Let’s go back to 2003. The Studios were already tired of the promise of a new leading man named Ben Affleck who had won an Oscar out of the blue in 1997 along with pal Matt Damon for penning a script that turned into Good Will Hunting. The studios weren’t sure about Damon’s possibilities as a leading man, but they had their eyes on Affleck.
6’4” tall, a gym body and a masculine and approachable face expression, Affleck had already been cast in films like Armageddon, Forces of Nature, Reindeer Games, Bounce, Pearl Harbor, Changing Lanes, The sum of all fears and his first super hero: Daredevil, with pal (and future wife) Jennifer Garner. The films didn’t break any record and he was frankly getting on everyone’s nerves. Then it came the movie that will change his life forever, a project that will be in the minds of biographers whenever they highlight his acting career. I’m talking, of course, about Gigli, the romantic comedy he starred in with his new flame Jennifer Lopez. They were in all the news as the new couple and the media started a new trend merging celebrities’ names. This case it was Bennifer. The film didn’t just flop. It destroyed his image and no one would take him seriously again.
Then in 2006 he was cast in a period film named Hollywoodland about George Reves, the actor who played Superman for the small screen, and there were talks about giving him a supporting actor nomination to the Oscars, which didn’t come to a fruition, but it gave him some confidence again that there was hope. He didn’t waste anytime and finally put together the means to direct his first film “Gone Baby Gone” and suddenly a new breed of Ben Affleck appeared in the horizon.
His second effort as a director confirmed that the first one wasn’t only the work of pure luck, but a man who knows his métier. And by the time we got to 2012, he was being praised as one of the best filmmakers in Hollywood for a film called “Argo”, although the Academy failed to even nominate him as a director, but gave him the Oscar for producing his film.
And so, Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt, of Berkeley, California, who has kept a foot in his independent origins, who has maintained the Greenlight project with pal Matt to help new filmmakers, and who was once name the “world’s most over-exposed actor”, got his groove back, and now is very well established in the Hollywood firmament with his participation in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and most importantly for the masses, his third super hero in Batman vs Superman.
Here is a little reminder of his work so far.
School Ties (1992) & Dazed and Confused (1993)
Young Affleck’s looks were perfect to play the typical American hope, the guy most likely to make it in life if it weren’t for his anti-Semitism in School Ties, and his bullying in Dazed and Confused.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Affleck wrote and starred in this film that gave him, his pal Matt Damon and supporting actor Robin Williams, an Academy Award each. They hired Gus Van Sant, who later would work with Damon and Affleck’s brother Casey in more experimental films; but this one was praised from the moment it got to the screen, telling the story of a janitor who has a gift for mathematics but can’t quite find the way to overcome himself. Affleck’s role was more of a supporting part as a university friend, the guy with the looks, which pretty much describes what Hollywood wanted him to be, and he pretty much went on with it for years.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Another Oscar winner and another supporting role. Affleck plays Ned Alleyn, a character that adds some comedic value to his acting offerings. This film came out the same year he did Armageddon opposite Bruce Willis. So Affleck was covering all his bases: Action hero, Romantic figure, and a talent for comedy. He could do it all. So, of course, he would follow up with generic films like the Rom-com Forces of Nature with Sandra Bullock, Drama with Bounce along with his Oscar winner Co-star Gwyneth Paltrow, the actioner Reindeer Games directed by John Frankenheimer and a Romantic-historic-Action-War film named Pearl Harbor. Some of them more successful than others, but none helped him develop his craft. On the contrary, he was becoming an accessory more than a personality.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Jack Ryan has had as many faces as James Bond by now. First Harrison Ford, then Alec Baldwin, followed by Affleck (and the part has lately been taken by Chris Pine too). Affleck didn’t bring anything new to the character, but to his credit, critics felt that the chemistry between him and Morgan Freeman was absolutely believable.
The first really acclaimed role that Affleck had had before becoming a director came a year before that, impersonating actor George Reeves, the man who would done the Superman costume for the small screen. Finally, Ben was getting thee recognition as an actor that had eluded him with so many wrong choices. The Oscars didn’t come his way, but he capitalized on his momentum with his next secret project.
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
As his feature film directorial debut (and he also co-wrote the script), this was a gritty crime drama set in working-class Boston, starring his kid brother Casey, along with Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan and Amy Ryan. The film got all kinds of recognitions and praise, heralding the arrival of a new great director.
The Town (2010)
Affleck’s second film as a director (and this time as the leading actor as well) confirmed that he really had what it takes to build a deep, fully dimensional drama with effective action scenes. As it happened with his previous film (that gave Ryan her first Oscar nomination as a supporting actress), this time it was Jeremy Renner who got the recognition.
His third chance at directing has become his most awarded, even if the Academy Awards still can’t forgive him for Gigli. Argo, a historical political thriller about a CIA operation to save six diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis using a fake science fiction Hollywood production, which sounds pretty much like fiction but in truth happened more or less as it is told, has become his greatest achievement, merging a Hollywood entertainment movie with direct commentaries on every side of the conflict. The film is expertly paced, acted and it is filled with complex social and political layers. Having won the Best Director awards at the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America, as well as the Critic’s choice and BAFTA awards, he failed to hit the mark at the Oscars even if he ended up on the podium as one of the winning producers of the Best Picture of the Year. Jokes around the press (and during the airing of the Oscars) abounded. Argo was the second politically-infused film at the Oscars that year, the other one being Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty about the hunt for Bin Laden, which was too heavily handled to be the winner. Argo took the prize instead for handling a historical event with all the elements of a thriller-action film.
To The Wonder (2013)
Terrence Malick is known for going into hibernation right after he releases a film. This was not the case. After his Palme D’Or with The Tree Of Life, he surprised everyone with this small gem that might as well be a rib taken from his previous film. An adult take on the elasticity of romantic love and its connections with our spiritual world the film develops with very little dialogue from Affleck and his co-stars Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem. Instead it observes them as they are managed by their feelings, not being able to stop hurting one in hopes of finding “happiness” with another. The film has had mixed reactions from critics and audiences, who either surrender to its ethereal poetry or find it incoherent and hermetic. The same year Affleck starred in Runner Runner with a very interesting leading role.
Gone Girl (2014)
2014 has kept Affleck in everybody’s minds. First with his starring role in the highly anticipated David Fincher new drama Gone Girl, and his production of the even more highly anticipated Batman Vs. Superman. Some of the critics’ reviews single out his participation as a “remarkable, vanity-free performance” where the audience is actually puzzled between his character’s sympathetic demeanor and the possibility that he could be a shallow and heartless murderer.
Batman vs Superman (2016)
Yes, we’re talking the future here. We can’t comment on Affleck’s performance yet for obvious reasons, but having played the Daredevil, and the first TV superman, Affleck is more than prepared to be another superhero, specially one that lives a double life as a millionaire and a vigilante. After all, Affleck’s career reflects the work of a man who was first considered a pretty face but had to use his hidden super powers to show who he really is: an effective filmmaker concerned with social issues and who has used his star power to get involved with up and coming filmmakers (through his participation in the Green light project with Matt Damon), in political issues (actively campaigning for the Democratic Party), and in human rights abuses, specially in the Democratic Republic of Congo.