Ben Affleck: 'I Have a Strong Sense of Where I Want to Go' - MSN Entertainment News

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Ben Affleck: 'I Have a Strong Sense of Where I Want to Go'

By Dotson Rader
PARADE Magazine

In last week's issue of PARADE, Ben Affleck talked to Dotson Rader about his new movie, his loving family and what pushed him to change his life. Below, the actor talks more about his childhood and the highs and lows of celebrity.

On Growing Up
"I grew up in a home environment where I wasn't getting esteem for anything I did," he says. "I played sports, but I wasn't great at them, so it wasn't like I was super-athletic and getting a huge amount of praise for that. There was alcoholism at home because of my father. I changed schools [at 8 years old], and I didn't really know the kids at the new school. I felt alone."
On Becoming an Actor
"I got into acting as a young child on account of a sort of arbitrary thing," he explains. "A friend of my mom's was a casting director so, really as kind of a lark, I had a couple of acting jobs that had just enough exposure to give me the option to continue if I wanted to. I followed through with it. Then, basically, came the next stage — should I continue to act or not?"

On Matt Damon
Affleck says that, had he not met Matt Damon he probably would not have had a career as an actor. The two met when Ben was 8 and Matt was 10. They lived two blocks apart, shared a love of baseball and acting, and both attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.

"Matt gave acting a framework, an integration into the social hierarchy at school," he states. "As a teenager, the natural thing is to have friends who have common interests and so you fit together seamlessly. Before Matt, I was by myself. Acting was a solo activity where I'd just go off and do something, act in a little TV show or something, and no one understood it. None of the other kids knew what it was I did, how it worked, or anything. All of a sudden I had this friend, Matt, and he gets it and wants to do it and thinks it's interesting and wants to talk about it. Soon both of us are doing it." 

"When we were teenagers, like Matt was 16 and I was 14, we'd go together down to New York City [to audition for jobs]," Ben continues. "We'd take the train. Or sometimes we'd even take the airplane, back when there was the Eastern Shuttle or People's Express. It cost like $20 to fly and you could smoke on the plane. We were smoking like idiots because we thought we were really supposed to be grown-up. It was pitiful."

On the Worst Months of His Life
In 1988, Matt graduated high school and went on to Harvard University. Two years later, Ben graduated and enrolled at the University of Vermont. Emotionally, the two friends remained very close.

"I went to the University of Vermont because I had a kind of unrequited love for this high school girlfriend. She wasn't even at the University but at another school nearby. But I thought if I went to a school near her, just maybe ... I was really remedial about girls in so many ways. Interestingly, there are some parallels for things to come in my life."

"Two weeks after I got there, I called her room," he continues, "and some guy answered the phone! 'Who is this guy?' 'He's helping me study,' she says. Sure."

"Then, when I was playing an intramural basketball game, I fractured my hip. I was miserable," he recalls. "I was now on crutches in the coldest university in America, living in the dorm farthest from the main campus, and I didn't know a soul, nobody! I ate by myself in the cafeteria, and my girlfriend had a strange guy answering her phone! You laugh now, but I couldn't even sit down in the cafeteria. I had to kind of lean over to eat. Things were quickly going sideways for me. It was the worst two and a half months of my life! I had to get away!"
"It was Thanksgiving," he continues. "Obviously, things weren't panning out. I hadn't been to Spanish class in five weeks. I didn't have a car. I called Matt. 'You've got to pick me up! I can't walk that well. Come and get me now!' Matt was there in six hours. That was the last I ever saw of the University of Vermont. I never went back. I don't think I have any credits. It was not money well spent."

On Success
"When 'Good Will Hunting' was a success, Matt and I didn't know enough about the movie business to even know what would constitute success," he says. "We had no idea what to expect. And when it happened it was like one of those scenes in an old movie when a newspaper comes spinning out of the black on to the screen. You know, 'Hundred Million Box Office! Awards!'"

"It was a dreamlike time for me from December 1997 to March of '98. Before that, I was basically unknown. Then, bang! The starting gun fired, and everybody just started running. It was learn-on-the-job. And there were more opportunities for work than I had time to do them. Life was filling up very fast, and I was kind of off and running without even the ability to think about it. No time to reflect. I didn't even have time to feel overwhelmed it was so radical a shift in my life. I was on my own, trying to figure out how to have this relationship with Matt, but he was off doing his own thing making his movies."
"The trap for an actor is that you become too successful at what you're trying to do, and you can find yourself stuck there," he says. "As an actor there's so many ways that it can go wrong for you, and so few ways it can go right."
On Celebrity
"I got in this relationship with Jennifer Lopez," Ben says. "We were dating right at the moment when magazines were expanding and they realized that there was a much bigger market than they had exploited before. Us Weekly, OK, In Touch, In Style, and a bunch more came out. They needed content. Relationships became big stories. As a consequence [Jennifer and I] became a bigger and bigger story because everybody's covering it until it reaches this point of over-saturation. Then people get sick of it and resent it. Everybody's going, 'We hate this! This is exhausting! Why is this being shoved in our faces?' But people don't ask, 'Why are these magazines shoving it in our faces?'"

"Instead, what the public asks is, 'Why are these two people shoving their relationship in our faces?' They ask this despite the fact that I'm trying pretty hard to be hidden at this point because it's become pretty clear to me that this is a disaster in terms of my emotional life. Why? Because these magazines, with completely made-up bulls--t, created envy and fascination in the public, followed by fatigue and resentment. They perpetuated these fantasies about us and sold them to the public. And after too much of this, the public grew hungry for an Icarus-like fall."

On the Future
"I'm looking forward to directing," he says. "I love it. I do have a better sense of myself than I did before. In 1998 [after the success of 'Good Will Hunting'], everything was so new. I was trying to figure it out as I went along. It was trial and error. Eventually you go through this stuff and you figure some things out. A lot of it you learn by mistakes, some of it by success. I feel good, and maybe a little bit smarter. I have a strong sense of where I want to go."

"Life is very good," Ben says. "Am I a happy man? I am when I'm around my daughter [Violet, 21 months]. Then I'm a very happy man."

For exclusive photos of Ben Affleck, click here.

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