Ben Affleck talks the original Bennifer

Though the phrase "Jen and Ben" now automatically translates to Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, there was another ultra-famous Jennifer in his life a decade ago … Jennifer Lopez. Together, the couple, dubbed "Bennifer" by the media, catapulted to Hollywood royalty, making daily headlines both for their relationship, and eventually for the famous failure of their 2003 on-screen collaboration, "Gigli," the film that introduced them to each other. It was both a box-office bomb and critical dud and became the butt of late-night talk show jokes. The couple broke up a few months after the movie's release, an event that garnered even more publicity for Affleck.

"In our culture, we get very much into short- handing people. And I got shorthanded as That Guy: Jennifer Lopez, movies bombed, therefore he must be a sort of thoughtless dilettante, solipsistic consumer blahblahblah. It's hard to shake those sort of narratives," the "Smokin' Aces" actor shares. " If you were looking at that one-liner on me in 2003, which was definitely the annus horribilis [laughs] of my life. I made a bunch of movies that didn't work. I was ending up in the tabloids. I don't know what the lesson is, except that you just have to find your compass."

While Affleck admits there are some movies he did that he liked and others he didn't, what he hated was the constant media coverage. "I just said, 'I don't want to do it anymore. This is horrible. I don't want to be in this spotlight, this glare, in this way. It's tawdry, it's ugly, it's oppressive, and it's inane. So I'm going to try to get away,'" Affleck explains. "And most of the way I did that was by not acting. I said, 'I'm going to steer myself toward directing. I'm going to do something that takes me toward a place where the work that I do is reflective of what I think is interesting dramatically.' People bring up 2003, and I get it. Jennifer Lopez, and 'Gigli,' and all this s*** just kind of blew up. But, you know, in 2003, Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois! Okay?"