Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are beginning a new era working together, but that wasn’t always the plan.
Affleck explained why he avoided working with his longtime friend for years after the runaway success and their best original screenplay Oscar win for 1998’s “Good Will Hunting” in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“One of the things we reflected on when we did ‘The Last Duel’ that caused us to want to do this company together was the fact that we wished we’d kept working together more over the years,” Affleck told the outlet. “We fell prey to this idea that, ‘Well, if you don’t individuate your careers and do your own things, people will always associate you together. That will be limiting.'”
“That was advice we got,” he said.
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Affleck and Damon did appear in a handful of films together throughout the years, and created the HBO filmmaking series “Project Greenlight” together, but after “Good Will Hunting” they didn’t collaborate for quite some time until they appeared together in Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel” in 2021.
Now they’ve co-founded a new production company, Artists Equity.
Added Affleck, “The motivation behind making ‘Good Will Hunting’ was to serve as an acting reel so that we could get jobs as actors, not because we wanted to be writers. So when we became successful and had the opportunity to do movies, we took them.”
“And it’s very hard to let go of that hand-to-mouth mentality you have as an actor,” he explained. “The phone could stop ringing at any time, and especially where Matt and I grew up pretty modestly, it was almost irresponsible to not take a job where they were going to pay you a lot of money.”
The “Justice League” star continued: “My mother made, I don’t know, $30,000 a year as a public school teacher in Boston. And I remember making $600,000 for ‘Armageddon’ and thinking, ‘This is 20 years of my mother’s salary.’ It just seemed absurd that you would pass on that opportunity, no matter what it was.”
Affleck also reflected on the importance of his nearly 40-year friendship with Damon, saying, “I suppose the reason it works is that I trust him and love him, and I know that this is somebody with integrity. In this business, failure is hard, and success is confusing and can make you lose your bearings. Having that friendship as a touchstone over the years was really meaningful.”
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The first movie from their company, “Air,” tells the story of Nike signing NBA legend Michael Jordan for a sneaker deal that would change the business and popular culture. The pair co-star, along with Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother, with Affleck directing.
In the interview, Affleck credits his wife, Jennifer Lopez, with helping him understand fashion and culture for “Air,” and reveals that she gave him advice before he spoke with the outlet.
“[Jennifer Lopez] tells me today, ‘Relax, be yourself. Have fun. You’re actually a fun guy who is real and genuine and you just seem so serious,'” the “Argo” star said. “But as in many things, she’s really right. And she loves me. She’s looking out for me. She’s trying to help me. So it’s like, maybe I ought to f—ing listen to her.”
Affleck admitted to being “guarded” in interviews, particularly after his 2021 interview with Howard Stern went viral after he appeared to blame ex-wife Jennifer Garner for his alcoholism.
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He reiterated, “To be clear, my behavior is my responsibility entirely. The point that I was trying to make was a sad one. Anyone who’s been through divorce makes that calculus of, ‘How much do we try?’ We loved each other. We care about each other. We have respect for each other.
“I was trying to say, ‘Hey, look, I was drinking too much, and the less happy you become, whether it’s your job, your marriage, it’s just that as your life becomes more difficult, if you’re doing things to fill a hole that aren’t healthy, you’re going to start doing more of those things.’ I think I was pretty articulate about that.”
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The “Armageddon” star has been sober since 2020.
His movie with Damon, “Air,” will be in theaters on April 5 before streaming on Amazon Prime.