"Naturally, my family's the most important thing in my life," Affleck said. "It doesn't mean you can't do other stuff in your life. In fact, having a family makes whatever achievements you're able to have that much richer. If it was just me, and I go home sort of alone, I'd think, 'Whoa! Whoa!' If something good happened to me at work, it doesn't have the same resonance it does when I'm able to share it with people I love. And any time you become a richer person and have more substance, it makes you better as a filmmaker."
In 2007, Affleck leveraged his acting career into his directorial debut, "Gone Baby Gone," which film critic Kurt Loder said was "a much more interesting film than 'Argo' and really captured the working-class Dorchester milieu. He drew a tough, tight performance from his brother Casey and the rest of the cast is terrific. Dennis Lehane's novel is a great story, and Affleck nailed it."
It won Amy Ryan an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress and received a lot of critical acclaim, but only earned $34 million at the box office. Both Loder and Damon said it should have earned Affleck a best director nomination.
The box office showing didn't deter Warner Bros. exec Jeff Robinov, who asked Affleck, "Do you want to direct and star in movies?" Affleck said, "Well, I've directed one movie and it was a bomb." But Robinov told him, "I really believe in you," and offered him a deal. "I kind of thought I was being punked!" Affleck said. "But Jeff seemed to believe it."
In 2010, Affleck directed his second film, "The Town," which scored an Oscar nomination for Jeremy Renner for best supporting actor and earned more than $154 million. This put Affleck back in the category of Hollywood heavyweight, so even when he takes bit parts in ensemble pieces, his real work now is as a filmmaker.
2011-2013 -- "Argo"
Affleck and Garner worked out a system in which they would take turns making a film, which mostly ends up with her being home with the kids, because they've had an infant every time he has directed. But while he was visiting her on set in Atlanta during the making of her film "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," he came across the script for "Argo."
"I couldn't believe how good it was," Affleck said. "I talked to Grant (Heslov) and George (Clooney) -- and it's not name-dropping if they're your producers! -- and we took it to Warner Bros. And they went with me making this period Iran drama where I was the youngest person in the movie. I felt so flattered." (In turn, former CIA agent Tony Mendez was flattered that Affleck would also be portraying him, "even though he's not good-looking enough," he joked).
Affleck had to combine a tense thriller with a comedy that takes place over the course of a very unwieldy series of events with a lot of players, while also trying to keep the essence of the story true. He was able to break out of his pigeonhole with "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" as a director of Boston crime stories. He also poked fun at himself with John Goodman's line about even a rhesus monkey being able to direct a film.
His actors called him meticulous yet relaxed, which set a tone on set that allowed them to feel like they could take chances without being judged. "We traded off on being each other's bosses," Bryan Cranston said. "If he was being too bossy directing me, I would come back at him hard when we were in character: 'Get your ass in here!' A little Heisenberg. Drop my head a little bit, do the eyebrows."
As a form of rehearsal, Affleck had the six characters playing the houseguests live together for a week before shooting. "He put together these boxes full of time lines, down to who the shah is, what's going on with Carter, what were the big movies of the time, what was in People magazine," Scoot McNairy said. "Any question you had, Ben had the answer, or you went through the box."
"What Ben has, like George Clooney when he directs, is attention to reality and detail," producer Heslov said. "In that, they're very similar. They both know what they want and how to get it done. But they're also very different. Ben is much taller."
Affleck still doesn't consider himself a real director -- "Capra is a real director, Scorsese's a real director, Spielberg's a real director," he said. "I want to keep refining myself, keep growing and pushing."
But even if he still is a work in progress, his work isn't. "Have you met one person who didn't like it?" asked Richard Kind, who plays the screenwriter in "Argo." "Did it make a lot of money? Very pro-American? Very pro-Hollywood? Beautifully done? In every aspect -- screenwriting, directing, acting? That's why it should be best picture. This was the best 'Argo' it could possibly be. It's the best movie, and it's fun!"