Ben Affleck has returned to rehab. PIcture: Mike Coppola
Ben Affleck has returned to rehab. PIcture: Mike Coppola

Ben Affleck says he made a ‘deal with the devil’

OVER the past 12 months, things had been looking sunny for Ben Affleck.

Despite a divorce and a rehab visit - his millionaire movie career was continuing on unabated as he played Batman and directed documentaries.

Being one of the biggest and most established actors in the world gives you leverage with the press, with your private life.

After filing divorce papers with Jennifer Garner in April last year, the two brokered joint custody and had been happily co-parenting, visiting church together and even took a holiday to the Caribbean as a family.

He was also in a healthy relationship with Saturday Night Live producer Lindsay Shookus and was keeping up with his work and being a dad.

 

Affleck and his SNL partner Lindsay Shookus at the Emmy Awards in September 2017. Picture: Alex Berliner/Invision for the Television Academy/Splash
Affleck and his SNL partner Lindsay Shookus at the Emmy Awards in September 2017. Picture: Alex Berliner/Invision for the Television Academy/Splash

 

But in the past month, everything has rapidly fallen apart.

Reports have surfaced over the past fortnight of Affleck holed up in his LA mansion, boozing alone for days on end on delivered alcohol.

He spent his 46th birthday with 22-year-old Playboy model Shauna Sexton, who's waxed lyrical about drinking "whiskey all day".

Breakups from famous, beautiful actresses followed by bouts of heavy boozing with Playboy Playmates and other younger women are an established Affleck pattern.

These troughs have been followed by the media since 2002, when his infamous 18-month whirlwind romance with Jennifer Lopez unfurled in front of the world.

Affleck fought public criticism of the relationship, but the engagement was called off with many close friends speaking publicly about their disdain for 'Bennifer'.

Multiple reports have surfaced saying his most recent girlfriend had to leave him to "hit rock bottom".

A week after his birthday party, his ex-wife Jennifer Garner arrived at his house in tears, staging an intervention.

Affleck let Garner drive him to a facility in Malibu (they stopped for burgers on the way) and the Batman star checked into his third visit to rehab.

 

BOOZY CHARM AND CRUSHING INSECURITY

Beyond the booze, it seems like Affleck's afflicting beast is his insecurity.

He has said that he has little faith in his acting abilities - he believes he relies on his charm more than his talent.

Dating streams of beautiful women has been a constant hallmark of Affleck's life, both when he is stable and crumbling.

Affleck's insecurities were compounded by relentless bullying about his appearance early in his career.

Upon agreeing to do Pearl Harbor, director Michael Bay openly griped about Affleck's teeth. He was repeatedly told by directors and industry folk that he was talented, but too unattractive to be a leading man.

"I wasn't this guy who everyone lusted after", he told Vanity Fairin 2003, after being voted People's Sexist Man Alive three months earlier.

"I got dumped. I got cheated on. I had to pursue girlfriends who didn't really want to be with me. I always had difficulty getting roles. I was gangly, sort of uncoordinated, and not in control of my body. I was big; I was tall; I had baby fat. My tooth was cracked …"

 

Affleck in Pearl Harbor, one of his first blockbuster roles.
Affleck in Pearl Harbor, one of his first blockbuster roles.

 

The women involved have often reflected on the relationships as being shallow or leaving them feeling insecure.

Gwyneth Paltrow, an ex-girlfriend and constant public commenter on Affleck's life, romance and career choices, took a stab at Affleck in an ABC News interview, saying his ideal woman would be "any sort of stripper at Scores. Anyone that serves cold beer in a bikini."

She also noted that, "When you're a kid, you tend to be more shallow and you're also immature, so you think that being with a good looking person validates yourself in some kind of way. It's not true."

Affleck has often been labelled a philanderer; he was photographed fooling around with his nanny at the tail end of his ten year marriage to Jennifer Garner, the two seen holding hands, canoodling and exchanging bottles of booze.

Garner said the fallout for her was a "year of wine" and that she "had to have conversations about the meaning of 'scandal'" with their three children.

Affleck spoke in 2003 about his life as a drinker being a constant cycle of partying riddled with confusion, bravado and regret.

"I wanted to break the cycle of going out drinking, feeling hungover and tired in the morning, not remembering conversations you had, being vaguely aware you were obnoxious … It felt vapid and meaningless and stupid."

These fallouts are sometimes coupled with spending sprees and bouts of gambling.

Affleck strongly denies he has a problem with spending, women or other addictions.

He told Vanity Fair in 2003 that US$18,000 is only "about six outfits at Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana."

 

Garner officially filed for divorce from Affleck in April 2017. PIcture: Christopher Polk/Getty
Garner officially filed for divorce from Affleck in April 2017. PIcture: Christopher Polk/Getty

WHO IS BEN AFFLECK? WHO IS THE BEAST?

Affleck was born in Berkeley, California to a Harvard-educated mother and a father who was

a failed playwright and a career alcoholic.

Affleck's younger brother Casey described their childhood like the Lord of the Flies, saying they often fought other kids with weapons.

Their dad's resumé from the time was dynamic, likely informed by prioritising his addiction above his professional life - throughout their childhood he worked as a carpenter, an auto mechanic, a bookie, an electrician, a bartender, and a janitor at Harvard.

Their father did, however, regularly perform at the local theatre and maintained a love of literature, a famous family story being one where Tim Affleck accidentally met William Faulkner.

Affleck clearly adores literature, peppering references to books and authors throughout his

interviews.

For a guy from Boston, his grabs can be ostentatious.

He told the New York Times in 2000, "Those of us who have agreed to this Faustian bargain deserve our drubbings at the hands of the Fourth Estate. We entered into the agreement willingly".

These drubbings have been harsh, for sure, but Affleck offers verbose quotes like this when responding to how he feels about being photographed buying condoms in a 7-Eleven.

Paltrow said in a 2000 interview that Affleck's upbringing was difficult but not nightmarish.

"He loves both his parents dearly."

Affleck likely always wanted to be a famous actor.

His father cautioned him against the business, saying it was "the stupidest fucking job in the world", but he had other influences.

He and Damon met when they were eight years old, growing up two blocks from one another in Boston.

They'd meet in their high school cafeteria and have "business meetings" to brainstorm how to further their acting careers.

They planned to first move to New York City and then to LA when they were more established.

Damon has described Ben Affleck as, "charismatic, loyal, a fantastic storyteller and a great friend who can laugh even when things go terribly, horribly wrong."

Damon has also acknowledged that both he and Affleck have problematic tempers that they've both had to work on.

 

Damon and the Afflecks when they were kids growing up in Boston. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty
Damon and the Afflecks when they were kids growing up in Boston. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty

 

Affleck majored in Middle Eastern studies at college, telling O Magazinethat the topic has continued to hold his interest.

His list of favourite books is made up of obscure historical narratives about faraway lands traversed by brave journalists; Affleck loves tales of people finding a "human path through the wreckage of an inhuman event".

This kind of verbose and dramatic language is not unusual for Affleck - he is intelligent, well-read, and intent on conveying meaning even when he is frustrated with the press.

He is fascinated by genocide, war, survivors and extrapolations about the value of the free press.

He called his own fame a "deal with the devil" and refers to his fame as making him a type of "whore".

He also lists the Bible as one of his favourite books, for its explication of boundless love.

J LO, SUPERSTARDOM AND OTHER BROKEN HEARTS

In 2003, Ben Affleck was hyper-famous, sickeningly in love and commandingly successful.

He was getting paid US$15 million per movie and was engaged to Jennifer Lopez.

This was after a long stint in rehab, his first, in 2001.

After working with Lopez, Affleck took out an ad in Variety Magazine in March 2002 praising his girlfriend.

Lopez had been labelled a diva by the press but Affleck had signed his ad "With love, respect and gratitude, Ben Affleck".

The pair had an arrestingly romantic courtship, despite being continually ridiculed by the press.

During the shooting of Gigli, Affleck was publicly affectionate, making out with Lopez

on NYC streets after directors had yelled "cut" while hordes of photographers rushed in.

Meetings were postponed on both Gigli and Jersey Girl because their shared trailer was 'rocking'.

People speculated Affleck had traded one addiction for another.

Labels were assigned to both Lopez and Affleck. One was 'Bennifer'. Others were less sweet and more explicit and racially charged - Lopez was often cast as a caricatured 'Latina Man Eater', and Affleck as a 'Meat Head'.

 

Lopez and Affleck at the premiere for Gigli. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty
Lopez and Affleck at the premiere for Gigli. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty

 

False reports surfaced in tabloids that Lopez demanded in their pre-nup that Affleck "make love to her four times a week".

"There's nobody who's more misunderstood [than Affleck],' Matt Damon has said of this period.

"He was being cast in a role, that he was a talentless kind of meat-head … It was painful."

Lopez said after Affleck broke off their engagement, she felt heartbreak for the first time in her life. It took her two years to fully recover.

"I lost my sense of self, questioned if I belonged in this business, thought maybe I did suck at everything."

"Men in their 20s are very confident and cocky, and women are super insecure," Lopez reflected on their time together in 2017.

"And then it flips - men get super insecure, and women get comfortable in their own skin, in a way that makes them more beautiful."

Following the dissolution of their 18-month whirlwind romance, Affleck called the public's outright rejection of the couple an issue of, "race and class … We were thought of as two different kinds of people, not just racially but culturally".

ALCOHOLISM AN AFFLECK AFFLICTION

Affleck is ferociously intelligent but comes from a lineage of alcoholics; he and his brother Casey have routinely described as being "genetic".

Casey Affleck said in 2017 that he had been sober for three years, but admitted: "My father

was a disaster of a drinker. It ruined his life. My grandmother was an alcoholic, my brother spent some time in rehab.

"It's in our genes."

 

Affleck has struggled with addiction for decades, returning to rehab for the third time. Picture: Mike Coppola
Affleck has struggled with addiction for decades, returning to rehab for the third time. Picture: Mike Coppola

 

Affleck's father got sober in 1990 and is now a drug and alcohol counsellor and the two are now close.

"It gives me hope that with the right amount of work and discipline, I can address and remedy some of the things I don't like very much about myself," Affleck told Rolling Stone in 2004.

"I feel like a guy who is almost at the finish line."

At this time he said he was too "irritated" to even think about drinking.

"I'll sort of disappear for a good long time, and not be … this person."

Affleck's father told Grazia last year that he blames the boys' career choices for their struggles with addiction.

"Hollywood is a disgusting place. I think that's been a major factor in Ben's drinking."

- Phoebe Loomes is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @dollyybird