Family & Companions
Actor, writer and director Ben Affleck hit the Hollywood radar in 1997 as the co-writer and co-star of "Good Will Hunting," earning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay along with childhood best friend Matt Damon. In fact, the seemingly overnight ascent to stardom in tandem with Damon became one of the great "Hollywood" stories of all time, rivaling Lana Turner being discovered at Schwab's Drugstore. Flying past the more understated Damon in terms of initial popularity and box office, the handsome, chiseled Affleck went on to achieve box office gold in blockbusters like "Armageddon" (1998), "Pearl Harbor" (2001) and "Daredevil" (2003), as well as quirky Kevin Smith comedies "Chasing Amy" (1997) and "Dogma" (1999). But it was his extracurricular activities - dating famous actresses and ending up in rehab - that made him a magnet for media attention. His tabloid-swarmed romance with actress-singer Jennifer Lopez - collectively known as "Bennifer" - and a string of flops threatened to banish Affleck to B-film status until concerted efforts to reclaim his private life and his celebrated directorial debut "Gone Baby Gone" (2007) and his subsequent efforts "The Town" (2010), the Oscar-winning "Argo" (2012) and Prohibition-era crime drama "Live By Night" (2016) proved that perhaps Affleck's most underused talent was his ability to write his own happy ending. Starring roles in buzzy hits like "Gone Girl" (2014) and a turn as Batman in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" (2016), "Suicide Squad" (2016) and "Justice League" (2017) made it clear that Affleck had returned, on his own terms.
Ben Affleck was born on Aug. 15, 1972, in Berkeley, CA. He was raised in the academic city of Cambridge, MA, where his mother Chris taught elementary school. His father Tim was active with the influential Theater Company of Boston and made a living as a bartender, mechanic, and janitor, among other jobs. The couple gave birth to another future actor Caleb, better known as Casey, in 1975 before divorcing in 1984. Both sons began their acting careers while they were young, with the elder brother debuting in a local independent film at the age of 11. Around the same time, he had already become best friends with his neighbor Matt Damon, who also loved Red Sox baseball and dreamed of becoming a movie star himself. Before he was even a teenager Affleck went on to appear in commercials for Burger King and in 1984, was cast in "The Voyage of Mimi" (PBS, 1984), an educational show filmed aboard a whaling ship in Mexico that gave Affleck his first taste of the exotic life of an actor on location. In 1986, he starred in the ABC Afterschool Special, "Wanted: The Perfect Guy" (1986), playing a son trying to find a suitable husband for his single mother (Madeline Kahn).
At Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, Affleck became known as "that kid on TV," and, to his teachers, "that kid who isn't interested in doing schoolwork." Affleck was an admittedly unfocused student; though he was a voracious reader with nearly perfect SAT scores, when Affleck graduated in 1990, he lasted barely one semester at the University of Vermont before heading to Hollywood. The move netted him a role as Patrick Duffy's son in "Danielle Steel's 'Daddy'" (NBC, 1991) and his big screen debut in the hit drama "School Ties" (1992). Still baby-faced enough to play high school age, he made several appearances as a strapping football player in "Against the Grain" (NBC, 1993) and was cast as a Texas high school senior who terrorizes freshman students in Richard Linklater's classic "Dazed and Confused" (1993).
Around this time, Damon showed Affleck an idea he had begun working on for a screenwriting class - a story about a pair of best friends in the working class neighborhood of South Boston. Neither actor was thrilled with the roles they were landing, so they decided to write the type of movie that they wanted to act in. The script for "Good Will Hunting" was complete within a year, and when the actors gave copies to their agents, they were stunned to find a bidding war erupting in less than a week. Castle Rock initially bought the script, but there was no forward movement on production. During that time, Affleck began what would be a long-running association with filmmaker Kevin Smith, who tapped his wiseguy townie charm in "Mallrats" (1995). When Castle Rock eventually passed on "Good Will Hunting" a year later, Smith recommended it to Harvey Weinstein. Miramax promptly bought the script. But first Affleck re-teamed with Smith, who wrote him a leading role as a comic book artist in love with a lesbian in the charming film festival fave, "Chasing Amy" (1997).
"Good Will Hunting" finally premiered in December 1997 with Affleck as the tried-and-true best friend of Damon's unambitious janitor who is torn between worlds when he is discovered to be a mathematical genius. The film's coming-of-age theme, career highlight performance from Robin Williams, and the dynamic chemistry of Damon and Affleck won over audiences and critics alike, with the film receiving 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, which the duo took home. Even before the awards ceremony, however, detractors were lined up to contest that these two virtual and handsome unknowns had actually written such an affecting work. Affleck did not take the accusations seriously, but his quip that he and Damon were going to end up like Milli Vanilli with their award repossessed did not help matters.
With an Oscar on the mantel, scripts flooding in, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow on his arm, Affleck was living the movie star life of his childhood dreams. Surprisingly, his follow-up to "Good Will Hunting" was the Michael Bay film "Armageddon" (1998), where he co-starred as a hotshot oil driller in a crew selected to save the world from an asteroid. The film was lensed prior to the release of "Good Will," and though it did well at theaters, it was an unexpected second act for an actor who had established himself with a film of considerably more emotional depth and artistic merit. Switching gears again, Affleck donned tights to play a wastrel actor in Elizabethan England in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) alongside Paltrow. He appeared as a bartender in the ensemble cast of "200 Cigarettes" (1999) before reuniting with Damon in Kevin Smith's "Dogma" (1999), a controversial satire of the Catholic Church that proved to be a PR headache for Smith, Miramax, and all involved - though critics generally appreciated the subversive humor. Affleck returned to box office movie star land with the stylized romantic comedy "Forces of Nature" (1999), playing a stressed out groom-to-be attracted by the world of a free-spirited Sandra Bullock.
Affleck kicked off the new millennium with the thriller "Reindeer Games" (2000) and anchored the testosterone-fueled "Boiler Room" (2000), in the role of a slick Wall Streeter coaching new recruits. In "Bounce" (2000), Affleck's co-starring role as the hard-drinking ad exec whose life undergoes a complete change after a brush with death was unfortunately diminished by he and co-star Paltrow's off-screen pairing; by the time the film opened the high profile couple were history.
Back on the big screen, Affleck reunited with director Bay in 2001 for the big-budget "Pearl Harbor," playing one leg of a romantic triangle involving his best friend (Josh Hartnett) and the nurse they both love (Kate Beckinsale). In Kevin Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), Affleck appeared as both Holden, the character he played in Smith's "Chasing Amy," and as a parody version of himself, the Hollywood actor. Later that year the Hollywood Actor version of Affleck checked himself into a 30-day program at Malibu's famed Promises rehab facility for alcohol abuse, echoing his father's own bout with alcoholism while Affleck was young. Tim Affleck had subsequently become sober and taken a job as a rehab counselor in Palm Springs, CA following his divorce. Admirably, Affleck realized his problem and took pains to clean up his act despite the embarrassing headlines.
Affleck's return to the screen in "Changing Lanes" (2002), found him playing an arrogant, high-powered attorney whose random traffic encounter with a struggling father (Samuel L. Jackson) sets in motion events that radically derail both their lives. With his confidence at a new high, Affleck next took on the weight of a struggling film franchise by essaying Tom Clancy hero Jack Ryan in "The Sum of All Fears" (2002), with the character retrograded back to a green CIA analyst who becomes embroiled in a nuclear calamity. Audiences accepted Affleck in the role and delivered strong box office.
Even as Affleck was offered an increasing succession of leading roles in major motion pictures, he had not lost interest in the behind-the-scenes world that first put him on the map. He and Damon teamed up as executive producers on the series "Push, Nevada" (ABC, 2002), a unique mystery game show that was pulled after only a few low-rated episodes. That year, they also launched the Project Greenlight screenwriting competition with Miramax and HBO as co-sponsors. A documentary series chronicling the search for the next great independent filmmaker was aired on HBO, and was so successful that several other seasons followed at irregular intervals. But nothing generated as much media in 2002 as Affleck's blossoming relationship with pop culture phenomenon Jennifer Lopez. The two met in late 2001 while filming "Gigli" (2003), when Lopez was still a married woman, to dancer Chris Judd. After filming, they began dating, but only officially after Lopez separated from Judd. It was then that Affleck became the victim of total media overexposure; the press pursued relentlessly, naming them collectively as "Bennifer." The glamorous couple announced their engagement in November of 2002.
As Affleck's media presence increased on the cover of every tabloid in the world, his acting credibility took a nosedive. In 2002, he took a starring role in "Daredevil" (2003), an adaptation of a lesser-known Marvel Comics superhero. Affleck was generally considered miscast as the blind lawyer whose enhanced radar senses lead him to fight crime. The film did moderately well at the box office, but was clobbered by "Spiderman" (2003) and the spate of similar genre films popular at the time. The film did, however, pair Affleck with future real-life leading lady Jennifer Garner. When he and Lopez finally appeared onscreen in the much-delayed but anticipated release of "Gigli," the film had suffered post-filming reconfigurations to accommodate the public's expectation of romance between Lopez and Affleck, although Lopez's character was written and initially shot as a confirmed lesbian. The mob action comedy was the victim of bad buzz for months before its release and proved to be one of the biggest box office losses and critical turkeys of all time. The pressure of constant scrutiny and Affleck's gradual decline from Oscar winner to the butt of late night TV jokes came to a head with the announcement that he and Lopez's engagement was off. Publicly penitent over the creative failures of "Daredevil" and "Gigli" and the overexposure of all things "Bennifer," Affleck tried to rally at the end of 2003 with "Paycheck," a John Woo-directed sci-fi thriller based on a Phillip K. Dick premise, with Affleck playing a brilliant computer engineer whose short term memory is erased to protect government secrets. Competently made and a modest hit at the box office, "Paycheck" nevertheless did little to diffuse Affleck's tabloid headlines. In early 2004, the Affleck-Lopez romance was followed by the unfortunately timed release of the couple's second onscreen pairing, Kevin Smith's romantic comedy "Jersey Girl" (2004). The film's marketing team tried to downplay Lopez's small role in the film, which was not nearly the commercial or critical disaster "Gigli" was.
Affleck's box office losing streak continued with the holiday comedy "Surviving Christmas" (2004), which cast him in his first "wacky comedy" role as a successful but unhappy businessman who pays a family to provide him with a warm Christmas experience. In between films, Affleck embarked on a lower-profile, slightly less controversial romance with "Daredevil" co-star Jennifer Garner. It was not long before the couple ultimately became pregnant and were married in June 2005. Their daughter, Violet Anne was born Dec. 1, 2005, with a second daughter, Seraphina Rose joining the family on Jan. 6, 2009. (The couple announced their split in June 2015, with their divorce becoming final in October 2018.) With his new domesticated life, Affleck seemed on his way to putting those embarrassing years behind him. His acting career received a much-needed boost with a strong performance in the celebrity biopic/crime noir "Hollywoodland" (2006). In it, Affleck played original "Superman" actor George Reeves, whose own fall from grace ended in an apparent suicide surrounded by mysterious circumstances. Affleck took the De Niro approach, packing on a few pounds to give his character the necessary heft and world-weary appearance, and for the first time in years, his acting was recognized with a Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Affleck followed up with a supporting role in the action-comedy "Smokin' Aces" (2007), but that role was quickly forgotten in the face of "Gone Baby Gone" (2007), Affleck's directorial debut for which he also adapted the screenplay from bestselling Boston writer Dennis Lehane's novel. In the film, brother Casey Affleck was cast as the detective lead in the thriller about the disappearance of a young girl. Critics gave the dark, moody film overwhelmingly positive reviews, many echoing the sentiment that apparently Affleck's greatest talent was behind the camera.
He returned to movie screens with a role in the ensemble romantic comedy "He's Just Not That Into You" (2009), in which he played a long-term boyfriend averse to marriage. He had the opportunity to step into the role of a congressman under investigation for the suspicious death of his mistress in the thriller "State of Play" (2009), based on the British miniseries of the same name. Included in the film's acclaimed cast were Russell Crowe, Dame Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman, who would also team up with Affleck later in the year in Mike Judge's factory-set comedy, "Extract" (2009).
The year 2010 proved Affleck's skills behind the camera were no fluke, when he co-wrote, directed and starred in the crime thriller "The Town," shot again in his beloved Boston. Playing a tortured bank robber wanting out of a lifetime of crime after falling in love with one of his temporary hostages, Affleck enjoyed a career resurgence and respect that stuck this time. Co-stars Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Chris Cooper sang his praises as a sensitive, thoughtful and collaborative director and reviews were equally positive. Meanwhile, as he began preparing his next film, Affleck and Garner welcomed their third child, Samuel, into the world in early 2012. Later that year saw the release of Affleck's third directorial effort, "Argo," a political thriller based on the so-called Canadian Caper, a joint CIA-Canadian operation that freed six hostages during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis by posing as film production for a fake sci-fi movie. Affleck played real-life CIA officer Tony Mendez, who plans and leads the precarious operation. Once again, critics swooned over the director's work, which made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival before being released to theaters in October 2012 and taking the top spot at the box office. By year's end, Affleck, to no surprise, received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director, but in the most shocking of events, did not receive an Oscar nomination after virtually everyone had considered him a lock. Much to his apparent shock, he did win the Globe and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, sharing it with co-producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney.
After film-festival screenings in 2012, Affleck's next project, the enigmatic Terrence Malick drama "To the Wonder," arrived in theaters during early 2013 to a muted reception. Later that year, he teamed up with Justin Timberlake for the underwhelming thriller "Runner Runner" (2013) and began filming the literary adaptation "Gone Girl" (2014) with Rosamund Pike and director David Fincher. The film was released to respectful reviews and solid box office in October 2014. During this period, Affleck remained in the media spotlight for his separation from Garner and his casting as Batman in DC Comics' response to the linked films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" (2016) received decidedly mixed reviews, his portrayal -- derisively dubbed "Batfleck" by skeptical online naysayers during filming -- was not generally viewed among the film's faults. Affleck returned to the cowl for a small role in the supervillain-centered continuation "Suicide Squad" (2016) and a fuller part in "Justice Jeague" (2017) before returning behind the camera for "Live By Night" (2016), a mob drama set during Prohibition starring himself and Elle Fanning, based on the 2012 novel by Dennis Lehane. Affleck was originally tapped to write and direct "The Batman" (2018) as well as starring in the film, but dropped out of the behind the camera roles in 2017, replaced by writer/direcctor Matt Reeves. During this period, Affleck served as executive producer alongside Damon on the documentary "Bending the Arc" (2017), showcasing the work of global philanthropic outfit Partners In Health.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Appeared in PBS documentary series "The Voyage of the Mimi"
Made network TV debut on "Wanted: The Perfect Guy," an "ABC Afterschool Special"; played Madeline Kahn's son
TV miniseries debut, "Hands of a Stranger" (NBC)
Feature film debut, "School Ties"; also co-starred with childhood pal Matt Damon
Cast in regular role on the short-lived NBC series "Against the Grain"
Directed short film "I Murdered My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meathook and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney"
Sold his script "Good Will Hunting" to Miramax; co-written with Matt Damon; filmed and released in 1997 with both co-starring
Charmed critics and audiences as a comic book artist who falls for a bisexual woman in Kevin Smith's "Chasing Amy"
Formed Pearl Street Productions with Matt Damon
Appeared opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in the Academy Award-winning "Shakespeare in Love"
Co-starred in the Michael Bay blockbuster "Armageddon"
Re-teamed with director Kevin Smith for "Dogma"; also re-teamed with Damon to play a pair of renegade angels
Played a bartender in the ensemble comedy-drama "200 Cigarettes"
With Damon and backed by HBO and Miramax, sponsored Project Greenlight, a screenwriting competition that would result in a produced motion picture
Joined ensemble cast of "The Boiler Room," a drama about Wall Street brokers
Re-teamed with Gwyneth Paltrow for "Bounce"
With Damon, co-executive produced and acted in "The Third Wheel" (filmed in 1999), scripted by buddy Jay Lacopo
Made a brief appearance in Kevin Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"; reprised role of Holden from "Chasing Amy" as well as appeared as himself
Played leading role in WWII-era drama "Pearl Harbor"
Assumed the role of Jack Ryan (previously played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford) in "The Sum of All Fears"
Co-created (with Sean Bailey) and executive produced (with Matt Damon) short-lived ABC drama "Push, Nevada"
Executive produced and appeared in the HBO series "Project Greenlight" about the script writing contest he co-sponsored
Served as an executive producer on "Stolen Summer"; winner of the Project Greenlight competition
Played the lead in the John Woo thriller "Paycheck"
Co-starred with Jennifer Lopez in box office flop "Gigli"
Cast as Matt Murdock/Daredevil in the blockbuster "Daredevil," based on the Marvel comic book character
Re-teamed with director Kevin Smith for the romantic comedy "Jersey Girl"
Starred as a lonely guy who rents himself a family for the holidays in the comedy "Surviving Christmas"
Executive produced horror film "Feast," a result of the third season of the Project Greenlight contest
Portrayed the 1950s "Superman" TV star George Reeves in "Hollywoodland"; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Directorial and writing debut, the feature adaptation of "Gone, Baby, Gone"; film based on the book by <i>Mystic River</i> author Dennis Lehane and starring his brother Casey Affleck
Played a congressman opposite Russell Crowe in the thriller "State of Play"
Played Jason Bateman's best friend in Mike Judge's "Extract"
Played a white-collar corporate employee who loses his job in John Wells' directing debut "The Company Men"
Directed, wrote, and starred in "The Town," a crime drama based on Chuck Hogan's novel <i>Prince of Thieves</i>
Featured in Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder"
Directed, produced, and co-starred in political thriller "Argo"
Starred opposite Justin Timberlake in the thriller "Runner Runner."
Starred in David Fincher's "Gone Girl."
Executive produced the HBO film "The Leisure Class"
Starred as Batman in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"
Was tapped to write, produce, and star in a standalone "Batman" film, but dropped out of writing duties amidst rumors that Warner was looking to replace him with a younger actor
Co-wrote, directed and starred in the Prohibition Era drama "Live by Night"
Reprised the Batman character in DC ensemble film "Justice League"
Executive produced philanthropic documentary "Bending the Arc"
Starred alongside Oscar Isaac and Charlie Hunnam in crime flick "Triple Frontier"
Co-starred with Anne Hathaway and Willem Dafoe in Dee Rees' Joan Didion adaptation, "The Last Thing He Wanted"