BY the time Ben Affleck and Matt Damon appeared at the 1997 Golden Globes ceremony to collect a Best Screenplay award for Good Will Hunting, even cave-dwelling hermits had heard the tale of how the boyhood buddies wrote the Little Screenplay That Could and turned it into a box-office smash.
Castle Rock originally purchased the rights to their script in 1994, but the rookie screenwriters refused to participate in the production after the studio announced plans to film the movie in Toronto, in favor of a location shoot in their beloved Boston. The project went into a tailspin from which it might never have recovered had it not been for the benevolent intervention of Affleck’s pal, indie god Kevin Smith, who convinced Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein to give the screenplay a look-see. Miramax proved more than willing to take over production, and the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history. Hot on the heels of his Golden Globe win, a chiseled, bare-chested Affleck fronted an issue of GQ, and producers began lining up to offer him lead roles. A Best Original Screenplay Oscar win only confirmed his rising-star status.
Born in Berkeley, Calif., to an auto mechanic father and a schoolteacher mother who separated not long after his birth, Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. Shortly after his eighth birthday, he landed his first acting job, as a regular on the PBS series The Voyage of the Mimi; that same year, he first crossed paths with Damon, whose family lived just two blocks away. The boys became bosom buddies, and eventually attended classes together at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a tony secondary school where both were heavily involved in the drama program. During those years, Affleck and Damon also answered casting calls for every movie that filmed in Boston, and by the time they graduated, each had appeared as an extra several times. While Damon went on to study at Harvard, Affleck was more serious about pursuing a career in acting than laboring to earn an academic degree. Though he subsequently made sporadic efforts to settle into the student lifestyle at both the University of Vermont and California’s Occidental College, the allure of the silver screen proved too strong for him to ignore.
Early rounds of television work in the mini-series Hands of a Stranger and in the Danielle Steele adaptation Daddy paid the rent, and a small part in the coming-of-age drama School Ties, in which he co-starred alongside Damon, Chris O’Donnell and Brendan Fraser, marked an auspicious feature film debut. But Affleck didn’t really get to stretch his acting chops until 1993, when he made a memorable appearance as a freshman-baiting bully in Richard Linklater’s paean to smoking dope and slacking off, Dazed and Confused, which also featured up-and-comers Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, and Parker Posey.
Occupation: Actor, Screenwriter
Date of Birth: August 15, 1972
Place of Birth: Berkeley, Calif., USA
Sign: Sun in Leo, Moon in Scorpio
Relations: Father: Tim (social worker; former actor who supposedly “chased women” with Dustin Hoffman); mother: Chris (teacher); brother: Casey (actor)
Education: Briefly attended classes at the University of Vermont and Occidental College