Ben Affleck’s highly anticipated new film, “Argo,” has landed him at the center of awards season buzz -- and he may have Jennifer Lopez to thank for that.
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Affleck revealed that his romance with Lopez and their 2003 bomb “Gigli” was so damaging to his acting career that he felt he needed to try something new.
“I just thought: ‘This is so gross. It’s destructive to my career, it’s destructive to my soul, to my everything, I want to escape this,’” Affleck said. “I thought, ‘I’ve been wanting to direct for so long, if there’s ever going to be a moment to take two years away from acting and shoot and release [a movie], this is the time.’”
Affleck made similar comments in an interview with Details last month.
"In our culture, we get very much into 'short-handing' people," he said. "And I got 'shorthanded' as 'That Guy': Jennifer Lopez, movies bombed, therefore he must be a sort of thoughtless. dilettante, solipsistic consumer, blah, blah, blah.
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"It's hard to shake those sorts of narratives. If you were looking at that one-liner on me in 2003, which was definitely the annus horribilis [laughs] of my life.”
It’s easy to see why Affleck cringes when looks back on that period.
In the days before TomKat and Robsten, Affleck and Lopez were a tabloid sensation known as Bennifer. Their romance was splattered across the pages of weekly gossip magazines and countless entertainment news segments. The actor famously presented the former Fly Girl with a $2.5 million engagement ring and quickly transformed from a scruffy Bostonite to polished Ken doll.
Lopez recorded the song “Dear Ben” for her album “This is Me Then,” and Affleck made a humiliating cameo in Lopez’s “Jenny from the Block” music video -- in which he fondled her on a yacht. They also participated in a nauseating "Dateline" special about their life as a couple.
Affleck later said he regretted the interview.
"That ["Dateline"] special was before the movie ["Gigli"] came out, and I did it at the request of the people who financed the movie. I wish I hadn't," he told WENN in 2009. "At a certain point I think you have to strike a balance between what you owe people who finance your work and the degree to which you can protect the integrity of your personal life."
According to Screen Junkies, “Gigli” remains one of the biggest flops in film history. Though Affleck hilariously mocked his relationship with Lopez on “Saturday Night Live” after the break-up, it’s taken him years to recover from the humiliation he endured as a result of the film and their flamboyant affair.
Following “Gigli’s” release, Affleck starred in a few more lackluster projects, including 2004’s “Surviving Christmas.”
The actor married his "Daredevil" costar Jennifer Garner in 2005. The low-key couple has three children together: Violet, 6; Seraphina, 3; and Samuel, six months.
Affleck's career gained momentum again in 2006 when he starred as doomed “Superman” actor George Reeves in “Hollywoodland.”
In 2007, Affleck made his directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone,” about the search for a missing child in Boston. In 2010, he directed the heist drama “The Town,” which received rave reviews and impressive box office earnings. The film prompted Vanity Fair’s Mike Ryan to ask, “Is it time to forgive Ben Affleck?”
This month’s “Argo” is expected to earn Affleck an Oscar nod for Best Director. Set in 1979, it chronicles the amazing true story of a group of CIA members who pose as a film crew in order to rescue six American hostages in Tehran.
After its strong debut at the Toronto Film Festival, the political thriller is poised to be the final stage in Affleck’s long road to cinematic redemption.
“Argo” is set to hit theaters on Oct. 12.