mostly mixed reviews, but was a box office success, earning $165 million worldwide. In State of Play, Affleck played Congressman Stephen Collins, an adaptation of the British television serial State of Play. The film is a political thriller which raises questions about the relationship between politicians and the media.
In the comedy film Extract, Affleck played Dean, a bartender, and the best friend to Jason Bateman’s character. His performance in the film was well-received, with Barbara Vancheri of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting that “Affleck is a hoot as a long-haired fount of bad advice and drugs he keeps in a little tin behind the bar. After playing a square-jawed crimefighter, an actor turned Superman and a congressman, he is actually loose and funny.”
Affleck directed his second feature, The Town 2010, an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves,. He was also a part of the cast that also includes Golden Globe-winner Jon Hamm, the Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner, the Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and Gossip Girl-actress Blake Lively. His second directing received critical acclaim, too.Related Information: