The Rise And Fall And Rise Of Ben Affleck

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Tom Pheby charts the roller-coaster career of Ben Affleck...

It wasn't so long ago that Ben Affleck couldn't get tramps into a cinema on a wet and blustery evening to watch one of his films, but now he's hotter than a hot dog on the bonnet of a hot rod in the blazing heat of the Sudan!

His career has certainly been something of a roller-coaster. After achieving huge commercial and critical success in 1997, alongside pal Matt Damon, with Good Will Hunting, Affleck shot to the Hollywood rank of 'Leading Man Status', and it wasn't long before his first major blockbuster role arrived. Playing A.J. Frost in 1998's Armageddon, Affleck managed to avoid the negativity piled on the film by movie critics, with The New Yorker remarking:
"Affleck demonstrates a sexy Paul Newmanish charm and is clearly bound for stardom."
Affleck followed this with a supporting role as an arrogant English actor in Shakespeare in Love, and again reviewers were kind, with Variety commenting that Affleck
"...does some of his very best work, suggesting that comedy may be his true calling."
But it wasn't long before his career went into sharp decline. The New York Times revieweviews for Phantoms pointing out:
"Affleck's thudding performance suggests he is reading his dialogue for the first time, directly from cue cards."

And so it went on. Such was the shortage of good films in his career that I used to refer to him as Ben Nafflick, for you could rely on him to deliver a pointless, lifeless and consistently awful performance, no matter who wrote the script, co-starred alongside him or was daft enough to direct.

Chief amongst his many stinkers was 2003's Daredevil, a film only rivalled by the tragic Green Lantern, George Clooney's Batman and Robin and Halle Berry's Catwoman, as the worst comic strip film of all time.

Miscast as Jack Ryan in The Sum of all Fears, The New York Times felt:
"...he simply lacks the gravitas for the role"
Pearl Harbor.... Gigli.... Stinker after stinker, they had to install windows in the cinemas whenever a Nafflick film was playing.

By 2003 Ben was a jobbing actor and nothing more, a pretty face who was at the time probably better known for climbing the frame of the notoriously curvaceous J-Lo and stroking his highly defined chin in a shaving commercial, than for making credible movies that identified him as a genuine star.

Affleck used to resort to firearms to get audiences to watch his movies.

But still he got work. He was like a cinematic equivalent of a verruca. A star for no reason with no obvious talent and who's looks were good enough to make Puff Daddy throw away his self indulgent talking mirror after a minor disagreement over "who is the fairest" - or something along those lines.

But Ben is now suddenly getting justified attention, and not just from his therapist. He's managed to go from 'zero' to 'not zero anymore'. But how has this Jesus type resurrection come about? What was the secret that stopped the decline in a cinematic career that had all the promise of a Chernobyl steak house?

Well, he basically stopped making rubbish films and thought "Hold on a mo, I might as well write scripts and direct myself. At least I get twice the amount of money"

2010 saw him star in The Town, which he also co-wrote and directed. It's the story of a gang of bank robbers that are trapped in a life of crime by their inability to do anything else in a poverty stricken neighbourhood, but its also about the sudden realisation that man can change given the chance. Affleck's character, Doug MacRay, falls in love with the victim of one of his daring raids. At first he strikes up a relationship with Claire to find out what she knows but his true feelings become clear. Once that is established it acts as a trigger for Affleck to break away and start anew, but he is committed to one last job and feels obligated to his friends who are more like brothers.

It's all a bit Bob De Niro in Heat but it's a brilliant, brilliant film that was critically acclaimed and quite rightly scooped a cool $154 million, and with its release Affleck was suddenly back on the map.

Affleck's next big outing was Argo which saw the actor/director scoop a barrow of awards, including Best Film at the 85th Academy (let's pat ourselves on the back) Awards.

This American political thriller film was adapted from U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez's book The Master of Disguise, and Joshuah Bearman's 2007 Wired article The Great Escape. It tells the story of how the CIA used a fake sci-fi flick to rescue Americans from Tehran, during the U.S hostage crisis of 1980. It's a brilliantly tense and gripping film which shows that the CIA can be as dumb as anyone when it comes to hatching ridiculous plots. Remember the assassination attempts on the Cuban leader? Plans to put explosives in Castro's cigars, and to even shave his beard off to give him less credibility? No? Just me then.

It would seem that Argo finally proved that Affleck had the control needed to make films that are both relevant and substantial to a movie going audience, and this has helped pave the way for him to star as Batman in the upcoming Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Affleck's jaw is squeezed into the famous mask with the aid of a tub of Flora and a tyre lever.

Affleck's appointment as the Caped Crusader has been questioned by many, but I'm expecting big things now he has turned the corner in his career.

Zack Snyder directs the film due for release in 2016, and if the trailers are anything to go by this should be absolutely awesome. A deliciously dark and gritty affair that has hit written all over it.

The scarce plot: The world's in a state of fear because the powerful and godlike Superman is able to go about his business unchecked and unaccountable. So Gotham's most famous son takes on Metroplis' "pants on the outside" saviour, as the inhabitants of Earth ponder what sort of hero it needs, if it needs one at all. As the pair go head to head a new threat arises, one that threatens mankind's very existence .

And if that doesn't make you want to go and buy some popcorn and listen to some inconsiderate buggers mobile phone go off at a key point in the film, what will?

Affleck's interpretation of DC's Dark Knight has apparently impressed the bigwigs so much that they've given him the keys to the franchise, and he we're told he will write, direct and star in a series of future Batman movies.

So as Affleck's renaissance continues all bodes well for the former pin up. His days of wishy-washy movies are seemingly behind him. They are gone (for now) but not forgotten, and strangely this may make him even more box office. He's learnt from his mistakes (and I don't mean the recent alleged fling with the nanny! a-hem.), and Hollywood now trusts him enough to create the sort of films he wants to make, and the sort of films we want to see.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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