Scary Spice Melanie Brown says her old band stays in touch; Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck are apart

Skype up your life. Spice Girl Mel B still stays in touch with her bandmates even though she’s busy taping “America’s Got Talent” in New York. “We group-text or we’ll group-Skype,” Melanie Brown told us at an “AGT” pajama party at the Ritz Carlton. Scary Spice, who turns 40 on Friday, was hard-pressed to pick her favorite moment with the ’90s supergroup that made “girl power” a household term. “So many,” she said. “Traveling the world, meeting Nelson Mandela, Prince Charles, to just hanging out all together in the hotel room.” “AGT” host Nick Cannon arrived at the last minute for the viewing party, as he was late flying back from Chicago, but Howie Mandel kept everyone amused by doing Yoko and John in-bed interviews. The OCD sufferer made very clear that the pillow-talk PR stunt wasn’t his idea. “It is my nightmare, but they promised me that they bought this,” Mandel said of the bedspread beneath him. “You know how there is Bed, Bath? This was apparently from Beyond.” The funnyman said the show’s upcoming 10th season also went beyond what he’d expected. He was particularly disturbed by the show’s opening sequence, in which a hypnotist got him to shake hands with his co-hosts. “I was so angry,” the germaphobe said. “They said, ‘Will you get hypnotized?’ I said, ‘I’ll get hypnotized.’ I didn’t know what he was going to make me do, and then when I saw it after, I felt like I was taken advantage of.” GARNER, AFFLECK DO SPLIT SCENE Gone girl? Jennifer Garner has left Ben Affleck in L.A. and headed to Montreal, according to Radar Online, which reports the separation could be permanent. According to the report, Garner “has finally Continue Reading

Ben Affleck, Bill Gates’ nonprofits praised for aiding African nations by Sen. Lindsey Graham during hearing

A nonprofit headed by actor-director Ben Affleck has quietly taken "hell on Earth" in Africa and improved thousands of lives, a prominent Republican senator declared Thursday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) praised the efforts of Affleck as both the actor and Bill Gates, the world's richest man, testified about the huge positive impact of distinctly modest, non-military U.S. aid to Africa. The Senate Appropriations Committee focused on the roughly $50 billion spent on non-lethal aid to Africa, or an amount Graham called "a rounding error" in the overall federal budget. Graham, one of the most aggressive GOP hawks on foreign policy, said spurning such spending on "soft power" was a mark of an attitude of "indifference, isolationism, (that) we're not really responsible as the leading voice in the world." The so-called "150 Account" in the budget is now under attack by some senators who want to shift as much as half to the Pentagon for military endeavors elsewhere amid ongoing budget wrangling in Congress. "An entire generation of young African children is being saved from the scourge of AIDS, turning the corner on malaria," said Graham, who praised the cost-benefit of the relatively modest sums being spent. What Affleck's nonprofit group "has done in the Congo is to take hell on Earth and make it a bit better." As his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, and daughter, Violet, sat nearby, a knowledgeable and pragmatic Affleck detailed work of his Eastern Congo Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy group aimed at improving the region. He focused on its efforts, which are assisted by some U.S. foreign assistance. In particular, the private-public partnership has developed coffee cooperatives in a mostly agricultural nation where farmers have no natural access to capital or lines of credit. The efforts are on pace to improve the lives of as many as 100,000 rural Congolese, including now cutting a deal with Starbucks to purchase about 40 tons of Continue Reading

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon to produce film based on FIFA scandal

Actor-director Ben Affleck is to help produce a feature film about the corruption scandal that has rocked world soccer and its governing body FIFA, the author of an upcoming book said on Friday. Affleck and his friend since childhood, actor Matt Damon, will be among the producers of the as-yet-untitled movie for Hollywood studio Warner Bros., the author, U.S. reporter Ken Bensinger, told Reuters. It is expected to focus on the role of American Chuck Blazer, a former FIFA official. Bensinger said that actor John Goodman had been mentioned as a possible option to portray the 70-year-old Blazer, who has a curly white beard and has in the past tipped the scales at more than 400 pounds. A spokeswoman for Goodman said she was not aware of any discussions about the part. The deal was first reported on Friday by trade paper The Hollywood Reporter. Blazer, the former general secretary of CONCACAF, soccer's governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has secretly provided U.S. prosecutors with information about alleged bribery and kickbacks in connection with bidding to host the 1998 and 2010 soccer World Cups. Blazer pleaded guilty in 2013 to 10 criminal counts, according to a plea deal unsealed by U.S. prosecutors earlier this month. Seven current or former soccer officials were arrested on U.S. corruption charges in a raid on a Swiss hotel in late May as part of a wide-ranging investigation. The following week, FIFA President Sepp Blatter - just days after being reelected - said he would be stepping down. The movie is to be based on Bensinger's proposed book "Houses of Deceit", which went to a bidding war between Hollywood studios after the FIFA scandal broke in May. Bensinger, an investigative reporter for U.S. news website, said the book was still in its early stages and was unlikely to be published before 2017. "I'm excited about the challenge of putting together this book Continue Reading

Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner put up public front amid marriage trouble but sources say, ‘They’ve been out of the loop socially for a while’

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are playing nice for the public, with daily outings to the farmer's market for a cozy photo opportunity, but things are still not great at home, one source tells [email protected] We hear the duo's once frequent lovey dovey brunches at the private, members only Jonathan Club on Palisades Beach Road in Santa Monica have all but died down in recent weeks, and the duo have been experiencing troubles for some time, says our source. "The haven't been seen at the Jonathan Club, the beach one in some time, and Ben and Jen were also talking about land and property expansion as late as December," says our insider. "That's all in the past." Our source adds that neighboring residents in Affleck and Garner's Pacific Palisades neighborhood are throwing a private neighborhood block party soon for nearby homeowners, but have yet to hear from Garner, who usually attends most neighborhood functions with her kids. "They've been out of the loop socially for a while," says our source. The duo, who married on June 29, 2005, are approaching their 10th wedding anniversary, but it's not clear if they will be together to celebrate. US Weekly reports in their latest issue that "they're smack in the middle of a marriage crisis," and that "Where there's smoke, there's fire." "The marriage is in trouble," reports the mag. [email protected] reported recently that the couple have been leading separate lives for a very long time, and have sadly been on a long, slow drift apart. "They had good times when they were living in Brentwood and hanging at Matt's (house)," said one insider. "Things were definitely a lot more upbeat and optimistic then. Now there's friction and tension between them. They're like two ships passing in the night." In 2013, while accepting an Oscar for Best Picture for "Argo," Affleck said to Garner, "I want to thank you for working on marriage for 10 Christmases. It's good, it is work, but it's the best kind of work, and Continue Reading

Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner ‘leading separate lives’: source

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have been leading separate lives for a very long time, one of their neighbors tells [email protected] Our insiders say the once-close couple — who have been married 10 years and have three children together — have been on a long, slow drift apart. A gossip even tells us their romance got off on the wrong foot when Garner used her budding friendship with Affleck to taunt her then-husband, Scott Foley, whom she divorced in 2004. “In 2002, Scott visited Jennifer on the set of (her show) ‘Alias’ and she called Ben in front of him,” says the source. Foley and Garner “had a fight in front of some of the crew. She’s been friends with Ben a lot longer than people think.” Another source who has spent time with the couple and is also friends with Affleck pal Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, said Ben and Jen have become more distant in recent years. “They had good times when they were living in Brentwood and hanging at Matt’s (house),” said the insider. “Things were definitely a lot more upbeat and optimistic then. Now there’s friction and tension between them. They’re like two ships passing in the night,” added the source. Meanwhile, a neighbor pal tells us the “Good Will Hunting” star isn’t exactly Husband of the Year. “Ben Affleck only likes things his way or no way. He’s as stubborn as a mule,” said our source. “He’s not exactly flexible. He is prone to moodiness when he doesn’t get his way. Dealing with him is not a walk in the park.” It’s no wonder that Affleck made his famously awkward remarks in 2013, while accepting an Oscar for Best Picture for “Argo,” when he said to Garner, apparently in relation to nothing, “I want to thank you for working on marriage for 10 Continue Reading

Ben Affleck identifies slave-owning relative as Georgia man, Benjamin Cole

Ben Affleck is coming clean about his slave-owning relative while for the first time identifying his hidden ancestor by name. "His name was Benjamin Cole," the Academy award-winning actor and film director Tweeted Wednesday. He "lived in Georgia on my Mom's side about six generations back." Affleck's admission follows what he described as lots of people asking him "who the guy was" after hacked Sony emails revealed that he asked that Cole's name be scrubbed from appearing in an episode of PBS' "Finding Your Roots." Further details and information known about Cole were not revealed by Affleck. According to the 1850 Census of Georgia slave owners, a Benjamin Cole living in Chatham, Ga. was listed as owning 25 slaves. That time period would roughly correlate to six generations ago, with each generation being around 25 years. In a Facebook post Tuesday night, Affleck blamed his special request — which may have violated PBS' editorial standards — on embarrassment. "I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth," he wrote in a statement posted on his Facebook page Tuesday. "It's important to remember that this isn't a news program. Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable," he continued. "The assumption is that they will never be dishonest but they will respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family." Continuing, Affleck said that he regrets his decision to ask it to be cut out from his episode. "We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery. It is an examination well worth Continue Reading

Ben Affleck and Jen Garner getting divorced after 10 years of marriage

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's 10-year marriage won't get a Hollywood ending. The Academy Award winner and his wife are getting divorced, with the news breaking on the day after the couple's milestone anniversary. BEN AFFLECK ‘WHISPERED SOMETHING’ IN EX-FIANCEE JENNIFER LOPEZ’S EAR AT OSCARS "After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce," the couple said in a joint statement. "We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time." BEN AFFLECK, JENNIFER GARNER ‘LEADING SEPARATE LIVES’: SOURCE Sources close to Affleck, 42, and Garner, 43, told TMZ the pair would share joint custody of their three children — daughters Violet, 9, and Seraphina, 6, and son Samuel, 3. Sources told the Daily News' [email protected] last week that Affleck and Garner had been drifting apart for "some time." Garner, once a regular fixture at neighborhood functions in their Pacific Palisades neighborhood, has been a no-show in recent weeks. "They've been out of the loop socially for a while," the source told The News. The News report came as photos surfaced of a moving truck outside the couple's home. SOCIAL MEDIA REACTS TO AFFLECK AND GARNER DIVORCING During his victory speech at the 2013 Oscars, Affleck had prompted a flurry of speculaton by referring to his marriage as "work." I want to thank my wife...for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It is work, but it's the best kind of work. And there's no one I'd rather work with," he said at the time, though later backtracked on his comments. The actors, who met on the set of 2001's "Pearl Harbor" but fell in love while filming the super hero flick, "Daredevil," two years later, seemed destined for less off-screen drama after their Continue Reading

‘Finding Your Roots’ cut segment surfaces, shows Ben Affleck discussing slave-owning relative: report

Ben Affleck got a sinking feeling at learning that one of his ancestors was a slave owner, according to a segment of a PBS show later cut to remove the discovery. In the April version of the "Finding Your Roots" script, which was dug up by Gawker and includes the chopped segment, the "Batman" actor shows a mixture of remorse and level-headedness at the moment host Henry Louis Gates Jr. reveals his third great-grandfather, Benjamin Cole, was a wealthy slave owner in Savannah, Ga. "This is the slave schedule of the 1850 Census. In 1850, they would list the owner of slaves in a separate census," Gates tells the actor. "There's Benjamin Cole, owned 25 slaves," Affleck replies, apparently looking at the document. "Your third great-grandfather owned 25 slaves. He was a slave owner," Gates says, according to the Gawker transcript. "God. It gives me kind of a sagging feeling to see, uh, a biological relationship to that. But, you know, there it is, part of our history," Affleck replies. According to the show, Cole was one of the wealthiest and most prominent citizens of Savanah — where, coincidentally, Affleck says he now owns a house. Owning 25 slaves meant Cole, who was also the county sheriff, would have been in the top 10% of all slave owners in the South, the script said. Later in the segment that ended up on the cutting room floor, Gates mentions the irony of the fact that Affleck's mother, Chris, was a Mississippi Freedom Rider who fought for black civil rights in the early '60s. "Your mom went back fighting for the rights of black people in Mississippi, 100 years later. That's amazing," Gates tells the actor, according to Gawker's script. "Yeah, it is. One of the things that's interesting about it is like we tend to separate ourselves from these things by going like, you know, oh, well, it's just dry history, and it's all over now, and this shows us that there's still a Continue Reading

Ben Affleck ’embarrassed’ by slave-owning ancestor, apologizes for trying to manipulate ‘Finding Your Roots’ as PBS probes

Ben Affleck apologized for trying to bury a slave-holding relative after that dark chapter was unearthed by researchers behind the PBS TV series "Finding Your Roots." A 2014 email exchange between show host Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sony chief Michael Lynton — made public by WikiLeaks last week — detailed Affleck's behind-the-scenes attempt to kill his connection to the distant family member. Gates, a respected Harvard scholar, ultimately focused on three other Affleck ancestors, from a Revolutionary War connection to an occult enthusiast and finally the actor's mother, who took part in the Freedom Summer of 1964 in Mississippi. Affleck responded to the controversy Tuesday on Facebook, saying he was "embarrassed" to know he was related to someone who owned slaves, but admitted it was a missed opportunity. "I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story," Affleck said on Facebook. "We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery. It is an examination well worth continuing. "I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don't like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country's history is being talked about." PBS announced Tuesday it was investigating the episode "Roots of Freedom" and said Gates and his producers were cooperating. "In order to gather the facts to determine whether or not all of PBS' editorial standards were observed, on Saturday, April 18th, we began an internal review," PBS said in a statement. "We have been moving forward deliberately yet swiftly to conduct this review." Gates himself raised the possibility that giving in to Affleck's demand would compromise the show's editorial integrity. Continue Reading

Hugh Jackman to play Paul the Apostle in new movie produced with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Is he atoning for "Chappie"? Hugh Jackman is set to star in a new movie about the biblical figure Paul, who converted to Christianity after getting knocked from his horse on the road to Damascus. Jackman is set to produce the new flick, called "Apostle Paul," with fellow A-listers and "Good Will Hunting" writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Deadline reports. Saul of Tarsus famously became Paul the Apostle after the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light, toppling him from his horse. He's considered one of the most important figures in early Christianity and is credited with writing 13 books of the New Testament. It will be familiar territory for Jackman, whose father is a born-again Christian who used to bring young Hugh to see evangelist Billy Graham in Australia, according to a Parade profile. News about the new flick comes a few days after Jackman, 46, sparked rumors that his next "Wolverine" movie, expected sometime in 2017, would be his last. "WOLVERINE ...ONE LAST TIME," he wrote in Instagram Saturday along with a photo showing the X-Men character's adamantium claws. Continue Reading