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The rise and fall and rise of Ben Affleck

Let's take a moment and admire Affleck's success as a writer, director and actor

Ben Affleck is one of his generation’s greatest talents. A true triple threat, Affleck has the ability to act, direct and produce. Just this past year, Affleck won the Golden Globe and Director’s Guild Award for best director, and his film “Argo” won the Academy Award for best picture. But it is easy to forget that just a few years ago, Affleck’s career was laughable, inciting jeers and disrespect.

Affleck’s career began humbly, as a child actor in a PBS educational special. Years later, Affleck gained recognition by appearing in a Burger King commercial, a spot that landed him several small roles. In the early 1990s, Affleck was featured in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dazed and Confused” and several independent films. However, such projects proved weary for the ambitious actor.

In 1994, Affleck and his longtime friend Matt Damon completed their draft of the drama “Good Will Hunting.” The two buddies went on to win well-deserved Academy Awards for best original screenplay, a thrilling moment which skyrocketed both Affleck and Damon’s careers, turning them into household names. However, the character Affleck played in the film, the dumb and immature friend of the genius (Damon), turned into a bit of a typecast. In fact, many, including “Family Guy” and Mindy Kaling of “The Office,” poked fun at Affleck. On an episode of “Family Guy,” Matt Damon was seen typing away as Affleck smoked pot and made crude jokes.

Nonetheless, “Good Will Hunting” opened up an enormous number of doors for Affleck, allowing him to choose numerous projects, both good and bad. Some of his roles were well chosen, such as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Changing Lanes,” although it would soon appear as if Affleck was simply looking to make money, like his roles in “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor.” While he was clearly paid a hefty sum, the movies and performances alike came across as overwrought and cheesy.

After his big-budget phase, things went from bad to worsefor Affleck. In terms of his acting, saying he began to make extremely poor decisions is an understatement. Between “Gigli,” “Jersey Girl” and “Surviving Christmas,” Affleck endured a period of commercial and critical failure. His personal life also became the subject of ridicule. In 2002, “Bennifer,” the super-couple of Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, came to center stage. Their highly publicized romance led to overexposure for both of the celebrities, which many, including Affleck himself, say negatively impacted his career as fans grew weary of the couple.

Affleck quickly began to realize that his life needed to change, and fast. After breaking it off with Jenny from the Block, he married “Daredevil” costar Jennifer Garner, and began to pursue directing, a longtime passion of his. Finally, Affleck was about to hit his stride.

In 2007, he made his feature-length directorial debut with the Boston-set mystery-thriller “Gone Baby Gone.” Although the film did feebly at the box office, Ben Affleck’s directing, his brother Casey’s performance and the general picture were well-received by critics and audiences alike. “Gone Baby Gone” was a jumping-off point for Affleck’s directorial career, and gave him a chance to exceed all expectations with a gritty and powerful film.

With some reluctance after his previous film’s poor box office performance, Affleck signed on to direct “The Town.” This film was also set in Boston, but this time its protagonists, Jeremy Renner and Ben Affleck himself, were ruthless robbers. Unlike “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town” was a commercial success in addition to being a crowd-pleaser and critic favorite, raking in over $150 million worldwide. The picture has been praised for its ability to emanate raw performances while also being extremely intense and action-packed. Affleck’s experience regarding intensity would serve him well on his next project, “Argo.”

“Gone Baby Gone” proved he could direct. “The Town” proved to audiences that he could act. “Argo” proved that he exceeds at both. Affleck’s natural ability allowed him to direct a film perfectly balanced in its suspense and its comedy. In addition, this movie allowed him to break out of his comfort zone of Boston, taking audiences from Hollywood all the way to Iran. In terms of his acting, Affleck’s performance was subtle yet genuine. He was able to play the unlikely hero without a tinge of corniness. The awards “Argo” won were well deserved, and fans and critics alike were elated by Affleck’s best picture win after his infamous best director snub.

With three substantial director credits to his name, it is clear that Affleck has finally found his niche in Hollywood. Over the course of his career, he has gone from no-name struggling actor, to Academy Award-winning screenwriter, to cash-hungry butt-of-every-joke, to highly esteemed director.

So what’s next for Ben Affleck? A crime-drama titled “Runner, Runner” which will be released in September of 2013. The plot will involve online poker, business corruption and the FBI and will star Justin Timberlake. Something about this movie gives off the impression that it will not be remembered as one of Affleck’s great works. However, it is clear that a promising and hopefully directing-centered career lies ahead for Ben Affleck.