This weekend Ben Affleck returns to theatres as the star of the hotly anticipated Gone Girl, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel about a man whose life becomes a media circus when his wife (Rosamund Pike) disappears and he is the prime suspect.
It’s a welcome return for the star who once almost wore out his welcome on the big screen.
For a few years in the early 2000s, Affleck was the textbook definition of over-exposed. Between 2001 and 2004 he released a staggering 11 films, took a year off and dumped four more into theatres in 2006. Then (when the tabloids weren’t naming him Sexiest Man Alive, as People Magazine did in 2002), they were detailing the every move of the couple known as Bennifer, a mash-up of Ben and fiancée Jennifer Lopez’s high-wattage names.
You couldn’t go to a theatre, turn on a television or pick up a magazine without seeing his handsome face, and soon enough that ubiquity worked against him.
The Wall Street Journal did the math, reporting Affleck’s recognition factor jumped from 75 per cent to 82 per cent in 2003, but noted the percentage of folks who didn’t like him climbed from 12 per cent to 18 per cent.
In 2004 talent agent Patrick Whitesell told Los Angeles Times writer Kim Masters, “That kind of [media] coverage robs movie stars of their mystique.”
After that period of wild tabloid overexposure ruined his credibility with movie-goers and very nearly turned him into an industry in-joke, Affleck took some time for self reflection — “I was a little bit exhausted of myself,” he said — stopped saying ‘Yes!’ to every script that came his way and earned a second act.
In front of the camera — in movies like State of Play — and behind it, directing the critically acclaimed Gone Baby Gone, the man who had made four dozen movies since 1993 rebuilt his career, focusing on quality rather than quantity.
His next film saw him on both sides of the camera, directing, co-writing and starring in The Town, a crime drama that returned him to the scene of his first success, the Boston of Good Will Hunting. The Oscar-winning Argo followed and soon he’ll be seen as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The days of overexposure have come and gone, and he survived to have a thriving career.
“Now I think I’m kind of seen as just sort of somebody in Hollywood who works,” he says.