Ben Affleck recalls 'racist, sexist' criticism of ex Jennifer Lopez: 'People were so f****** mean about her'

Ben Affleck is incredibly proud of what ex-fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, has accomplished — but he’ll never forget the “ugly s***” she dealt with when they were together.

“Bennifer” was one of the biggest celebrity couples of the early aughts, which happened to coincide with the rise of the tabloid industry. It also happened to coincide with some bad Affleck films —Daredevil, Surviving Christmas and Gigli — which the actor reflected on during The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast.

Ben Affleck, here with Jennifer Lopez at the 2003 premiere of Gigli, reflects on his romance with the star.
Ben Affleck, here with Jennifer Lopez at the 2003 premiere of Gigli, reflects on his romance with the star. (Photo: Getty Images)

“You know, there’s always a story of the month, and me dating Jennifer Lopez happened to be that tabloid story at the time when that business grew exponentially,” he said. “The tabloids exploded, the internet started… they needed something to write about and we were that thing.”

When it came to his romance with Lopez, their two-year relationship ending in 2004, Affleck said they were the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of the time.

“Particularly in that case, at first it was like Dick and Liz. It was sort of this infatuation, ‘What an interesting couple!’ Then there was a ton of resentment,” he explained.

Lopez received the brunt of that resentment in the tabloid press which Affleck called “reckless and irresponsible.”

“The irony is not lost on me that Jennifer now — people were so f****** mean about her. Sexist, racist. Ugly, vicious s*** was written about her in ways that if you wrote it now, you would literally be fired for saying those things you said. Now it’s like, she’s lionized and respected for the work she did, where she came from, what she accomplished — as well she f****** should be!”

Affleck, who is still friends with Lopez, continued, “I would say you have a better chance from the Bronx, of ending up as like [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor on the Supreme Court than you do of having Jennifer Lopez’s career and being who she is at 50 years old today. Not that one has more value than the other, just on a pure odds level, pure hard work. I don’t think I met anybody that worked harder than Jennifer Lopez.”

When the couple split, Affleck’s career was in a shambles.

“I was depressed, had depression when I was younger, that was very difficult… I kind of had to develop a sense of, like, ‘I’m going to get through this no matter what. No matter how s***** it feels,’” he said.

“I never thought to myself, ‘I have no talent. I really am an a******. I really am some jerkoff shallow frat guy.’ I've never even been inside a fraternity, not that I have anything against it,’” he said, but noted he “was actually in the very worst position you can be in in this business.”

“Which is you can sell magazines but not movie tickets,” he recalled. “People were just saying, ‘You’re worthless. You’re talentless. You’re a hack. You’re a cad. You’re a nobody. You’re s***.’ And really — I guess I function well when I have something to prove.”

Affleck’s career rebounded, but he’s still shocked that some people think he craved that kind of attention in the press, or still does.

“Why in the world would I have wanted that?” he added. “Still, to this day, [some] will go, ‘I see you out there in the paparazzi and the pictures!’ It’s like, ‘Yes, I left my house and took out the trash….’ And it’s still like, ‘You were taking a pap walk!’ As if, if you leave your house, you’re only doing so in the hope that you could be so lucky that you could end up as the sixth item in The Daily Mail. It’s absurd!”

Affleck’s life has been under a microscope for decades, which included a public battle with alcoholism. The actor said he realized he was an alcoholic in 2016.

“I started drinking too much around the time of Justice League, and it's a hard thing to confront and face and deal with. I’ve been sober for a while now, and I feel really good and as healthy and good as I’ve ever felt,” he shared. “And the process of recovering from alcoholism has been really instructive. I think it’s great for people who aren’t alcoholics, you know? Like, ‘Be honest. Have integrity. Take accountability. Help other people.’ It’s a good set of things that they teach you. It took me a little while to get it — I had a few slips, like most people — but I feel really good.”

One of those slips happened while he was filming The Way Back, which is generating awards buzz for Affleck. He sought treatment in 2018 while making the movie.

“It took me several shots [at treatment] to get it,” he admitted. “It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s difficult.”

He added, “If you knew how many actors and directors and writers were alcoholics or compulsive in some way — I mean, it’s the most ordinary thing in the world in Hollywood. I’ve worked with actors who showed up drunk! And that was not me. I drank, like, alone in my living room and just passed out, like, with scotch. But I got sober.”

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