Courtesy of MCT
Nine years ago, Ben Affleck was a Hollywood punch line, and justifiably so. In 2003 alone, he starred in “Daredevil,” “Gigli” and “Paycheck,” all of which were reviled by critics and audiences alike. What began as a promising career looked like it was bound to drown in a sea of trash, and it seemed like it wouldn’t be long before Affleck dropped off the face of the Earth.
Then in 2007, Affleck made the smartest choice of his career. He decided he was done making bad movies, and that the best way to control the quality of his films was to actually make them himself. Since then, he’s been able to put together one of the most remarkable Hollywood comebacks in recent memory. With the release of “Argo” this Friday, he’s gone from one of the most mocked men in show business to one of the most respected.
His first directorial effort was “Gone Baby Gone,” a Boston crime drama starring his brother Casey Affleck. At that time anti-Affleck sentiment was still quite prevalent, and the thought of the star of “Gigli” actually making a movie wasn’t exactly met with the warmest reception. Once people actually saw the movie, however, it was quite the wake-up call.
Gone was any sign of the guy who latched on to projects like “Daredevil” and found himself in the tabloids at every turn. “Gone Baby Gone” was a dark, complex drama that immediately converted all who saw it. People went in with virtually no expectations, and left with the realization that Ben Affleck was a filmmaker with things to say. Directing a movie wasn’t one last stab at relevance; perhaps this is the position Ben Affleck was always meant to hold.
The question then became whether or not “Gone Baby Gone” was a fluke, and the second film Ben Affleck directed would be perhaps the most important of his career. He responded in 2010 with “The Town,” a clichÃ©d but expertly directed bank heist film that was met with quite a bit of acclaim in the industry . Even those who didn’t care for the material admitted that this film proved that Ben Affleck was pretty darn good at this new job.
This transition from movie star to artist has also positively influenced his acting work, which even he would likely admit was weak before his recent resurgence. He will never be Daniel Day-Lewis, but he hasn’t turned in a bad performance in quite some time. Films such as “State of Play” and “The Company Men” have actually been improved by Ben Affleck’s acting, and next year he will be seen in “To the Wonder,” the latest film by “The Tree of Life” director Terrence Malick.
“Argo” is his latest film, and while I have not seen it yet, it has been met with some of the best reviews of Ben Affleck’s career, and the awards buzz has been swirling around this project for a while. If everything pans out, this film could be the project that completes his transition from late night talk show fodder to Academy Awards darling. It’s quite the comeback, and one that proves just how much can be accomplished when one decides to take control of their career. He stopped letting the industry push him around, and he’s better off for it.