Ben Affleck: London Entertainment/Splash News
Josh Young
March 19, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

The heady days of Bennifer are over. Gone are the images of Ben Affleck tooling around in his Bentley with Jennifer Lopez at his side, flashing her six-carat engagement ring. Now it’s just Ben, all alone, on the career rehab trail.

In a full-scale effort to turn massive overexposure into positive positioning, Affleck has been everywhere: hosting ”Saturday Night Live,” posing for the cover of Rolling Stone, and sitting down with Katie Couric on ”Today” and ”Dateline NBC” — all to ostensibly promote his new movie, ”Jersey Girl” (opening March 26). The soft family film marks Affleck’s return to his indie roots (it’s his fifth with director and pal Kevin Smith). Conveniently, costar J. Lo’s character dies early in the movie and he moves on, turning into a decent guy forced to reexamine his priorities after living in the media circus.

”This is the role that the public wants to see Ben in, and the reason I’m saying that is from the market research,” says Miramax COO Rick Sands. ”The testing has indicated that people like his performance and this is how they like to see him.” It’s the same role Affleck’s been playing on his press tour: the media-battered Everyman with a sense of humor about his past.

But has the public had enough? Affleck’s early-2003 flick ”Daredevil” was a moderate success, but the two films that followed were disasters. ”Paycheck,” an $80 million-plus action film, brought in just $54 million during the Christmas season. And ”Gigli,” also costarring Lopez, grossed an impossibly low $6.1 million and swept the Razzies, which ”honor” the worst films of the year.

”This is a guy who should shut up and do a good movie,” says a top PR handler. If ”Jersey Girl” doesn’t prove to be that movie, Affleck’s got a series of projects in the pipeline — but getting them rolling hasn’t been easy.

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