Life in the spotlight isn't easy for Ben Affleck, who vents his frustration with the press in Jersey Girl (opening March 26). He plays a music-industry publicity flack frustrated by balancing fatherhood with work who breaks down during a press conference, telling off a room full of music reporters. Firing back at the press felt cathartic for the 31-year-old Oscar winner, whose breakup with J.Lo has sold lots of tabloid rags this year.
"It wasn't too tough to film," Affleck laughs. "When we were shooting, it was at the pinnacle — actually [what] I thought was the pinnacle — of the madness. I felt like I had the inside track on the character.
"For the most part, in my experience, people in the press happen to be bright, interesting, smart, thoughtful, professional people with standards," he adds diplomatically. "It is a few-bad-apples thing with the media, mostly in the tabloid media, that creates sort of the lowest common denominator, where magazines that used to do straight-ahead journalism now feel they have to compete with screaming headlines and a gossipy angle."
Affleck knows the press wields great influence over moviegoers' viewing choices — just look at what media coverage has done for The Passion of the Christ. So he hopes critics will look favorably upon Jersey Girl. "The press always has to be able to say something that is new," he sighs. "I think the hook [for Jersey Girl] will end up being, 'This is not Gigli' or 'Hey, this movie is actually good!'"
Although Bennifer swept the Razzie Awards with Gigli, Affleck hopes we'll give him and his famous ex another chance. "Last year was an interesting year. I had a movie that did really well (Daredevil), a gigantic bomb (Gigli) and a movie that performed more or less on par with where it should have (Paycheck). The one that is the biggest Ishtar-like catastrophe is the one that everyone remembers.
"It is actually really nice to have [Jersey Girl] happen now, because it is sort of counters that," he points out. "I'm really proud of this film. Professionally and personally, being that Jen is in it — even for 10 minutes — it leaves that whole thing on kind of a positive note. It gives me positive memories of my professional experience working with her."