Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were the most visible Hollywood couple from 2002 to 2004. They were dubbed “Bennifer” by reporters, and they were even engaged. The publicity wasn’t always flattering, and it only got worse once they split up. With 17 years between them, Affleck can look back fondly on happier days.

Jennifer Lopez

On January 14, Affleck spoke on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast to discuss his involvement in The Way Back. Affleck did remark on the attention around his relationship with Lopez, something he had previously experienced with Jennifer Garner and Ana de Armas.

Ben Affleck was impressed by Jennifer Lopez’s work ethic.

Affleck is relieved that the press and public have changed their minds about Lopez. When they were dating, her hard work was one of the things that drew him in.

Now it’s like she’s lionized and respected for the work she did, where she came from, what she accomplished as well she f*cking should be. I see her accomplishments. I would say you have a better chance from the Bronx of ending up like a Sotomayor on the Supreme Court than you do having Jennifer Lopez’s career and being who she is at 50 years old today. Not that one has more value, but that just on a pure odds level, on a pure hard work, I don’t think I’ve met anybody who worked any harder than Jennifer Lopez.

Jennifer Lopez reminded Ben Affleck of the girls back home

Dating Lopez, according to Affleck, felt extremely natural to him. The press made much of their friendship, but it was nothing new to him.

“She was very much like the kind of girl I went to high school with,” Affleck said. “It was a very socioeconomically mixed, ethically mixed place. Those differences that seemed to shock America were meaningless to me.”

Jennifer Lopez moved on, but the press didn’t

The paparazzi continue to congregate to photograph Affleck. Here’s one from recently.

When Affleck began dating Lopez, he became accustomed to it.

“I think there was a natural reaction to wait a minute, why am I hearing about you every day and seeing you on every newsstand?” Affleck said. “That would engender enormous amount of resentment anyway. When you think about it, the answer is so obvious. Why in the world would I have wanted that? Why would I have sought that out?”

Since Affleck’s divorce from Garner and new romance with de Armas, photographers have been vying for any snap of the duo or Affleck alone.

“To this day they’ll go, ‘I see you out there in the paparazzi and the pictures,’” Affleck said. “Yes, I left the house and took out the trash. As if when you leave your house, you’re only doing so in the hopes that you can be so lucky that you could end up as the sixth item in the Daily Mail. It’s absurd.”