Ben Affleck (15 August 1972 -)
Few actors have had the career that Ben Affleck has (mostly) enjoyed. From his first appearance in the rarely seen drama The Dark End of the Street (1981) up until his more recent appearances as the Caped Crusader in both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad (both 2016), the Berkeley-born multi-hyphenate has made a number of critically acclaimed movies, been one half of the critically derided Bennifer, and staged a comeback thanks to a series of critically acclaimed directorial outings. In front of the camera he’s better as a brooding, contemplative anti-hero than the comic actor he was asked to be so often in his early career, while behind the camera he’s proved he can deliver some of the finest dramatic movies of recent years. And of course, he’s a two-time Oscar winner, for co-writing Good Will Hunting (1997) with Matt Damon, and for being a producer on Argo (2012). It would seem that his future is now inextricably linked with the DC Extended Universe – though we shouldn’t hold that against him – so it may be that his profile won’t extend much beyond that particular arena in the coming years. But even so, Affleck has enough clout within the Hollywood industry now to ensure that whatever he does in the coming years, it will be warmly received and showered with awards (unless he dons a batsuit). Here though are five movies he’s made that are worth seeing because of his involvement.
Changing Lanes (2002) – Character: Gavin Banek
A simple traffic accident leads to outright hostilities between a young lawyer (Affleck) and an alcoholic insurance salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) in Roger Michell’s cautionary tale, a movie that cleverly shifts its sympathies between both men while also condemning their behaviour at every turn. Affleck subverts his natural charisma to good effect in a performance that is the epitomy of “sweaty desperation”.
Boiler Room (2000) – Character: Jim Young
Affleck essays a supporting role here, playing the boss to Giovanni Ribisi’s aspiring investment broker in a movie that is unapologetically hard-boiled and rapacious. It may be Ribisi’s movie – and he’s very very good in it – but Affleck is unnervingly convincing as one of the co-founders of the firm he works for, and gives a scene-stealing performance early on that few actors of his generation could have provided.
State of Play (2009) – Character: Stephen Collins
An uneven but still gripping adaptation of the original BBC series, this sees Affleck as the potentially corrupt congressman who may or may not be involved in a string of murders being investigated by his old friend, a newspaper journalist (played by Russell Crowe). Affleck takes a role that could have been strictly by-the-numbers, and imbues it with a complexity that matches the narrative and makes for a worthy adversary for Crowe’s dogged journalist.
Going All the Way (1997) – Character: Gunner Casselman
As the extrovert buddy to Jeremy Davies’ introverted ex-serviceman in post-Korean War America, Affleck takes on a role that requires him to flaunt his obvious sexuality, and he rises to the challenge with gusto. Whenever he’s on screen he’s like a magnet for the eyes, a jock you can’t underestimate, and a character with much more depth than is usual for this type of role. Knowing this, Affleck gives an affecting performance, and steals the movie right from under Davies’s nose.
Hollywoodland (2006) – Character: George Reeves
For some, this is Affleck’s finest hour as an actor. As the increasingly haunted, yet charming Reeves (who played Superman on TV in the Fifties), Affleck gives a subtly shaded performance that reveals Reeves’ inability to deal with the pressures of fame, and highlights Affleck’s skills as an actor. Full of wonderful intuitive touches, it’s a supporting performance that feels like a lead role, and is mesmerising to watch, all a tribute to Affleck’s research, and commitment to the (real-life) character.