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“Growing older and having had more intense personal experiences has made acting much more interesting and made me drawn to the kinds of movies about people who are flawed.” —Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck recently told The Hollywood Reporter his performance in the 2020 film The Way Back was a “cathartic” experience. In the sports drama, he portrays Jack Cunningham. Cunningham is a former athlete who reluctantly agrees to coach the basketball team at his high school alma mater, all the while struggling with alcoholism. The 48-year-old actor’s performance is described as raw, natural, and breathtaking.

Affleck explained how difficult moments in his life such as his divorce from actress Jennifer Garner and battles with addiction helped him tap into the layers of his complex character in The Way Back.

The Personal Connection

“I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I played an alcoholic in the movie,” the California native explained. “A lot of it is about alcoholism. Alcoholism, in and of itself, and compulsive behavior are not inherently super interesting. What is sometimes interesting is what you discover about yourself in the course of recovery and trying to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, how you want your life to look, and what kind of ethics you want to live by. So, yes, I’m an alcoholic. Yes, I had a relapse. Yes, I went into recovery again. And then I went and did [‘The Way Home’].”

The Road to Recovery

Affleck has been open about his personal struggles during press interviews including his multiple visits to rehab. After his first time in a residential recovery program in 2001, he managed to avoid alcohol for a couple of years. However, he yearned to drink like a “normal person.” To some degree, he was able to pull it off for about eight years. Over time, alcoholism started to creep back into his life—much like it did for so many of his extended family members who struggled mightily with the disease. 

The Way Back

“The movie was much more about the fact that—whether it’s having lived enough years, having seen enough ups and downs, having had children and divorce—I’m at a point now in my life where I have sufficient life experience to bring to a role to make it really interesting for me,” the actor revealed. “I’m not good enough to just invent it from whole cloth, you know? I didn’t have to do research for the alcoholism aspect of the movie—that was covered. It was the Daniel Day-Lewis approach to that!”

Despite his rocky personal life, Affleck has managed to appear in over 50 films and maintain a long career as an actor, writer, and director.  He won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting and another Oscar for Best Picture for directing the 2012 film, Argo. He both directed and starred in The Town, Argo, and Live by Night over the past decade or so.

“People with compulsive behavior, and I am one, have this kind of basic discomfort all the time that they’re trying to make go away,” Affleck once told The New York Times. “You’re trying to make yourself feel better with eating or drinking or sex or gambling or shopping or whatever. But that ends up making your life worse. Then you do more of it to make that discomfort go away. Then the real pain starts. It becomes a vicious cycle you can’t break.”

Healing

But through his work, Affleck has found a degree of healing. “Even with things that were emotional or upsetting in some way, I was thrilled and exhilarated at the end of the day,” he said of his role.

Currently, Affleck is prioritizing his health and taking an active role in raising his three children. He also continues to have ambitious acting and directing goals for the future.

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