Ben Affleck

"I'm always described as 'cocksure' or 'with a swagger', and that bears no resemblance to who I feel like inside," Hollywood heart-throb Ben Affleck once commented. "I feel plagued by insecurity."

These days, though, with his asking price at $10 million per movie, an Oscar in the bag and a settled family existence, the actor must be feeling his life has shaped up rather well.

Benjamin Geza Affleck was born on August 15, 1972, in Berkeley, California. A year later his family moved to a working class neighbourhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here, his father Tim worked as a mechanic, a bartender and a janitor at Harvard university � a job which would later inspire parts of the film Good Will Hunting, which Ben co-wrote. Affleck senior's alcoholism put a strain on the family, however, and Ben's parents were divorced before his 12th birthday. Father and son have since formed a solid friendship.

Ben caught the acting bug early on, appearing in ads for Burger King and public TV project The Voyage Of The Mimi. Convinced by his mother Chris, a Radcliffe graduate and state system schoolteacher, that college was the best plan, he enrolled at the University of Vermont. He lasted just one semester, however, before decamping to Los Angeles.

On the West Coast he enrolled in college again, but soon dropped out to focus on acting. He moved into an apartment with childhood pal Matt Damon and the two set about auditioning while developing a storyline Matt had started for a class as a Harvard undergraduate. The script later sold for $600,000 and became the movie Good Will Hunting, which earned Ben, then 25, an Oscar.

Since then, Ben's been offered nearly every role in town. "There's no shortage of parts for a leading man between 25 and 35; probably 80 per cent of the movies are written with that guy as the protagonist. So I get comedies and action-adventure movies, superhero movies, weird independent movies, bad independent movies, good independent movies. I even get scripts where the lead is a black woman, but, 'We can change it and rewrite it if you're interested'."

Despite splashing out $1.7 million on a six-bedroom home in the Hollywood Hills, not to mention his loft in New York's trendy Tribeca neighbourhood, Ben insists he's still the guy from Massachusetts who loves his mum, Subway sandwiches, and hanging out with friends including his brother, actor Casey Affleck.

In August 2001, however, the actor checked into a rehab centre. Having learned about the dangers of alcohol from his father he had decided to seek help early on. Meanwhile his love life had become tabloid fodder � all part of fame, he concedes � including a romance with his Bounce co-star Gwyneth Paltrow, followed by a high-profile relationship with Jennifer Lopez. Although he presented the sultry Latina star with a hefty pink solitaire engagement ring and showered her with other lavish gifts, the two eventually called it a day in early 2004. As if the "Bennifer" headlines weren't bad enough he also made several bad choices which threatened to change the course of his career.

He was becoming known more for his A-list girlfriends than his work - which included the box office flops Gigli and Jersey Girl. "I should never have got engaged," he says now. "I had to smile for the cameras but I was really in turmoil. I was no longer in control of my life and I didn't know which way to turn." He earned a brief critical reprieve for 2002's Changing Lanes which he says "made up for all those terrible Pearl Harbour reviews". But then he made comic-book action thriller Daredevil which again was poorly received.

One good thing to come out of that movie, however, was a relationship and subsequent marriage to his co-star Jennifer Garner. This time round he wasn't about to make the same mistakes and kept their love life as low-key as possible. With none of the fanfare which accompanied his engagement to J Lo, he secretly wed the actress in June 2005. When the intimate nuptials were revealed to the public, there was yet another surprise. A spokesperson confirmed the bride was pregnant with the couple's first child. On December 1 of that year, Jennifer duly presented the actor with a daughter, Violet Anne Affleck.

In 2006 Ben turned the tables on his flagging career with a highly acclaimed portrayal of Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland - walking away with the best actor award at the Venice Film Festival. "I made the choice to change the kind of projects I wanted to work on," he said. And fatherhood seemed to be having the right kind of influence: "My daughter is going to have my name attached to her name, and I want her to like (what I do) even if it means that I am doing theatre or small character roles or directing."

But the devoted husband and dad has also learned to handle the highs and the lows, and take any future backlashes with a dash of salt. "I can take it in my stride," he says. "Hollywoodland is nice, and people like it, but there will be another movie that I am in that people will beat up on. I've done enough to know that that's OK. You can't help but suffer and take some shots. Buit I give myself permission to relax and enjoy something good when it happens."

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