Ben Affleck has enjoyed Oscar-winning success, appeared in multiple blockbuster movies and even played Batman. But the star of Good Will Hunting, Armageddon and Argo has had to deal with several demons during his glittering career, too. And in several interviews in 2020, he opened up about the most regretful period of his eventful life.
Affleck was on the promotional trail at the time for his latest movie, The Way Back. The star plays Jack Cunningham in the high school basketball drama directed by Gavin O’Connor. And it turns out that there is one major parallel between Affleck and his troubled character. Both have experienced issues with addiction.
The story centers on Cunningham as he agrees, with much reluctance, to take on a basketball coaching position at his old high school. The character had previously been a sensation on the court at his alma mater but had failed to make the most of his potential. By the time he’s offered the attempt at redemption, he’s a widowed alcoholic.
Touching upon everything from his own failed marriage to his battle with sobriety, Affleck certainly wasn’t afraid to get candid while promoting the film. The Academy Award winner revealed that his time in rehab had instilled a strong sense of honesty in him. Brooks Barnes from The New York Times newspaper even began his profile with, “This is Ben Affleck, raw and vulnerable, talking extensively for the first time about getting sober (again) and trying to recalibrate his career (again).”
Affleck was talking ahead of what was due to be a busy 12 months for the A-lister. That same month he appeared in Netflix movie The Last Thing He Wanted and later that year he was due to hit the big screen in Deep Water. The star also had filming commitments for Hypnotic, The Last Duel and The Filming scheduled.
But it was the story of Jack Cunningham in The Way Back that allowed Affleck to further address his own troubles. The actor had first publicly discussed his battle with substance abuse in 2012 in an interview with newspaper The Hollywood Reporter. Affleck told the publication that he’d gone to rehab 11 years previously after letting his hedonistic lifestyle get a little too out of control.
Affleck said, “I went to rehab for being 29 and partying too much and not having a lot of boundaries and to clear my head and try to get some idea of who I wanted to be. It was more a ‘Let me get myself straight,’ before it became a rite of passage.” Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time that the star would need to seek professional help.
In 2017 Affleck issued a statement to confirm that he’d once again sought treatment at a rehab facility. He said, “I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step.”
Sadly, Affleck found himself back in the same facility within a year. In April 2018 the Pearl Harbor star took to Instagram to inform his followers that he’d sought treatment for a third time. However, he was keen to point out that seeking assistance is a “sign of courage, not weakness or failure.”
Affleck, who spent 40 days in the facility, also stated, “Battling any addiction is a lifelong and difficult struggle. Because of that, one is never really in or out of treatment. It is a full-time commitment. I am fighting for myself and my family.” The Hollywood star went on to thank those on social media who’d reached out to express their support.
“With acceptance and humility, I continue to avail myself with the help of so many people and I am grateful to all those who are there for me,” Affleck concluded. “I hope down the road I can offer an example to others who are struggling.” The star was also more than happy to continue discussing his ongoing battle to maintain sobriety in a chat with NBC’s Today TV show the following year.
Speaking to Hoda Kotb, Affleck admitted that alcoholism was part of his life. He said, “It’s something that I deal with. It doesn’t have to sort of subsume my whole identity and be everything, but it is something that you know you have to work at. I feel like I had a problem and I really want to address it, and I take some pride in that.”
Affleck also had no problem talking about his relationship with ex-wife Jennifer Garner, either. Referring to their two children, the star said, “I’m lucky they’ve got a great mom, and she helps out a great deal with making sure that we co-parent in as good a way as possible… that’s really the central preoccupation in my life, you know, the focus of my life is what I love doing.”
Garner and Affleck had walked down the aisle together in 2005 two years after they shared the screen in superhero movie Daredevil. The couple went on to have three kids, Violet, Seraphina and Samuel. Sadly, in 2015 the Hollywood A-listers revealed to the world that they were going their separate ways.
Despite rumors that the pair were trying to patch up their marriage in March 2017, Affleck and Garner officially filed for divorce soon after. Thankfully, the once-happy couple were able to split without getting into any slanging matches. In fact, their divorce proceedings were said to be entirely amicable and the pair continued to enjoy a close relationship.
Furthermore, Garner had taken Affleck to the Malibu rehab center where he once again sought treatment in 2018. And the star was keen to express his gratitude to his ex-wife in the statement he released shortly afterwards. He said, “I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do.”
Garner continued to be supportive of her former husband following his third stint in rehab. Later that same year she posted a heartwarming Father’s Day message to the star on her Instagram account alongside a photo of Affleck and their offspring. It read, “Our kids are lucky to have a dad who looks at them the way you look at them and loves them the way you love them.”
And Garner remained a source of strength when her ex-husband relapsed in 2019. Affleck had been pictured in an inebriated state in West Hollywood while exiting the UNICEF Masquerade Ball. After heading straight for Garner’s house the morning after, the actor told reporters, “It happens. It was a slip. But I’m not going to let it derail me.”
Following his divorce from Garner, Affleck entered into a relationship with Lindsay Shookus, a writer on TV comedy institution Saturday Night Live. The pair enjoyed several romantic getaways, including a trip to Maine. After a break in which Affleck dated model Shauna Sexton, he and Shookus reunited. But sadly, it wasn’t meant to be and the pair split for good in 2019.
In early 2020 the press reported that Affleck had started dating Ana de Armas, his co-star in Deep Water. The pair first got tongues wagging when they were pictured in Cuba together. Knives Out actress de Armas has since posted a number of Instagram photos in which she and Affleck appear to be loved-up.
But who knows what de Arnas made of the interviews that her new beau gave to TV show Good Morning America and The New York Times that same year. Indeed, a candid Affleck proved that he still had plenty of feelings for his ex-wife in the chats to promote his movie The Way Back. In fact, he described his divorce from Garner as the biggest regret of his life.
Speaking to Good Morning America’s Diane Sawyer, Affleck admitted, “I never thought I was gonna get divorced. I didn’t want to get divorced. I didn’t wanna be a divorced person. I really didn’t wanna be a split family with my children. And it upset me. It meant I wasn’t who I thought I was. And that was so painful and so disappointing… in myself.”
Affleck knows all about what it’s like to come from a broken home. The star’s father was an alcoholic whose tendency to get drunk every single day eventually split his family apart. Affleck recalled, “That was really, really painful. And I always said, ‘That’ll never be me. I’m never gonna do that.’”
Having got sober in the wake of his rehab stint at the turn of the century, Affleck no doubt thought he’d avoided following in the footsteps of his father. However, he began a slippery slope when he began turning to alcohol again just a few years later. The star told Sawyer, “I thought, you know I wanna just drink like a normal person and I want to have wine at dinner and so on.”
Initially, Affleck was able to keep his drinking under control. In fact, he went approximately eight years without becoming too reliant on alcohol, he told Good Morning America. Sadly, his old demons eventually resurfaced and by the early 2010s the star was regularly passing out on the sofa having ended the working day with a drinking session.
Even worse, Affleck had become a married man and parent to two children at this point, Violet and Seraphina. Moreover, by 2012 he and Garner had added to their brood with the birth of son Samuel. But although he accepted he had a problem in his late 20s and did something about it, this time around the star was in a state of denial.
Affleck told Sawyer, “I started to drink more and more and more and it was really hard for me to accept… that meant I was an alcoholic. I was like, ‘I can just go back, I was fine before. I just need to take a break, I just need to slow down. I’m okay. This isn’t me.’”
Eventually, Affleck realized that he needed to change his ways for the sake of his three kids and particularly during their all-important early years. He said, “I really don’t want my children to pay for my sins. Or to be afraid for me, which is one of the hard parts of being the child of an alcoholic.”
Affleck has acknowledged that despite his best efforts, he’s still hurt his family with his actions. He continued, “Divorce is very painful and alcoholism is very painful. They just are. If there’s something that your child is suffering, that’s a level of pain that is just not easily gotten past, not easily forgiven, not easily forgotten. And it’s hard.”
However, the A-list actor has since done everything he can to ensure that Violet, Seraphina and Samuel enjoy as much stability as possible. Affleck added, “I took the last half of the year off and I just got to be dad. Drive them to school, pick them up. Go to the swim meet… that’s where the parenting happens.”
Affleck has also benefited greatly from being such a hands-on dad. He added, “It’s in the moments where you’re just taking them back from soccer and they see something profound or they talk about how they’re really feeling about something. And it’s like that’s where you get to be the parent. That’s the joy of it and that’s what I don’t want to miss.”
When asked by Sawyer whether he had a message for his ex-wife, Affleck replied with another heartfelt tribute. He said, “Thank you. Thank you for being thoughtful, considerate, responsible and a great mom and person.” Of course, this wasn’t the only time in 2020 that Affleck addressed his battles and the effect they had on his family.
That same month Affleck also described his split with Garner as the biggest regret of his life while speaking to The New York Times. Although he admitted he no longer felt shame about the divorce, the star confessed that he still harbored guilt. Affleck added, “Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing.”
Affleck continued, “It’s not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures – the relapses – and beat myself up. I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret. But you’ve got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward.”
Furthermore, Affleck attempted to explain the reasons why he had fallen into such a desperate state in the first place. He said, “People with compulsive behavior, and I am one, have this kind of basic discomfort all the time that they’re trying to make go away. You’re trying to make yourself feel better with eating or drinking or sex or gambling or shopping or whatever. But that ends up making your life worse… Then the real pain starts.”
“That’s at least what happened to me,” Affleck revealed. “I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart. This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems.”
Of course, unlike most addicts, Affleck has had to deal with his particular issues in the public eye. He told The New York Times, “Relapse is embarrassing, obviously. I wish it didn’t happen. I really wish it wasn’t on the internet for my kids to see. Jen and I did our best to address it and be honest.”
Garner hasn’t publicly commented on her ex-husband’s remarks. But an insider reportedly told In Touch Weekly magazine, “She’s impressed he’s taken ownership of his mistakes and sees it as a sign that he’s made huge progress. It’s been a long hard process, but he’s finally on the straight and narrow, and she’s proud of him for staying strong.”
As it happened, Affleck’s own hardships have ended up inspiring one of the most acclaimed performances of his latter-day career. Indeed, Vanity Fair magazine wrote, “Affleck handles his self-conscious task with a generous humility – giving a performance built not out of histrionics or big-actor moments, but instead from the messy details of a man in a plateaued distress.” Meanwhile, website IndieWire’s verdict was, “Affleck’s underplayed performance as an alcoholic basketball coach might be the most personal work he’s ever done on screen.”
And The Way Back’s director Gavin O’Connor was also left impressed by just how much Affleck threw himself into the role. The filmmaker told The New York Times, “I think that Ben, in an artistic way, in a deeply human way, wanted to confront his own issues through this character and heal.” By way of confirmation Affleck himself revealed that he had found the whole process “very therapeutic.”