Ben Affleck

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Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck SDCC 2014 (cropped).jpg
Affleck at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con
Born Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt
(1972-08-15) August 15, 1972 (age 42)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Occidental College
University of Vermont
Occupation Actor, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1981–present
Spouse(s) Jennifer Garner (m. 2005)
Children 3
Family Casey Affleck (brother)
Awards Awards and nominations

Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt (born August 15, 1972), better known as Ben Affleck, is an American actor, film director, screenwriter and producer. He first came to attention for his performances in Dazed and Confused (1993) and the Kevin Smith films Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), and Dogma (1999). 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 and starred in alongside childhood friend Matt Damon. He later achieved international recognition for appearing in films such as Armageddon (1998), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001), Changing Lanes (2002), The Sum of All Fears (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hollywoodland (2006) and State of Play (2009). He will star in David Fincher's Gone Girl in late 2014 and will portray Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).

Affleck has directed three films. He gained recognition for his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone (2007), winning the National Board of Review Award for Best Directorial Debut. He then directed and starred in The Town (2010) and Argo (2012), for which he won 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. He will adapt and direct the novel Live by Night for a 2016 theatrical release.

Affleck and Matt Damon own the film production company Pearl Street Films. He has a younger brother, actor Casey Affleck, whom he has worked with on films including Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone. In addition to film work, Affleck is actively involved in humanitarian and political causes; he is the co-founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative. He has been married to actress Jennifer Garner since 2005; they have three children.

Early life[edit]

Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt was born in Berkeley, California.[1][2] He has English, Scottish,[3] Irish, and German ancestry.[4][5] His parents named him Géza for a Hungarian friend who survived the Holocaust.[6][7] The family moved to Massachusetts when he was two;[8] living in Falmouth, where his brother Casey was born, before settling in Cambridge.[9] His mother, Christopher Anne "Chris" Affleck (née Boldt),[10] was raised on New York's Upper East Side by her mother Elizabeth Shaw (née Roberts), director of public information at the Museum of Modern Art for over thirty years,[11][12] and her mother's second husband, Samuel Shaw, an attorney who served in World War II.[13][14][15][16] Chris's father, O'Brien "Obie" Boldt, was a Democratic activist and professor of political science at the City University of New York.[17][18][19][20] Chris was educated at Radcliffe College and Harvard University,[21][22] was a Mississippi freedom rider in the 1960s, and taught at The Brearley School before becoming a public elementary school teacher.[23][24]

Affleck's father, Timothy Byers Affleck of Rhode Island, was an actor and stage manager with the Theater Company of Boston in the mid-1960s[25][26][27] and worked alongside Dustin Hoffman,[28][29] Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner,[30] Jon Voight[31][32] and James Woods.[33][34] During Affleck's childhood, he worked as an auto mechanic,[8][35] a carpenter,[36] a bookie,[31][37] an electrician,[30] a bartender[38] and a janitor at Harvard University.[2][39][40][41] While Affleck has described his father as a "very gifted writer and thinker",[31] his chronic alcoholism often made Affleck's childhood "scary and trying."[6][30] His parents divorced when he was eleven and Affleck was raised by his mother.[7][33] His father's life "hit the skids" in Affleck's teens.[6][31][42] When Affleck was sixteen, his father moved to Indio, California, entered rehab, became an addiction counselor and later reconnected with his adult sons.[30][43][44][45]

Affleck was raised in a politically active, "very left-wing" household in the Central Square area of Cambridge.[31][46][47] Affleck and his brother were surrounded by people who worked in the arts, were regularly taken to the theater by their mother, and were encouraged to make their own home movies.[9][48][49] The brothers auditioned for roles in local commercials and film productions because their mother was friends with a casting director.[38][50] David Wheeler, another family friend, was Affleck's acting coach and later described him as a "very bright and intensely curious" child.[51][52] Affleck had acting jobs from the age of seven.[53] His mother saved his wages in a college trust fund and only allowed him to audition during school holidays.[9][33][33][46][54] When Affleck was thirteen, he filmed a children's television program in Mexico. He spent nearly a year traveling around the country with his mother and brother and learned to speak Spanish.[9][55][56] Affleck later said that he has mixed feelings about his experiences as a child actor.[9][57][58][59]

At age eight, Affleck became friends with ten-year-old Matt Damon, who lived two blocks away and had recently moved back to the area.[60] Their mothers, who both worked in education and were acquaintances, made the introduction and encouraged them to spend time together.[61][62] Their circle of friends included Casey Affleck and future screenwriter Aaron Stockard.[50][63] The pair became extremely close while high school students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin.[9] Although they were in different grades, they had "identical interests" and spent their lunch breaks discussing their plans to become actors.[9][61][64] Both were greatly inspired by their high school drama teacher Gerry Speca, who encouraged them to write their own plays.[65][66][67] Affleck and Damon had many summer jobs together, working as construction workers and cinema ushers.[63][68][69] As teenagers, they traveled to New York for acting auditions, saving money for train and airline tickets in a joint bank account.[64][70]

While Affleck had good SAT scores,[33][46] he was an unfocused high school student with poor attendance.[6][33][42] He was accepted by the University of Virginia but instead followed a girlfriend to the University of Vermont, where he took Spanish classes.[46] He left the university months later with no credits, after fracturing his hip and realizing his love was unrequited.[71] He then moved to Los Angeles, studying Middle Eastern affairs at Occidental College for a year and a half.[72][73][74] He dropped out when a creative writing professor ridiculed an early draft of the Good Will Hunting screenplay.[31][75]

Film career[edit]

Child actor and Good Will Hunting (1984–97)[edit]

Affleck had acting jobs through 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."[76] He first appeared, at the age of seven, in Dark Side of the Street, a local independent film directed by a family friend.[54][77] Other early work included a Burger King commercial,[67] a 1986 ABC after school special called Wanted: A Perfect Man[78] and a Forest Whitaker-starring TV movie called Hands of a Stranger.[76] Alongside Matt Damon, he appeared in a commercial for T.J. Maxx[79][80] and as an extra in Field of Dreams.[81] Affleck's biggest success as a child actor came 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. From the ages of eight to fifteen, Affleck worked "sporadically" on the shows in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Mexico.[76]

Affleck briefly moved to New York after high school in search of acting work.[76] Later, while studying at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Affleck directed student films including I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney,[82][83][84] written by and starring Affleck's longtime friend Jay Lacopo.[85][86] Affleck and Damon befriended other aspiring actors including Cole Hauser, Rory Cochrane and Matthew McConaughey.[87] The childhood friends lived together in apartments all over Los Angeles.[36] Affleck had a series of "knock-around parts, one to the next."[76] He was Patrick Duffy's son in Danielle Steel’s Daddy in 1991. He played a football coach in the swiftly-cancelled series Against the Grain, and a high school sportsman who abuses steroids in Body to Die For: The Aaron Henry Story, and appeared in Phantoms. He made a brief appearance in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Affleck had a role in Lifestories: Families in Crisis, as a steroid-abusing athlete. He starred in Glory Daze, which the New York Times described as an "affably mopey performance finds just the right balance between obnoxious and sad sack."[76][88]

Affleck had supporting roles as an anti-Semite in School Ties (1992)[89] and as a high school bully in Richard Linklater's cult classic Dazed and Confused (1993).[90] Linklater sought a likeable actor for the role. While Affleck was "big and imposing," he was "so smart and full of life ... I just liked him."[91][92][93] Affleck later said the most valuable lesson was how Linklater "empowered actors to improvise."[86][94] Affleck played another unlikeable character in Mallrats (1995) and began to worry that he would be relegated to "throwing people into their lockers for the rest of my career." However, he became friends with director Kevin Smith during filming. Smith then wrote Chasing Amy (1997) with Affleck in mind.[53][95] Affleck lived on the director's couch during production.[76] Chasing Amy was a landmark moment for the actor: "I hadn't had a real movie, a good movie that felt like the fulfillment of my dreams before that."[53][96] In 2007, he said Smith "is responsible for a great deal throughout my career."[96] He then appeared in Phantoms; while he was excited to work with Peter O'Toole, he has admitted the finished movie was "abysmal."[76] Chasing Amy and Going All the Way both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, with The New York Times describing Affleck as "a suave-looking actor whose flair for comic self-doubt made a strong impression."[97] Affleck has said the festival was "the most amazing experience. I will never forget how gratifying it was to feel like somebody actually saw something I did."[53]

Affleck came to national attention working with Damon in Good Will Hunting in 1997,[98] for which they shared writing credit and received the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.[99] They also starred in the film. Good Will Hunting's success transformed Affleck from a virtual unknown into a celebrity. The screenplay originated with Damon writing a 40-page script for Anthony Kubiak's playwriting class at Harvard. Damon asked Affleck to act out the scenes with him for the class and, when Damon later moved into Affleck's L.A. apartment, they began writing the script in earnest.[38][61] Affleck later said that much of the "resentment" about Harvard evident in Good Will Hunting came from his insecurity about not attending a "fancy" university.[44] Affleck's father's life was an inspiration for the film.[36] Terrence Malick, a friend of Affleck's godfather, agreed to meet with the pair to give notes on their script.[60] 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, 'Hundred Million Box Office! Awards!'"[71]

Blockbuster movies and tabloid notoriety (1998–2004)[edit]

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 December 2003.

Affleck starred in Armageddon (1998) opposite Bruce Willis.[100] The film received mixed to negative critical reviews,[101] but was a box-office success, earning $553 million worldwide.[102] Affleck later described it as a "magical", ""Hey, I've made it" experience.[103] In 1998, he also starred in the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow. In 1999, he co-starred with Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy Forces of Nature.[104] He then starred in Bounce with Gwyneth Paltrow.[105] He appeared in Reindeer Games (2001), directed by John Frankenheimer, who described Affleck as having "s a very winning likable quality about him. I've been doing this for a long time and he's really one of the nicest - really one of the nicest."[106] In 2001, Affleck collaborated with Armageddon director Michael Bay in the war film Pearl Harbor. The film opened to a mixed to negative reception,[107][108] but was a box-office success, earning $449 million worldwide.[109]

Affleck next appeared in Boiler Room.[110] Along with Damon and producers Chris Moore and Sean Bailey, Affleck founded the production company LivePlanet in 2000, seeking to integrate the internet into mainstream television and film production.[111][112] The four created the documentary series Project Greenlight, as well as the failed mystery-hybrid series Push, Nevada, among other projects.[113] Project Greenlight was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program in 2002, 2004, and 2005.[114][115]

In 2002, he was cast as Jack Ryan, a role previously played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, in the fourth film in the techno-thriller series The Sum of All Fears. The movie, which ignored the story lines of the previous Jack Ryan films, also starred Morgan Freeman.[116] Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post wrote that Affleck and Freeman "create a believable chemistry".[117] In the same year, Affleck starred opposite Samuel L. Jackson in the popular thriller Changing Lanes.[118][119] He later said the film was an "amazing experience," and that he learned from director Roger Michell.[76]

The following year, he starred as Matt Murdock/Daredevil in Mark Steven Johnson's film Daredevil (2003). Affleck said Daredevil was his favorite comic book as a kid[120][121] and explained why he took the role by saying "Everybody has that one thing from childhood that they remember and that sticks with them. This story was that for me."[122] He also said "I didn't want someone else to do it, because I was afraid that they would go out and do it different from the comic and screw it up."[123] Roger Ebert, in review of Daredevil, wrote that both Affleck and co‑star Jennifer Garner were suitable for their roles.[124] Daredevil grossed over $179 million worldwide.[102] In 2014, Affleck said Daredevil was "only movie I actually regret ... It just kills me. I love that story, that character, and the fact that it got fucked up the way it did stays with me."[86]

Despite some critical missteps, his box-office successes reportedly earned Affleck an average of $15 million per film.[125] He also starred in Jersey Girl in 2004, directed by longtime collaborator Kevin Smith. While Affleck remains a fan of Smith's work,[126][127] they have communicated mainly via email since 2005.[128][129]

Following Daredevil, Affleck starred in several critically panned box-office flops, including Gigli (2003).[130] Affleck has repeatedly defended director Marty Brest since the film's release, arguing that the film would have been a "noble failure" if studio executives hadn't ordered re-shoots to market it as a romantic comedy.[131] He has described Brest as "one of the really great directors" and Midnight Run as his favourite film.[132][133] He thanked Brest in his 2013 Oscar acceptance speech for Argo's Best Picture win.[134]

In 2003, Affleck became, in the words of GQ, the "world's most over-exposed actor".[135] In February 2003, Affleck said the media attention surrounding his relationship with Lopez filled him with a sense of "drew ... People are going to grow weary of this."[121] An Off-Broadway play about Affleck and Matt Damon, written by and starring Mindy Kaling, characterised Affleck as "cute but dumb" and suggested that the screenplay for Good Will Hunting fell from the sky.[136] In 2003, the Wall Street Journal found that Affleck had an 82 percent recognition factor among members of the public, up from 75 percent the previous year. However, the percentage of people who don't like him also rose, from 12 percent to 18 percent.[137] In early 2004, Affleck remarked: "There is a real downside to having a barrage of personal publicity out there. It just makes it that much harder for people to forget all that when they're watching a movie."[138] He then took a two-year break because "I was a little bit exhausted of myself and my life, so I wanted to try to control it or manage it."[139] However, he has also stated that his transformation has been overstated: "I definitely reject the narrative that says, you know, Bad Guy Turns It Around. My life isn't Behind the Music. I wasn't a criminal!"[140] He has said that "the quality of scripts I was seeing was just getting worse and worse."[110]

Hollywoodland and Gone Baby Gone (2005–2008)[edit]

Affleck starred in the critically acclaimed George Reeves noir biopic Hollywoodland, directed by HBO TV-series veteran Allen Coulter.[141] His performance was well-received; Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: "The irony is that Affleck's battering at the hands of fame has prepped him beautifully to play Reeves. He knows this character from the inside: the surface charm, the hidden vulnerability, the ache of watching a career become a joke and being helpless to stop it."[142] Claudia Puig wrote in USA Today that Affleck gives a "strong performance".[143] He was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, won the Supporting Actor of the Year award at the Hollywood Film Festival,[144] and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.[145] Following the success of Hollywoodland, he appeared in the action film Smokin' Aces (2007), playing Jack Dupree, a bounty hunter.[146] Smokin' Aces received mixed reviews from critics[147] and was a moderate success at the box office .[102]

Also in 2007, Affleck made his feature film directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone, for which he also co‑wrote the screenplay based on the book by Dennis Lehane about two Boston-area detectives investigating a little girl's kidnapping and how it affects their lives.[148] He began writing the screenplay in 2003.[149] His brother Casey starred in the film.[150] It opened to rave reviews in October 2007.[151] When asked why he decided to direct the film, Affleck said: "Directing a movie was really instructive for me. I think I learned a lot about writing, and a lot about acting, and I learned how all the pieces fit together from the inside. That was really valuable. It was a good thing."[152] The film received critical acclaim.[153] In Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum noted that Affleck "shows excellent instincts" as a director.[154] Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com wrote: "As a director, Ben Affleck may turn out to be quite good with actors...But he may need to work harder at shaping material, and at making his characters emerge as rounded, believable people."[155]

Affleck appeared in Jimmy Kimmel's 2008 video I'm Fucking Ben Affleck, a response to a video by Kimmel's girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, I'm Fucking Matt Damon.[156][157] Many other celebrities appeared in the video including Good Charlotte's Joel and Benji Madden, Macy Gray, Dominic Monaghan, Lance Bass, Josh Groban, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Robin Williams, Harrison Ford, Huey Lewis, Joan Jett, Pete Wentz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Meat Loaf, Dicky Barrett and others.[157]

The Town and Argo (2009–2013)[edit]

Affleck in Los Angeles in 2009

In 2009, Affleck returned to acting, starring in three features, He's Just Not That Into You, State of Play, and Extract. In He's Just Not That Into You, a romantic comedy, he was part of an ensemble cast that included Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, and Jennifer Connelly.[158] The film generated mostly mixed reviews,[159] but was a box-office success, earning $165 million worldwide.[102]

In State of Play, an adaptation of the British television serial State of Play, Affleck played Congressman Stephen Collins. The film is a political thriller which explores the relationship between politicians and the media.[160] In the comedy film Extract, Affleck played Dean, a bartender, and the best friend to Jason Bateman's character.[161] His performance in the film was well-received, with Barbara Vancheri of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting that "Affleck is a hoot as a long-haired fount of bad advice and drugs he keeps in a little tin behind the bar. After playing a square-jawed crimefighter, an actor turned Superman and a congressman, he is actually loose and funny."[162]

Following the modest success of his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, Affleck met with Warner Brothers Pictures president Jeff Robinov, who invited him to become part of the Warner Brothers "family" and gave Affleck his choice of the studio's scripts.[163][164] Affleck has described it as a "dream relationship": "I wasn't having those meetings with every studio."[164][165] Affleck directed his second feature, The Town, an adaptation of Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves, that was both a critical and commercial success when it was released in theaters in 2010.[166] Along with directing and co-writing the film, he was part of the cast that included Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper and Blake Lively. Affleck was awarded the Chairman's Award in the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival.[167] Also in 2010, he starred in The Company Men.[168]

Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm on the set of The Town (2010)

Affleck starred alongside Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams, and Rachel Weisz in To the Wonder, a romantic drama written and directed by Terrence Malick. Filming took place in fall 2010 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Pawhuska, Oklahoma,[169] and the film was released in cinemas in 2013.

Affleck also directed his third feature, Argo, for producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov. The film tells the story of a CIA operation to save six diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis by faking a production for a large-scale science fiction film.[170] Also with Argo, Affleck is the first director ever who failed to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Director, yet went on to win both the Golden Globe and the Directors Guild of America awards for best directing, in 2013.[171] For the same film, Affleck has also won the Critic's Choice and BAFTA awards for best director, while the film has been named Best Picture in the previously mentioned organizations as well as the Producers Guild.[172][173][174][175] The film was again hailed as a comeback.[176] In 2013, he received an honorary doctorate from Brown University.[177]

Gone Girl and Batman v Superman (2014–)[edit]

Affleck will star in David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl in 2014.[178] He has said working with Fincher was "instructive and inspirational."[179] He will play Batman in the 2016 superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.[180] The casting of Affleck as Batman met with backlash from fans of the character;[181] he has said that while he respects fans' "strongly held opinions", "I don’t think projections about something that hasn’t happened yet are all that meaningful."[178] Affleck will then begin directing an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel Live By Night; he also wrote the adapted screenplay for the "big, sweeping gangster-epic morality story."[86][182][183] The film will be released in 2016.[184] Affleck has co-written a screenplay with brother Casey and David Mandel for the baseball drama The Trade, to be directed by Jay Roach.[185][186] He has also co-written an unknown screenplay with Peter Morgan.[187] In early 2015, Affleck and Damon will begin filming the fourth season of Project Greenlight for HBO, a decade after the third season aired.[188] Their production company Pearl Street Films is named after the street that ran between their Cambridge homes.[189]

Humanitarian work[edit]

Eastern Congo Initiative[edit]

Affleck began to explore the possibility of becoming more actively involved in philanthropy in 2007 and was drawn to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's coverage of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[190] In June 2008, Affleck reported for ABC News Nightline on the humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo, interviewing refugees, relief workers, child soldiers, warlords and members of parliament.[191] In November 2008, he visited eastern Congo and neighbouring Uganda with the UN Refugee Agency to direct a short film, Gimme Shelter, highlighting the plight of Congolese refugees.[192] Also that year, he spoke at the Combating Global Poverty event during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[193][194] In 2009, he spoke about violence against women at the Global Leadership Awards[195][196] and wrote an essay for Time.[197] Also in 2009, he served as the executive producer of the HBO documentary film Reporter, which focused on the work of journalist Nicholas Kristof in the Congo.[198]

Theo Chocolate, stocked by Whole Foods, is made with Congolese cocoa beans

In March 2010, Affleck and Whitney Williams co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative.[199] Investors include Howard Graham Buffett, Google, Laurene Powell Jobs and Cindy McCain.[200] ECI supports "Africans finding solutions to African problems" by acting as a grant maker for Congolese-led, community-based organizations.[201] ECI makes grants and offers capacity-building support to over 20 charities involved with supporting survivors of rape and sexual violence, reintegrating child soldiers into their communities, promoting economic opportunity, increasing access to health care and education, and promoting community-level peace and reconciliation.[201][202] In 2010, ECI partnered Congolese cacao farmers with Seattle-based company Theo Chocolate.[203] As of 2014, Theo is the biggest sourcer of cocoa beans in the Congo, providing training and resources to farmers and donating a percentage of their profits to ECI.[204] In 2013, ECI collaborated with TOMS shoes to provide footwear for Congolese children who navigate jagged volcanic soil when walking to school.[205] ECI has hosted high-profile fundraising events in the US, in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation and Matt Damon's Water.org.[206][207][208]

ECI also aims to increase awareness, attention and focus on the issues impacting eastern Congo among policymakers and the media in the U.S. and Europe.[209] In an effort to achieve this goal, ECI has released a number of comprehensive reports and publications.[210][211] Affleck has made nine media-documented trips to Central Africa since 2007 and has discussed ECI's work in many television interviews.[212][213] In 2010, he wrote a column for the Washington Post,[214] contributed to The Enough Moment[215] and appeared as a panelist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[216] In 2011, Affleck and Cindy McCain, an ECI board member, testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.[217][218] Also in 2011, Affleck was a speaker at the Global Philanthropy Forum.[219] In 2012, he spoke alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Washington's Child Survival: Call to Action Forum and alongside John McCain at the Sedona Forum,[220][221][222] wrote an article for the Washington Post[223] and co-wrote an article with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah for Politico.[224] Affleck also wrote an essay for the Huffington Post during the Kony 2012 campaign. While welcoming increased awareness of the issue of child soldiers, he warned that Western 'saviours' are "ineffectual at best and deadly at worst" and stressed the importance of funding "remarkable local organisations."[225] Later in 2012, Affleck testified before the House Armed Services Committee and met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.[226][227] In 2013, Affleck spoke about issues in the region at a TED conference.[228] In early 2014, he and US Special Envoy Russ Feingold testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and met with Secretary of State John Kerry.[229] Affleck also spoke at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards, where Denis Mukwege was honored.[230][231][232]

Other charitable causes[edit]

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, who has the rare disease ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T).[233] The disease combines symptoms of muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, immune deficiency and cancer, and is progressive. Affleck and Kindregan developed a friendship, communicating regularly via e-mail and phone.[234] Kindregan and his family have visited Affleck on many movie sets and attended many premieres.[235] Affleck is actively involved in fundraising for A-T[236] 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.[234] In 2004, he remarked: "It suffers from a lack of funding and R&D, because a lot of times the thing with drug money, is if they don't see big returns to find a cure, then they don't invest in it."[237] In 2007, Affleck was the keynote speaker at Kindregan's high school graduation ceremony in Fairfax, Virginia.[238] Kindregan appeared as an extra in Affleck's Argo (2012).[239] 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.[240] Also in 2013, he appeared in CinemAbility, a film documentary which explores Hollywood's portrayals of people with disabilities.[241][242]

Affleck during a USO-sponsored tour of the Persian Gulf in 2003

Affleck visited troops stationed in the Persian Gulf during a USO-sponsored tour in 2003[243] and is now involved with two charities which support the US Armed Forces: Paralyzed Veterans of America and Operation Gratitude. He first became aware of Paralyzed Veterans of America's work in 2008 after winning their charity poker tournament during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[244][245] He held a Paralyzed Veterans of America benefit at the 2010 premiere of The Town,[245] and filmed public service announcements for the organization in both 2009 and 2014.[246][247] Affleck's support of Operation Gratitude began in 2007, when he appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly to raise awareness of their work.[248] In both 2007 and 2008, he volunteered at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, California, helping to put together Operation Gratitude care packages for overseas troops.[249][250]

Affleck speaking at a Feeding America rally in 2009

Affeck is a longtime supporter of Boston-based cancer charity The Jimmy Fund, making appearances at their Radio-Telethon in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2009.[251][252][253][254] In 2010, he fundraised for the charity during the US premiere of The Town.[255]

Affleck is a member of Feeding America’s Entertainment Council.[256] He volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank in 2007[257] and helped pack food boxes at a Feeding America event in Denver in 2008.[258] In 2009, Affleck spoke at a Feeding America rally in Washington D.C.[259] He filmed a public service announcement for the charity in 2010.[260] In 2011, Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres launched Feeding America's Small Change Campaign.[261] 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."[262]

Politics[edit]

Political views[edit]

Affleck is a member of the Democratic Party and has described himself as "moderately liberal."[263] He has appeared as a pundit on Real Time with Bill Maher (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012),[264][265] Hardball with Chris Matthews (2004, 2007, 2009),[266][267][268][269] The O'Reilly Factor (2004 ,2012),[270][271][272] Crossfire (2004),[273] and Larry King Live (2004).[274][275] He has also discussed politics in interviews with Channel 4 News,[276] The Rachel Maddow Show (2009),[277] This Week (2014),[278] NPR,[279][280] The Today Show, and "Good Morning America.[281]

Affleck on the set of The Rachel Maddow Show in 2009

Affleck was raised in "a very strong union household."[282] 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 was a janitor and stepmother a cleaning woman 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."[283] He later narrated a documentary, Occupation (2002), about a sit-in organized by the Harvard Living Wage Campaign.[284] In 2004, Affleck and Senator Ted Kennedy held a press conference on Capital Hill, pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.[285][286][287] 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.[288][289] During the Writers' Strike in 2008, Affleck voiced support for the picketers.[290] Affleck has repeatedly stated that the tax structure should ensure that high earners pay "their fair share,"[291][292] referring to it as an issue "of towering importance."[293]

In 2007, Affleck filmed a public service announcement for Divided We Fail, a nonpartisan AARP campaign seeking affordable, quality healthcare for all Americans.[294]

Affleck is pro-choice. In a 2000 interview, he stated that he believes "very strongly in a woman’s right to choose."[47] In 2012, he supported the Draw the Line campaign, describing reproductive rights as "fundamental."[295][296]

Affleck supports legalizing gay marriage, saying in 2004 that he hoped to look back on the marriage debate "with some degree of embarrassment for how antiquated it was."[297][298] Also that year, he remarked that it was "outrageous and offensive" to suggest members of the transgender community were not entitled to equal rights.[299] In 2005, he appeared alongside his openly gay cousin in a Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays print advertising campaign.[300][301] In 2013, he welcomed the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8[302][303] and remarked that it was "to our shame" that gay couples cannot marry "in every state in the union."[304]

Affleck is a supporter of the Second Amendment.[271][305] In 2003, he applied for a gun permit for skeet shooting in the state of Georgia, where he owns a home.[306] In a 2012 interview, Affleck said he owns several guns, both for skeet shooting and for the protection of his family. (His wife's stalker was deemed insane in 2010, placed in a mental ward and ordered to stay away from the Affleck family for 10 years.)[307]

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.[308] In 2007, he appeared in a global warming awareness video produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.[309] Also that year, Affleck said he was not "particularly good at being green."[310] In 2014, he named "a 1966 Chevelle" as his guilty pleasure.[311]

In 2002, Affleck made an appearance with New York Senator Charles Schumer to support a proposed Anti Nuclear Terrorism Act.[312][313] In 2003, Affleck criticised the "questionable and aggressive" use of the Patriot Act and the resulting "encroachments on civil liberties."[314] In 2009, a reporter from The Washington Post overheard Affleck "railing about the Israeli invasion of Gaza" at a Washington party.[315] Steven Clemons, a participant in the conversation, later said: "I’m not going to comment on exactly what Affleck said — but I want to say that 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."[316]

In 2000, Affleck expressed distaste for "the politics of partisanship and rancour."[317] In 2004, he said he believes "more in people than political parties ... I know some pretty exceptional people who are Republicans."[318] Also that year, he described George Bush as "a collegial, affable, kind guy ... I think when you demonize your political opponent, you do yourself a disservice because you stop talking about what's important ... I happen to disagree with most of his policies, but I respect the man."[319] In 2008, he said Sarah Palin was "emblematic of a certain kind of voter that is sometimes overlooked, or looked down on, by the Democratic Party."[320] In 2012, Affleck praised John McCain's "leadership" in defending Huma Abedin against anti-Muslim attacks.[321][322]

Affleck read excerpts from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States at the History of Progressive America event during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[323][324] Following the death of Zinn in 2010, Affleck described him as "one of the great voices in the American political life ... I was lucky enough to know him personally, and I will carry with me what I learned from him - and try to impart it to my own children - in his memory."[325][326]

In the early 2000s, Affleck often expressed an interest in one day running for political office[327] but, since 2007, he has denied any political ambitions and spoken repeatedly about the need for campaign finance reform.[328][329][330][331] In 2012, political pundits and Democratic strategists such as Robert Shrum and Tad Devine speculated that Affleck was considering running for a Massachusetts Senate seat,[332] which he denied.[333] In 2014, Affleck again expressed disillusionment with partisan politics and political fundraising but did not rule out running for office "when I'm 55, 65 or 75."[86]

Democratic Party activism[edit]

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,[334] Pennsylvania[335] and Florida,[336] as well as a New York fundraiser.[337] 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." 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."[338][339]

Affleck was very involved in the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry. Early in the campaign, he took part in a voter registration PSA[340] and attended fundraisers for Kerry.[341][342] During the Democratic National Convention, Affleck was highly visible, speaking to many delegations, appearing on political discussion shows and attending fundraising events. The Washington Post profiled Affleck, describing him as "a natural. He shakes hands, singles out little kids, speaks Spanish, writes his own speeches and adapts them to the audience ... Affleck doesn't speak in lefty cliches. He sounds like a party man, if not exactly original, then as cogent as the average House member. He doesn't have the usual Hollywood causes -- Tibet, acid rain, world peace -- and instead subscribes to the party platform, with the exception of gun control.[343][344] Affleck then travelled with Kerry during the opening weekend of his Believe in America Tour, making speeches at rallies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.[345][346][347]

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."[348] In 2007, he donated $4,600 to Obama's presidential campaign.[349] During the 2008 presidential campaign, Affleck and his wife Jennifer Garner hosted a political fundraiser for Obama[350] and attended other fundraising events.[351] Affleck urged voters to "help make history" in a MoveOn.org campaign[352] and made several appearances during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[353] In the week of the election, Affleck appeared on Saturday Night Live to playfully endorsing Senator John McCain because "my support has the opposite effect."[354] He later attended inauguration celebrations in Washington.[355] Affleck did not actively campaign for Obama's reelection in 2012.[356] However, he stated: "I like the president, I’m going to vote for the president."[357][358] "I don't feel disappointed [in his performance]. I'm someone who views politics practically."[359]

In 2000, Affleck introduced Senate candidate Hillary Clinton at a Cornell University rally[360] and helped fundraise for her campaign.[361][362] Affleck, who first met the Clintons at Camp David in 1998,[363] pointed to the First Lady's work with children, women and "working families."[364] During the 2008 presidential campaign, Affleck supported Obama and noted that Clinton had "moved toward the center" during the Democratic Primary.[328] In his role as an advocate with the Eastern Congo Initiative, Affleck has spoken at several events with both Bill and Hillary Clinton.[365][366][367] In 2014, Affleck said that, while he looks "at working in politics again with a more jaundiced eye," a Clinton presidency would be "exciting ... 100 years after women got the right to vote."[86] Affleck is a friend of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.[368][369]

Affleck has supported a number of other Democratic politicians. In 2002, he donated $1,000 to Dick Gephardt's Congressional campaign[370] and appeared in campaign literature for former classmate Marjorie Decker, running as a city councillor in Massachusetts.[371] In 2003, he made donations to the presidential campaigns of both Dennis Kucinich ($1,000) and Wesley Clark ($2,000),[372] and, in 2005, he donated $500 to Deval Patrick, a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts.[373] In 2006, Affleck contributed $10,000 to Cory Booker’s Newark mayoral campaign.[374] Also that year, Affleck introduced Congressmen Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy at rallies in Connecticut.[375] In 2008, he donated $2,300 to the Congressional campaign of Pennsylvania's Patrick Murphy[370][376] while, in 2010, he donated $1,500 to the Senate campaign of Kirsten Gillibrand.[370] In 2012, Affleck hosted a fundraiser for Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren,[377] endorsed her in a Progressive Change Campaign Committee video,[378] and made a campaign donation of $2,500.[379] In 2013, he hosted a fundraiser for Senate candidate Cory Booker,[380] and made donations to the campaigns of both Booker ($7,500) and Alison Lundergan Grimes ($5,200).[381][382]

Personal life[edit]

Family[edit]

Affleck is married to actress Jennifer Garner. They began dating in mid-2004, after co-starring in Daredevil together.[383][384][385][386] They became engaged in April 2005 and were married on June 29, 2005 in a low-key Turks and Caicos ceremony. Victor Garber, who officiated the ceremony, was the only guest.[141][383][387][388][389] The couple have three children: daughters Violet Anne (b. December 2005)[390] and Seraphina Rose Elizabeth (b. January 2009),[391] and son Samuel Garner (b. February 2012).[392][393] They have year-round homes in Los Angeles and Massachusetts, and an apartment in New York. The family own an 83-acre estate on the secluded Hampton Island near Savannah, Georgia. Affleck purchased the Greek Revival vacation home in 2003 for $7 million,[394][395][396][397][398] after filming Forces of Nature in the area.[298]

Paparazzi[edit]

The tragic thing is, people who see those pictures naturally think it's sweet. They don't see the gigantic former gang member with a huge lens standing over a four-year-old and screaming to get the kid's attention. The kids are always looking down because they're freaked out and scared of these people ... When people are around that, when they see twenty photographers taking photographs of a four-year-old, they're horrified. It's just that you don't see the sausage being made.

-Affleck on the interest in his family life[399][400]

While Affleck believes paparazzi attention is "part of the deal" of stardom, he has spoken out against paparazzi interest in his children: "They're not celebrities ... I don't think it's healthy societally and I know it's not healthy for my kids."[400] He believes the paparazzi specifically target his children: "If I drive out [of my house] and they see the kids aren't in my car, they will wait for Jen. If they see Jen without the kids, they'll wait for me."[399] He attributes the media interest to "housewives who hold up their child rearing to the child rearing of these [famous] parents."[399] "I really object to the objectification, the commercialisation of images of children."[400] He and his wife considered moving from Los Angeles to New York City but found the paparazzi there worse: "We try to shelter them, but then they don't leave the house, and that's weird. I don't want my kids to be weirdos."[399]

Affleck and his wife met with California lawmakers "to get legislation passed to establish a certain distance between paparazzi and children and also to prevent the stalking behavior on the part of the paparazzi ... I understand we won't be able to prevent them from taking photos of children or get them to blur the faces, even though I think that would be preferable. But at the very least there should be a bubble of safety ... I think the First Amendment and the public's right to know are adequately served by photographers who are at least 100 feet away."[401]

Relationships[edit]

Affleck previously had high-profile relationships with actress Gwyneth Paltrow and actress/singer Jennifer Lopez. He met Paltrow at the premiere of Good Will Hunting in 1997.[99] They dated from October 1997 to January 1999.[21] During their breakup, Paltrow persuaded Affleck to co-star with her in Bounce.[402] In November 1999, after Bounce wrapped, they became a couple again but separated for good in October 2000.[403] Their split was amicable.[404] Paltrow later said that Affleck "makes life tough for himself. He's got a lot of complication, and you know, he really is a great guy."[405] Affleck responded: "She's probably right about that. I trust her opinion about most things. Not all, but most. I think I probably do get in my own way."[406]

In late 2001 Affleck began dating Lopez, whom he had met while filming Gigli.[141][407][408] They became engaged in November 2002,[409] and the relationship between the two received much attention from the entertainment media, who dubbed the couple "Bennifer".[141] Their planned wedding on September 14, 2003 in Santa Barbara, California was postponed with four days notice because of press leaks and the resulting "excessive media attention".[410] In December 2003, Affleck said that they were trying to be more low-profile.[411][412] The couple broke up in January 2004.[413] The couple remain on good terms.[414] Affleck has said that, while he has made plenty of mistakes in life, "I just don't view that as one of them."[415][416] "The temptation is to say that I wouldn't have done any of the press we did for Gigli, but you're paid really well to do these movies, and the expectation is that you're going to support them."[417] In 2013, Affleck said he and Lopez occasionally "touch base" via email: "I respect her. I like her."[418]

Affleck remains close friends with Matt Damon, remarking in 2014: "Having a friend you've been connected to since you were a little kid, that's grounding. Matt and my brother Casey are the two people I rely on the most, emotionally and professionally."[31] They've lived near each other in Los Angeles since 2012, with Affleck commenting, "I've been hounding him and hounding him to live here so our kids can know each other and go to the same schools and hang out the way we did and finally he caved."[42][419]

Professional gambling[edit]

An avid poker player, Affleck has regularly entered local events. He has been tutored by poker professionals Amir Vahedi and Annie Duke. Duke has said Affleck "has the talent to become a fixture but not the time or inclination."[420] He appeared on Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2003. He won the California State Poker Championship on June 20, 2004, taking home the first prize of $356,400, which qualified him for the 2004 World Poker Tour final tournament.[421][422]

Affleck played in private, high-stakes, poker games held in Los Angeles area homes and hotel suites in the mid-2000s.[423] Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tobey Maguire were also known to frequent the games. The game organizer, Molly Bloom, later wrote a memoir, which was serialized in Vanity Fair.[424] In it, she described Affleck as a "smart" player with "a relaxed charisma" who "liked to limit his downside, especially at a table with a bunch of guys he wasn’t used to playing with."[425][426] "He didn't stay all night like a lot of the guys. He always had a specific time when he would stand up at the table. He would leave at a reasonable hour. He never lost a great deal. He usually won."[427]

In 2014, Affleck was banned from playing blackjack at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, after a series of wins aroused suspicion that he was counting cards; the gambling strategy is frowned upon by casinos.[428]

While there have occasionally been tabloid headlines about Affleck's gambling, he doesn't feel "that it's a big issue for me," enjoying as he does its "psychological aspects," rather than the potential payoff. "People think, 'This is a person who's prone to being swept up in bad behavior.' Just because I don't drink, I don't live in a convent."[138] He has spoken out against the assumption that, "If you're associated with [an addiction], you must have other problems, too ... It's seen as 'This guy's crazy.'"[417] "

Alcohol rehabilitation[edit]

Affleck entered alcohol rehab in 2001, with a spokesman for the actor saying that "Ben is a self-aware and smart man who had decided that a fuller life awaits him without alcohol".[429] Affleck later described the decision as a "pre-emptive strike" given his family's history of alcoholism: "I just didn’t want it to get to that point."[430]

Media outlets speculated that Affleck was intoxicated during a 2004 interview with French-Canadian television presenter Anne-Marie Losique.[431] His representative later denied this.[432] Affleck and Losique had a long-running comedic routine since the 1990s, with Affleck taking on the persona of a drunken Frenchman in their interviews.[433][434][435][436] In one such clip, he joked about the "performance art".[437]

Miscellaneous[edit]

He was named Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine in 2002.[51] Affleck has described himself as a lapsed Protestant.[438] In 2007, he said he considered his faith a "private matter", but chose the Book of Matthew as one of the books that made a difference in his life.[439] He is a fan of the Boston Red Sox,[440] New England Patriots,[441] Boston Celtics,[442] and Boston Bruins.[443]

Filmography[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Pierce Brosnan
People's Sexiest Man Alive
2002
Succeeded by
Johnny Depp