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“When you’re younger and have the early success I had – it sounds like the worst Hallmark cliche – but I didn’t have anyone to share it with. But when you have a family and children, you kind of see yourself reflected in them. I want to make the kind of movie that my kids are proud of. I have higher standards, in a way, for them.”

That’s Ben Affleck in Entertainment Weekly magazine. Affleck is on the cover, as the No. 1 “Entertainer of the Year.” This is in recognition of his critically acclaimed, box office hit, “Argo.” That film – one of the very best of the year – clinches Ben’s “redemption” as a serious actor/producer/director.

He has regained his old “Good Will Hunting” glow, with the added burnish of maturity and a long baptism of fire as an object of gossip fodder.

His nadir was the wildly publicized romance with Jennifer Lopez that ended with her practically being left at the altar. Their joint film, “Gigli,” was also savaged. (Everybody knew Ben was in big trouble when he appeared in Jennifer’s video, and was seen literally kissing her famous backside.)

But despite personal and professional setbacks, Ben always remained a favorite, like his great pal, Matt Damon. Ben was unfailingly polite and appeared genuinely flattered if you complimented one of his performances. I asked, after seeing him and Gwyneth Paltrow in “Bounce,” how he managed to keep a tear glistening in his eye for what appeared to be a long time, without that tear actually falling?

Ben laughed: “Oh, you noticed that? Let me tell you, it was hard. I thought it would be cheesy for him to cry, but he needed to show that kind of emotion. I had to will that tear not to fall!” (It was at this same event, that Gwyneth Paltrow’s press rep literally moved the actress – about whom we’d never written an unkind word – out of my way and into a protective entourage, as if her delicate nature would be shattered by having to speak to a gossip columnist.)

In any case, Ben Affleck is back, enjoying his career, his marriage to Jennifer Garner and being a dad. And to think, as he told “EW,” – “I had very low expectations for ‘Argo’s’ performance. I just hoped over time people would find the movie.”

Well, they found it all right, and come February, Oscar might find Mr. Affleck standing at the podium at the Kodak Theatre.

Tribune Media Services