Despite Ben Affleck's pecs-ahoy photo spreads and the bags of tear stained fan ail he receives he will be the first to tell you that he has not always been box office gold, if you will, with the ladies.
"As a kid, I was the kind of guy who got dumped a lot," he says, blithely eating salad with this fingers at a swanky New York City restaurant. "I'd be talking on the phone for a week with a girl and I'd be like, 'I love you. Let's go out!'" He shakes his head. "I became too needy."
Worse, Ben was a gangly teen, and while sometimes a good old-fashioned growth spurt can make a nerd into a babe overnight, that was not the case with Affleck. "I don't think the ladies were saying, "I'm looking for somebody awkward and beanpole like who doesn't have control of his won limbs," he says. "My head was misshapen and lumpy, and I was way too sensitive."
Sensitivity never did go over well with the zit-cream set, but at 26 (with his lumpy head a distant memory) Affleck has achieved the kind of success that makes people quiver with jealousy; an Oscar shared with his best friend Matt Damon for writing Good Will Hunting and a boatload of new movies. Plus he dates the likes of Gwneth Paltrow. Well, he did. (We'll get to that.)
Refreshingly, you will not hear from Affleck the familiar complaints of the newly megafamous: the paparazzi, the zealous fans, lack of privacy, yada yada yada. Affleck's whole attitude seems to be isn't this fun?
He likes to talk and jumps from subject to subject with dizzying speed, even spilling the beans about his recent split with Gwyneth Paltrow. "I'm definitely amused at seeing my love life on the evening news, "he says about their January breakup. Z" But I just can't believe how much I've read that's invented. I've seen so many scurrilous and what I consider libelous things written about her. Ant it's always attributed to a source, which is mot likely a guy looking for a $20 bag of crack."
So what is the truth? Affleck says, "It's much more pedestrian than people make it out to be. There is no truth whatsoever to the gossip that anything is her fault," he says, addressing the rumors that Paltrow cheated on him. "It's kind of like Occam's razor, the simplest, most mundane answer is usually right. But that's not good for the tabloids- if two people came to a mature and amicable decision- is it? I have enormous fondness, respect, and love for Gwyneth."
And its obvious in the round about way that Paltrow's name sneaks into the conversation that they had a good time while it lasted. "A few months ago, I moved into this apartment in New York," he says. "Nice loft, great big windows- just what living in New York should be. Anyway my girlfriend (aka Gwyn) was out about town and she ran into Patrick Stewart- you know Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek? So the start chatting and he says, 'Do you stay at…' and he gives my address. And she said, "Uh… yah'. And he gave her this look and said, 'Well you should really get some blinds.'"
Affleck cringes visibly. "I know he was talking about me because I do some embarrassing things at home by myself. Like, when you contort your body to see how hideously monstrous you can me it look naked? Not the kind of thing I really wanted Patrick Stewart to see."
Ben Affleck graced the screen at the tender age of 7, when he acted in an indie movie (directed by a family friend) called The Dark End of the Street. Encouraged by his mom, a teacher, and his father, a bartender who now works as a counselor at a California rehab facility, the Cambridge native then began to turn up in a slew of commercials and made for TV movies.
Young Affleck, worked hard, mostly in order to feed a habit that spun dangerously out of control. "I collected comic books, which more or less was my whole universe," he recalls. "Doing after school specials was just a meant to and end of being able to buy comic books."
He was also a Prince fan, so when he was 10 he papered one wall with the poster from Prince's Controversy LP." It was Prince in bikini underwear in the shower. I remember my mother seeing it and the curious faintly disapproving look on her face that a 10 year old boy had a picture of a naked man in the shower on his wall. And Prince was in his double entendre raunch phase. There was a song called 'Jack U Off.' I remember my mom asking me, 'Do you know what that means?' I thought I did, but I really didn't" He grins. "I certainly didn't think that it means to manually masturbate another person."
He met Matt Damon in Little League, and the two became fast friends. High school says Affleck was "predominately African American and the music to listen to was rap. I thought I had discovered his really neat band that no one really listened to called the Grateful Dead. I was like, Man these guys are really cool! My senior yearbook quote was 'What a long strange trip it's been.' I thought I had dug that up! I didn't know that it was the most ubiquitous yearbook quote in the United States."
After graduating from high school and a short nongraduating stint at a Vermont college, Ben lived with Matt in L.A., where they supported themselves with a st4eady, if a tad unsatisfying stream of acting role. In 1993, they started to write Good Will Hunting, a process that took around three years. While it was being shopped around to producers for development (these things take time in Hollywood), Affleck played the lead in Kevin Smith's 1997 film Chasing Amy after meeting smith at a party. This is the first role that got Affleck noticed.
Then last year… well, you know the rest. But for all the attention lavished on good Will Hunting, they weren't paid much for the effort. "We got what seemed like an enormous amount for the screenplay," Affleck says, oblivious to the utterly silent couple at the next table who are shamelessly jubilantly listening in. "Which was basically 600,000 bucks, that Matt and I split. After the government and everyone else takes a piece, it turns into $110,000 [each]."
Affleck ran out and promptly plunked down $40,000 of it on a black Jeep Cherokee. "Growing up, I always wanted a nice new car. My first car was a $00 Toyota Corolla station wagon that leaked. So for me to get the Jeep, that was the epitome of success and wealth and opulence. The Grand Cherokee style, Limited!" he chortles. "What was the unlimited version? It was such a marketing rope job, but I bought right into it. 'No, no, I want the Limited. Whatever it is. Does it come with cool shit? And an alarm that goes woop-woop? I want that."
Nice months later, Affleck was "flat broke." Then came the Oscar and Armageddon and now it's safe to say Affleck will never go hungry again.
Oh, my. The chef at the restaurant has emerged from he kitchen to pay Ben Affleck a visit and he is… well, he is pretty much bowing and scraping.
Eventually the smiling man leaves. Affleck exhales. "Just another semi awkward social interaction," he says. "I just feel self conscious and half the time I'm thinking, Doe he think I'm someone else?"
Please. His many writing commitments aside, Affleck is involved in a tong of projects. He has a part in the upcoming Dogma, brought to you by chasing Amy's Devin Smith, a religious comedy that already has some folks riled up. (For starters, God is played by Alanis Morissette.)
Affleck's most anticipated role is in Forces of Nature, a comedy about a man trying to get home to his fiancée. Along the way, he meets freewheeling' chick Sandra Bullock, whom, by the way, Affleck calls Sandy. "I once met a guy who had a small part in Speed, who said, 'the thing about Sand is, Sandy's wonderful.' For years, that guy was my example of an asshole. Sandy this, Sandy that. But then, you find yourself saying little nicknames like that once you get to know famous people on a first name basis. It's equally valid to do it- and to hate the person who does it."
He wouldn't, he says, rule out more action movies like last year's Armageddon. "You're talking to some who if I had a top 10 list of movies, would include the first Lethal Weapon and 48 HRS and Trading Places and Slap Shot," he enthuses, as the couple at the nearby table nod in agreement. "That kind of encompasses my range of tastes."
It's very easy to picture Affleck hanging out with his buddies, heatedly compiling this list and trading Axel foley-isms. Grounded, isn't he? Perhaps the best way to sum up his attitude is to share Ben Affleck's Three Rules of Living.
"Don't take yourself seriously, " He begins. "Take what you do seriously, and find the humor in as much of life as you can. Those are my only three rules." He starts to laugh. "Three nuggets, Confucius-style. Just put me under a tree and I'll fire out little bits of wisdom."
Article reprinted with out permission for fan appreciation only from Cosmopolitan Magazine, April 1999