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Ben Affleck

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Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
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 University of Vermont
Occidental College
Occupation
  • Actor
  • filmmaker
Years active 1981–present
Works Filmography
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jennifer Garner (m. 2005)
Children 3
Relatives Casey Affleck (brother)
Awards Full list

Benjamin Geza "Ben" Affleck-Boldt (born August 15, 1972) is an American actor and filmmaker. He began his career as a child actor, starring in the PBS educational series The Voyage of the Mimi (1984, 1988). He later appeared in the coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused (1993) and various Kevin Smith films including Chasing Amy (1997) and Dogma (1999). Affleck gained fame 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 starred in high-profile films including Armageddon (1998), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001), Changing Lanes (2002), and The Sum of All Fears (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 Hollywoodland (2006).

Affleck's 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. In 2014, he starred in the psychological thriller Gone Girl. In 2016, Affleck began playing Batman in the DC Extended Universe, and directed, wrote and starred 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. His younger brother is actor Casey Affleck, with whom he has worked on several films including Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone. Following high-profile relationships with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez, Affleck married Jennifer Garner in 2005. Affleck has two daughters and a son with Garner, from whom he separated in 2015.

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 two;[3] living in Falmouth, where his brother Casey was born, before settling in Central Square, Cambridge.[4] His mother, Christopher Anne "Chris" (née Boldt),[5] was a Radcliffe College- and Harvard-educated elementary school teacher.[6][7] His father, Timothy Byers Affleck,[8] worked sporadically as an auto mechanic,[3] a carpenter,[9] a bookie,[10] an electrician,[11] a 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] When Affleck was sixteen, his father moved to Indio, California to enter a rehabilitation facility and, after gaining sobriety, worked as an addiction counselor at the facility for many years.[17][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] were regularly taken to the theater by 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 thirteen, 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] He became close friends with Matt Damon, whom he had known since the age of eight, during this time.[28] Although Damon was two years older, the friends had "identical interests"[28] and traveled to New York together for acting auditions, saving money for train and airline tickets in a joint bank account.[29][30] While Affleck had high SAT scores,[8] he was an unfocused student with poor attendance.[31][32] 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.[33] An 18-year-old Affleck then moved to Los Angeles,[24] studying Middle Eastern affairs at Occidental College for a year and a half.[34][35]

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."[36] 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.[37] 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.[36] As a teenager, he appeared in the ABC after school special Wanted: A Perfect Man (1986),[38] the television movie Hands of a Stranger (1987)[36] and a 1989 Burger King commercial.[27]

After high school, Affleck moved briefly to New York in search of acting work.[36] Later, while studying at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Affleck directed student films.[10][39] As an actor, he had a series of "knock-around parts, one to the next".[36] He played Patrick Duffy's son in the television movie Daddy (1991), made an uncredited appearance as a basketball player in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (1992) and had a supporting role as an anti-Semite in School Ties (1992).[40] 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).[41] 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."[42][43] Affleck later said Linklater was instrumental in demystifying the filmmaking process for him.[10]

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."[44] 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."[45] 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.[36][46] Chasing Amy was a landmark moment for the actor.[45] 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."[47] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote of a "wholesome and quick-witted" performance.[48] Also in 1997, he starred as a recently returned Korean War veteran in the coming-of-age drama Going All the Way. Todd McCarthy of Variety found him "excellent"[49] while Janet Maslin of The New York Times noted that his "flair for comic self-doubt made a strong impression."[50]

The success of 1997's Good Will Hunting, which Affleck co-wrote and starred 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,[51] was set in their hometown of Cambridge and drew from their own experiences.[52] They sold the screenplay to Castle Rock in 1994, when Affleck was 22 years old. During the development process, they received notes from Rob Reiner and William Goldman.[53] Following a lengthy dispute with Castle Rock regarding 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.[51] Upon release, Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the "smart and touching screenplay"[54] while Emanuel Levy of Variety found it "funny, nonchalant, moving and angry."[55] Jay Carr of the Boston Globe wrote that Affleck brought "a beautifully nuanced tenderness to a role that could have been two-dimensional."[56] Affleck and Damon won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.[10] Affleck has said that period in his life was "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!'"[33]

1998–2002: Leading man status

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 blockbusters.[57] Good Will Hunting had not yet been released during the casting process and, after Affleck's screentest, 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.[58] The film, in which he starred opposite Bruce Willis as a blue-collar driller tasked by NASA with stopping an asteroid colliding with Earth, was a box office success.[59] Daphne Merkin of The New Yorker remarked: "Affleck demonstrates a sexy Paul Newmanish charm and is clearly bound for stardom."[60] 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,"[61] while Janet Maslin of The New York Times found him "very funny."[62] 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.[36] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wondered how actors like Affleck and Peter O'Toole were "bamboozled into lending their talents to a junky little horror film": "Affleck's thudding performance suggests he is reading his dialogue for the first time, directly from cue cards."[63]

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."[64] Affleck starred opposite Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy Forces of Nature, playing a groom-to-be whose attempts to get to his wedding are complicated by his free-spirited travelling companion. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly remarked that Affleck "radiates a sweetness that can't be faked ... He has the fast-break charm you want in a screwball hero."[65] Joe Leydon of Variety praised "his winning ability to play against his good looks in a self-effacing comic turn."[66] Affleck then appeared opposite Courtney Love in the little-seen ensemble comedy 200 Cigarettes.[67]

Interested in a directorial career, Affleck shadowed John Frankenheimer throughout pre-production of the action thriller Reindeer Games (2000).[24][68] Frankenheimer, directing his final 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."[69] 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."[70] He then had a supporting role as a ruthless stockbroker in the crime drama Boiler Room (2000).[71] A.O. Scott of The New York Times felt Affleck had "traced over" Alec Baldwin's performance in Glengarry Glen Ross.[72] However, Emanuel Levy of Variety praised his "bravura turn"[73] while 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."[74] In his final film role of 2000, Affleck starred opposite his girlfriend Paltrow in the romantic drama Bounce (2000). 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."[75] Also in 2000, he provided the voice of Joseph in the animated Joseph: King of Dreams.

Affleck reunited with director Michael Bay for the critically derided war drama Pearl Harbor (2001). He later characterised it as a movie he did "for money – for the wrong reasons."[76] 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."[77] 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."[78] Affleck then parodied Good Will Hunting with Damon and Van Sant in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001),[79] appeared in the comedy Daddy and Them (2001)[80] and the little-seen The Third Wheel (2002).[23] He portrayed 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."[81] Affleck had an "amazing experience" making the thriller Changing Lanes (2002),[36] and later cited Roger Michell as someone he learned from as a director.[68][82] He was first drawn to the script while working on Pearl Harbor: "I hadn’t said a line of dialogue in a week, and everybody was at their wit's end, especially me."[83] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian enjoyed the "strongly acted two-hander ... Affleck particularly shows how convincing he can be as the besuited corporate asshole."[84] Robert Koehler of Variety described it as "his most thoroughly wrought performance since "Chasing Amy" ... the journey into a moral fog compels him to play more inwardly and thoughtfully than he ever has before."[85]

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,[86] in 1998[87] but their next production company LivePlanet, co-founded in 2000 with Chris Moore and Sean Bailey, sought to integrate the internet into mainstream television and film production.[88][89] 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.[90] Push, Nevada (2002), created and written by Affleck and Bailey,[91] was an ABC mystery involving an I.R.S. agent searching for embezzled money in a small town. It placed a viewer-participation game within the frame of the show.[92] Caryn James of The New York Times praised the show's "nerve, imagination and clever writing ... Sheer wit and suspense are what make "Push" the season's liveliest and best new series."[93] However, Robert Bianco of USA Today described it as a "knock-off" Twin Peaks and remarked: "There is some fun to be had here [but] "Push" is one of those shows that thinks quirkiness is a virtue in and of itself."[94] The show was cancelled by ABC due to low viewing figures.[95] Over time, LivePlanet's focus shifted from multimedia projects to more traditional film production.[89] They signed a film production deal with Disney in 2002; it expired in 2007.[96][97]

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 became the subject of increased media attention in 2003 due to his relationship with Jennifer Lopez. The actor remarked that the situation filled him with a sense of "dread ... People are going to grow weary of this."[98] By the end of the year, Affleck had become, in the words of GQ, the "world's most over-exposed actor."[99] His newfound tabloid notoriety coincided with a series of poorly received films.

Smiling young man with a trim goatee and moustache, wearing a white T-shirt and a baseball cap. He is surrounding by hands reaching out to him.
Affleck visiting the USS Enterprise (CVN‑65) in Manama, Bahrain in 2003

The first of these films was Daredevil (2003), in which Affleck starred as the blind superhero. Affleck was a longtime comic book fan,[100] and had written a foreword for Kevin Smith's Guardian Devil (1999) about his love for the character of Daredevil.[98][101] The film was a commercial success[102] 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."[103] In 2014, Affleck described Daredevil as the "only movie I actually regret."[10] He next appeared 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."[104] Affleck has repeatedly defended director Marty Brest since the film's release,[105] describing Brest as "one of the really great directors".[106] In his final movie role of 2003, Affleck starred in the thriller Paycheck (2003). Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian remarked upon Affleck's "self-deprecating charm. Is there no one who can find this man a script?"[107] Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times commented: "Ben Affleck has had such a rough year (or so I've read) that it almost seems unfair to pick on either his newest film or latest nontabloid performance." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly felt the film offers further proof that Affleck "comes most alive playing men whose handsomeness covers reserves of nastiness."[108]

Affleck's poor critical notices continued in 2004 when he starred 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."[109] However, Joe Leydon of Variety found his onscreen role as a father "affecting"[110] while Mike Clark of USA Today remarked that the father-daughter scenes "bring out the best in Affleck."[111] Later that year, he starred in the holiday comedy Surviving Christmas. Holden of The New York Times remarked that the movie "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."[112] Allison Benedikt of the Chicago Tribune described Affleck as a "great talk show guest, bad actor" and categorised Surviving Christmas as a film "in which it just doesn't matter, in which he can simply be Ben."[113]

At this point, the quality of scripts offered to Affleck "was just getting worse and worse" and he decided to take a career break: "I was a little bit exhausted of myself and my life, so I wanted to try to control it or manage it."[71][114] The Los Angeles Times published a piece on the downfall of Affleck's career in late 2004: "While the critics see Affleck as a big piñata and the tabloids see him as a reader magnet, few industry professionals seem to be gloating over Affleck's travails." Various producers and agents were interviewed, with Harvey Weinstein commenting: "He's one of the sweetest people I've ever met in this industry ... a great guy with an incredible personality and talent. I think the sky's the limit when he wants to focus. And he will."[115]

2006–2015: Emergence as a director

After marrying actress Jennifer Garner in 2005, and celebrating the birth of their first child, Affleck began to stage a career comeback in 2006. While both Man About Town and Smokin' Aces were little-seen,[116] 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."[117] Geoffrey Macnab of The Guardian wrote: "He plays the part beautifully, capturing the character's curious mix of charm, vulnerability and fatalism."[118] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times found Affleck "more than up to the task" of portraying Reeves as a tragic figure but was dismayed that he had "given this exasperating film far more than it gives in return."[119] He was awarded the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.[120] Also in 2006, he made a cameo in Smith's Clerks II.[121] While they remain fans of each other's work,[122][123] Affleck and Smith have had little contact since the making of Clerks II.[124]

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.[125][126] It opened to enthusiastic reviews.[127] Jim Ridley of the Village Voice remarked: "Affleck has created something of a blue-moon rarity: an American movie of genuine moral complexity."[128] Claudia Puig of USA Today described it as "an auspicious debut as a filmmaker"[129] while 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."[130] Similarly, Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter praised the "thoughtful, deeply poignant, splendidly executed" film.[131] Amy Ryan received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[132]

While Affleck intended to "keep a primary emphasis on directing" going forward in his career,[133] he returned to acting in 2009, starring in three features. In the ensemble romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You, the chemistry between Affleck and Jennifer Aniston was praised,[134] with Ty Burr of The Boston Globe describing them as "the two most appealing people in the movie – both actors let their maturity show in unexpected ways."[135] Although the film generated mostly mixed reviews,[136] it was a commercial success.[102] 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"[137] 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."[138] He had a supporting role as a bartender in the little-seen comedy film Extract.[139] Claudia Puig of USA Today stated that Affleck "ought to do more quirky character roles rather than leading-man parts in action films."[140] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described his performance as "a goofball delight"[141] while Manhola Dargis of The New York Times declared it as "a real performance."[142] In 2010, Affleck starred in The Company Men as a mid-level sales executive who is made redundant during the financial crisis.[143] David Denby of The New Yorker declared that Affleck "gives his best performance yet"[144] while Richard Corliss of Time found he "nails Bobby's plunge from hubris to humiliation."[145]

Affleck on the set of The Town in 2010

Following the modest success of Gone Baby Gone, Warner Bros. developed a close working relationship with Affleck and offered him his choice of the studio's scripts.[146] He decided to direct the crime drama The Town (2010), an adaptation of Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves. He also starred in and co-wrote the film. A.O. Scott of The New York Times praised Affleck's "skill and self-confidence as a director"[147] while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised his "genuine gift for directing."[148] Claudia Puig of USA Today remarked: "Affleck has a keen eye for cinematic stories ... He may be en route to master-filmmaker status."[149] 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."[150] The film was a box office success.[151] Jeremy Renner was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor while Pete Postlethwaite was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. Also in 2010, Affleck and Damon's production company, Pearl Street Films, signed a first-look producing deal at Warner Bros.[152]

Affleck soon began work on his next directorial project for Warner Bros. Argo (2012), written by Chris Terrio and starring Affleck, tells the story of the CIA operation to save six 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"[153] while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times was impressed by Affleck's "instinct for storytelling."[154] 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."[155] The film was a major commercial success.[156] Argo won the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for Best Picture.[157] Affleck 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.[158] Alan Arkin's nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor meant that Affleck's first three films all secured Academy Award nominations for an actor or actress in a supporting role.[159]

Affleck played a romantic lead in Terrence Malick's drama To the Wonder (2013). Malick is a close friend of Affleck's godfather and had offered notes on the Good Will Hunting screenplay in the 1990s.[160] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian enjoyed "a performance of dignity and sensitivity"[161] while The New Yorker 's Richard Brody described Affleck as "a solid and muscular performer" who "conveys a sense of thoughtful and willful individuality without weighing himself down with the emphatic acting-out of character traits."[162] Affleck's performance as a poker boss was considered a highlight of the poorly-reviewed thriller Runner Runner (2013).[163] Andrew Barker of Variety said: "Affleck threatens to make this whole film worthwhile ... Runner Runner's appeal increases dramatically whenever Affleck enters the frame."[164] 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."[165] 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).[166] 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."[167] 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."[168] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised a "beautiful balancing act of a performance"[169] while Justin Chang of Variety found Affleck "perfectly cast as Nick Dunne": "It's a tricky turn, requiring a measure of careful underplaying and emotional aloofness, and he nails it completely."[170] In 2015, Affleck and Damon's Project Greenlight was resurrected by HBO for one season.[171]

2016–present: Batman role and continued directing

The announcement of Affleck's casting as Batman in the 2016 superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was met with intense fan backlash,[172] but his performance ultimately received a positive reception. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times remarked: "All the Internet resistance to Affleck being cast as Batman seems silly when you see him ... There's not a moment when we don’t believe Affleck as Bruce Wayne or as Batman."[173] Andrew Barker of Variety found him "a winningly cranky, charismatic presence"[174] while Brian Truitt of USA Today enjoyed his "strong take" on the character: "Affleck's Batman is a surprisingly emotional one. [He] seamlessly moves between Batman and Bruce Wayne."[175] Affleck briefly reprised his role as Batman in Suicide Squad later that year. In late 2016, Affleck starred as an autistic accountant in Gavin O'Connor's action thriller The Accountant. The film was a commercial success, greatly exceeding box office expectations.[176] David Edelstein of New York Magazine remarked that Affleck "seemed less a lug in his last two films [but] he doesn’t rise to the occasion here ... A more imaginative actor might have found eccentric ways to let you glimpse the character's chaotic insides."[177] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wondered why Affleck, "looking appropriately dead-eyed and miserable," committed himself to the film.[178] However, 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.[179]

Affleck's fourth directorial project, Live by Night, was released in late 2016.[180] He also starred in the Prohibition-era gangster drama, which he adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel. The film received largely unenthusiastic reviews and failed to recoup its $65 million production budget.[181] David Sims of The Atlantic criticised Affleck's "stiff, uncomfortable" performance and described it as "a fascinating mess of a movie": "One of the film’s final set pieces, a chaotic shootout between warring mobs in an opulent Tampa hotel, is so wonderfully staged, its action crisp and easy to follow, that it reminds you what skill Affleck has with the camera. Next time, he should perhaps confine himself behind it."[182] Similarly, Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair enjoyed the supporting performances and the "excitingly staged" action scenes: "But there’s a clunking in the machinery, something Affleck the director maybe could have detected and fixed—had Affleck the actor not been blinding him to it."[183]

Affleck will reprise his role as Batman in Justice League in November 2017.[184] In 2018, he is expected to film a Batman film, directed by Matt Reeves.[185] Affleck initially intended to direct the film, in addition to starring in it, but later stepped down, saying in a statement that "I cannot do both jobs to the level they require."[186] 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[187] and, in 2016, it was announced that Aaron Stockard is writing an adapted screenplay for the project.[188] He is also attached to direct and star in Fox's adaptation of Agatha Christie's "The Witness for the Prosecution".[189]

Humanitarian work

Eastern Congo Initiative

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.[190][191] ECI acts as a grant maker for Congolese-led, community-based charities[192] and offers training and resources to cooperatives of Congolese farmers while leveraging public-private partnerships with companies including Theo Chocolate and Starbucks.[193][194] ECI also aims to raise public awareness and drive policy change in the US.[195]

Affleck has written op-eds about issues facing eastern Congo for the Washington Post,[196][197] Politico,[198] the Huffington Post[199] and Time.[200] He has appeared as a discussion panelist at many events, including at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,[201] the Global Philanthropy Forum[202] and the Clinton Global Initiative.[203] During visits to Washington D.C., Affleck has testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights,[204][205] the House Armed Services Committee,[206][207] the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,[208] and the Senate Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Projects.[209]

Other charitable causes

Affleck has been a supporter of the A-T Children's Project since 1998. While filming Forces of Nature, Affleck struck up a conversation with an onlooker, ten-year-old Joe Kindregan (1988–2015),[210] who had the rare disease ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T).[211] Affleck and Kindregan developed a friendship, communicating via e-mail and phone.[212] Kindregan and his family visited Affleck on many movie sets and attended many premieres.[213] Affleck was actively involved in fundraising for A-T[214][215] and, in 2001, Affleck and Kindregan testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education, asking senators to support stem-cell research and to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health.[212] In 2007, Affleck was the keynote speaker at Kindregan's high school graduation ceremony in Fairfax, Virginia.[216] Kindregan appeared as an extra in Affleck's Argo (2012).[217] In 2013, in celebration of "Joe Kindregan's 25th birthday as well as our 15 years of friendship with Joe and his family," Affleck and his wife Jennifer Garner matched donations made to the A-T Children's Project.[218] Also in 2013, he appeared in CinemAbility, a film documentary which explores Hollywood's portrayals of people with disabilities.[219]

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[220] and troops at Germany's Ramstein Air Base in 2017.[221] He is a supporter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.[222] He held a benefit for the organization at the 2010 premiere of The Town,[223] and filmed public service announcements in both 2009 and 2014.[224][225] He has also volunteered on behalf of Operation Gratitude.[226][227]

Affleck is a member of Feeding America's Entertainment Council.[228][229] He made an appearance at the Greater Boston Food Bank in 2007.[230] Affleck spoke at a Feeding America rally in Washington D.C. in 2009[231] and filmed a public service announcement for the charity in 2010.[232] In 2011, Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres launched Feeding America's Small Change Campaign.[233] Also in 2011, Affleck 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."[234]

Politics

Political views

Affleck has described himself as "moderately liberal."[235] He was raised in "a very strong union household."[236] In 2000, he spoke at a rally at Harvard University in support of an increased living wage for all workers on campus. Affleck, whose father and stepmother were janitors at Harvard, urged the crowd to "make this a school where you don't have to avert your eyes in shame when you see a janitor in the hallway."[237] He later narrated a documentary, Occupation (2002), about a sit-in organized by the Harvard Living Wage Campaign.[238] In 2004, Affleck and Senator Ted Kennedy held a press conference on Capitol Hill, pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.[239] In 2007, he spoke at a press conference at Boston's City Hall in support of SEIU's unionization efforts for the city's low-paid hospital workers.[240] During the Writers' Strike in 2008, Affleck voiced support for the picketers.[241] He has criticised the Bush tax cuts on many occasions.[242][243][244]

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."[245] Affleck was a longtime supporter of legalizing gay marriage,[246] saying in 2004 that he hoped to look back on the marriage debate "with some degree of embarrassment for how antiquated it was."[247] Also that year, he remarked that it was "outrageous and offensive" to suggest members of the transgender community were not entitled to equal rights.[248] In 2005, he appeared alongside his openly gay cousin in a Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays print advertising campaign.[249][250] In 2007, Affleck filmed a public service announcement for Divided We Fail, a nonpartisan AARP campaign seeking affordable, quality healthcare for all Americans.[251]

Affleck appeared at a press conference with New York Senator Chuck Schumer in 2002, in support of a proposed Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Act.[252] In 2003, he criticised the "questionable and aggressive" use of the Patriot Act and the resulting "encroachments on civil liberties."[242] A reporter from The Washington Post overheard Affleck "railing about the Israeli invasion of Gaza" at a Washington party in 2009.[253] Steven Clemons, a participant in the conversation, responded: "He impressed me with his passion and the level of detailed understanding that he had about the dilemmas we face in the Middle East. He has his views — and he's not shy about broadcasting them, but he also listens to alternative takes ... What Affleck spoke about that night was reasoned, complex and made a lot of sense."[254] 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.[255]

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."[256][257] In 2012, he praised Senator John McCain's "leadership" in defending Huma Abedin against anti-Muslim attacks.[258][259] In 2014, Affleck engaged in a discussion about the relationship between liberal principles and Islam during an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher.[260] In 2017, 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."[261]

Affleck is a supporter of the Second Amendment.[235] In a 2012 interview, he said he owns several guns, both for skeet shooting[262] and for the protection of his family.[263] Affleck does not support the death penalty.[264]

In 2006, Affleck appeared alongside then-Senator Barack Obama at a rally in support of Proposition 87, which sought to reduce petroleum consumption in favour of alternative energy.[265] In 2007, he appeared in a global warming awareness video produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.[266] Also that year, Affleck admitted he was not "particularly good at being green"[267] and, 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 the construction of Dakota Access Pipeline.[268]

In the early 2000s, Affleck often expressed an interest in one day running for political office.[269] However, since 2007, he has denied any political ambitions and spoken repeatedly about the need for campaign finance reform.[270][271][272] In 2005, The Washington Post reported that Virginia Democrats were trying to persuade Affleck to run as a Senate candidate in his wife's home state.[273] His publicist dismissed the rumor.[274] In 2012, political pundits and Democratic strategists including Bob Shrum and Tad Devine speculated that Affleck was considering running for a Massachusetts Senate seat.[275] Affleck denied the rumor, joking: "Also won't be throwing my hat in the ring to run the U.N."[276][277]

Democratic Party activism

Affleck registered as a member of the Democratic Party 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,[278] Pennsylvania[279] and Florida.[280] On Election Day, he made an appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, urging viewers to vote because "the president will appoint three or four Supreme Court justices ... I'm about to go vote."[281] It later transpired that Affleck was unable to vote due to a registration issue in New York, where he was then residing: "I'm going to vote twice next time, in true Boston fashion."[282]

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, Affleck spoke to many delegations, appeared on political discussion shows and attended fundraising events.[283][284] Affleck took part in a voter registration PSA,[285] and traveled with Kerry during the opening weekend of his Believe in America Tour, making speeches at rallies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.[286]

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."[265] He donated to Obama's presidential campaign in 2007.[287] Affleck hosted two fundraisers for Obama during the 2008 Democratic Primary.[288][289] Affleck urged voters to "help make history" in a MoveOn.org campaign[290] and made several appearances during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[291] In the week of the presidential election, Affleck appeared on Saturday Night Live to playfully endorse Senator John McCain because "my support has the opposite effect."[292] Affleck did not actively campaign for Obama's reelection in 2012.[263] However, he stated: "I like the president, I’m going to vote for the president."[293] "I don't feel disappointed [in his performance]. I'm someone who views politics practically."[294]

In 2000, Affleck introduced Senate candidate Hillary Clinton at a Cornell University rally and helped fundraise for her campaign.[295] Affleck, who first met the Clintons at Camp David in 1998,[296] pointed to the First Lady's work with children, women and "working families."[297] Affleck supported Obama during the 2008 Democratic Primary, noting that Clinton had "moved toward the center" during the campaign.[270] He supported Clinton during the 2016 Democratic Primary.[298] In 2016, he recorded a New Hampshire voter PSA[299] and was named by the Clinton campaign as a 'Hillblazer' – one of 1,100 individuals who had contributed or raised at least $100,000.[300]

Affleck has supported a number of other Democratic politicians. In 2002, he donated to Dick Gephardt's Congressional campaign[301] and appeared in campaign literature for former classmate Marjorie Decker, running as a city councillor in Massachusetts.[302] In 2003, he made donations to the presidential campaigns of both Dennis Kucinich and Wesley Clark,[303] and, in 2005, he donated to the campaign fund of Deval Patrick, a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts.[304] In 2006, Affleck contributed to Cory Booker's Newark mayoral campaign.[305] Also that year, Affleck introduced Congressmen Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy at rallies in Connecticut.[306] In 2008, he donated to the Congressional campaign of Pennsylvania's Patrick Murphy[301][307] while, in 2010, he donated to the Senate campaign of Kirsten Gillibrand.[301] In 2012, Affleck hosted a fundraiser for Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren,[308] endorsed her in a Progressive Change Campaign Committee video,[309] and made a campaign donation.[310] In 2013, he hosted a fundraiser for Senate candidate Cory Booker,[311] and made donations to the campaigns of both Booker and Alison Lundergan Grimes.[312][313] In 2014, Affleck made a further donation to Grimes' Senate campaign through the Kentucky State Democratic Party.[314] In 2015, Affleck donated to the campaign of Senate candidate Kamala Harris while, in 2016, he donated to the Congressional campaign of Melissa Gilbert.[315]

Personal life

Family

Affleck began dating actress Jennifer Garner in mid-2004,[316] having established a friendship on the sets of Pearl Harbor (2001) and Daredevil (2003).[317] They were married on June 29, 2005, in a private Turks and Caicos ceremony.[318] Victor Garber, who officiated the ceremony, and his partner Rainer Andreesen were the only guests.[319] Affleck and Garner have three children: daughters Violet Anne (b. December 2005)[320] and Seraphina "Sera" Rose Elizabeth (b. January 2009),[321] and son Samuel "Sam" Garner (b. February 2012).[322] Affleck and Garner announced their intention to divorce on June 30, 2015.[323][324]

Post-separation, both Affleck and Garner continue to live with their children in a Cliff May-designed ranch in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles.[325][326] Additional residences included an apartment in Manhattan, New York,[263] a ski chalet at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana,[327] a beachhouse at Baker's Bay Golf & Ocean Club in the Bahamas[328] and a Greek Revival-style home with an 83-acre estate on the secluded Hampton Island near Savannah, Georgia.[329]

While Affleck believes paparazzi attention is "part of the deal" of stardom, he has spoken out against paparazzi interest in his children.[330][331] He has called for legislation to require paparazzi to maintain a certain distance from children and to blur their faces in published photos.[10]

Relationships

Affleck had a three-year relationship with actress Gwyneth Paltrow from 1997 to 2000. They began dating in October 1997,[332] after meeting at a Miramax dinner,[333] 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.[334] They separated again in October 2000.[335] In a 2015 interview, Paltrow said she and Affleck remain friends.[333]

Affleck had an eighteen-month relationship with actress/singer Jennifer Lopez from 2002 to 2004, during which they became engaged. 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[336] and Jersey Girl (2004).[337] Their relationship received extensive media coverage.[338] They became engaged in November 2002[339] but their planned wedding on September 14, 2003, in Santa Barbara, California was postponed with four days' notice because of "excessive media attention".[340] They broke up in January 2004.[341][342] Lopez later described the split as "my first real heartbreak" and attributed it in part to Affleck's discomfort with the media scrutiny.[343][344] In 2013, Affleck said he and Lopez occasionally "touch base".[345]

Alcoholism and gambling

In a 1998 interview, Affleck stated that he no longer drank alcohol.[346] 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".[347] Affleck later described the rehab stay as a "pre-emptive strike" given his family's history of alcoholism.[348] In 2017, Affleck completed another residential rehabilitation program,[349] saying in a statement that he had completed "treatment for alcohol addiction; something I've dealt with in the past and will continue to confront ... I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it."[350]

Affleck was tutored by poker professionals Amir Vahedi and Annie Duke in the early 2000s.[351] He 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.[352] Affleck played in private, high-stakes poker games held in Los Angeles-area homes and hotel suites in the mid-2000s.[353][354] In 2014, Affleck 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.[355] He has repeatedly denied tabloid reports of a gambling addiction.[356][357]

Ancestry

The surname "Affleck" is of Scottish origin.[214] He also has English, Irish, German, and Swiss ancestry.[358][359] 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.'"[360] 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.[361] This became public knowledge during the 2015 Sony email hacking scandal.[362] He later said: "I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth."[361]

Religion

In a 2003 interview, Affleck described himself as a "lapsed Protestant" from a mostly Episcopalian family,[363] and he later listed the Gospel of Matthew as one of the books that made a difference in his life.[364] As infants, each of his three children were baptised as members of the United Methodist Church in his wife's hometown of Charleston, West Virginia.[365] In 2015, he and his family began attending Methodist church services in Los Angeles.[366][367]

Awards and honors

Affleck gained recognition as a writer when he won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997), which he co-wrote with Matt Damon. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Hollywoodland (2006). He directed and starred in Argo (2012), which won him the Golden Globe Award, BAFTA, and Directors Guild Award for Best Director, and the Golden Globe Award, BAFTA, the Producers Guild Award, and the Academy Award for Best Picture.[368]

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