Ben Affleck shares three children with ex Jennifer Garner: son Samuel Garner, 8, plus daughters Seraphina Rose Elizabeth, 11, and Violet Anne, 14

By Jen Juneau and Alex Cramer
March 02, 2020 03:30 PM

Ben Affleck is busy celebrating the premiere of his latest film The Way Back and staying focused on his sobriety with his biggest priority being his children.

Speaking to Access at the Sunday premiere in Los Angeles, the 47-year-old actor said that while he’s not on any dating apps, if he were, his bio would say he’s “definitely [a] father first.”

“My life right now is focused on, for sure, being a dad, and that’s the most important thing to me,” Affleck said. “I’m also having a really exciting time professionally [with] a run of movies that are really making me love acting again.”

When asked what he hoped his three kids with ex Jennifer Garner — son Samuel Garner, 8, plus daughters Seraphina Rose Elizabeth, 11, and Violet Anne, 14 — take away from the movie, Affleck told Access that he isn’t sure he’d show it to them yet due to the “bad language,” but there’s still a good lesson underneath.

“I think the lesson to me that’s important about this film is that setbacks, difficulties, pain … [you can] get past that and you can survive those things, and that’s really what defines you as a person,” he said.

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Ben Affleck at the Los Angeles premiere of The Way Back

Affleck recently spoke to PEOPLE about his sobriety and parenthood, reflecting on lessons he has learned in recovery and how he talks to his children about getting through tough times.

“Kids are resilient,” he said. “They appreciate the truth. Kids, if you’re honest and open with them, can forgive failings and setbacks, and they want to love you and respect you. That’s my approach to fatherhood.”

“I’ve talked to my kids pretty honestly about tough times,” the Oscar-winning actor and director shared. “I try to be honest with them and say the most important thing is to be open and honest about how you’re feeling and when you’re not feeling good, to say this is difficult for me and to reach out to their parent and teachers.”

He makes it a point to be present and to love his son and daughters. “It’s trial and error,” Affleck said. “You have to be able to forgive yourself as parents and say I’m not always going to do this perfectly. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to try my hardest. Sometimes I’m going to say and do the wrong thing but, like I said, kids are okay with that. If you’re honest and love them.”

Ben Affleck
Tim P. Whitby/Getty

RELATED VIDEO: Ben Affleck on Jennifer Garner: “It’s Important for My Kids to Know I Respect and Care About Her”

Affleck also spoke to PEOPLE on Sunday at The Way Back premiere, saying “it takes an emotional connection to the character and what they’ve been through” to really allow him to sink his teeth into a role, like in The Way Back.

“There are things about this character I really could connect to — being a recovering alcoholic, going through family strife, a divorce — but also there were things that I had to really use my imagination for that I couldn’t imagine. And one of those things was being good at basketball, which I’m not particularly,” he said. “You try to bring your own life experience to the parts that you can, use your imagination on the other parts.”

“But one of the beautiful things about a movie that allows for expression of genuine feeling — real people conquering real problems — [is] that at end of the day [it feels] like a rich fullness,” Affleck shared. “In a cathartic sense, you hope that you’ve done your best, but the potential for a movie like this is to really inspire somebody.”

The star told PEOPLE that his “goal” with acting in The Way Back “was to make something that would feel enduring and lasting,” adding that for the sake of “those who may be moved by this, the idea that you can face hard things and get better,” he’s “really proud” of having been a part of the film.

The Way Back premieres in U.S. theaters on Friday.