Ben Affleck Says Now ‘You Would Literally Be Fired’ for What People Wrote About Jennifer Lopez When They Dated

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez went through the tabloid wringer when they dated from 2002 – 2004. The negative attention ultimately hurt the two films they made together, Gigli and Jersey Girl. Affleck still finds photographers waiting outside his house and reporting on his relationship with Ana de Armas after his divorce from Jennifer Garner. It was the worst when he dated Lopez, he says.

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck | Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty Images

Affleck appeared on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast to discuss his role in The Way Back. Looking back on his tabloid infamy, he was particularly offended on behalf of Lopez.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez dated right when tabloids exploded

By 2002, Affleck had been in blockbusters like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. He knew there would be interest in his personal life. However, the tabloid industry went to the next level just as he was dating Lopez. 

There’s always a story of the month. Me dating Jennifer Lopez happened to be that tabloid story at the time when that business grew exponentially. When they realized there’ actually 10 times a bigger audience for our product than we’re selling to. So there was this proliferation. Us Weekly went from the sort of celebrity friendly interview thing to a tabloid. The tabloids exploited, the internet started, you had the Perez Hiltons, all that kind of stuff and they needed something to write about. We were that thing.

Ben Affleck, THR Awards Chatter podcast, 1/14/21

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were tabloid darlings at first 

In 2002, the coverage was affectionate. They even dubbed the couple “Bennifer.” However, by the end, Affleck thought some of it was reprehensible, particularly directed towards Lopez.

Ben AFfleck and Jennifer Lopez in Gigli
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez | James Devaney/WireImage

“At first it was like Dick and Liz,” Affleck said. “It was this infatuation, what an interesting couple. Then there was a ton of resentment, a ton of resentment against me, a ton of resentment against Jennifer. People were so f*cking mean about her, sexist, racist, ugly vicious sh*t was written about her in ways that if you wrote it now, you would literally be fired for saying some of the things you said.”

People who had nothing to do with them would mock them 

The “Bennifer” period was such a whirlwind, Affleck doesn’t hold any grudges. However, he remembered one example that illustrated just how easy it was for people to pile on him.

I remember this guy Rick McCallum, the producer, basically a glorified line producer of the middle three Star Wars movies. He did an interview at that time where somebody said, ‘Isn’t it a little much that Annakin Skywalker slaughters Jedi children?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know, look at Ben Affleck, he killed children.’ I just thought what the f*ck is wrong? To be so cavalier as to say that about anybody you don’t know. It’s not even an indictment of him. I don’t know him, I’ve never met him, I don’t care about him. It’s just demonstrative of the degree to which it was permitted. Once it becomes cool to make fun of somebody then everybody makes fun of them. 

Ben Affleck, THR Awards Chatter podcast, 1/14/21

“Bennifer” coverage hurt Ben Affleck’s career 

Affleck had a comeback after Jersey Girl. He starred in Hollywoodland and directed Gone Baby Gone. However, he recognized how his relationship with Lopez hurt their movies together.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck | Ben-Ari Finegold/Getty Images

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“I sort of had to make it in the business twice because I became so cold and so not cool and so out of it that I had to sort of totally reinvent the career,” Affleck said. “Before I was just starting at the start line. Now I had to start sort of a mile further back because people not only had no perception of me, but a negative one fostered by a really reckless and irresponsible tabloid press that would just write things that weren’t true.”