They say a lot of modern Hollywood stars are boring—but no one's saying that about Ben Affleck. From his meteoric rise to his tabloid infamy to his very-public downward spiral, there's always something with Boston's favorite son. Say what you want about him, but you can't deny, there's no one quite like Ben Affleck.
Think Ben Affleck is from Boston? Think again! Affleck was born on August 15, 1972, in sunny Berkeley, California. It was only when he was three that the family moved to Massachusetts, where brother Casey was eventually born. First moving to Falmouth, the family eventually parked the car in Harvard yard and settled in Cambridge.
But despite the prestigious surroundings, life in the Affleck household was rough.
Ben Affleck wasn't exactly a tough, Boston street kid. His mom was a Harvard-educated schoolteacher, and his father was an aspiring artist. He grew up in a liberal, creative household—but this wasn't exactly the sound of music. His father Tim dreamed of being an artist, but saw very little success. He jumped from odd job to odd job, even working as, believe it or not, a janitor at Harvard.
The family made ends meet, but Tim's unfulfilled dreams sent him down a dark path.
Affleck's father found solace in the bottle. As a boy, Ben can remember his father drinking all day, every day. As you can imagine, it put a strain on the entire family. When Affleck was 11, his parents finally divorced. Even at that age, Affleck felt a sense of relief. Divorce is hard on most kids, but his father had made their home life a nightmare for years.
It may be sad to admit, but life for the Afflecks got better when dad moved out—but while they felt relieved, Tim only continued to spiral.
Unfortunately, divorce was not the wake-up call that Tim Affleck needed. He continued drinking until he finally hit rock bottom. He became homeless and spent two hard years living on the streets of Cambridge. Thankfully, that was as low as he would go. When Affleck was 16, his father finally began to turn his life around.
Tim Affleck entered a California rehab facility, and he eventually stayed there for 12 years. He got himself on the right track, and began working in the facility as an addiction counselor. Later, when Ben Affleck became famous, he began supporting homeless shelters such as The Midnight Mission in Los Angeles—but that's not the only way that his father's addiction affected him.
Affleck's father wasn't the only one to struggle with addiction and mental illness. His dad's mother was addicted to alcohol and barbituates, and she ended up taking her own life at just 46 years old. His uncle's story was almost identical, dying young from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. One of his aunts survived, but her addiction to dope was no easy path.
Affleck first went to AA meeting when he was a boy, with his father, but that wasn't enough to stop him from following in Tim's footsteps.
Affleck began drinking as a young teenager, and by the time he was 15, it started to scare his mother. She knew all too well what drinking could do to a man, and she didn't want to see the same thing happen to her son. She considered sending him to a recovery program, but opted for a camp for at-risk teenagers instead. It took many years, but by his 20s, Affleck finally got sober.
But sadly, alcoholism has a way of sneaking back up on you.
Life at home could be difficult for young Ben Affleck, but he had support around him. When he was eight, he found a kindred spirit in a boy two years his senior. As he put it, he and this other boy had "identical interests" and wanted to become actors. I imagine you've already guessed who I'm talking about. It was Matt Damon.
Affleck may have been younger than Damon, but he got off to a better start in show biz. At 21, he landed a role in Richard Linklater's slacker comedy Dazed and Confused. With paddle in hand, he popped on screen. Next, he found himself appearing in two hit Kevin Smith movies: Mallrats and Chasing Amy.
Critics and audiences alike loved this confident young star. His friend Matt Damon had started acting, but he wasn't hitting quite like Affleck. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.
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Matt Damon wasn't getting the roles he wanted, so he created one for himself. He started writing a thriller about an intelligent kid from the mean streets of South Boston on the run from the NSA. When he went out to LA for a part in a small movie called Geronimo: An American Legend, he brought the script with him. While out there, he crashed on his friend Ben Affleck's floor.
Pretty soon, they were writing together—though I doubt either of them had any clue where it would take them.
This may surprise you, but Good Will Hunting isn't exactly a thriller. Only one scene from that original document made it into the final movie, but once they were done, they knew they had a good script on their hands. With their foot in the door, they managed to sell their movie to Castle Rock Entertainment. But the Good Will Hunting you know and love almost didn't happen.
Let's just say, the studio wanted some big changes.
Good Will Hunting was almost a completely different movie. Sure, Affleck was good in Dazed and Confused, but Hollywood studios didn't exactly want to finance a movie starring two nobodies from Boston. Producers tried to insist that their two parts go to some slightly more well-known actors. Maybe you've heard of them: Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Look: Would I see that movie? Absolutely. But Affleck and Damon weren't about to let it happen.
Affleck and Damon eventually convinced Castle Rock to sell their movie to another studio. That's the good news. The bad news? That studio was Miramax, led by Harvey Weinstein. This deal with the devil would come back to haunt both of them down the road—but you have to admit, it worked out for these two. It worked out really, really well.
Ben Affleck calls the period of his life around the release of Good Will Hunting "dreamlike". One day, he and Matt Damon were just two aspiring young actors; the next, they had created a $100 million-grossing movie that earned them both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. To this day, Affleck remains the youngest person ever to win a screenwriting Oscar.
And as Affleck's career hit the stratosphere, so did his life love.
Good Will Hunting isn't the only thing Ben Affleck has Miramax to thank for. In 1997, at a Miramax dinner, he met ingenue Gwyneth Paltrow. Soon, the two of them starred in Shakespeare in Love together—but screentime wasn't the only thing they were sharing. They became one of Hollywood's hottest young couples. But, as would soon become a theme for Affleck, the relationship wasn't all smooth sailing.
Affleck and Paltrow broke up in 1999, but just months after that, they got together again. They starred together in the 2000 movie Bounce—but as poetic as it would have been for them to "bounce" back (I'm sorry), they split for good later that year. And that was the last time Ben Affleck ever dated someone famous. Wink.
Few people in Hollywood have ever had a run as good as Ben Affleck between 1997 and 2003. All of it led to him starting a relationship with Jennifer Freaking Lopez. Does it get much better than that? Unfortunately, that was also the tipping point for Ben Affleck. This is when everything started to go wrong.
Is it a bad omen to date a married woman? You tell me: Affleck and Lopez started getting cozy even before her divorce from her first husband, Cris Judd, though they waited until the ink was dry to go public. Whether you believe in karma or not, one thing is for sure: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez's relationship was cursed.
Bennifer was a whole new level of tabloid notoriety. The hottest singer in the world and the hottest movie star? AND they come from different backgrounds? There's a reason this duo invented the celebrity couple port-manteau. And even better, the two of them seemed madly in love. Unfortunately, this time, love wouldn't be enough.
The tabloid chaos surrounding Bennifer put a strain on their relationship almost immediately. It wasn't long before the cracks started to show. And to add insult to injury, Ben Affleck's run of critical praise and box office success was starting to run dry. Not every movie can be Good Will Hunting—but Affleck managed to add some of the all-time great stinkers to his resume.
Ben Affleck seems like a natural fit to play a superhero, but he didn't have Kevin Feige and the MCU ensuring a base hit at the least. Daredevil made money, but it was a complete critical disaster—and Affleck agreed with them. He would later call Daredevil the only movie he regretted making. And that's saying something, because Daredevil wasn't even the worst movie he was in that year.
With the media hype around Bennifer at a fever pitch, the romantic comedy where the two of them met seemed like an automatic slam dunk. There was just problem: That romantic comedy was Gigli. If you haven't seen it, maybe you shouldn't bother. Widely considered one of the worst movies ever made, Gigli seemed to signal the end of Affleck's reign at the top of Hollywood's mountain.
By the end of that year, publications were calling Affleck "the world's most over-exposed actor". Even worse, the movie put the final nail in Bennifer's coffin.
Bennifer was a total whirlwind. They started dating in 2002, and he popped the question before the year was out. They set the date for September 2003, but they ended up postponing because of "excessive media attention". By January 2004, they called off the engagement and went their separate ways. Though they genuinely seemed to love each other and they always spoke highly of each other in later years, they just couldn't handle the press.
It was a sad ending to their story (or was it?), but at least this is when Affleck's life started to turn around.
In 2005, Affleck married Jennifer Garner, and they had their first child later that year. They would go on to have two more children together, and for years, it seemed like Garner provided a stability that Affleck desperately needed. Shortly after they wed, Affleck finally made the pivot to directing—and he did better than anyone had believed he could.
Ben Affleck's directorial debut was 2007's Gone Baby Gone, starring Affleck's own baby brother Casey. Naturally based in a working-class Boston neighborhood, Affleck co-wrote the script based on a Dennis Lehane novel. The film was a box-office success and received glowing reviews. Not bad for a first-timer! But this was just the beginning for Affleck as a director.
Next, Affleck directed The Town, this time taking the starring role as well. Once again, the movie was a surprise hit with audiences and critics alike. He followed that up with 2012's Argo, which seemed to finally cement his place as a Hollywood power player once again. The New Yorker called the movie "further proof that we were wrong about Ben Affleck".
Maybe he was over-exposed, but Ben Affleck still had the goods. But not everyone was ready to give him credit.
Argo seemed to win everyone over. It won the Acadamy Award, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA for Best Picture. Affleck also won the Golden Globe, the Directors Guild of America Award, and the BAFTA for Best Director. But strangely, he wasn't even nominated for the Best Director Oscar. That's one of only six times that a Best Picture winner received no nomination for Director.
It seems like some people at the Academy weren't quite ready to give the once-ridiculed Affleck his flowers just yet.
If there's one thing you can expect with Ben Affleck, it's ups and downs. In 2015, he and wife Jennifer Garner announced their separation after a decade of marriage. Affleck moved out to the family's guesthouse, where he stayed until they filed for divorce in 2017. On the scale of celebrity divorces, this one was fairly tame: The exes sought split physical and legal custody of their children. But that doesn't mean it was easy.
Affleck calls his divorce "the biggest regret of [his] life". Despite his amicable relationship with Garner, he couldn't deny the process was painful. Evidently, the pair tried to make things work for the sake of their children, but in the end, they realized that a split was the best choice. It was a tough pill to swallow, and their children had already been through a lot.
Although Bennifer 2.0 wasn't quite the tabloid sensation as the OG version, the paparazzi still did their best to make their lives miserable.
Affleck already had good reason to hate the paparazzi, but having children changed things. He and his wife pushed a bill that would protect celebrities' children from photographers harassing them, even having their six-year-old daughter making a speech about her experience to lawmakers. And they had a point, too: A terrifying moment in 2009 made their fears a reality.
Ben Affleck has argued that the paparazzi present "real practical dangers" to celebrities and their children, and he's got a point. In 2009, authorities apprehended a man named Steven Burky who had been blending in with photographers outside Affleck's daughter's preschool. Burky had stalked Garner for years, and had been caught outside the couple's home on multiple occasions.
He was eventually ruled insane and institutionalized. Even if the photographers claim they're harmless, there's no denying that they can help people who are.
Thanks to Good Will Hunting, Ben Affleck's success was undeniably tied to Harvey Weinstein. So when the horrifying allegations against Weinstein sparked the #MeToo, reporters obviously flocked to Affleck. The actor expressed his complete shock and disgust. He said he knew that Weinstein had been "sleazy and a bully", but nothing more than that.
Rose McGowan responded with a simple tweet: "You lie". So what did Affleck really know?
McGowan says she came to him crying at the Sundance Film Festival shortly after Weinstein assaulted her. Allegedly, his response was "God****it, I told him to stop doing that". Affleck denied that the conversation ever took place—but that wasn't the only scandal Affleck found himself embroiled in that year.
As accusations long kept unspoken began spilling out all over the internet, one fan recalled "Affleck grabbed Hilarie Burton's breasts on TRL once. Everyone forgot though". Burton herself soon responded: "I didn't forget". Affleck soon copped to the accusations: "I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize".
But that wasn't the only story to come out.
Ben Affleck could evidently get quite handsy in an interview back in the day. A 2004 interview with Anne-Marie Losique resurfaced and it was not a great look. He asked Losique to sit on his lap, said, "You usually show a lot more cleavage than this...Why are you covering it up today?", fondled her, compared her chest to "two giant stones", and asked her if she had a boyfriend.
All in one interview. That's got to be some kind of record.
Not all the inappropriate moments happened decades ago. After the Burton story resurfaced, John Mulaney's ex-wife Annamarie Tendler shared a similar experience. Tendler said that at a Golden Globes party, Affleck "walked by me, cupped my butt and pressed his finger into my crack. I guess he tried to play it like he was politely moving me out of the way and oops touched my butt instead of my lower back?".
Tendler also claimed that several other women at the party shared a similar experience with her. This time, Affleck gave no comment.
After his divorce from Jennifer Garner, Affleck did his best to stay out of the spotlight, but the paparazzi weren't going to avoid him for long. In 2016, photogs caught Affleck on a beach day. When you look at the photos, you can't help but notice something is a little...different about the movie star.
Was it the hair? Maybe he had a bit of a tan? Or maybe it was the gigantic phoenix tattoo taking up his entire back.
Everyone just had to chime in on Affleck's new body art—even two of his exes. Jennifer Garner said, "You know what we would say in my hometown about that? 'Bless his heart'". Jennifer Lopez wasn't quite so diplomatic: "It's awful...What are you doing?". For weeks, fans wondered—hoped?—that the tattoo was a fake. Maybe he was playing some kind of...guy who liked phoenixes?
Mario Lopez got the chance to finally ask Affleck about the tattoo, and Affleck claimed it was "fake for a movie". Yet, the months kept passing, and the tattoo remained. Finally, in 2019, Affleck fessed up on Ellen. The phoenix was the real deal, and it's here to stay. He said, "I love my tattoo. I’m very happy with it. Luckily, I’m the one who has it".
That's all that matters at the end of the day!
It seems like Ben Affleck just can't get off the rollercoaster. He first entered treatment in 2001 and successfully got sober, but in 2018, not long after his divorce, he realized he needed help yet again. He entered a 40-day rehab program, but almost as soon as he got out, paparazzi caught him in a disturbing situation.
After a Halloween party at a Hollywood hotel, photographers snapped pics of Affleck stumbling around the street, clinging to an unknown woman. He nearly lost his footing, grabbing a random car for balance, before making into the backseat of his ride. Such a sight should illicit nothing but sympathy for a recovering addict—but there are always vultures out there.
The very next morning, who else but TMZ accosted Affleck on the street outside Jennifer Garner's house. There wasn't much Affleck could say: "You know, it happens. Just slipped. But I'm not going to let it derail me". What else can you say? For anyone rooting for him, in 2021, Affleck said on a podcast that he was still sober.
Between the divorce, the drinking, the tattoo, and the public being reminded of his past bad behavior, Affleck had a rough few years—yet when it rains, it pours. Before his much-publicized relationship with Ana de Armas, Affleck took to Raya, the dating app for famous people, to find love. You might think that Ben Affleck of all people would have an easy time with online dating.
Apparently, that's not the case.
In 2021, TikToker Nivine Jay posted a video: "Thinking of the time I matched with Ben Affleck on Raya and thought it was fake so I unmatched him and he sent me a video on Instagram". Next, she showed the video of Affleck saying, "Nivine, why did you unmatch me? It's me". Jay later claimed that she didn't mean to make fun of Affleck with the video—but you know the internet.
The "Sad Affleck" era is really something, isn't it?
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner ended things on good terms, but Affleck reached a new low soon after their split. Though he tried his best to keep the story under wraps, in 2016 Garner revealed that Affleck had had an affair with their children's nanny. She insisted that he only started the relationship after their separation, but the choice still hurt.
When things went south, the kids needed to find a new nanny. When they asked Garner why, she had to explain some...delicate topics to them.
If you can think of a scandal in Hollywood over the last few years, then Ben Affleck was probably a part of it. Take the Sony Pictures hack. Countless dirty secrets came out in the scandal—and of course, some of Ben Affleck's did too. In 2016, Affleck was supposed to appear on an episode of PBS's Finding Your Roots.
Unfortunately, Affleck learned that when you start digging into your history, you might not like what you find.
When Henry Louis Gates Jr. discovered that Affleck's ancestors had owned slaves, Affleck asked him to cover it up. The censorship made Gates uncomfortable, but studio execs forced him to concede to the request. It ended up being a moot point; the Sony email hacks came out before the episode saw airtime, and PBS just ended up canning the episode entirely.
For the last several years, it seemed like Ben Affleck just could not find a win. When he broke up with Ana de Armas, it seemed like he might just start spiraling again. But soon, the ever-present paparazzi snapped some pics of Affleck with someone surprising: His ex-fiancee Jennifer Lopez. The pair had always spoken highly of each other...
Few people would say Ben Affleck's life has been a Hollywood fairy tale, but at least it looks like he got his happy ending. He and Lopez confirmed rumors that they'd rekindled their love, and they didn't waste any time. Just over a year after they got back together, they tied the knot in a Las Vegas ceremony.
Is "Sad Affleck" finally over? By all accounts, he and Lopez's families get along great and they couldn't be happier. Maybe it's finally time for Affleck to get off the rollercoaster. Or maybe he's just climbing the hill before another drop. Only time will tell.
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