Ben Affleck | Mel Brooks Mariah Carey    

Affleck's Family and Friends Rally Around Actor

Well, the good news is that Ben Affleck is getting a lot of support from friends and family during his rehab stay.

Affleck's publicist announced last week that the Pearl Harbor star checked himself into the Promises clinic in Malibu, Calif., for alcohol addiction.

Now I am told that Matt Damon, Ben's best friend and co-winner of the Oscar for Best Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, has already visited him at Promises and is keeping tabs on his progress.

Affleck's family, a source says, "was well aware of the situation" that was developing with Ben.

Affleck, as I've written, was literally part of the furniture at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. One mutual friend of ours left him at the gaming tables late one recent night and found him still at it the next morning.

It's been a sharp rise to fame and wealth for Affleck and Damon, who were completely unknown kids from Cambridge, Mass., until Good Will Hunting made them household names in 1998.

Since then, Affleck more than Damon has gotten caught up in the Hollywood shuffle, making two blockbuster movies for Jerry BruckheimerArmageddon and Pearl Harbor. He's since gone on to star in Paramount's next Tom Clancy movie, The Sum of All Fears.

Nevertheless, both guys have continued to be very down-to-earth, friendly and seemingly unaffected by the monumental changes in their lives. But getting millions of dollars thrown at you, as well as lots of complimentary perks, can be damaging to any normal 29-year-old male. It's only compounded if you're a movie star.

"These are the things we worry about," the parent of another star said to me yesterday. Luckily, Affleck has a strong support network to see him through this crisis. Ironically, his father, Tim Affleck, works as a drug rehabilitation counselor in California at ABC Recovery, where he reportedly once worked on Robert Downey Jr.'s case.

It was Tim Affleck's drinking that Ben, according to reports, blamed for his parents' divorce. Affleck Jr., at least in 1998, had given up drinking. He told a reporter: "I just wanted to stop. I started regretting some things I did when I was drunk. It's funny to be obnoxious or out of control, but then it's like, 'I think I hurt that person's feelings, 'I made a fool of myself' or 'I didn't want to kiss that girl.' I have almost no inhibitions, so it's dangerous for me."

His mom, Chris Affleck, told her local newspaper, the Cambridge Chronicle, the same year: "After a while the fame really isolates you. Everyone you meet feels like they already know you and it's a very unequal thing. Then you don't want to go out and meet people. You have to hang out with other famous people. As a mother, a part of you thinks, 'how is that going to change his life.'"

Mel Brooks Missed Own Show 

What a night last night at Elaine's famous eatery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In one room: Robert Altman with his b.w. (beautiful wife) Catherine; Mel Brooks with his b.w. Anne Bancroft; George Plimpton; Elaine herself and Rebel Heart author Bebe Buell with her beau Jim Wallerstein.

And what did Mel Brooks have to say? (He and Anne took a back table that seats five and just spread out.) It turns out they missed the PBS special on Sunday night that chronicled the recording of the score to The Producers. "We went out and forgot to tape it," said Anne. "We'll have to get a tape from PBS." I'm sure that can be arranged.

Mel says he still can't see filming this new Producers as a movie. "I don't know if it would go over outside New York," he said modestly.

Anne, his biggest fan, responded: "It's funnier than the original! Of course it should be a movie."

I agree, and I'll bet Miramax's Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who helped bankroll the stage show, agree. I have a feeling we'll see the movie version before long.

PS: In case you were wondering, Altman — at a separate table — was celebrating the first rough-cut screenings of his movie Gosford Park, announced right here in this column last year. It went over great, and now Bob and Catherine return to England, where Gosford was shot, so Altman can clean it up and get it ready for a Christmas release. A huge cast of British actors, led by Kristin Scott Thomas, star in the murder mystery from USA Films.

Mariah's Movie Gets Bumped 

Glitter, the movie that curiosity seekers now want to see because it stars a pre-breakdown Mariah Carey, has been moved. Scheduled originally for August 31, Glitter has been reset for late September by 20th Century Fox. The question is: Will Virgin Records move the release of the soundtrack too? It was ready for shipping to record stores next week.

I suppose 20th is hopeful that Carey will be ready to promote the project in September. My guess is that is wishful thinking, and Glitter will be held until January or February. Listen, no one expects her to make a full recovery in four weeks and do scads of interviews. What she needs is a rest, and believe me, everyone can wait until January to see Glitter. It might be the perfect post-holiday bonbon.


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