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Affleck buries his wild side

Los Angeles, Feb. 12 (Reuters): Young, reckless, crazy' Not anymore, says Ben Affleck.

His has been a daredevil act in high-flying Hollywood ever since he and good buddy Matt Damon barnstormed the scene with the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, which earned them a shared Oscar for screen writing.

But on the crest of his new movie, comic thriller Daredevil, sexy leading man Affleck said he is transitioning into a more humdrum life. Affleck’s days and nights of drinking and carousing that landed him in alcohol rehab last July are over, he said.

He turned 30 in August, proposed to fiancee Jennifer Lopez in the autumn, and now he is ready to aspire to greater heights than being the celebrity actor whose life is fodder for gossip columns and tabloid headlines, he said.

Affleck already is producing movies and TV shows, wants to resume writing, and someday he will likely direct his own movies, becoming actor/writer/director/producer, he said.

“You don’t have the excuse of being young and reckless and crazy anymore,” he said in an interview. “Things have more consequences...(time) kind of starts zipping by, and you want to make something out of it.”

He called his time at a Malibu, California, rehabilitation clinic a “line of demarcation” between the new Ben and the old, and he said his wild times have been exaggerated, possibly because the matter became public. “I was just trying to change my lifestyle. Not so much drinking, as much as — well, drinking was part of it,” he said.

“(It was more) just going out every night and being in a haze a lot of the time... I didn’t have any meltdowns, didn’t have any episodes, didn’t have any arrests.

“But I didn't want to end up there Ä and more importantly, I just wanted to be healthier,” he said.

DARING, YES, BUT VULNERABLE TOO

Affleck is quick to add that just because he isn't tossing back cocktails anymore, doesn't mean he has turned into some straight-laced do-gooder, either.

”It doesn't mean I use my time more valuably or efficiently,” he added.

That is where the boyish Ben Ä the one with the big grin and tousled hair who favours jeans and T-shirts over suits and ties Ä comes up, and where“Daredevil” comes to the fore.

The Marvel comic book character is far less well-known than Spider-Man or Batman or Superman, but for Affleck, he is the only comic book hero the star said he would ever play.

”This was my childhood fantasy,” he said.“The stories were exciting and sexy and kind of far away...The character is kind of vulnerable and handicapped in a way that seemed more accessible to me.”

Daredevil's physical flaw is that he is blind and must rely on super-heightened senses of touch, smell, sound and his deftness at matching the skills of his bad-guy rivals.

By day, the crime fighter, who works out of New York's old Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood west of Broadway and Times Square, is lawyer Matt Murdock, who defends the defenceless in court.

By night, Murdock zips himself into his skin-tight, maroon leather body suit and wields his walking stick with precision as Daredevil, a crime-fighter who battles the city's meanest mob bosses like Kingpin, portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan.

Affleck calls the role a“risk” to play.

”If it doesn't work it's not just a romantic comedy that's not funny,” he said.“You're out there in a big red suit, you know what I mean, you're going to look like a bigger idiot.”

The movie's first half spends much of its time introducing audiences to the Daredevil character, to Murdock as a kid and why he is blind, then to him as a vulnerable and lonely man.

It is in the second half, when Kingpin hires Irish hit man Bullseye (Colin Farrell) for a contract killing, and Murdock falls hard for Elektra Natchios Ä daughter of an industrialist Bullseye rubs out Ä that the movie really gets kicking.

The twist: Elektra (Jennifer Garner) blames Daredevil for her father's death, and she is out for revenge.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

Will Bullseye get to Daredevil before Daredevil gets to the Kingpin' Will Murdock reveal his true self to Elektra before she stabs Daredevil in the heart'

But wait, there are other questions as well, including a major off-screen one:” Will Affleck and J.Lo ever get married' Inquiring fans want to know. But for now, Affleck isn't talking.

”I wish I knew, too,” he said with a laugh.

Apparently, that one is up to J.Lo.

Affleck said he deals with tabloid headlines and gossip columns by turning off the TV and not reading the papers.

”I try to ignore it, so that I'm never at the point where I read my relationship is going bad and have to go home and say, 'Honey is my relationship going bad,'” he said.

”I don't watch entertainment-themed shows. Most of what I watch is news and sports...I think reading too much about yourself is strange and destructive...I already know what my story is. I want to see what else is happening in the world.”

Somewhere down the road Ä the tabloids will surely be the first to tell it Ä Affleck has said, is the marriage, family and kids. And, as any father or mother will tell you, that is a different sort of daredevil act, altogether.

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