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Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez
Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez. Getty Images

In March, Ben Affleck revealed his and pal Matt Damon’s Artist Equity would be producing Unstoppable, starring none other than Affleck’s wife, Jennifer Lopez. This raises the question: Does the couple that act together, stay together? History doesn’t stand on their side, but with copious side projects in addition to Unstoppable, both Affleck and Lopez are busy enough with their own independent work to avoid on-set tensions: Affleck’s AIR is dropping on Prime Video and Lopez is celebrating the release of The Mother on Netflix on May 12, 2023.

As we awkwardly shuffled through the memories of Gigli, 1993’s epic film fail starring both Affleck and Lopez, Affleck gave us some solid reasons to believe this new project could salvage our belief in “Bennifer” as the collaborative couple we can celebrate (and forgive).

Knowing the intense tabloid speculation he’d experience, Affleck reluctantly conceded to UK news publication The Independent that Lopez was starring in Unstoppable. He referred to Lopez as not only his wife but his best friend; someone he wanted to go to work with and spend his time with.

There’s not the weight of a power imbalance overshadowing their professional collaboration, either. Lopez has hardly been resting on her laurels while Affleck is busy negotiating new productions. In The Mother, she stars as an assassin who comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she abandoned from violent assailants pursuing both women.

Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Gigli
GIGLI, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, 2003. Image: Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection

As Harlee Santos in Shades of Blue, Lopez defied the cynics by imbuing her single mother police detective with the compassion, steeliness, determination and wiliness of a hardened New York cop facing the end of her career. There’s also the exciting matter of her imminent ninth album This Is Me…Now, with a couple of songs that directly address Ben and their marriage (no release date is confirmed).

The most convincing reason to have faith in their new project, Unstoppable—a biopic about Arizona State wrestler Anthony Robles—is that Affleck is a producer, writer and co-star. His production company with co-founder Matt Damon, Artists Equity, is backing the project, which bodes well given their recent success story with AIR.

The Nike biopic illustrated Affleck’s power as a director, writer and actor who blitzes the field when he is creatively in charge of his projects. The film recounts the unusual story of Sonny Vacarello (played by Matt Damon), the small-town basketball coach who ultimately engineered the historic deal between Nike and basketball star Michael Jordan. It joins the echelon of other Affleck-directed films that have thrilled critics and viewers alike: Live By Night (2016), Argo (2012), The Town (2010) and Gone Baby Gone (2007).

Gigli was for Bennifer what Eyes Wide Shut was for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman or By The Sea for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: the final, filmic nail in the coffin of their romances. Would it have made a difference if those films hadn’t been flops? It’s doubtful. Like couples who suddenly had to live in each other’s pockets during the pandemic, spending all that time on a film set together under deadlines and then going home together too would push the most loving relationship to its breaking point.
But 20 years can do a lot for perspective, experience, personal and professional growth. In the past two decades, Affleck married Jennifer Garner, became a father, and navigated divorce, alcoholism, and the media’s shaming him for his every embarrassing act (that back tattoo was deserving, in fairness).

Lopez married, divorced, became a mother and expanded her remit as a pop star, actor, beauty brand founder, fashion campaign star and children’s book author. Both celebrities are restless creators with no desire to be hemmed into one role or one genre. One of the major realizations for both, which Ben and Jen have learned the hard way, is that when they take the creative reigns and have ownership over their projects, they work (usually).

While everyone loves a happily ever after, and Bennifer 2.0 appeared to be the dreamy romance story that defied Hollywood fiction, this new collaborative project could be a make-or-break for the couple. Gigli broke them once, especially the savage media commentary (“sexist, racist” according to Affleck) that pushed the boundaries of movie criticism to slather both stars in personal rebukes. 20 years of navigating the film, music and media industries—with the perspective of being parents, business founders and established multi-hyphenate talents—will hopefully prove the antidote to any media negativity surrounding Unstoppable. We’ve got all our fingers crossed that the new film is as widely lauded as AIR, for our sake and for the couple that gave us hope our own super-hot, rich, talented exes come back in a couple of decades.

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