September 18th, 2012
09:35 AM ET
Nine years ago, when Ben Affleck's claim to fame was rubbing down Jennifer Lopez in a music video and "Gigli," some probably couldn't envision his eventual blossoming into an actor and director behind films like "The Town" and next month's "Argo."
But that's the result of what Affleck calls our cultural instinct to "shorthand" people, as he explains in the new issue of Details.
"I got shorthanded as That Guy: Jennifer Lopez, movies bombed, therefore he must be a sort of thoughtless dilettante, solipsistic consumer blahblahblah," Affleck says.
"It's hard to shake those sort of narratives. If you were looking at that one-liner on me in 2003, which was definitely the annus horribilis of my life," he adds with a laugh, "... I made a bunch of movies that didn't work. I was ending up in the tabloids. I don't know what the lesson is, except that you just have to find your compass."
In order to break out of a public perception that was turning into "a self-fulfilling prophecy ... I just said, 'I don't want to do it anymore. This is horrible. I don't want to be in this spotlight, this glare, in this way. It's tawdry, it's ugly, it's oppressive, and it's inane. So I'm going to try to get away.'"
Going behind the camera accomplished that goal, allowing the 40-year-old actor/director to move "toward a place where the work that I do is reflective of what I think is interesting dramatically."
Now that he and wife Jennifer Garner are parents of three, one might assume Affleck is ready for another transition, perhaps stepping back from Hollywood. Not so - he (and Garner) loves work too much.
"Everything has to compete with being with my family," Affleck tells the magazine. "I don't want to be a stay-at-home dad. Work is very important to me. I like to work. So does my wife. But I need my work to mean something to me in order for me to not be home with them."
As it is, he's not "very present" in the other areas of his life when he's in the middle of a project. Thankfully, Garner's patient, Affleck says.
"She does everything. If I have time, I try to spend time with the kids, even if just to be a physical presence, the bath, whatever," he says. "But my mind's always going, 'How are we going to light that shot tomorrow? What's the master shot for that scene? Is there even going to be a master?' Just ruminating endlessly. Because for me - I wish it was discipline or being a great artist. But it's just anxiety."
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