The 40-year-old filmmaker opened up about his annus horribilis, in which he went from being an Oscar-winning screenwriter with so much potential to having his personal life turned into tabloid fodder while dating Jennifer Lopez.
"In our culture, we get very much into 'short-handing' people," Ben told the October issue of Details magazine. "And I got 'shorthanded' as That Guy: Jennifer Lopez, movies bombed, therefore he must be a sort of thoughtless dilettante, solipsistic consumer, blah, blah, blah.
"It's hard to shake those sorts of narratives. If you were looking at that one-liner on me in 2003, which was definitely the annus horribilis laughs of my life.
"I made a bunch of movies that didn't work. I was ending up in the tabloids. I don't know what the lesson is, except that you just have to find your compass… People bring up 2003, and I get it.
"Jennifer Lopez and Gigli — and all this s--- just kind of blew up. But, you know, in 2003, Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois! Okay?"
But now, as a family man and movie star, Ben says that any project must be something he's passionate about for him to spend time away from his brood.
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"Anytime you think, 'I’m wasting my time here,' the first thought you have is, 'I could go home and be with my kids,' " he shared.
"Now, you may go home and be with your kids and very quickly start thinking, 'I wonder what’s on the work front?' Because running around after three kids is very trying. Now everything has to compete with being with my family. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home dad.
Work is very important to me. I like to work. So does my wife. But I need my work to mean something to me in order for me to not be home with them."