Ben Affleck started out like many actors do. He paid his first dues with forgotten fare no one remembers, and since it was the '80s, he even popped up in an Afterschool Special. But once the '90s hit, everything changed. (Well, they changed after his involvement in Danielle Steel's 'Daddy' in 1991.) He grabbed a role in School Ties, and then made himself the loathed butt-beater Fred O'Bannion in Dazed and Confused. Within a few years he joined the View Askewniverse for Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma, co-wrote and co-starred with long-time friend Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, which earned him an Oscar, starred in the blockbuster Armageddon, and even found a loyal cult following with Phantoms (alongside one Peter O'Toole no less).

Once we entered the new millennium, it was easy to imagine a successful future career where drama still intermingled with comedy and silliness. But then "Bennifer" descended, and Ben's career quickly spiraled downward with the media attention, the oft-derided Gigli, and Jersey Girl, the unfortunate piece of road kill in the media drama. As the brunt of all jokes, it looked like Affleck was destined for a long and struggling career in B movies, waiting for that creme de la creme director to rediscover him.

But then he went on Saturday Night Live.

The minute he went on the show and made fun of the Bennifer ordeal, reminding audiences of the easygoing and sarcastic image he once had, I gained a new-found respect for him. But that was only the start. He exercised patience and did some crappy flicks to bide the time, but soon enough, his career was shooting beyond what it had been initially.

He played the struggling George Reeves in Hollywoodland. He wrote and directed his first feature, the impressive Gone Baby Gone. And though there's recent schlock like He's Just Not That Into You, there's also Extract, The Company Men, and his upcoming follow-up as writer/director, the upcoming The Town. Heck, he's even starring in that one.

It's not every day that you see an actor go from solid highs to depth-defying lows, and within only a handful of years, bring his career to new levels of reputability and fame. Affleck didn't need someone to discover him for a comeback. He made it himself. While I'm sure Hollywood friends threw him bones here and there, within three years of his SNL self-mocking, he was offering us critically acclaimed cinema he crafted himself. Now he's got a number of films and projects that he's working on (including more cinematic fun with Matt Damon), and there's even rumors that he could be finding a gig with Terrence Malick.

Affleck did it himself, without licking his wounds for years, without deluding himself into thinking reality TV was the answer. He's done it with only moderate buzz, rather than the Mickey Rourke-type comeback where one successful pic gets him cast in everything and rumored for everything else. It's a trajectory that just screams of self-reliance and talent, rather than luck and media whirlwinds.

And I can't help but respect it and wish more of Hollywood's struggling names would take note.