The first time I interviewed Ben Affleck was for his first blockbuster film Armageddon in 1998. A film that received mixed critical reviews, but became a box office success anyway. I looked at him and saw a young and sexy Paul Newman. He had charm and charisma , and Ben was clearly bound for stardom. Before I got to meet him, he wanted to leave the press junket, as the star of the film, Bruce Willis, had already left and he felt he could do the same. My interview, which was scheduled for the end of the day, had not taken place and it was important to the studio as it would play in over 60 countries. By now every studio knew that most of the money was coming from the international marketplace. I watched as the studio executive that was responsible for me and the interview begged on her hands and knees for Ben to give me five minutes and he did. In fact, when I entered his interview suite I was hyperventilating thinking that I was going to fail, but he turned on the charm and said: “Take a deep breath and stay as long a you like.” This was the beginning of my admiration and respect for this young actor, and I have since been happy to watch his career soar. Even with the ups and downs of his private life, I knew that nothing was going to stop him from major stardom.
The next time we met was on the set of another big action film, when he was doing pick up shots … no dialogue, just close ups for the big action scenes, before the film wrapped. By now, he was a big player in the film industry. I could feel the change in him. He called the shots, deciding when he would do the interview. As the second, and last day of shooting came to a close, I had done nothing but my needlepoint, while I got paid for sitting. With the request from the president of production, he agreed to do the interview. He was great and made me feel that I was the most important person he wanted to talk to. We talked for more than half an hour. He told me what being an actor had done for him, not only traveling the world and meeting people whom otherwise he would never have had a chance to meet but also a chance to give back.
Success in Hollywood brings financial rewards. With Ben’s career on the fast track, it gave him a chance to give back by co-founding the Eastern Congo Initiative, which supports a community-based approach to creating a successful society in eastern Congo. He is also involved with two charities, one which supports paralyzed veterans of America and the second, Operation Gratitude, which puts together care packages for overseas troops.
Ben shared his goals with me, both personal and professional. He is comfortable with his career, winning his second Oscar for the film Argo. Better than the Oscar, is his private life, with the successful marriage to Jennifer Garner and three children.
A lot of time has passed since that first interview and Ben, like a fine wine, has gotten better with age. Not only his looks, but his creative drive to write, direct and act. Ben Affleck has charisma and top-notch talent- I am glad I met him early in his career, as I was able to sense who he was and what he was to become.