The October issue marks the fourth time that Ben Affleck has been on the cover of Details since I became the magazine's editor in 2000. Starting with his first appearance in these pages, in 2002, Affleck has consistently said things that resonated not just with readers, but with me as well. Each time we've sat down with him, Affleck has been at a major intersection in his life, and his honesty and self-deprecating humor—about successes and failures both personal and professional—have kept us coming back for more. So today I went back and read all four interviews in one session. Taken together, they feel like a play in four acts.
Act I: April 2002. Affleck is about to turn 30 and recently out of a 30-day stint in rehab.
"I don't want to sit here and pretend that everything's great, that I'm some sort of enlightened person. I have a lot of struggles, I'm conflicted, I think about things, I wake up in the middle of the night, I have regrets, I'm very insecure. So it's not like I'm living in some great tranquil state out in my rock garden.
"I know that challenge lies in wait for me in the tall grass of my thirties... I think the only real triumph for me would be to look back and be able to call myself a good father, a good husband, and a good man."
Act II: November 2004. It's been about a year since Affleck, now 32, ended his ridiculously overpublicized relationship with Jennifer Lopez.
"Feeling like people are gunning for you all the time is not fun or remotely pleasant. I didn't spend a lot of time basking in the glow of some sort of media spotlight because I was always attuned to the fact that it was a suspicious attention—the anticipation of some Schadenfreude to be enjoyed down the road. As I grew increasingly uncomfortable, it built its own momentum and became something that was more and more difficult to reconcile with my idea of how I wanted to live my life.
"Even I'm curious to see what happens to me next."
Act III: November 2007. At 35, Affleck is married to Jennifer Garner and the father of a young daughter and has just wrapped his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone.
"I feel like this film is a linchpin for my life. My career. I have a lot riding on it. I want [the film] to work. Badly. I mean, a shitty movie comes out on 2,800 screens? I've been there and it's embarrassing.
"That's why there's something really great about directing—about having authorship over something. If you don't like this movie, I'm the guy to see. I'm the guy to criticize. I take some measure of comfort in that. It's fair, at least."
Act IV: October 2012 (pictured above). Now, at 40, Affleck solidifies his role as one of the best directors of his generation with the release of Argo.
"I'm acting a lot less. And when I have the time, I think, 'It has to be a really good part, it has to be a director I want to work with.' My life's different now. It's not as if when I'm not acting I'm in a club or playing video games. I have my family. I have philanthropic work that means a lot to me. So I've definitely turned down some things. Not because I suddenly have such great taste but... maturity, I guess.
"People bring up 2003, and I get it. Jennifer Lopez, and Gigli, and all this shit just kind of blew up. But you know, in 2003, Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois! Okay?… A lot can happen. And a lot has for me. Maybe not as much as has happened for Barack Obama! But you know, it really does feel like ancient history."
And it is. But as Affleck would be the first to tell you, it's that history that got him here.
—Dan Peres (@DetailsDan), Editor-in-Chief at Details