For a while in the early 2000s, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were the most-talked-about couple in Hollywood.
Dubbed “Bennifer”, their romance captured the world’s attention and the media covered their every move – from Ben’s cameo in her Jenny from the Block music video, the impressive $2,5-million engagement ring he bought her, their called-off wedding and eventual break-up in January 2004.
Earlier this week, the 48-year-old actor revisited their doomed romance on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, recalling how the tabloids and internet "exploded" when he started dating Jennifer (51) in 2002.
"At first it was an infatuation, what an interesting couple," he reflected. "And then there was a ton of resentment – a ton of resentment against me, a ton of resentment against Jennifer.
"There is always a story of the month," Ben added. "Me dating Jennifer Lopez happened to be that tabloid story at the time when that business grew exponentially. When they realised there's actually a 10 times bigger audience for our product than we are selling to."
He was horrified about how Jennifer was treated.
"People were so f***ing mean about her – sexist, racist. Ugly, vicious s**t was written about her in ways that if you wrote it now, you would literally be fired for saying those things you said.”
He insists that despite the big deal made of their relationship and perceived differences, dating the Dinero singer felt very natural to him.
“She was very much like the kind of girl I went to high school with,” he recalls. “Those differences that seemed to shock America were meaningless to me.”
Today, 17 years on, Ben and Jennifer continue to be popular subjects in the world of pop culture.
Their respective relationships with Ana de Armas (32) and Alex Rodriguez (45) still take centre stage in tabloids, and Ben credits their relationship for helping him adjust to the constant paparazzi attention.
“I think there was a natural reaction to wait a minute, why am I hearing about you every day and seeing you on every newsstand?” “To this day they’ll go, ‘I see you out there in the paparazzi and the pictures’,” Ben says.
“Yes, I left the house and took out the trash. As if when you leave your house, you’re only doing so in the hopes that you can be so lucky that you could end up as the sixth item in the Daily Mail. It’s absurd.”
At the same time, Ben is happy to see his Gigli co-star receive the respect she rightfully deserves, admitting that he’d always admired her incredible work ethic.
"Now it's like she is lionised and respected for the work she has done, where she came from and what she accomplished," he says. "As well as she f***ing should be."
Ben, who shares children Violet (15), Seraphina (12), and Samuel (8), with ex-wife Jennifer Garner (48), has remained on good terms with JLo in the years since their split.
In February last year, he raved about her performance in Hustlers.
“She should have been nominated. She’s the real thing,” he told The New York Times of Jennifer being snubbed for an Oscar.
“I keep in touch periodically with her and have a lot of respect for her. How awesome is it that she had her biggest hit movie at 50? That’s f***ing baller.”
Sources: nytimes.com, usmagazine.com, people.com, eonline.com, hollywoodreporter.com