This dark-haired, buffed actor first appeared in front of the cameras as a young tyke visiting Mayan ruins in the 1980 PBS production "The Voyage of the Mimi". The pre-teen Ben Affleck first won notice as Madeline Kahn's son who is trying to find a suitable husband for his mother in "Wanted: The Perfect Guy", a 1986 "ABC Afterschool Special". He appeared in the 1987 miniseries "Hands of a Stranger" (NBC), was Patrick Duffy's son in "Danielle Steel's 'Daddy'" (NBC, 1991), and, in his first series, was a strapping football-player in "Against the Grain" (NBC, 1993). Affleck also starred in the 1994 HBO "Lifestories: Families in Crisis" installment, "Body to Die For: The Aaron Henry Story" about a teen whose life is imperiled when he becomes addicted to steroids.
On the big screen, Affleck began his career generally playing the heavy in features ranging from "School Ties" (1992), in which he was one of the football-playing anti-Semitic gang, to Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" (1993), where he was a high school senior terrorizing freshman students on the last day of school. He went on to begin an association with filmmaker Kevin Smith appearing in the ensemble of "Mallrats" (1995) and enjoyed a breakthrough as a comic book artist who falls in love with a lesbian in Smith's subsequent "Chasing Amy" (1997). That same year, he displayed a more sensitive side as a Korean War veteran with artistic aspirations in "Going All the Way". What really brought the actor to public consciousness, however, was a script he and childhood buddy actor Matt Damon had written about a troubled math genius which Miramax purchased in 1996. After the script was restructured and polished through rewrites, "Good Will Hunting" (1997) was filmed with Gus Van Sant at the helm, Damon in the lead and Affleck in the major supporting role of Damon's best friend. The feature opened to generally positive reviews and strong box-office and the attendant hype thrust the novice screenwriters into the limelight and raised their stock in Hollywood. The pair snagged several awards for their script culminating in a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. ("Good Will Hunting" itself received 10 nominations, including Best Picture.)
With literally his pick of scripts, Affleck undertook an image change by co-starring as a hotshot oil driller who is part of a crew selected to save the world from the threat of an asteroid in "Armageddon" (1998), directed by Michael Bay. Switching gears, he donned period garb to play a wastrel actor in Elizabethan England in "Shakespeare in Love" (also 1998). Continuing his string of work, Affleck landed the role of a bartender amid the ensemble of hot players (e.g., Christina Ricci, Courtney Love, Paul Rudd, Jay Mohr) in "200 Cigarettes", reteamed with Damon as renegade angels in Kevin Smith's "Dogma" and was paired with Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy "Forces of Nature" (all 1999).
Kicking off the new millennium, the actor continued to impress even when in material of questionable quality (i.e., "Reindeer Games" 2000). Affleck anchored the -testosterone-fueled "Boiler Room" (2000) as a slick Wall Streeter coaching new recruits and offered perhaps his most complex screen characterization to date as the hard-drinking ad executive whose life undergoes a complete change after a brush with death in "Bounce" (also 2000). He reteamed with director Bay for the big-budgeted, highly hyped "Pearl Harbor" (2001), playing one leg of a romantic triangle that involved his best friend (Josh Hartnett) and the nurse they both love (Kate Beckinsale). Deploying his charisma and forceful screen presence, Affleck was not overshadowed by the special effects. Continually working, the actor went on to appear in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001) for director Kevin Smith. In Smith's self-described coda to his "View Askew" universe, Affleck appeared as both Holden, the character he played in Smith's "Chasing Amy" and as a parody version of himself, the Hollywood actor. Affleck next delivered one of his most compelling performances in the psychological thriller "Changing Lanes" (2002), playing an arrogant, high-powered attorney whose random traffic encounter with a struggling father (Samuel L. Jackson) sets in motion events that will radically derail both their lives. The actor next took on the weight of a struggling film franchise when he stepped into the shoes of Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford by essaying the Tom Clancy hero Jack Ryan in "The Sum of All Fears" (2002), with the character retrograded back to a green CIA analyst who becomes embroiled in a nuclear calamity--Although the film was one of the weaker adaptations of Clancy's work, audiences accepted Affleck in the role and delivered a strong box office. Even as the actor was offered an increasing succession of leading man parts in major motion pictures, he kept a hand in the behind-the-scenes field that earned him an Oscar. Affleck and Damon also teamed as executive producers and writers for the ABC 2002 midseason replacement series "The Runner" which was delayed and has yet to air; and the two friends executive produced (and Affleck co-created) the Fall 2002 ABC series "Push, Nevada", a unique hybrid of a "Twin Peaks"-style mystery and a game show: veiwers were invited to follow eachg episode's clues and unravel the mystery to win $1 million. Even when the network pulled the series after only a few low-rated episodes, the cash prize was awarded to a faithful fan. Perhaps most prominantly, Damon and Affleck dreamt up an Internet-related venture: a screenwriting competition called "Project Greenlight". With Miramax and HBO as co-sponsors, the contest (at www.projectgreenlight.com) resulted in an HBO TV series (aired in 2002) and the promised feature "Stolen Summer" (2002), written and directed by Peter Jones and starring Kevin Pollak and Aidan Quinn. The response was so strong, a second "Project Greenlight" was planned for 2003.
In addition to his box office star power and behind-the-scenes clout, Affleck also became a magnet for media attention, partly as a result of his high-profile romances. His on-again, off-again relationship with "Bounce" co-star Gwyneth Paltrow had already put him in the spotlight, and the media's curiosity seemed to escalate in 2001 after Affleck voluntarily checked himself into a posh Malibu rehab clinic and underwent a one-month program to curb his alcohol abuse. Shortly thereafter, Affleck met fellow superstar Jennifer Lopez while working on the hitman romance "Tough Love" (2003) and was impressed enough with the actress to suggest her as his leading lady for his friend Kevin Smith's latest romantic comedy "Jersey Girl" (lensed 2002). Upon Lopez's separation from her second husband, the two began dating and fueled a feeding frenzy of media scrutiny about their relationship, coverage that peaked with the announcement of the two stars' engagement in November of 2002. Affleck, as a likely result, was also named 2002's "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine.
Meanwhile, Affleck agreed to tackle yet another major role, starring in "Daredevil" (2003), an adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero. Based on the blind lawyer whose enhanced radar senses lead him to fight crime who was popular among comics fans but little known to the general public, "Daredevil" saw its stakes raised with the mega-success of "Spider-Man" (2002) the previous summer and the high-profile casting of the newly-minted but not-quite-proven superstar Affleck. Much debate ensued about Affleck as the square-jawed leading man, but paired with leading lady Jennifer Garner the actor proved quite effective as a superheroic underdog, as both the seemingly handicapped attorney and his karate-kicking alter-ego who struggles with a tortured past, ambiguous moral dilemmas and a tragic romance.