Ben Affleck: Friendship with Matt Damon Endures

Ben Affleck: Friendship with Matt Damon Endures
Matt Damon (left) and Ben Affleck
John Sciulli/Berliner Studio/BEImages

03/31/2009 AT 06:05 AM EDT

They were close childhood friends, collaborated on the script for 1997's Good Will Hunting and then won Oscars for it. And even after Hollywood success and "ballooning" families, Ben Affleck says his friendship with Damon" has not only gotten stronger, with shared vacations, but they're planning another movie together.

"It's cool," Affleck, 36, told PEOPLE of his and Damon's enduring bond, which includes mixing and mingling with their wives and kids. Affleck has two daughters with wife Jennifer Garner, while Damon, also 36, has two daughters with wife Luciana Barroso.

"We went on vacation last summer," says Affleck, who plays a congressman opposite Russell Crowe in the new thriller State of Play. "It's nice. It always has been. He's got his family ballooning, and we're doing okay – it's nice."

With the two having never veered from their shared Boston upbringing, Affleck observes, "I think it would be the same for anybody. You're friends when you are young, you have a certain life. Then in your 20s you have a different life. In your 30s you get married and have families."

Satisfying Friendships

Given such a perspective, Affleck adds, "It's a different kind of satisfaction being around your friends, the friends you grew up with. They have kids, have barbecues and that kind of deal. That is really satisfying, too. It's one of the nice things about having friends for a long time."

Equally nice is that, with recent arrival Seraphina Rose joining daughter Violet, 3, at home, Affleck says, "I am very lucky. I feel blessed to look around and see that I've got a healthy family and a job. Especially nowadays, you really feel very good."

When it comes to being a dad, he's mastered many of the duties – including how to mash bananas properly – that his wife was once worried would require supervision.

"I'm in a pretty good zone right now," says PEOPLE's 2002 Sexiest Man Alive. "I say that, and I'll go home to find everything exploded, [but] so far, so good."

All in all, he says, "I really am happy with what I'm doing now. In fact, I've never been at a place where I've felt better about going to work every day. I'm more engaged and very, very happy … I've really gotten comfortable with the things that are important to me."

Time to Re-Team

In terms of professional projects, though they've costarred and shared cameos in various films and collaborated as producers on different projects, Affleck and Damon haven't been paired together on screen for five years. Affleck says the timing now feels right to re-team once again.

"Supposedly we're doing this thing next year" once their busy schedules dovetail, Affleck said. For his part, Damon has to complete three films – including a fourth turn as Jason Bourne – while Affleck, who received warm reviews for his 2007 directorial effort Gone Baby Gone, will be directing and starring in The Town, which Variety reports is an adaptation of the Chuck Hogan novel The Prince of Thieves.

"Matt is always pretty busy but claiming that he's going to try and slow it down a little bit," says his buddy. "He doesn't mind taking a year to wait. I would love to, it's great, and we're both busy. Matt lives in Miami, so it's hard to get a chance to see him. If we work together it's an excuse to hang out."

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