"If you can't handle being the object of satire, then you really have skin that is too thin to be in the entertainment business or in public life," Ben Affleck says.
"If you can't handle being the object of satire, then you really have skin that is too thin to be in the entertainment business or in public life," Ben Affleck says.

Balancing act



Ben Affleck's performance as Jennifer Aniston's uncommitted beau in the romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You is the first time that the Boston native has appeared on movie screens in three years: some would argue that this has been a blessing.

The surprising thing about the 36-year-old actor's absence is that it came just after he won the coveted Best Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival and received critical plaudits for his performances as the former Superman actor George Reeves in the biopic Hollywoodland. It's not that Affleck has been completely absent in this period. He directed his first feature film, the excellent adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel, Gone Baby Gone, showing a talent behind the camera that many have argued he has lost in front of it.

The reason for Affleck's sabbatical has its roots in the actor's meteoric rise and equally steep fall from grace. In 1997, the then fresh-faced actor was being feted alongside his best friend Matt Damon as the best thing to hit American cinema since synchronised sound. The friends had written and starred in Good Will Hunting, directed by Gus Van Sant. In 1998, their entry into Hollywood's elite was capped when the duo received an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

The public expected great things and Affleck didn't seem to deliver. His failure was made all the more glaring as Damon moved from strength to strength. "I don't know what audience expectation was after Good Will Hunting," Affleck says. "I did all kinds of unusual and different movies: Armageddon, Shakespeare in Love, Forces of Nature and Dogma. Basically, I did the best that I could get, the most interesting and diverse films that were available to me. Sometimes it was because I wanted to do a certain type of movie, sometimes it was because I liked the script. Sometimes it has been about making money or just having a job. Other times I've wanted to have the pressure of trying to be Jack Ryan. It's interesting, all these different movies and how they are perceived."

For the most part, the films had mixed critical reception, and even with Oscar successes such as Shakespeare in Love, Affleck's reputation as an actor plummeted. However, it is not difficult to argue that some of the adverse reaction was unfair and largely because of Affleck's much publicised engagement to the singer and actor Jennifer Lopez. The couple were dubbed Bennifer and there was a certain amount of Schadenfreude in the media reaction when the couple announced that their wedding was postponed and then cancelled. Merited or not, Affleck had become the actor that the public loved to hate.

His three-year break from the big screen has been during a coincidental and dramatic upturn in his private life. He met and married the actress Jennifer Garner and in January the couple had their second daughter. "Fatherhood has made me more sensitive and probably more caring, in a way," Affleck says. "I thought that I was a caring guy already, but being a parent has made me feel things more acutely."

But it's taking longer for him to bounce back in front of the camera - so much so that it became easier for him to direct rather than act in Gone Baby Gone. "When I originally bought the rights, I was going to act in it and try and find a director," he says. "Then I started to search for the money to direct it, and once I did that, I thought I couldn't be in it. It was just too much. I wouldn't be able to do either job well, if I did them both, and I just wanted to do a great job.

"The first movie is five times as important as your second or third in terms of the impression that it makes. Just in terms of myself and my soul, I didn't want to spend all this time in my life working on something that wasn't good." It turned out that Gone Baby Gone was really rather good. Affleck could even take pleasure in watching his younger brother, Casey, produce another sterling performance in the lead. Indeed, Affleck revels in the excellent notices Casey has received since he wowed audiences with his performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

"I knew Casey would be right for this part because he knew the city and this world," Affleck says. "He has had the benefit of not being very well known, and so he could surprise the audience because the audience didn't have any expectations of him. And that is a tremendous asset. When you don't know what to expect and something good happens, it seems twice as good." It's a position that Ben knows only too well, and he follows this statement with a warning that resonates, as it comes from a man who has been burnt by success. "Now when Casey does a movie and people know that he's good it will make less of an impact, so he'll have to work twice as hard to surprise people. However, I have every confidence in him."

Square-jawed and clean-shaven, Affleck looks every bit the film star in person. He also seems to have come to terms with the fact that he became a figure of fun, and that's partly why he decided to take a break from acting. "I think that the entertainment media - particularly people who write in magazines - part of their job is to be funny and lampoon," he says without a hint of anger. "That's a big part of the gig. If you can't handle being the object of satire or criticised and you can't take a joke, then you really have skin that is too thin to be in the entertainment business or in public life. You have to be grown up and deal with it. "

He also says that directing a film and taking time out from acting has had a positive effect on his acting career: "I've always had a good respect for the job but I think it will change the way that I approach my own work. I learned a lot about acting from making Gone Baby Gone. I've really learned to appreciate how much of acting comes through making good choices. In the last three years or so, I've begun feeling really good. From being in Hollywoodland and then watching these actors and this movie, I feel like I've been around some stuff that has been really interesting and healthy to watch as an actor."

He has wisely chosen his return to be in an ensemble film, where there are so many big names - Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson and Drew Barrymore - that the spotlight will not be focused solely on him. The bigger test will come later in the year when he stars in Kevin McDonald's big-screen adaptation of television's State of Play and Mike Judge's comedy Extract. But as Affleck puts it, "After Hollywoodland, when everyone congratulated me on my comeback before I had even been away, if in the next movie, people say, 'Congratulations on your comeback', I'll know it's good."

SOUTH KOREA SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Kim Seung-gyu, Jo Hyeon-woo, Song Bum-keun
Defenders: Kim Young-gwon, Kim Min-jae, Jung Seung-hyun, Kim Ju-sung, Kim Ji-soo, Seol Young-woo, Kim Tae-hwan, Lee Ki-je, Kim Jin-su
Midfielders: Park Yong-woo, Hwang In-beom, Hong Hyun-seok, Lee Soon-min, Lee Jae-sung, Lee Kang-in, Son Heung-min (captain), Jeong Woo-yeong, Moon Seon-min, Park Jin-seob, Yang Hyun-jun
Strikers: Hwang Hee-chan, Cho Gue-sung, Oh Hyeon-gyu

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo hybrid
Power: 680hp
Torque: 1,020Nm
Transmission: 9-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 7.5L/100km
On sale: Early 2024
Price: From Dh530,000 (estimate)

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

Indoor cricket in a nutshell

Indoor Cricket World Cup - Sep 16-20, Insportz, Dubai

16 Indoor cricket matches are 16 overs per side

8 There are eight players per team

9 There have been nine Indoor Cricket World Cups for men. Australia have won every one.

5 Five runs are deducted from the score when a wickets falls

4 Batsmen bat in pairs, facing four overs per partnership

Scoring In indoor cricket, runs are scored by way of both physical and bonus runs. Physical runs are scored by both batsmen completing a run from one crease to the other. Bonus runs are scored when the ball hits a net in different zones, but only when at least one physical run is score.

Zones

A Front net, behind the striker and wicketkeeper: 0 runs

B Side nets, between the striker and halfway down the pitch: 1 run

C Side nets between halfway and the bowlers end: 2 runs

D Back net: 4 runs on the bounce, 6 runs on the full

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

FA Cup semi-final draw

Coventry City v Manchester United 

Manchester City v Chelsea

- Games to be played at Wembley Stadium on weekend of April 20/21. 

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets