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Ben Affleck

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Ben Affleck
Photograph of Ben Affleck wearing a leather jacket
Born Benjamin Geza Affleck-Boldt
(1972-08-15) August 15, 1972 (age 44)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Occidental College
  • Actor
  • Filmmaker
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
  • Producer
Years active 1981–present
Spouse(s) Jennifer Garner (m. 2005–17)
Children 3
Relatives Casey Affleck (brother)

Benjamin Geza Affleck-Boldt (born August 15, 1972) is an American actor and filmmaker. His accolades include two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. He began his career as a child and starred in the PBS educational series The Voyage of the Mimi (1984, 1988). He later appeared in the independent coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused (1993) and various Kevin Smith films including Chasing Amy (1997) and Dogma (1999). Affleck gained wider recognition when he and childhood friend Matt Damon won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997). He then established himself as a leading man in studio films including the disaster drama Armageddon (1998), the romantic comedy Forces of Nature (1999), the war drama Pearl Harbor (2001) and the thriller Changing Lanes (2002).

After a career downturn, during which he appeared in Daredevil and Gigli (both 2003), Affleck received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the noir biopic Hollywoodland (2006). His directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone (2007), which he also co-wrote, was well- received, he then directed, co-wrote, and starred in the crime drama The Town (2010). For the political thriller Argo (2012), which he directed and starred in, Affleck won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Director, and the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Academy Award for Best Picture. He starred in the psychological thriller Gone Girl in 2014; in 2016, Affleck began playing Batman in the DC Extended Universe, starred in the action thriller The Accountant, and directed, wrote and acted in the gangster drama Live by Night.

Affleck is the co-founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, a grantmaking and advocacy-based nonprofit organization. He is also a stalwart member of the Democratic Party. Affleck and Damon are co-owners of the production company Pearl Street Films, his younger brother is actor Casey Affleck, with whom he has worked on several films including Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone. Affleck married actress Jennifer Garner in 2005; they have three children together. The couple announced their separation in 2015 and filed for divorce in early 2017.

Early life

Benjamin Geza Affleck-Boldt was born on August 15, 1972, in Berkeley, California,[1][2] his family moved to Massachusetts when he was three;[3] living in Falmouth, where his brother Casey was born, before settling in Cambridge.[4] His mother, Christopher Anne "Chris" (née Boldt),[5] was a Harvard-educated elementary school teacher,[6][7] his father, Timothy Byers Affleck,[8] worked sporadically as an auto mechanic,[3] carpenter,[9] bookie,[10] electrician,[11] bartender,[12] and a janitor at Harvard University.[13] In the mid-1960s, he had been an actor and stage manager with the Theater Company of Boston,[14] during Affleck's childhood, his father had a self-described "severe, chronic problem with alcoholism"[15] and Affleck has recalled him drinking "all day ... every day".[16] His parents divorced when he was 12,[15] and he and his younger brother lived with their mother;[8] in the following years, his father's life "hit the skids"[6] and he spent two years homeless.[10][17] When Affleck was 16, his father moved to Indio, California to enter a rehabilitation facility and, after gaining sobriety, he worked as an addiction counselor at the facility for many years.[6][18]

Affleck was raised in a politically active, liberal household,[10][19] he and his brother were surrounded by people who worked in the arts,[20] regularly attended theater performances with their mother,[21] and were encouraged to make their own home movies.[22] The brothers auditioned for roles in local commercials and film productions because of their mother's friendship with a Cambridge-area casting director,[12] and Affleck first acted professionally at the age of seven,[23] his mother saved his wages in a college trust fund[8] and hoped her son would ultimately become a teacher, worrying that acting was an insecure and "frivolous" profession.[24] David Wheeler, a family friend, was Affleck's acting coach and later described him as a "very bright and intensely curious" child.[23] When Affleck was 13, he filmed a children's television program in Mexico and learned to speak Spanish during a year spent traveling around the country with his mother and brother.[25]

As a Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school student, Affleck acted in theater productions and was inspired by drama teacher Gerry Speca,[26][27] during this time he became close friends with Matt Damon, whom he had known since the age of eight.[28] Although Damon was two years older, the friends had "identical interests"[28] and traveled to New York together for acting auditions,[29] they saved their acting earnings in a joint bank account to buy train and airline tickets.[30] While Affleck had high SAT scores,[8] he was an unfocused student with poor attendance,[6][31] he spent a few months studying Spanish at the University of Vermont, chosen because of its proximity to his then-girlfriend,[11] but left after fracturing his hip while playing basketball.[29] By then, aged 18, Affleck moved to Los Angeles,[24] studying Middle Eastern affairs at Occidental College for a year and a half.[32][33]

Film career

1981–1997: Child acting and Good Will Hunting

Affleck acted professionally throughout his childhood "but not in the sense that I had a mom that wanted to take me to Hollywood or a family that wanted to make money from me ... I kind of chanced into something."[34] He first appeared, at the age of seven, in a local independent film called Dark Side of the Street (1981), directed by a family friend,[35] his biggest success as a child actor was as the star of the PBS children's series The Voyage of the Mimi (1984) and The Second Voyage of the Mimi (1988), produced for sixth-grade science classes. Affleck worked "sporadically" on Mimi from the age of eight to fifteen in both Massachusetts and Mexico,[34] as a teenager, he appeared in the ABC after school special Wanted: A Perfect Man (1986),[36] the television film Hands of a Stranger (1987),[34] and a 1989 Burger King commercial.[27]

After high school, Affleck moved briefly to New York in search of acting work.[34] Later, while studying at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Affleck directed student films,[10][37] as an actor, he had a series of "knock-around parts, one to the next".[34] He played Patrick Duffy's son in the television film Daddy (1991), made an uncredited appearance as a basketball player in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film (1992,) and had a supporting role as an anti-Semite in School Ties (1992).[38] He played a high school quarterback in the NBC television series Against the Grain (1993), and a steroid-abusing high school football player in Body to Die For: The Aaron Henry Story (1994). Affleck's most notable role during this period was as a high school bully in Richard Linklater's cult classic Dazed and Confused (1993).[39] Linklater sought a likeable actor for the supporting role and, while Affleck was "big and imposing," he was "so smart and full of life ... I just liked him."[40][41] Affleck later said Linklater was instrumental in demystifying the filmmaking process for him.[10]

 Bill Clinton, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon sit on two sofas while looking towards a television screen
Affleck and Matt Damon attend a Camp David screening of Good Will Hunting with President Bill Clinton in early 1998

Affleck's first starring film role was as an aimless art student in the college drama Glory Daze (1995), with Stephen Holden of The New York Times remarking that his "affably mopey performance finds just the right balance between obnoxious and sad sack".[42] He then played a bully in the comedy Mallrats (1995) and began to worry that he would be relegated to "throwing people into their lockers for the rest of my career".[34] However, he became friends with writer-director Kevin Smith during filming, and Smith wrote the lead role in his romantic comedy Chasing Amy (1997) for Affleck,[3][34] the film was a breakthrough moment for the actor.[34] Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the "wonderful ease" with which Affleck played the role, combining "suave good looks with cool comic timing".[43] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly described it as a "wholesome and quick-witted" performance,[44] he starred as a recently returned Korean War veteran in the coming-of-age drama Going All the Way (1997). Todd McCarthy of Variety found him "excellent",[45] while Janet Maslin of The New York Times noted that his "flair for comic self-doubt made a strong impression."[46]

The success of 1997's Good Will Hunting, which Affleck co-wrote and acted in, marked a significant turning point in his career, the screenplay originated in 1992 when Damon wrote a 40-page script for a playwriting class at Harvard University. He asked Affleck to act out the scenes with him in front of the class and, when Damon later moved into Affleck's Los Angeles apartment, they began working on the script in earnest,[28] the film, which they wrote mainly during improvisation sessions,[47] was set partly in their hometown of Cambridge, and drew from their own experiences.[48] They sold the screenplay to Castle Rock in 1994 when Affleck was 22 years old, during the development process, they received notes from industry figures including Rob Reiner and William Goldman.[49] Following a lengthy dispute with Castle Rock about a suitable director, Affleck and Damon persuaded Miramax to purchase the screenplay,[9] the two friends moved back to Boston for a year before the film finally went into production, directed by Gus Van Sant, and co-starring Damon, Affleck, and Robin Williams.[47] On its release, Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the "smart and touching screenplay,"[50] while Emanuel Levy of Variety found it "funny, nonchalant, moving and angry".[51] Jay Carr of The Boston Globe wrote that Affleck brought "a beautifully nuanced tenderness" to his role as the working-class friend of Damon's mathematical prodigy character.[52] Affleck and Damon won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.[10] Affleck has described this period of his life as "dreamlike": "It was like one of those scenes in an old movie when a newspaper comes spinning out of the black on to the screen. You know, '$100 Million Box Office! Awards!'"[29]

1998–2002: Leading man status

Ben Affleck, Michael Bay and Liv Tyler posing on the red carpet
Affleck with Michael Bay and Liv Tyler at the Armageddon premiere in 1998

1998's Armageddon established Affleck as a viable leading man for Hollywood studio films. Good Will Hunting had not yet been released during the casting process and, after Affleck's screen test, director Michael Bay dismissed him as "a geek". He was convinced by producer Jerry Bruckheimer that Affleck would be a star,[24] but the actor was required to lose weight, become tanned, and get his teeth capped before filming began,[53] the film, where he starred opposite Bruce Willis as a blue-collar driller tasked by NASA with stopping an asteroid from colliding with Earth, was a box office success.[54] Daphne Merkin of The New Yorker remarked: "Affleck demonstrates a sexy Paul Newmanish charm and is clearly bound for stardom."[55] Later in 1998, Affleck had a supporting role as an arrogant English actor in the period romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love, starring his then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow. Lael Loewenstein of Variety remarked that Affleck "does some of his very best work, suggesting that comedy may be his true calling,"[56] while Janet Maslin of The New York Times found him "very funny".[57] Shakespeare in Love won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, while the cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast. Affleck then appeared as a small-town sheriff in the supernatural horror film Phantoms.[34] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wondered why actors like Affleck and Peter O'Toole had agreed to appear in the "junky" film: "Affleck's thudding performance suggests he is reading his dialogue for the first time, directly from cue cards."[58]

Affleck and Damon had an on-screen reunion in Kevin Smith's religious satire Dogma, which premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. Janet Maslin of The New York Times remarked that the pair, playing fallen angels, "bring great, understandable enthusiasm to Mr. Smith's smart talk and wild imaginings".[59] Affleck starred opposite Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy Forces of Nature (1999), playing a groom whose attempts to get to his wedding are complicated by his free-spirited traveling companion. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly remarked that Affleck "has the fast-break charm you want in a screwball hero,"[60] while Joe Leydon of Variety praised "his winning ability to play against his good looks in a self-effacing comic turn".[61] Affleck then appeared opposite Courtney Love in the little-seen ensemble comedy 200 Cigarettes (1999).[62]

Interested in a directorial career, Affleck shadowed John Frankenheimer throughout pre-production of the action thriller Reindeer Games (2000).[24][63] Frankenheimer, directing his last feature film, described Affleck as having "a very winning, likable quality about him. I've been doing this for a long time and he's really one of the nicest."[64] He starred opposite Charlize Theron as a hardened criminal, with Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times enjoying the unexpected casting choice: "Affleck often suggests one of the Kennedys playing Clark Kent ... He looks as if he has never missed a party or a night's sleep. He's game, though, and his slight dislocation works to the advantage of Reindeer Games."[65] He then had a supporting role as a ruthless stockbroker in the crime drama Boiler Room (2000).[63] A.O. Scott of The New York Times felt Affleck had "traced over" Alec Baldwin's performance in Glengarry Glen Ross.[66] However, Peter Rainer of New York Magazine said he "does a series of riffs on Baldwin's aria, and each one is funnier and crueler than the next",[67] he then provided the voice of Joseph in the animated Joseph: King of Dreams.[68] In his last film role of 2000, Affleck starred opposite his girlfriend Paltrow in the romantic drama Bounce. Stephen Holden of The New York Times praised the "understated intensity and exquisite detail" of his performance: "His portrait of a young, sarcastically self-defined 'people person' who isn't half as confident as he would like to appear is close to definitive."[69]

Affleck reunited with director Michael Bay for the critically derided war drama Pearl Harbor (2001), he later characterized it as a film he did "for money – for the wrong reasons".[70] A.O. Scott of The New York Times felt Affleck and Kate Beckinsale "do what they can with their lines, and glow with the satiny shine of real movie stars".[71] However, Todd McCarthy of Variety said, "the blandly handsome Affleck couldn’t convince that he’d ever so much as been turned down for a date, much less lost the love of his life to his best friend".[72] Affleck then parodied Good Will Hunting with Damon and Van Sant in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001),[73] made a cameo in the comedy Daddy and Them (2001),[74] and had a supporting role in the little-seen The Third Wheel (2002).[23] He portrayed the CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the thriller The Sum of All Fears (2002). Stephen Holden of The New York Times felt he was miscast in a role previously played by both Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin: "Although Mr. Affleck can be appealing when playing earnest young men groping toward maturity, he simply lacks the gravitas for the role."[75] Affleck had an "amazing experience" making the thriller Changing Lanes (2002),[34] and later cited Roger Michell as someone he learned from as a director.[63][76] Robert Koehler of Variety described it as one of the actor's "most thoroughly wrought" performances: "The journey into a moral fog compels him to play more inwardly and thoughtfully than he ever has before."[77]

Push, Nevada (2002), created, written and produced by Affleck and Sean Bailey,[78] was an ABC mystery drama series which placed a viewer-participation game within the frame of the show.[79] Caryn James of The New York Times praised the show's "nerve, imagination and clever writing,"[80] but Robert Bianco of USA Today described it as a "knock-off" of Twin Peaks.[81] The show was cancelled by ABC after seven episodes due to low ratings.[82]

Affleck became more actively involved with television and film production in the early 2000s, he and Damon had set up Pearl Street Films, named after the street that ran between their childhood homes,[83] in 1998[84] but their next production company LivePlanet, co-founded in 2000 with Bailey and Chris Moore, sought to integrate the Internet into mainstream television and film production.[83][85] LivePlanet's biggest success was the documentary series Project Greenlight, aired on HBO and later Bravo, which focused on first-time filmmakers being given the chance to direct a feature film. Project Greenlight was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program in 2002, 2004, and 2005.[86] Over time, LivePlanet's focus shifted from multimedia projects to more traditional film production.[85] Affleck and his partners signed a film production deal with Disney in 2002; it expired in 2007.[87][88]

2003–2005: Career downturn and tabloid notoriety

While Affleck had been a tabloid figure for much of his career, and was named Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine in 2002,[23] he was the subject of increased media attention in 2003 because of his relationship with Jennifer Lopez. By the end of the year, Affleck had become, in the words of GQ, the "world's most over-exposed actor",[89] his newfound tabloid notoriety coincided with a series of poorly received films.

Ben Affleck, with a trim goatee and moustache, is surrounded by hands reaching out to him.
Affleck visiting US Marines in Manama, Bahrain in 2003

The first of these was Daredevil (2003), in which Affleck starred as the blind superhero. Affleck was a longtime comic book fan, and had written a foreword for Kevin Smith's Guardian Devil (1999) about his love for the character of Daredevil,[90][91] the film was a commercial success,[92] but received a mixed response from critics. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times said Affleck was "lost" in the role: "A big man, Mr. Affleck is shriveled by the one-dimensional role ... [Only his scenes with Jon Favreau have] a playful side that allows Mr. Affleck to show his generosity as an actor."[93] In 2014, Affleck described Daredevil as the only film he regretted making,[10] he next appeared as a low-ranking mobster in the romantic comedy Gigli (2003), co-starring Lopez. Gigli received almost uniformly unfavorable reviews, with Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times remarking: "A passable actor but a lousy star – the bigger the movie, the worse he comes across – Affleck doesn't have the chops or the charm to maneuver around (or past) bad material."[94] Affleck has repeatedly defended director Marty Brest since the film's release,[63] describing him as "one of the really great directors";[95] in his last film role of 2003, Affleck starred as a reverse engineer in the sci-fi thriller Paycheck (2003). Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian remarked on Affleck's "self-deprecating charm" and wondered why he could not find better scripts.[96] Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times found it "almost unfair" to critique Affleck, an "actor of some callow charm," given that he "had such a rough year".[97]

Affleck's poor critical notices continued in 2004 when he starred as a bereaved husband in the romantic comedy Jersey Girl, directed by longtime collaborator Smith. Stephen Holden of The New York Times described Affleck as an actor "whose talent has curdled as his tabloid notoriety has spread".[98] However, Joe Leydon of Variety found his onscreen role as a father "affecting".[99] Later that year, he starred opposite James Gandolfini in the holiday comedy Surviving Christmas. Holden noted in The New York Times that the film "found a clever way to use Ben Affleck's disagreeable qualities, the actor's shark-like grin, cocky petulance and bullying frat-boy swagger befit his character."[100] At this point, the quality of scripts offered to Affleck "was just getting worse and worse" and he decided to take a career break,[101] the Los Angeles Times published a piece on the downfall of Affleck's career in late 2004. Kim Masters noted that, unlike film critics and tabloid journalists, "few industry professionals seem to be gloating over Affleck's travails". Various producers and agents were interviewed, with Harvey Weinstein describing Affleck as "one of the sweetest people I've ever met in this industry ... I think the sky's the limit when he wants to focus. And he will."[102]

2006–2015: Emergence as a director

After marrying actress Jennifer Garner in 2005, and welcoming their first child, Affleck began a career comeback in 2006. While both Man About Town and Smokin' Aces were little-seen,[103] Affleck won acclaim for his performance as George Reeves in the noir biopic Hollywoodland. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised "an award-caliber performance ... This is feeling, nuanced work from an actor some of us had prematurely written off."[104] Geoffrey Macnab of The Guardian said he "beautifully" captured "the character's curious mix of charm, vulnerability and fatalism",[105] he was awarded the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.[106] Also in 2006, he made a cameo in Smith's Clerks II,[107] although they remain fans of each other's work,[108][109] Affleck and Smith have had little contact since the making of Clerks II.[110]

Affleck made his feature film directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone (2007), a crime drama set in a working-class Boston neighbourhood, starring his brother Casey. Affleck co‑wrote the screenplay, based on the book by Dennis Lehane, with childhood friend Aaron Stockard, having first mentioned his intention to adapt the story in 2003,[111][112] it opened to enthusiastic reviews.[113] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised the film's "sensitivity to real struggle ... Mr. Affleck doesn’t live in these derelict realms, but for the most part, he earns the right to visit."[114] Similarly, Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter praised the "thoughtful, deeply poignant, splendidly executed" film.[115]

While Affleck intended to "keep a primary emphasis on directing" going forward in his career,[116] he acted in three films in 2009; in the ensemble romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You, the chemistry between Affleck and Jennifer Aniston was praised.[117][118] Affleck played a congressman in the political thriller State of Play. Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe found him "very good in the film's silliest role,"[119] but David Edelstein of New York Magazine remarked of Affleck: "He might be smart and thoughtful in life [but] as an actor his wheels turn too slowly."[120] He had a supporting role as a bartender in the little-seen comedy film Extract.[121] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described his performance as "a goofball delight,"[122] while Manhola Dargis of The New York Times declared it "a real performance".[123] In 2010, Affleck starred in The Company Men as a mid-level sales executive who is made redundant during the financial crisis of 2007–2008.[124] David Denby of The New Yorker declared that Affleck "gives his best performance yet,"[125] while Richard Corliss of Time found he "nails Bobby's plunge from hubris to humiliation".[126]

Ben Affleck, wearing a tracksuit top, smiles
Affleck on the set of The Town in 2010

Following the modest commercial success of Gone Baby Gone, Warner Bros. developed a close working relationship with Affleck and offered him his choice of the studio's scripts.[6] He decided to direct the crime drama The Town (2010), an adaptation of Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves, he also co-wrote the screenplay and starred in the film as a bank robber. A.O. Scott of The New York Times praised Affleck's "skill and self-confidence as a director,"[127] while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times noted: "Affleck has the stuff of a real director. Everything is here. It's an effective thriller, he works closely with actors, he has a feel for pacing."[128] The film was a box office success.[129] Also in 2010, Affleck and Damon's production company, Pearl Street Films, signed a first-look producing deal at Warner Bros.[130]

Affleck soon began work on his next directorial project for Warner Bros. Argo (2012), written by Chris Terrio and starring Affleck as a CIA operative. It tells the story of the CIA plan to save six U.S. diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis by faking a production for a large-scale science fiction film. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker said the film offered "further proof that we were wrong about Ben Affleck".[131] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone remarked: "Affleck takes the next step in what looks like a major directing career ... He directs the hell out of it, nailing the quickening pace, the wayward humor, the nerve-frying suspense."[132] The film was a major commercial success.[133] Argo won the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and BAFTA Award for Best Picture.[134] The cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast. Affleck himself won the Golden Globe Award, Directors Guild of America Award, and BAFTA Award for Best Director, becoming the first director to win these awards without a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director.[135]

Affleck played a romantic lead in Terrence Malick's experimental drama To the Wonder (2013). Malick, a close friend of Affleck's godfather, had first met with the actor in the 1990s to offer advice about the plot of Good Will Hunting.[136] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian enjoyed "a performance of dignity and sensitivity,"[137] while The New Yorker 's Richard Brody described Affleck as "a solid and muscular performer" who "conveys a sense of thoughtful and willful individuality".[138] Affleck's performance as a poker boss was considered a highlight of the poorly-reviewed thriller Runner Runner (2013).[139][140] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times remarked that it was "one killer of a character, and Affleck plays him like a Bach concerto — every note perfectly played.[141] Also in 2013, Affleck hosted the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live for the fifth time since 2000, becoming a member of the Five Timers Club.[142] Affleck then pushed back production on his own directorial project to star as a husband accused of murder in David Fincher's psychological thriller Gone Girl (2014).[143] Fincher cast him partly because he understood what it felt like to be misrepresented by tabloid media: "What many people don’t know is that he's crazy smart, but since he doesn’t want that to get awkward, he downplays it. I think he learned how to skate on charm."[144] David Edelstein of New York Magazine noted that Fincher's controlled style of directing had a "remarkable" effect on Affleck's acting: "I never thought I’d write these words, but he carries the movie. He's terrific."[145] Justin Chang of Variety found Affleck "perfectly cast": "It's a tricky turn, requiring a measure of careful underplaying and emotional aloofness, and he nails it completely."[146] In 2015, Affleck and Damon's Project Greenlight was resurrected by HBO for one season.[147]

2016–present: Batman role and continued directing

Given Affleck's growing reputation as a filmmaker, his decision to star as Batman in the 2016 superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was regarded by Anthony Lane of The New Yorker as a "backward step into the realm of beefcake"[148] and by Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times as "a somewhat bewildering choice".[149] Although the casting choice was met with intense fan backlash,[150] Affleck's performance ultimately received a positive reception. Andrew Barker of Variety found him "a winningly cranky, charismatic presence,"[151] while Brian Truitt of USA Today enjoyed his "strong" and "surprisingly emotional" take on the character.[152] He briefly reprised his role as Batman in Suicide Squad later that year. Affleck's second role of 2015 was as an autistic accountant in the action thriller The Accountant, the film was a commercial success, greatly exceeding box office expectations.[153] Peter Debruge of Variety felt Affleck's "boy-next-door" demeanour – "so normal and non-actorly that most of his performances feel like watching one of your buddies up on screen" – was "a terrific fit" for the role.[154] However, Stephen Holden of The New York Times wondered why Affleck, "looking appropriately dead-eyed and miserable," committed himself to the film.[155] Live by Night, Affleck's fourth directorial project, was released in late 2016.[156] The Prohibition-era gangster drama, which he adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel, received largely unenthusiastic reviews and failed to recoup its $65 million production budget.[157] David Sims of The Atlantic described it as "a fascinating mess of a movie" and criticised Affleck's "stiff, uncomfortable" performance. However, he noted that one of the last action scenes "is so wonderfully staged, its action crisp and easy to follow, that it reminds you what skill Affleck has with the camera".[158] Affleck and Damon made a one-off stage appearance in late 2016 for a live reading of the Good Will Hunting screenplay at New York's Skirball Theater.[159]

Affleck will reprise his role as Batman in Justice League in November 2017.[160] Matt Reeves is expected to direct him in an as-yet-untitled Batman film in 2018.[161] Affleck initially intended to direct the film, as well as star in it, but later stepped down citing an unmanageable workload,[162] he has two directorial projects in development. Warner Bros. acquired the rights to Nathaniel Philbrick's Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution in 2013 as a potential directing vehicle for Affleck[163] and, in 2016, it was announced that Aaron Stockard is writing an adapted screenplay for the project.[164] He is also attached to direct and star in Fox's adaptation of Agatha Christie's "The Witness for the Prosecution".[165]

Humanitarian work

Eastern Congo Initiative

Ben Affleck, holding a pen and sitting behind a microphone, looks ahead while offering testimony
Affleck in 2011, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights

After travelling in the region between 2007 and early 2010, Affleck and Whitney Williams co-founded the nonprofit organization Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010.[166][167] ECI acts as a grant maker for Congolese-led, community-based charities,[168] it offers training and resources to cooperatives of Congolese farmers while leveraging partnerships with companies including Theo Chocolate and Starbucks.[169][170] ECI also aims to raise public awareness and drive policy change in the United States.[171]

Affleck has written op-eds about issues facing eastern Congo for the Washington Post,[172][173] Politico,[174] the Huffington Post[175] and Time.[176] He has appeared as a discussion panelist at many events, including at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,[177] the Global Philanthropy Forum[178] and the Clinton Global Initiative.[179] During visits to Washington D.C.: Affleck has testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights,[180] the House Armed Services Committee,[181] the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,[182] and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Projects.[183]

Other charitable causes

Affleck is a supporter of the A-T Children's Project. While filming Forces of Nature in 1998, Affleck befriended ten-year-old Joe Kindregan (1988–2015), who had the rare disease ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), and his family,[184] he became actively involved in fundraising for A-T,[185][186] and he and Kindregan testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education in 2001, asking senators to support stem-cell research and to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health.[184] In 2007, Affleck was the keynote speaker at Kindregan's high school graduation ceremony in Fairfax, Virginia.[187] Kindregan appeared as an extra in Argo (2012);[188] in 2013, in celebration of Kindregan's 25th birthday and "15 years of friendship with Joe and his family," Affleck and Garner matched donations made to the A-T Children's Project.[189] Affleck appeared in CinemAbility (2013), a film documentary which explores Hollywood's portrayals of people with disabilities.[190]

Ben Affleck speaks into a microphone
Affleck speaking at a Feeding America rally in 2009

As part of USO-sponsored tours, Affleck visited marines stationed in the Persian Gulf in 2003[191] and troops at Germany's Ramstein Air Base in 2017.[192] He is a supporter of Paralyzed Veterans of America,[193] he filmed public service announcements for the organisation in both 2009 and 2014.[194][195] He has also volunteered on behalf of Operation Gratitude.[196][197]

Affleck is a member of Feeding America's Entertainment Council,[198] he made an appearance at the Greater Boston Food Bank in 2007,[199] and at a Denver food bank in 2008.[200] Affleck spoke at a Feeding America rally in Washington D.C. in 2009,[201] and filmed a public service announcement for the charity in 2010.[202] Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres launched Feeding America's Small Change Campaign in 2011.[203] Also that year, he and Howard Graham Buffett co-wrote an article for The Huffington Post, highlighting the "growing percentage of the food insecure population that is not eligible for federal nutrition programs".[204]


Political views

Affleck has described himself as "moderately liberal."[205] He was raised in "a very strong union household."[206] In 2000, he spoke at a rally at Harvard University in support of an increased living wage for all workers on campus; his father and stepmother worked as janitors at the university.[13] He later narrated a documentary, Occupation (2002), about a sit-in organized by the Harvard Living Wage Campaign.[207] Affleck and Senator Ted Kennedy held a press conference on Capitol Hill in 2004, pushing for an increase in the minimum wage,[208] he spoke at a 2007 press conference at Boston's City Hall in support of SEIU's unionization efforts for the city's low-paid hospital workers.[209] During the Writers' Strike in 2008, Affleck voiced support for the picketers,[210] he criticized the Bush tax cuts on many occasions.[211][212][213]

Affleck is pro-choice; in a 2000 interview, he stated that he believes "very strongly in a woman's right to choose".[19] In 2012, he supported the Draw the Line campaign, describing reproductive rights as "fundamental".[214] Affleck was a longtime supporter of legalizing gay marriage, saying in 2004 that he hoped to look back on the marriage debate "with some degree of embarrassment for how antiquated it was".[215] Also that year, he remarked that it was "outrageous and offensive" to suggest members of the transgender community were not entitled to equal rights,[216] he appeared alongside his gay cousin in a 2005 Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays print advertising campaign.[217][218] Affleck filmed a public service announcement for Divided We Fail, a nonpartisan AARP campaign seeking affordable, quality healthcare for all Americans, in 2007.[219]

Affleck appeared at a press conference with New York Senator Chuck Schumer in 2002, in support of a proposed Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Act;[220] in 2003, he criticised the "questionable and aggressive" use of the Patriot Act and the resulting "encroachments on civil liberties".[211] A reporter for The Washington Post overheard Affleck "railing about the Israeli invasion of Gaza" at a Washington party in 2009.[221] Steven Clemons, a participant in the conversation, said Affleck listened "to alternative takes ... What Affleck spoke about that night was reasoned, complex and made a lot of sense."[222] Later that year, in a New York Times interview, Affleck remarked that his views were closer to those of the Israeli Labor Party than Likud.[223]

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Affleck expressed concerns about conspiracy theories claiming Barack Obama was an Arab or a Muslim: "This prejudice that we have allowed to fester in this campaign ... the acceptance of both of those things as a legitimate slur is really a problem."[224][225] In 2012, he praised Senator John McCain's "leadership" in defending Huma Abedin against anti-Muslim attacks.[226][227] Affleck engaged in a discussion about the relationship between liberal principles and Islam during a 2014 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher;[228] in a 2017 Guardian interview, he said: "I strongly believe that no one should be stereotyped on the basis of their race or religion. It’s one of the most fundamental tenets of liberal thought."[229]

Affleck is a supporter of the Second Amendment;[205] in a 2012 interview, he said he owns several guns, both for skeet shooting and for the protection of his family.[6] Affleck does not support the death penalty.[230]

Affleck appeared alongside then-Senator Barack Obama at a 2006 rally in support of Proposition 87, which sought to reduce petroleum consumption in favor of alternative energy,[231] he appeared in a global warming awareness video produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund in 2007.[232] Also that year, Affleck admitted he was not "particularly good at being green"[233] while, in 2014, he named "a 1966 Chevelle" as his guilty pleasure;[10] in 2016, Affleck filmed an endorsement for Rezpect Our Water, an online petition to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.[234]

Democratic Party activism

Affleck registered to vote as a Democrat in 1992, and has campaigned on behalf of a number of Democratic presidential nominees, he supported Al Gore in the final weeks of the 2000 presidential campaign, attending rallies in California,[235] Pennsylvania[236] and Florida.[237] However, Affleck was unable to vote due to a registration issue in New York, where he was then residing, and later remarked, "I'm going to vote twice next time, in true Boston fashion."[238]

Ben Affleck speaking into a microphone while wearing a Kerry/Edwards campaign tshirt
Affleck speaking at a John Kerry rally in Zanesville, Ohio in 2004

Affleck was involved in the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry, during the Democratic National Convention in Boston, he spoke to many delegations, appeared on political discussion shows, and attended fundraising events.[239][240] Affleck took part in a voter registration public service announcement,[241] and traveled with Kerry during the opening weekend of his Believe in America Tour, making speeches at rallies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.[242]

Affleck appeared alongside then-Senator Barack Obama at a 2006 rally, introducing him as "the most galvanizing leader to come out of either party, in my opinion, in at least a decade",[231] he donated to Obama's presidential campaign in 2007,[243] and hosted two fundraisers for the candidate during the 2008 Democratic Primary.[244][245] Affleck urged voters to "help make history" in a campaign,[246] and made several appearances during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[247] In the week of the presidential election, he appeared on Saturday Night Live to jokingly endorse Senator John McCain.[248] Affleck did not actively campaign for Obama's reelection in 2012.[6] However, he stated: "I like the president, I’m going to vote for the president."[249]

In 2000, Affleck introduced Senate candidate Hillary Clinton at a Cornell University rally and helped fundraise for her campaign.[250] Affleck, who first met the Clintons at Camp David in 1998,[251] pointed to the First Lady's work with children, women and "working families",[252] he supported Obama during the 2008 Democratic Primary, noting that Clinton had "moved toward the center" during the campaign.[233] Affleck supported Clinton during the 2016 Democratic Primary,[253] he recorded a New Hampshire voter public service announcement,[254] and was named by the Clinton campaign as a 'Hillblazer' – one of 1,100 individuals who had contributed or raised at least $100,000.[255] The Center for Responsive Politics reported that he raised $149,028.[256]

Affleck has supported a number of other Democratic politicians; in 2002, he donated to Dick Gephardt's Congressional campaign,[257] and appeared in campaign literature for former classmate Marjorie Decker, running as a city councillor in Massachusetts.[258] He made donations to the presidential campaigns of both Dennis Kucinich and Wesley Clark in 2003;[259] in 2005, he donated to the campaign fund of Deval Patrick, a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts.[260] In 2006, Affleck contributed to Cory Booker's Newark mayoral campaign,[261] and introduced Congressmen Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy at rallies in Connecticut.[262] He donated to the 2008 Congressional campaign of Pennsylvania's Patrick Murphy[263] and to the 2010 Senate campaign of Kirsten Gillibrand.[257] Affleck hosted a 2012 fundraiser for Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren,[264] endorsed her in a Progressive Change Campaign Committee video,[265] and made a campaign donation.[257] In 2013, he hosted a fundraiser for Senate candidate Cory Booker,[266] and made donations to the campaigns of both Booker and Alison Lundergan Grimes,[267][268] he donated to the campaign of Senate candidate Kamala Harris in 2015, and to the Congressional campaign of Melissa Gilbert in 2016.[257]

In the early 2000s, Affleck often expressed an interest in running for political office one day.[238] However, since 2007, he has denied any political ambitions and spoken repeatedly about the need for campaign finance reform.[229][233][269] In 2005, The Washington Post reported that Virginia Democrats were trying to persuade Affleck to run as a Senate candidate,[270] his publicist dismissed the rumor.[271] In 2012, political pundits and Democratic strategists including Bob Shrum and Tad Devine speculated that Affleck was considering running for a Massachusetts Senate seat.[272] Affleck denied the rumor,[273] and joked that he "also won't be throwing my hat in the ring to run the U.N.".[274]

Personal life

Relationships and family

Affleck had a three-year relationship with actress Gwyneth Paltrow from 1997 to 2000, they began dating in October 1997, after meeting at a Miramax dinner,[275] and later worked together on Shakespeare in Love (1998). Although they first broke up in January 1999, months later, Paltrow persuaded Affleck to co-star with her in Bounce (2000) and they soon resumed their relationship,[276] they separated again in October 2000.[277] In a 2015 interview, Paltrow said she and Affleck remain friends.[275]

Affleck had an eighteen-month relationship with actress/singer Jennifer Lopez from 2002 to 2004, they began dating in July 2002, after meeting on the set of Gigli (2003), and later worked together on the "Jenny from the Block" music video[278] and Jersey Girl (2004).[279] Their relationship received extensive media coverage,[280] they became engaged in November 2002,[281] but their planned wedding on September 14, 2003, in Santa Barbara, California was postponed with four days' notice because of "excessive media attention".[282] They broke up in January 2004.[283] Lopez later described the split as "my first real heartbreak" and attributed it in part to Affleck's discomfort with the media scrutiny;[284][285] in 2013, Affleck said he and Lopez occasionally "touch base".[286]

Affleck had an eleven-year relationship with actress Jennifer Garner from 2004 to 2015, they began dating in mid-2004,[287] having established a friendship on the sets of Pearl Harbor (2001) and Daredevil (2003).[288] They were married on June 29, 2005, in a private Turks and Caicos ceremony.[289] Victor Garber, who officiated the ceremony, and his husband Rainer Andreesen were the only guests.[290] Affleck and Garner have three children: daughters Violet Anne (b. December 2005),[291] and Seraphina "Sera" Rose Elizabeth (b. January 2009),[292] and son Samuel "Sam" Garner (b. February 2012),[293] they announced their intention to divorce in June 2015,[294] and filed legal documents in April 2017, seeking joint physical and legal custody of their children.[295]

While Affleck believes paparazzi attention is "part of the deal" of stardom, he has spoken out against paparazzi interest in his children,[296] he has called for legislation to require paparazzi to maintain a certain distance from children and to blur their faces in published photos.[10]


In a 2003 interview, Affleck described himself as a "lapsed Protestant" from a mostly Episcopalian family,[297] and he later listed the Gospel of Matthew as one of the books that made a difference in his life.[298] As infants, each of his three children were baptised as members of the United Methodist Church;[299] in 2015, he began attending Methodist church services in Los Angeles.[300][301]


In a 1998 interview, Affleck stated that he no longer drank alcohol;[302] in 2001, he completed a 30-day residential rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse. When the story leaked to the press, a spokesperson said the actor "decided that a fuller life awaits him without alcohol".[303] Affleck later described the rehab stay as a "pre-emptive strike" given his family's history of alcoholism;[304] in 2017, Affleck completed another residential rehabilitation program,[305] confirming in a statement that he had received "treatment for alcohol addiction; something I've dealt with in the past and will continue to confront".[306]

Professional gambling

Affleck won the 2004 California State Poker Championship, taking home the first prize of $356,400 and qualifying for the 2004 World Poker Tour final tournament;[307] in 2014, he was asked to refrain from playing blackjack at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, after a series of wins aroused suspicion that he was counting cards, which is a legal gambling strategy frowned upon by casinos.[308] Affleck has repeatedly denied tabloid reports of a gambling addiction.[309][310]


The surname "Affleck" is of Scottish origin.[185] Affleck appeared on the PBS genealogy series Finding Your Roots in 2014. When told during filming that an ancestor had been a slave owner in Georgia, Affleck responded: "God, it gives me kind of a sagging feeling to see a biological relationship to that. But, you know, there it is, part of our history ... We tend to separate ourselves from these things by going like, 'It's just dry history, and it's all over now'."[311] Later, a representative for Affleck told host Henry Louis Gates Jr. via email that Affleck "was uneasy about the slave owner" and the information was not included in the show's final cut.[312] When this became public knowledge during the 2015 Sony email hacking scandal, Affleck said he had been "embarrassed" by the information.[312]

Filmography and awards

Affleck has appeared in more than 50 films, and won many accolades throughout his career as an actor, writer, and director, he first gained recognition as a writer when he won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997), which he co-wrote with Matt Damon.[313] As an actor, he received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Hollywoodland (2006), the film Argo (2012), which he directed, co-produced, and starred in, won him the Golden Globe Award, BAFTA, and Directors Guild Award for Best Director, as well as the Golden Globe Award, BAFTA, the Producers Guild Award, and the Academy Award for Best Picture.[134]


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