From Burger King ads to Batman: a biography of Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck is one of the biggest figures in Hollywood, having made a name for himself in independent movies such as Dazed and Confused and Mallrats and blockbusters like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. These days, he’s the face of Batman. Let’s take a look how Affleck made a name for himself in the movie world and amassed a fortune of $130 million – despite a few hitches along the way.

Early life and work


Born in Berkeley, California, Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts – the son of a schoolteacher and social worker. His younger brother, Casey Affleck, is also an actor and starred in the movies Good Will Hunting, Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve.


Affleck’s first taste of acting came in a Burger King advert when he was working on the miniseries The Voyage of Mimi in the 1980s. Around this time he met his very good friend Matt Damon, and the two young actors took drama lessons together. They’d later work together in 1997’s Good Will Hunting, the film which would catapult both the unknown actors into Hollywood fame.

That wasn’t to be for a while, though. Affleck’s teen years consisted mainly of appearances in TV movies and small TV appearances, including Hands of a Stranger (1987) and The Second Voyage of Mimi (1988). Finally, he made his break into feature films when he starred as bully boy O’Bannion in Dazed and Confused (1993) and then in Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997). Affleck was starting to gain recognition, but he was still only getting supporting roles.

His most prominent role was just around the corner. He paired up with Matt Damon to write the Good Will Hunting script and, after some wrestling with production companies over control of the script, the two were able to star in and release the film in 1997. They’d win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. More importantly for Affleck, he’d then be able to choose roles rather than have to go through auditions. It was the break he’d been waiting for all these years.

From there the highs followed, with parts in Armageddon (1998), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001), Changing Lanes (2002), The Sum of All Fears (2002) and Daredevil (2003). His career would take a downturn in the mid-2000s, though. The comedies Gigli (2003) and Surviving Christmas (2004) were box office flops, and Affleck went back to supporting roles.


In 2007, he tried his hand at directing and his thriller Gone Baby Gone, a moral drama which received a good reception from critics. This was followed in 2010 with The Town, which he co-wrote, directed and starred in. His political thriller Argo (2012) won several awards, including Golden Globe Awards and BAFTAs for Best Picture and Best Director, and an Academy Award for Best Picture. Affleck was officially back in business.


In 2014, Affleck played a lead role in the adaptation of Gone Girl. He then returned to our screens as Bruce Wayne / Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 and reprised the character in Suicide Squad (2016) and Justice League (2017). These movies were all widely released, cementing Affleck as one of the most recognizable figures in the industry.


Off camera controversy


Affleck has had his moments of controversy away from the film studio and red carpet. In 2014 he was thrown out of the Hard Rock Casino for counting cards in a game of blackjack. It should be said that counting cards isn’t actually illegal – it’s just frowned upon by casino owners, as it gives players an unfair advantage, and skews the house edge.


Arguably, a much better strategy which could actually have saved him getting kicked out of the casino would have been doubling down – a basic approach to blackjack which could make a hand more profitable. Gambling expert John Grochowski’s fool-proof guide about when to double down in blackjack might have saved Affleck some blushes that day.


Casinos aren’t the only place in which he’s been part of a bit of controversy. After speaking out against Harvey Weinstein, whose career is in ruins after the sexual harassment scandal, Affleck himself received allegations of sexual misconduct. The fact that the actor had spent so much time working with the disgraced director did nothing to help his case. Affleck had to apologize for publicly groping actress Hilary Burton on the MTV show TRL, when the two appeared on it together in 2003.


Personal life and relationships


The allegations regarding Affleck’s conduct around women won’t have been nice to hear for the ladies who have been in his life. Worse still, these stories broke just after he’d gone public with his new girlfriend, Lindsay Shookus. Previously, he’d been married to Jennifer Garner, with whom he has three children during an 11-year relationship.


Before marrying Garner, Affleck had briefly dated socialite Enza Sambataro and, more famously before that, been the second half of ‘Bennifer’, the other half being pop superstar Jennifer Lopez. It was a relationship that ended in turmoil. After two years together, the two were to marry, but they called the wedding off four days before tying the knot. They cited “excessive media attention” as the reason.


Jennifer Lopez isn’t the only high-profile celebrity Affleck has dated. Before J-Lo entered his life, he’d been in a three-year, on-off relationship with actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Rumors have linked him to Salma Hayek and Krista Allen in the past, but these relationships were never confirmed.


Whatever people might be saying about Ben Affleck just now or have said in the past, he may not feel too concerned about it. The actor is reported to be a net worth $130 million and in an interview with chat show host Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year, he revealed he was “in a great place.” His new action thriller Triple Frontier came out in March of this year and is out on Netflix.


He’s still aged just 46, so chances are he’ll be a Hollywood stalwart for a long time to come – even if, perhaps, his days doing action stunts may be slightly behind him. Perhaps he’ll start to do more work behind the camera in the director’s chair. One things for sure: Affleck managed to escape supporting-role mediocrity to establish himself firmly on the Hollywood circuit.

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