Somewhere between the heartwarming 1997 drama "Good Will Hunting" and this year's critical darling "Argo," Ben Affleck went from Oscar winning "It" boy to Hollywood's prime punching bag to Entertainment Weekly's "Entertainer of the Year."
It's a fitting title for Affleck, who directed and starred in one of the most well received films of the year. In an interview with the outlet, the actor said that he did not anticipate the film's success, but knew on a personal level that the gripping drama was a project that he could be proud of.
“I had very low expectations for 'Argo's' performance,” Affleck said. “I just hoped that over time people would find the movie. Also, being at a place in my life and my career where I know what I’m trying to do, it’s different than being 26. When you’re younger and have the early success that I had — it sounds like the worst Hallmark cliche — but I didn’t have anyone to share it with. I don’t mean I wanted someone to sit by the fire with. But when you have a family and children, you kind of see yourself reflected in them. I want to make the kinds of movies that my kids are proud of. I have higher standards, in a way, for them.”
Affleck's public esteem took a hit in 2003, when "Gigli," widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time, was released. The film, coupled with his highly publicized relationship with co-star Jennifer Lopez, was a wrecking ball that demolished both the star's career and public persona.
Following the film's release, Affleck's attempts at professional redemption were marred by a slew of lackluster projects like "Paycheck" and "Surviving Christmas." In 2006 he attempted to make a comeback with "Hollywoodland," in which he starred as doomed "Superman" star George Reeves. Though the film was relatively well-received, it was not a big enough hit to restore his A-list status.
It wasn't until Affleck turned to directing that his luck began to change. The 2007 drama "Gone Baby Gone," about the search for a missing girl in South Boston, earned the star considerable praise and set him on the path to career restoration.
"…one of the graces of 'Gone Baby Gone' is its sensitivity to real struggle, to the lived-in spaces and worn-out consciences that can come when despair turns into nihilism," said Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. "Mr. Affleck doesn’t live in these derelict realms, but, for the most part, he earns the right to visit."
Amy Ryan, who played the mother of the kidnapped child in "Gone Baby Gone," earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role.
Affleck's follow-up, "The Town," released in 2010, earned an impressive $92 million domestically and establish Affleck as an emerging visionary.
"'The Town' shows, as his first film 'Gone Baby Gone' did, that Affleck has the stuff of a real director," Roger Ebert said of the film. "Everything is here. It's an effective thriller, he works closely with actors, he has a feel for pacing."
Jeremy Renner received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in the film.
"Argo" gives formidable hope for Affleck that his career follies are behind him -- it would take more than another "Gigli" to push him out of the winner's circle. The film, which tells the extraordinary true story of the 1979 CIA rescue of six American hostages in Iran, has put the star back on top. Riveting, comical and uplifting, "Argo" is expected to earn Oscar nominations for such top awards as Best Director and Best Picture.