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Special Presentation Of Ben Affleck's Life Journey

Aired March 2, 2013 - 22:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a little overwhelmed with all this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the press line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, let us get in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Oscar goes to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winning an Oscar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may not see this for a while.

TURNER: Only to stumble hard, a career in tatters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was in actor jail for a couple of years.

TURNER: Singed by fame.

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: I think I became overexposed causing me to turn around and question.

TURNER: Ben Affleck's long journey.

AFFLECK: Got to a point in my life where I was really down, really confused.


TURNER: But he fought his way back.

AFFLECK: You have to work harder than you think you possibly can.

Hi, I'm Ben Affleck.

TURNER: How did the boy from humble TV beginnings remake himself into a Hollywood heavyweight?

Tonight, a story of redemption crowned by Oscar. Ben Affleck, back on top.


TURNER: I'm Nischelle Turner outside the Dolby Theater here in Hollywood on Oscar Sunday, the night the movie industry saluted its very best, one man became the biggest story of them all. It's a story that not long ago no one would have written.

Fifteen years ago, he reached the summit at the Oscars, then, crashed hard. From a career in shambles, he rebuilt himself into Hollywood's darling once again. Tonight, the story of the Bean Town boy who hit rock bottom and then remade himself.

Here's Ben Affleck, back on top.


TURNER (voice-over): "Goodwill hunting" wins an Oscar. Two 20- somethings share the glory. Boston boys' Matt Damon and Ben Affleck fly their mothers from Bean Town to be their dates on the red carpet. They take home trophies for best original screenplay. What appears to many an overnight success is actually years in the making. Long before movie audiences would ever hear of him --

AFFLECK: Hi, I'm Ben Affleck.

AFFLECK: TV watchers meet a get on the PBS educational series "the voyage of the Mimi," cast mate, Judy Catron, remembers a kid who's already sure of himself.


AFFLECK: The deaf actress recalls him as a jokester with mischief on his mind.

CATRON: Very clearly he said, what's the sign for genius and stupid?

TURNER: Sensing what he's up to, Judy switches the signs. Joke is on Ben.

CATRON: And Ben thought that's what he was saying, I'm a genius, you're stupid. But he was actually signing, I'm stupid, you're a genius. So for two months, me and the interpreter were just trying not to laugh in front of him.

TURNER: He shoots that series on the water. But home is just outside of Boston. A stone's throw away lives his best friend, Matt Damon.

JEN GARCIA, SENIOR WRITER, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: So they are sort of brothers from a different mother. And these kids stuck by each other since they were Little.

TURNER: Ben and Matt lived about two blocks from each other in a working class neighborhood here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Besides being friends, they had something else in common -- divorce. Both were raised by single mothers. Their famous here, too, or at least making an impact in the neighborhood.

SHELLEY RIEMAN, AFFLECK'S CAMBRIDGE NEIGHBOR: My boyfriend's son was their best friend. So, it was Ben and Casey, his brother, Matt and Ethan, were the four buddies that ran around all the time and played on this street, rode their bikes, their skateboards, did wheelies and had a good time.

TURNER: The pair take drama classes at school and act in local productions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Is this Burger King?

AFFLECK: Yes, yes, this is burger king.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you deliver a chef's salad?

AFFLECK: For you, absolutely.

TURNER: Small jobs like this 1989 Burger King ad give Affleck hope for bigger things. Damon's going to Harvard, Affleck heads to Hollywood.

AFFLECK: You guys got to handle this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Affleck gets a role in the 1992 prep school drama "School Ties." So does Damon who's left Harvard shy of graduation to focus on acting. He crashes on Ben's floor in California and asks him to help with a script he'd been working on at school. That script? "Good Will Hunting".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all ready to bust some ass?

TURNER: Meanwhile, Ben is still struggling to break through, taking whatever acting jobs he can find, like the Indy slacker flick "dazed and confused." Then Affleck takes a role in another movie, "Mo rats." The small film would make a huge impact on his career.

AFFLECK: I like to big up girls on the rebound. When they're unusual, they're much more need in solace.

TURNER: Writer, director, Kevin Smith, sees something special in the young actor.

GARCIA: Kevin had cast him in all of his big films. And that really put Ben on the map.

TURNER: Smith has an idea for his next features "Chasing Amy" and writes it specifically for Ben.

AFFLECK: You are the epitome of everything that I've ever looked for in a human being. And I know you think of me as just a friend. But I had to say it.

TURNER: By now, Ben and Matt have sold their "Good Will Hunting" script to Castle Rock.

GARCIA: And there it was, their dream was finally coming true. But they wanted to be attached to the picture and they wanted to star in it. And with that little fact, their deal started slipping through their fingers. And "Good Will Hunting" could have never been made.

AFFLECK: All of a sudden, it was sort of there was a tipping point and then it all kind of happens.

TURNER: Smith takes the script to Harvey Weinstein at Meer Max (ph) and they are on their way.

AFFLECK: Every time I come by your house and pick you up. We go out, have a few drinks and a few laughs in the spring. You know, the best part of my day is, for about ten seconds when I pull up to your door, because I think maybe I'll get up there and knock on the door and you won't be there.

TURNER: "Good Will hunting" becomes a hit. And at 25, Affleck becomes the youngest Oscar-winning screenwriter in history. It seems there's nowhere to go but up.

AFFLECK: We're really happy, thanks.


TURNER: When we come back, Ben Affleck soars, then, stumbles.



TURNER (voice-over): At 25, Ben Affleck became an Oscar winner and the toast of Hollywood. After "Good Will Hunting," his career took off, literally.

I'll try not to disappoint you.

"Armageddon" is Affleck's first blockbuster leading role. With this end of the world epic the actor is becoming one of the industry's most wanted. Affleck, certified a-list.

TY BURR, FILM CRITIC, BOSTON GLOBE: He was movie star handsome, seemed confident, maybe a little cocky, he was sexy, all the things that Hollywood thinks it knows what to do with.

TURNER: A smaller role in the Oscar-winning film, "Shakespeare and Love follows" and on-set grows with Gwyneth Paltrow; beautiful, elegant, a respected actress. It's an on again off again affair seized by the tabloids. For Ben, his Gwyneth connection is just his first in a pattern as high-profile relationships being played out in the press.

GARCIA: Ben dating Gwyneth Paltrow was really the first time he stepped into the spotlight publicly with a female. And it wasn't just any female. It was a young, glamorous, classic Hollywood beauty. AFFLECK: You really are just a simple creature.

TURNER: Ben's friendship with childhood buddy Matt Damon remains intact. They star together in Kevin Smith's "Dogma" and debut their HBO reality show "Project Green Light" to help screenwriters make movies. Soon, though, their respective careers take different paths.

BURR: The sense was actually pretty quickly was that Matt Damon wanted to be an actor but Ben Affleck wanted to be a star. And you could see that in the movies that he chose.

TURNER: With "Ocean's 11" and "the Bourne Identity" Damon's building the foundation of a bankable leading man. Affleck, on the other hand, is making questionable career choices like forgettable "Reindeer Game" and World War II epic "Pearl Harbor," which was a box office success but largely panned by the critics. At 28, Affleck's personal demons seemed to be getting the best of him.

GARCIA: It was too much too soon. And he didn't really know how to handle it.

TURNER: After a hard partying, heavy gambling trip to Las Vegas in the summer of 2001, he checks himself into rehab. According to "People" magazine, Charlie Sheen is the one who actually drives him there.

GARCIA: Ben is a smart guy. It was great that he realized that did need help. He was abusing alcohol and he needed to take a step back and really address that in mis-life.

AFFLECK: I'm sorry, I have to ask. Do we know each other?


TURNER: Within the year, Affleck signs on to star as a hit man in the romantic comedy "Gigli" opposite Jennifer Lopez -- sexy, exotic, famous.

GARCIA: It was sort of the dapper Ben Affleck dating Jenny from the block.

TURNER: The two engaged in November of 2002 and the media frenzy onslaught later to be known as "Bennifer" unleashed.

GARCIA: We cared about their every move. Where they vacationed, what they wore, how much spray tan Ben Affleck was getting. It was an intense point in his life. And he sort of started to morph into something that wasn't the Ben we knew.

TURNER: Images of "Bennifer" are plastered on magazine covers and gossip blogs. The coverage so relentless, the two go from simply new couple alert to massive overexposure.

Meanwhile, his professional career was sputtering. Not only is the film title, she was tricky to pronounce, it proves even more difficult to get audiences to actually see it. The movie doesn't just flop, it bombs. And it's just one in a series of movies between 2003 and 2004 that Affleck would probably like to forget.

AFFLECK: What happened?

TURNER: "Paycheck, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas," all failed to give him the hit he so desperately needs.

GARCIA: Nothing was going right. He didn't have the best career in Hollywood. So someone who at one point was Hollywood's golden boy, their next big movie star, seemed to be just fizzling away.

TURNER: Affleck is becoming the butt of countless jokes. The actor makes light of one of them on "LARRY KING LIVE" after receiving a racy, an award that honors the worst in movies.


AFFLECK: This was for "Gigli" and "Pearl Harbor".

TURNER: One bright spot during this stretch, the action hero flick "Daredevil."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you, Matt Murdock.

AFFLECK: Nice to meet you.

TURNER: It co-stars, Jennifer Garner, a leading lady who later plays a pivotal role the actor's personal and professional redemption. At the same time, trouble is brewing on the "Bennifer" front. The couple cancels their fall 2003 wedding. Affleck spoke to Larry King about the difficult split.

AFFLECK: You know, sometimes it's a simple as one person bringing somebody else is, sometimes it is more complicated.

GARCIA: It was a massive personal thing that blew up in Hollywood and really blew up in Ben's face.

TURNER: It's all too easy to become yesterday's news here in Hollywood. And after misfires both professional and personal, that's where Ben Affleck found himself, faced with the tall task of rebuilding both his career and his life.

When we come back, those first steps on the road to redemption.




TURNER (voice-over): In seven years, Ben Affleck had gone from rising star to cautionary tale. To rise again, he would need a different role and a different companion.

You're holding back.



TURNER: In 2003 at the height of his romance with Jennifer Lopez, Affleck co-stars in "Daredevil" with another Jennifer -- Jennifer Garner.

GARCIA: That was the beginning of a blossoming, wonderful relationship with them. The two really connected on an amazing level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then I found you.

TURNER: After his split from Lopez in 2004, Ben and his new Jen get together and things move quickly.

GARCIA: They got engaged and of course they secretly wed.

TURNER: Garner asked Victor Garber, her friend from "Alias" to officiate.

GARCIA: She wanted me to do it. It was a great match. They're very good for each other and she's a rock.

TURNER: He settles down with an actress who's an actress and isn't interested in engaging the gossip-sphere on that level. And they go off and start a family.

AFFLECK: I think he was a little beaten up and tired.

TURNER: Major leading man roles are eluding Affleck. But in 2006, he snares a supporting part in "Hollywood land" as George reeves, the 1950s TV superman whose life unraveled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want from life?

AFFLECK: Oh, I don't know, I'd settle for Clark Gable's career.


GARCIA: A lot of critics saw similarities between Ben and his character, George that he was playing. They had struggled. They had been through a lot.

BURR: I think that movie was a very important, sort of first step on the rehabilitation of Ben Affleck, the public figure, one n the world of the Ben's festival.

TURNER: But Ben recognizes to truly get back on top, he needs to make a bold move.

GARCIA: To step behind the camera was something he always wanted to try.

AFFLECK: Exactly like I planned it.

TURNER: He hadn't exactly shown promise in this short he directed at age 21.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you think for one second about how that made me look?

TURNER: Despite his lack of directing credentials, he lobbies for the chance to make a gritty crime drama, "Gone, Baby, Gone."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My only child was murdered.

TURNER: Film executive gives Daniel Battsek who then ran Meer Max (ph) gives Ben the green light. Looking back, you see that it was a risk?

DANIEL BATTSEK, PRESIDENT, COHEN MEDIA GROUP: Yes, it definitely felt like a risk. Maybe that was sort of wishful thinking. But I really felt confident that he could do it.

TURNER: To shoot "Gone, Baby, Gone," Affleck came home, here to Boston. Hollywood may have cooled on him, but his hometown still had his back.

He's back on his native ground and he's keeping family close, casting his baby brother in the lead role.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll try, I will.

TURNER: Chip McGrath spent time with Affleck for his "New York Times" piece on "Gone, Baby, Gone."

What do you think it meant for him to shoot with his younger brother Casey?

CHIP MCGRATH, WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES: I think that was great. I think that meant a lot to him.

It was great to see that relationship between Ben and Casey. They obviously really loved each other and respected each other.

TURNER: Do you think people were surprised that he was that good of a director?

MCGRATH: Yes, I think they were. For a first film, it's very accomplished. He gets one shot up at the plate and he hits it out of the park. And what's fascinating is he does it by going back to his roots. He goes back to Boston, to the streets, to the people that he knows so well.

GARCIA: Ben was on a hot streak at this point. Everyone was waiting to see what he did next. And along came the town.

TURNER: For his directing follow-up, he needs a leading man. He finds one, Ben Affleck.

BURR: There was a lot, I think, riding for Affleck for starring in "the Town" because he was putting the two halves of himself together. The director -- AFFLECK: We want to vary speeds.

BURR: You know, respected director and the movie star.

AFFLECK: Your family took me in when my father went away.

TURNER: "The Town" confirms "Gone Baby, Gone" is not a fluke.

BURR: Bit by bit, he's winning people back. Because he'd shown that he could make a good movie, a tight, solid, smart movie.

TURNER: Finally, his career is back on track. His personal life, too.

VICTOR GARBER, ACTOR: He loves his family. He's an amazing father. And you know, he's very attentive. And he's there.

TURNER: I heard him say on Oscar day he took his daughter to a spelling bee.

GARBER: He did. She won.

TURNER: I love that.

GARBER: It's pretty cool.

TURNER: At 38, Affleck is reaching for his next challenge. Turns out, George Clooney's got a project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sent Ben the script. He read it.

TURNER: The script is called "Argo," the true story of a daring rescue of American diplomats caught up in the Iranian revolution.

Called him up said, I take for it. Will you put me on the movie?

AFFLECK: I'm responsible. I'm taking them through.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: We had a couple of meetings with Ben and his take automatically was, it was just so good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without actually doing anything. Yes, you'll fit right in.

TURNER: The film is greeted with stellar box office and spectacular reviews. Suddenly, for the first time in years, Affleck is back on Oscar's radar.

GARCIA: Ben Affleck was a new guy. He was the guy that we always knew he could be.

TURNER: But Oscar nomination morning brings a stunning snub. "Argo" scores a best picture nomination and six other nods. But when the nominees for director are announced --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nominees are -- TURNER: Affleck's name, missing. Oscar host Seth Macfarlane even mentions the snub in his monologue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the story was so tough secret that the film's director is unknown to the academy.

TURNER: The omission stings. But after that setback, the momentum shifts.

BURR: I do think his being passed over created a further almost wave of sympathy. Poor Ben, it's a good movie. We like him now.

TURNER: First, the Golden Globes. Then the broadcast film critics and the directors Guild all name Affleck best director.

AFFLECK: I had to just like kind of -- I don't know what, very early success. I was a very young man. I had some stuff work, some stuff didn't. And I ran a vowel of the press a little bit, I became overexposed, caused me to question, what do I want to do in this industry to have a big offer?

CLOONEY: He had a period in his life where he made some dumb career decisions, which we all have. He was very young when he did it. Now he's making -- he's sort of directed his way out of all of that.

TURNER: But Oscar night comes with no guarantees. The suspense builds and finally it's time to reveal best picture. First lady Michelle Obama does the honors.


TURNER: After a long journey and the steep tumble, Ben Affleck has reinvented himself.

AFFLECK: I was here 15 years ago or something and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all, really just a kid. I went out and I never thought that I would be back here.

TURNER: Here on the Oscar stage, sharing life lessons about what it takes to come back.

AFFLECK: You have to work harder than you think you possibly can. And it doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that's going to happen. All that matters is that you've got to get up.

TURNER: From there, it's on to a night of celebrations for the boy from Bean Town who had fallen and gotten back up. The freshly engraved Oscar leaves no doubt, Ben Affleck, back on top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your job on the movie?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the last movie you produced?