These days, life is pretty good for Ben Affleck. He's an acclaimed director with another promising drama, Argo, on its way to theaters. But just a few years ago, he was in the middle of a series of career disappointments, one of which was the less-than-impressive comic book flick Daredevil.
Comic book fans are still not too happy with Affleck for that one, but Affleck gets it, because he wasn't too happy with it either.
In a new interview covering Argo and his overall transition from hit-and-miss movie star to respected and sought-after filmmaker (a transition that began with Gone Baby Gone in 2007), Affleck was asked to reflect in particular on 2003. Just the year before, he'd made the first film in a potential franchise, playing Tom Clancy's popular character Jack Ryan in The Sum of All Fears. Then, in '03, another potential franchise launcher hit with Daredevil. In the end, another Jack Ryan movie never materialized for Affleck (the franchise is now being rebooted with Chris Pine in the lead role), and the only thing Daredevil wound up producing was the reviled spinoff Elektra, starring his Daredevil co-star and future wife Jennifer Garner.
It was a rough time for Affleck, and nine years later, though he doesn't regret anything, he's owning up to it.
"I made a bunch of movies that didn't work. I was ending up in the tabloids. I don't know what the lesson is, except that you just have to find your compass.
"I liked Sum of All Fears. Daredevil I didn't at all. Some movies should have worked and didn't. At a certain point, it's just up to the movie gods. Anyway, this image becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I just said, 'I don't want to do it anymore. This is horrible. I don't want to be in this spotlight, this glare, in this way. It's tawdry, it's ugly, it's oppressive, and it's inane. So I'm going to try to get away.'
"And most of the way I did that was by not acting. I said, 'I'm going to steer myself toward directing. I'm going to do something that takes me toward a place where the work that I do is reflective of what I think is interesting dramatically.'"
One of the stops on the way to Affleck's reinvention after the failure of Daredevil was, ironically enough, putting on another superhero costume when he played George Reeves (star of the classic Superman TV series) in the '50s drama Hollywoodland. Reeves was also an actor frustrated by his career trajectory, a similarity that Affleck still reflects on.
"You know, putting on the uncomfortable, cheesy suit--I understood that. And I understood what it was like to feel limited by perceptions and having ambitions to do things that were more interesting.
"And also, I got married, and I got older. And had kids. You know, the current of the river of life moves you downstream anyway. But I definitely reject the narrative that says, you know, Bad Guy Turned It Around. My life isn't Behind the Music. I wasn't a criminal!"
So, if you're a comic book fan who's still angry with Ben Affleck for starring in a bad comic book movie as one of your favorite characters, you can at least take comfort in knowing he agrees with you.