Over the past few years, we’ve lost some of Hollywood’s most-loved couples: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum. And of course, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. In a new, revealing profile, Affleck confronts his turbulent last few years with more honesty than we’ve ever seen, freely admitting how deeply he regrets his divorce and the actions that led to it. And according to Affleck’s director, that emotion had a way of spilling out on set.
The New York Times spoke with Affleck about his new film The Way Back, which tells the story of a divorced, alcoholic high school basketball coach struggling to turn his life around. They also spoke with Gavin O’Connor, the film’s director, who shed some light on how Affleck connected to the role. After filming one scene in which he apologizes to his ex-wife, Affleck reportedly had a “total breakdown.”
“It was like a floodgate opened up,” O’Connor told the Times. “It was startling and powerful. I think that was a very personal moment in the movie. I think that was him.”
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It’s not hard to see the parallels between this character and Affleck himself. The actor has been to rehab three times (in 2001, 2017, and 2018), and publicly relapsed this past fall after announcing he’d reached one year of sobriety. He split from ex-wife Garner in 2018, amid reports of his affair with the children’s nanny and continued struggles with addiction.
“The biggest regret of my life is this divorce,” Affleck says now, but he’s cautious about allowing himself to feel that regret too deeply. “Shame is really toxic…It’s not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures — the relapses — and beat myself up. I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret. But you’ve got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward.”
These days, Affleck is focused on doing just that, and trying not to cause further harm to his family along the way. “Relapse is embarrassing, obviously. I wish it didn’t happen,” he says of his 2018 slip, which quickly became public knowledge. “I really wish it wasn’t on the internet for my kids to see. Jen and I did our best to address it and be honest.”
It’s been a long road, but Affleck credits the recovery process for his newfound clarity. “One of the things about recovery that I think people sometimes overlook is the fact that it inculcates certain values. Be honest. Be accountable. Help other people. Apologize when you’re wrong.”
In the scene that Affleck had a breakdown after shooting, he says this to his ex-wife: “I failed you. I failed our marriage.” And the actor emphasized to the Times how crucial that scene was: “It was really important, without being mawkish or false, that he make amends to her — that he take accountability for the pain that he and only he has caused.”
Click here to see more celebrities who have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction.