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Posted at 1:10 PM ET, 09/15/2010

Ben Affleck: A case study in making a comeback

By Jen Chaney

Ben Affleck, reinvented.(Carlo Allegri/Associated Press)

Not too long ago, Ben Affleck was considered the punchline of a joke. The actor-director seems acutely aware of this. As he told The Post's Ann Hornaday in her report from the Toronto Film Festival: "I've come to a time in my life where everything is make or break."

His awareness of not-so-distant show biz history was even more apparent in a recent Entertainment Weekly profile. "You’ve got to help me out in this article. You’ve got to help me sell the new movie," he tells writer Chris Nashawaty at one point. "Don’t write endlessly about 'Gigli.' I understand it has to be in there, but…”

Honestly, Affleck doesn't need to worry so much. After his assured directorial debut with 2007's "Gone Baby Gone," the Academy Award winner has definitively demonstrated his skills behind the camera with his follow-up, "The Town," opening Friday. And in the process, he has set an excellent example of how to turn around a Hollywood career.

Without writing, uh, endlessly about "Gigli," let's just say that the early '00s was not the best time for Ben Affleck. He and then-fiancee Jennifer Lopez were the go-to couple for tabloid stories, and his filmography was on a trajectory that quickly went from questionable ("Daredevil") to flat-out atrocious. "Gigli" gets all the credit for serving as the apex of Affleck's craptastic-cinema period. But frankly, I think that's really unfair to "Surviving Christmas," which is also borderline unwatchable yet never gets the recognition it deserves for its horrendousness.

Affleck could have continued to cash his (cough) "paychecks" and starred in lousy movies for several years, but he chose to go in another direction and try directing. As he told EW, "It was the only option I felt I had to do good work, because the quality of scripts I was seeing was just getting worse and worse."

In other words, Affleck created a second act for himself not only because he had the awareness to realize he should try exploring a new skill set, but because he was willing to put in the effort to make films of quality. In "The Town," which I saw last night, he once again proves that he knows how to tell a story without showiness and provide a showcase for subtle, authentic work from some excellent actors (in this case, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall and Jon Hamm, among others).

Other talented Hollywood figures who have lost their way for various reasons -- I'm thinking of people like Lindsay Lohan and, in the filmmaking community, M. Night Shyamalan -- could take a few notes on how to make a comeback from Affleck, a guy who chose not to reinvent his image on Twitter or the MTV Video Music Awards, nor to stubbornly deny that he'd ever made a false step in his career. Instead, Affleck looked at what was in front of him, decided how best to move forward and then did the most basic, laudable thing of all: He did the work.

Do you agree with me here? Or do you think Affleck still has a way to go before he can fully put the "Gigli" years behind him?

By Jen Chaney  | September 15, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Movies  
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All Ben has to do is work that reminds people that he was one of the forces behind Good Will Hunting.

Posted by: auntiemare | September 15, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I think it helped him a lot that he had been involved as a writer and producer before the Gigli horror. If he hadn't had that background I'm not sure if anybody would have given him the chance afterwards.

Posted by: northgs | September 15, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else recall what a joke Jessica Lange once was because of that disastrous "King Kong" remake? After a few years of being the punchline to bad jokes, she finally got a second chance from filmmaker Bob Fosse in "All That Jazz" and voilà! She was on the road to a comeback, becoming among the US's most respected actors.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

i everything want you see go to ready love you keep youself said hot sex 90 vh1 joy watkins pokemon red and blue versions nintendo gameboy.

Posted by: demonteriusniblack1 | September 15, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else notice that there are two posts today about the comeback of the two folks responsible for Gigli...

I suppose if Jenny from the Block can recover so can Ben.

Posted by: LTL1 | September 15, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I saw the film today, and thought it was great!! Affleck proved himself as an actor, writer, and director in this one movie. No easy feat. We wouldn't be surprised if it was Oscar material in any of those categories.
Course we're from Boston, so the film is close to our hearts. But, it was great anyway.

Posted by: pnwilliams | September 17, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Ben has a long career in front of him both in front and behind the camera. What I like about him - he is authentic.
Gigli is one of many bad movies thatpeople make - so what. You learn, you move on.

The movie 'The Town' was what every movie strives to be - a good story, with character development, good acting, good editing, good music. The movie was **extremely** well done.

Posted by: hollygirl | September 22, 2010 12:50 AM | Report abuse

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