Feature by: Jack Foley
IT CANT be easy being Ben Affleck. Having won an Oscar
for his joint screenplay for Good Will Hunting, in 1997 (alongside
friend, Matt Damon), the star quickly found himself on the Hollywood
A-list and appearing in blockbuster after blockbuster.
But a couple of flops, coupled with his high-profile relationship
and on-off marriage to Jennifer Lopez, have turned him into the
US equivalent of Posh and Becks, meaning that he is
seldom out of the tabloids and very often a figure of fun.
Last year, in particular, was one to forget, given that the much-hyped
marriage to J-Lo never took place, while films such
as Daredevil and Paycheck
became only moderate hits, which failed to ignite with the critics.
And then there was Gigli
In London to promote the UK release of Paycheck, however, Affleck
bravely came face to face with many of his tormentors at the Dorchester
Hotel and, to be fair, coped extremely well with the loaded questions
Paycheck, itself, is a futuristic thriller in which Affleck plays
a genius who is paid to erase his memory after performing high-tec
tasks for multi-million corporations. But when one of his cheques
fails to materialise, he must find out why he holds the key to
the future, before those on his trail succeed in killing him.
Needless to say, journalists couldnt resist the temptation
of asking him whether, given the choice, he would like to erase
certain films from his memory - or the memory of disillusioned
The actor could see the funny side, as he laughed and replied:
"You know, that's interesting. It's funny because, often
times, the experience of making a movie, and the things that you
learn, are not necessarily mirrored in the final product, you
"I've had some really interesting and valuable experiences,
when the movies didn't work out that well. And yet, in some ways,
I think you learn more from failure, than you do from things that
work, because they're just much more pointedly instructive, in
"I might be depriving myself of something valuable by erasing
those films," he added.
Affleck, of course, is infamous for the critical derision which
greeted last years Gigli, his ill-fated on-screen partnership
with Lopez, but chose to tackle the reaction head on, even going
so far as to appear on The David Letterman Show with a greatest
hits compilation of the best of the bad notices.
Asked whether this was merely an exercise in damage limitation,
and whether he read many of his notices, he replied: "In
general, I don't read them, because I find often that, for one
thing, film critics these days are sort of writing for telling
people whether or not to go see a movie, and not really approaching
film criticism from the point of view which is the kind of criticism
that would be helpful to you as an artist.
"Like what were you trying to do? Did you accomplish this?
You know, sometimes it's just about being clever, or whatever,
and that's ok, but it's not particularly helpful in the sense
that it's not really about what you're doing."
The same can be applied to much of what has been written about
him in the tabloids, he claims, which bears little resemblance
to the person Affleck actually is.
"But I think it's a natural thing that happens, you know,
you can become a projected image, in a way, whether it's the iconic
one, or some image of an actor who develops some point of view,
or another," he explains candidly.
"Inevitably, it's a kind of reductive simplification of
who you are, and really, often times, much more about other people's
ideas, and their projections; what they're thinking about, and
what they're responding to. So there's not much point in spending
a lot of time going over it."
To his credit, Affleck does not appear bitter, or antagonistic
towards the press, rather accepting it as part of the learning
curve of his celebrity. Indeed, he was quick to retort that the
accelerated pace of success is something to adjust to, but probably
a lot easier to adjust to than the accelerated pace of failure,
when asked how he was coping with things.
And he insisted that it's far more important for someone
in my position to focus more on the fact of how grateful I am,
and how fortunate, and really very blessed, than dwell on what
particular difficulties it brings with it.
Needless to say, the opportunity of working with one of his childhood
heroes - Hong Kong action director, John Woo - was another piece
of good fortune, which he quickly embraced.
The role had originally been offered to Matt Damon, who turned
it down because he had just completed his own amnesia-based action
role, in The Bourne Identity.
"Obviously, he didn't want to do the same thing again,"
he observed, but he told me the script was really good,
that I should work with John, and talk to him about it, which
"And without embarrassing John, this represented a brilliant
opportunity for me to get to work with somebody who I had admired
for many, many years, and who I think has been responsible, in
a lot of ways, for kind of elevating the way that a particular
genre of movies were made."
The script, too, was something which struck a chord with him,
particularly the theme of being able to change ones destiny,
although he declined another opportunity to change his own future,
had he been able to see ahead.
Laughing again, he said: "I think it's probably suggested
in the movie that it's an unhealthy desire, you know, I think
it's a good thing that we don't see the future, or perhaps we'd
dwell on maybe the negative things that are going to happen.
"It's also important to remember the good and the bad that
happens in our lives. It builds character, and if you don't remember
the past, then you'd just keep making the same mistakes over and
It is a statement which Affleck intends to put to good use, insisting
that, while he still likes to write, the aspect of film-making
he is most interested in, for the moment, is learning from
the great directors, of which he counts Woo as one.
And then, with a final nod of appreciation to the press, and
a heartfelt thank you, guys, Affleck disappeared from
our room to greet his next batch of interviewers, before descending
on Leicester Square to spend time with the people that really
count to him - his fans.