As principal photography on ''Daredevil'' wound down last July, writer-director Mark Steven Johnson got up his nerve. He'd heard the speculation that Ben Affleck, with whom he'd been laboring to turn the comic-book tale of a blind, satanically costumed vigilante into a potential film franchise, was dating singer-actress-perfume mogul Jennifer Lopez. Affleck wasn't talking. But the story had just begun percolating in the media, and Johnson couldn't resist giving in to curiosity.
''The rumor was they'd [already] gotten engaged,'' says the filmmaker. ''So I e-mailed him and said, 'What's the deal? Are you or are you not?''' As Johnson remembers it, Affleck issued a noncommittal, tongue-in-cheek response: ''He wrote, 'Learn my s--- at the checkout counter like everybody else.'''
And who knew there'd be so much to learn? In the time it's taken ''Daredevil'' to speed through postproduction on its way to a Feb. 14 release, the 30-year-old Affleck has morphed from just another well-chronicled Hollywood actor into the paparazzi-bait main attraction of an information-age circus, lately dubbed The Bennifer Show by average folks who just can't get enough of it. ''It's staggering to me,'' says Affleck. ''I'm confounded by it. If ever the question has been explored of whether there's a limit to what people want to hear about a couple, we've explored it.''