Film: Boys and girls come out to play, but for some it's time to grow up

From love interest in a low-key indie hit, Ben Affleck has blazed into the limelight as a renaissance man. Janie Lawrence is charmed

Ben Affleck is not altogether sure he's much taken with this fame lark. Of course, he likes the financial benefits and he's not displeased by the preferential treatment that comes his way in restaurants. But as for all rest of it: "I see it as a downside of my career's advancement. It changes the nature of your life. And all your relationships." he says knocking back a Coke in a Dorchester Hotel suite.

Mmm. From where I'm sitting the 26-year-old actor looks to be coping exceedingly well with the fame game. The big grin, the barely-contained excitement says it all. Pearly-toothed and broad-shouldered Affleck is the new heartthrob on the block. Give him a year and he'll probably be adopting the standard world-weary interview pose. But, for the moment if ever there were a bouncy interviewee - "Hey, yeah!" he enthuses at regular junctures - it's Affleck. And why not? Both personally and professionally, he's the lead in his own modern fairytale.

One minute he's pretty much your average struggling actor. The next he's stepping out with Gwyneth Paltrow. So he's handsome and he's bagged the girl of the moment. Can we take some consolation in the fact he's just another muscley Hollywood Himbo, as dumb as the day is long? Sorry folks - we can't.

As a general rule, the average Himbo doesn't talk in full sentences. Much less win Golden Globes for writing them. Yes, one Globe down with a possible Oscar impending, Affleck is also smart. If all goes to plan he and his co-writer Matt Damon will be on the podium later this month, when thir screenplay for Good Will Hunting is nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category. (One of its nine Oscar nominations.)

The two actors, both brought up in Cambridge near Boston, have known each other since childhood. "Neither one of us thought we could write anything decent on our own," says Affleck. You have to hand it to him and Damon. They sold the script to a studio for one million dollars with the caveat they both took the roles they wanted for themselves. They play a couple of blue-collar workers, one of whom, Will Hunting, just happens to be able to knock out mathematical formulae in less time than the brightest college student takes to sharpen his pencil. Although Affleck has an impact as Chuckie, inevitably the high-profile role belongs to Matt Damon. That could have been tricky. Even - or should that be especially - the best friendships contain an element of rivalry.

"It was an arbitrary decision and I very much liked Chuckie. I liken my role to Mercutio. In the next movie we'll switch, and Matt will have the Mercutio role. It's ideal to work with people you care about. You have twice as much fun and you have a working shorthand. You don't have to take the circuitous route to explaining something".

In the US the film has done phenomenally well, tapping into a commercial zeitgeist. Judging from the healthy box office takings, if you're a Nineties man it's good to talk. "Matt and I have grown up in an age with duelling archetypes. The new age sensitive guy versus the old world stiff upper lip thing. Both are equally flawed so you have this strange conundrum of who we should be."

Let's face it, though, I counter - a male buddy film can never capture the intimacy of a friendship that occurs between two female friends.

"I contend that man's friendships are actually deeper than womens," he argues. But, I say, men's friendships are based on getting pissed and who won down the Arsenal.

"It's a common misconception that because men don't talk about everything, their friendships are less resonant than women's. Male friendships aren't about talking, they're about companionship and loyalty."

For a full appreciation of Affleck's acting talents, take a look at Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy. As Holden, he is the leading man who falls in love with a lesbian and delivers a moving speech on unrequited love. "I based that on the time when I was really loving somebody in vain. You get to the point where it doesn't matter anymore; to hell with the consequences." And ? "She was half-hearted. If you're completely in love you can't stand to have anything less than full reciprocity. It ended in heartbreak for me.

"There's an incredibly contradictory nature to women that demands two completely opposite things at once. You hear these laments from womens' magazines which say that women don't want a guy that's too nice or too boring. Which isn't to say that women want wife-beaters. Far from it. But they do like men that seem disinterested." And what about men ? "There's definitely a part of me that still wants the unattainable. There's the challenge - although I hope I've matured a little bit beyond that."

Clearly well-read, Affleck was brought up by his teacher mother. She had always hoped he would do something useful and loathes the attention he now attracts. He did make it to Occidental College but, after three years studying literature, dropped out. "I was paying for it myself. Straddling the fence, trying to be an actor and a writer. It was too much trouble. Good Will Hunting is my diatribe against higher learning - it's so over- priced. You can get the same education from the local library. It's insanity."

His gamble has paid off. It will be several months before he has a free day in his diary. He's just finished filming Armageddon, a special effects extravaganza with Bruce Willis. In the summer he begins a project opposite Sandra Bullock. Meanwhile he's in London filming Shakespeare in Love alongside - you guessed it - Gwyneth Paltrow.

"I was doing it before I knew Gwyneth was," he protests feebly before breaking into an English accent, currently hovering at the Sebastian Flyte stage. "Any American who tries Shakespeare is going to be crucified. It's terrifying. You British are very proprietorial about him." He beams. "When the journey's over there'll be time enough to sleep," he quotes. Did anyone mention ham? He chuckles and, spurning my hand, plants a kiss on my cheek, "This has been fun. Yeah."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: HRIS Project Manager - e-Learning - Surrey - up to £450 per day

    £450 per day: Ashdown Group: HR Systems Project Manager - Surrey - up to £450 ...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Network Engineer - London - £70,000

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An excellent opportunity ...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administrator - London - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness