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Ben Affleck, a man on the move
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Ben Affleck, a man on the move

Friday, 27 September 2019
By Frank Rousseau
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6 min read

He can pride himself on being the only actor to have played three legendary superheroes: Daredevil, Superman and Batman. He is also one of the most gifted directors/screenwriters of his generation. Ben Affleck talks about fame, money and watches.

He may be an A-lister, Ben Affleck still remembers growing up in a family where it wasn’t always easy to make ends meet. Back when he dreamed of one day wearing the same watch as Paul Newman…

Whose poster did you have on your bedroom wall when you were a kid?

As a ten-year-old, I was a huge fan of Prince. I pinned the poster from the Controversy album above my bed – the one with Prince taking a shower in purple briefs. I can still see my mother’s face, the first time she saw it! She thought Prince was the devil incarnate. One of the things I liked about Prince, apart from his music and the way he dressed, was his watches. Especially the ones that looked like disco glitter balls.

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck
What about your first watch?

My father moved out, so it wasn’t always easy at home. My mom became a single parent overnight, having to raise my brother and me without any help. Sometimes we had money, sometimes we didn’t. At Christmas we’d get whatever gifts she could afford. When I was maybe ten or eleven, I really wanted a Star Wars Millennium Falcon model for Christmas. For weeks before, I’d lay awake hoping that’s what I’d find under the tree, so I couldn’t believe it when I actually did! Next to it was another, smaller box. Inside was a dive watch that must have been twice the size of my wrist. I’m guessing it was cheap because it didn’t last long. I was an outdoorsy kid, always riding my bike, and it soon broke. Even then, I was so proud that I still wore it! [laughs]

I used to fantasise about owning the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona but couldn't afford it.
Ben Affleck
In 1998 you and Matt Damon sold the Good Will Hunting script for $600,000. What did you do with the money?

Can you believe that was twenty years ago already? Time flies! Back then, I didn’t think I’d one day fulfil my dream of becoming an actor. I’d worked on a few low-budget series, had a part in an indie movie for director Kevin Smith, and made a couple of commercials, but that was it. I never imagined winning an Oscar and all that money in the bank. Before that, Matt and I had worked hard to sell our script but there was nothing doing until we got a call from Harvey Weinstein; a memory that’s been marred by what happened since. I met him for the first time when he came by the set of Good Will to see Robin Williams. For me, making the film was an incredible experience but looking back, in the light of what people are now saying in the press, I keep thinking that for others, meeting Harvey Weinstein must have been something terrible.

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck

As for the money, Matt and I split it, $300,000 each. We paid our taxes then we each went out and bought ourselves new cars. I deposited the check, moved into a nice house, then went straight to the Chrysler dealership to buy my dream car: a black Jeep Cherokee with all the trimmings. Call it dumb, call it childish, call it whatever, but I’d been wanting that car for a very long time. After driving an ancient Toyota Corolla station wagon, switching to a brand new Jeep was like that moment in fairy tales when the pumpkin turns into a gold carriage. Nine months later I was broke again. Fortunately, Armageddon got me back in the black. The watch came later. I used to fantasise about owning the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona but couldn’t afford it, so I settled for a different model instead. A vintage Rolex Submariner I found in this little store in Beverly Hills. I like Rolex watches and the way they stand up to anything…

I like intuitive watches.
Ben Affleck
What else has fame brought you?

Money to buy a house for my mother, consideration, hangers-on, tabloid headlines, paparazzi constantly sniffing around, and a lot less quiet time. I’m not the kind of guy to brush someone off when they ask for an autograph, but there are limits. I mean, once I was in a movie theatre. The lights had dimmed, the film had started when suddenly, this guy in the row behind taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hey, can you sign this for me, real quick?” Before I’d even had a chance to say, sure, I’d do that “real quick” after the film, he was shining a torch in my face and pushing a pen into my hand. The whole situation bugged me so I asked him, did he want my watch as well. And you know what he answered: “I dunno. Who’s it by?” [laughs]

Do you remember the first watch you wore for a film?

Yes. It was a Hamilton Khaki Field. An American brand, fairly classic, fairly rustic, but never out of style. That was for Pearl Harbor. I played a combat pilot. As preparation for the role, I flew in B-40s and B-52s, then smaller planes where I discovered the joys of aerobatics. Well, when I say “joys” I’m not being entirely honest considering I threw up several times. I thought I’d seen it all with Armageddon but that was just the tip of the iceberg. The explosions for Pearl Harbor were so huge, we could feel the heat 500 metres away!

What's the first thing you look for in a watch?

Reliability, durability and practicality. I don’t like watches that expect you to spend hours reading the user manual. I prefer intuitive watches. I also like automatic winding, preferably with a sapphire crystal back. I’m a man on the move!

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