Ben Affleck

And EW’s Entertainer of the Year is… Ben Affleck!

Having captivated moviegoers both in front of and behind the camera with Argo, Ben Affleck earned the number one spot on our annual list of the most talented and original performers who entertained us in 2012.

Fifteen years after he bounded onto the Hollywood scene in 1997’s Good Will Hunting, the 40-year-old Affleck is now older and wiser — and may very well be headed back to the Oscar stage for his political thriller about the real-life covert CIA mission that freed six diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis. “I had very low expectations for Argo‘s performance,” says the leading man-turned-director. “I just hoped that over time people would find the movie. Also, being at a place in my life and my career where I know what I’m trying to do, it’s different than being 26. When you’re younger and have the early success that I had — it sounds like the worst Hallmark cliche — but I didn’t have anyone to share it with. I don’t mean I wanted someone to sit by the fire with. But when you have a family and children, you kind of see yourself reflected in them. I want to make the kinds of movies that my kids are proud of. I have higher standards, in a way, for them.”

Not that everyone back at the Affleck household was thrilled about his shaggy ’70s Method hairdo and beard. Says Affleck of his wife Jennifer Garner’s reaction: “My wife is a very polite and kind woman. She and the kids did not like the beard. It had an exposed wire vibe. It was hated in my home.”

See what Affleck had to say about storytelling and working on Argo in the exclusive video below.

Argo producer George Clooney also weighs in on Affleck’s triumphant return to the A-list after a decade of ups and downs. “Hollywood loves a comeback, and he’s an unbelievable comeback kid.”

Of course, Affleck isn’t the only person who had a great year. That’s why we asked a select group of famous folks to offer their own tributes to the others who made our list:

Charlize Theron on the star of The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence: “How is it that she can just stand there, not saying a word, and make us feel so much? Her talent is undeniable, and she is a force to be reckoned with.”

Aziz Ansari on the cast of Showtime’s knotty conspiracy series Homeland: “The turns are unexpectedly sharp, and the season’s plot has been aggressively paced in the best way. To put it bluntly, crazy s— just keeps happening.”

Nathan Fillion on geek godhead and Avengers director, Joss Whedon: “He does what he does for the right reasons: this guy loves telling stories…. There are millions of people who’ve known of his talent for years, thanks to Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. Now it seems like everybody knows.”

For more on the Entertainers of the Year — including Channing Tatum, Seth MacFarlane, Lena Dunham, and fun. — click here to buy the issue, or pick up the new copy of Entertainment Weekly, on stands November 29.

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