The past year has been an annus horribilis for celebrity divorce, and its two biggest splits have put two of Hollywood’s most desirable leading men back on the market: Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck. As their divorces (to Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Garner, respectively) are finalized, one would expect both of these rich, famous, handsome white men to transition seamlessly from picture-perfect domestic bliss into bachelordom. After all, this is Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck—actors, models, and extremely hot normals are probably queuing up to date them, no? Let's also not forget that since they’re middle-aged men, they still have many decades left to score meaty roles in Oscar-bait prestige dramas and lucrative superhero franchises.
For his part, Pitt, who of course previously split from Jennifer Aniston in 2005 to shack up with Jolie, is every bit the eligible bachelor described above. But while Pitt has been, allegedly, fielding calls from every woman in Hollywood, taking up artistic hobbies, and generally looking fabulous, ever since Affleck and Garner separated two years ago (they only just filed the papers to make it official), Batman has been a mopey, vaping mess.
In classic Dating Game fashion, let’s compare the eligibility and general wellbeing of Bachelor No. 1 and Bachelor No. 2, Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck.
At 53, Brad Pitt is as handsome as ever. His well-kept goatee is flecked with distinguished gray, and he appears to have lost weight (some say too much weight, but strong disagree). At the recent Lost City of Z premiere, Pitt, who served as an executive producer on the film, looked casually dapper. He even smiled! Off the red carpet, he’s been spotted in chic sunglasses, suede bomber jackets, and loose-fitting button downs. The man knows how to be a hot dad.
Meanwhile, Affleck, who’s almost 10 years Pitt’s junior, has looked, um, better. The actor is often found moping around in ill-fitting t-shirts and clingy sweaters, with his strangely hunched, slightly prehistoric posture and unkempt hair and beard. His most enduring facial expression is a grimace. And while he put on a suit to promote Justice League at CinemaCon in March, he looked bloated and uncomfortable. Yes, Affleck is still an undeniably attractive person, but divorce has not been kind to his appearance.
Relationship with the Ex
When Jolie unexpectedly filed for divorce from Pitt last September, things looked ugly. Jolie, who blindsided her husband with the papers, was seeking full custody of the couple’s six kids, Pitt was being investigated by the FBI for an altercation involving his children and an airplane, and the couple were completely incommunicado, dealing exclusively through lawyers. Fast-forward a few months and everything is suddenly hunky-dory. Jolie and Pitt are dealing directly with each other privately; joint custody is back on the table. Oops—guess it was all just a big misunderstanding! Still, news of this more amicable arrangement come courtesy of their reps. Until Jolie herself offers some kind words about Brad and the state of their post-marriage relationship, we’re not totally sold.
While Affleck and Garner have been publicly separated for two years, Garner only officially filed for divorce last week. Despite Affleck’s confirmed affair with their children’s nanny, the former couple seems to be on genuinely good terms, spending holidays together with the kids and even taking family vacations to London and Paris. Garner has only (okay, mostly) kind words to say about her ex and their relationship. “He’s the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic, the most generous,” she told Vanity Fair last year. “He’s just a complicated guy.” Then again, she also said, in that same interview (maybe the best celeb interview of 2016): "I always say, ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it.’ But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow."
Apparently just about everyone is angling to date Pitt. Not only are all of his pre-Aniston exes allegedly vying for a second chance, he’s also rumored to have been engaged in a flirtation with Sienna Miller. While People says he’s been “dating a bit” since the split, _Entertainment Tonight_ claims he has not been dating, simply “spending time with friends.” In other words, he's not having any trouble in this department.
While murmurs of Affleck getting “back in the dating game” have recently surfaced, no one has even tried starting an outlandish rumor regarding whom he might be dating. Prior to this week, no outlet was even reporting on Affleck’s post-Garner love life. After all, it’s pretty difficult to take a date home when you’re living in your ex’s guesthouse.
Pitt, who has already styled himself as a serious photographer, has now taken up sculpting—the sexiest, most masculine art medium, naturally—under the tutelage of an actual serious sculptor, Thomas Houseago. He even has a studio! He even missed the Oscars to work on his art! No word yet on the quality of Pitt’s work, though, but a source says he’s “learning at a fast pace.”
Affleck, on the other hand, has given up an extracurricular: drinking. The actor recently completed his second stint in rehab, saying in a Facebook post, “I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront.” While quitting booze may not be as “cool” as taking up sculpting, confronting your demons and trying to be a good role model to your kids is still pretty damn cool.
While Pitt is the clear Dating Game winner and quite possibly the most eligible bachelor on the planet, Affleck’s perceived response to the dissolution of his 12-year marriage, though not as self-actualizing, is actually achingly human. Plus, you have to applaud his apparent commitment to his children amid what can only be a painful experience. Besides, it’s probably unfair to compare any bachelor, even Ben Affleck, to a freshly single Brad Pitt.
Watch Brad Pitt's W screen test: