Luke Owen looks at the already troubled history of Ben Affleck’s The Batman…
It was news that concerned fans of the faltering DCEU when it was confirmed that Ben Affleck will no longer direct The Batman, which is still supposed to be released next year. This bad news about The Batman follows rumours that Justice League is a mess, as is Wonder Woman, and The Flash is getting a page-one re-write following the departure of its second director.
“There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions,” Affleck said in a statement. “Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require. Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film. I am still in this, and we are making it, but we are currently looking for a director. I remain extremely committed to this project, and look forward to bringing this to life for fans around the world.”
Ben Affleck was announced as the new Dark Knight in August 2013, beating out (according to rumours at the time) Orlando Bloom, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. Director Zack Snyder had already announced a month earlier this his Man of Steel sequel would feature Batman and said that Affleck provided, “an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman.” He added: “He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”
The announcement was met with a very negative reaction from the online community. Fans revolted against the choice, solely down to Affleck previously playing The Man Without Fear in 2003’s dismal Daredevil. Comments from readers on our site called the casting “a mistake” and they were now “worried” about – as it was then titled – Batman vs. Superman. In September Affleck broke his silence on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon saying, “the studio were like ‘we’re thrilled, we’re so excited, but listen, we want to talk to you because people go through this process and it can be trying, so we want to show you some of the reactions that past cast members have got’. And these were people who were in these movies who did a great job, and these dudes were like ‘kill him!’. I mean, you can’t say that before the movie comes out, you know. It doesn’t matter what people think before then, it matters when you see the movie. I was like, ‘I’m a big boy, I can handle anything, I’m tough’ and they said ‘just don’t use the internet for a couple of days’ and I thought ‘this is not… I handle shit’ so I saw the announcement, I looked on this thing, I looked on the first comment, ‘Ben Affleck is going to be Batman’ – the first one goes ‘Noooooo’. [That’s] Enough! Thank you very much…”
In his next set of interviews with the likes of Entertainment Weekly and Playboy, Affleck again reiterated that he thought what Zack Snyder was doing with Batman vs. Superman was great and he was really excited. After all, Affleck was a man who had just got his Hollywood stock back up.
In the 1990s, Affleck was see as an indie darling due to working with Kevin Smith on movies like Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma, but his Oscar win for Best Screenplay for Good Will Hunting made him a hot property in Hollywood. He was cast in Michael Bay’s Armageddon against Bruce Willis and as the lead in Pearl Habor, as well as the Oscar-nominated Shakespeare in Love. He had some duds along the way like Reindeer Games, but he was still in demand. However this was all tainted with a string of stinkers, including Daredevil, Paycheck, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas, and the ever-popular Gigli alongside Jennifer Lopez. After taking some time off from Hollywood, Affleck returned as a director – following a critically praised performance in Hollywoodland – with Gone Baby Gone. His star rose again with The Town, and he won a Golden Globe for Best Director with Argo. Taking on a project like Batman vs. Superman was a big risk.
One only has to look at the comments from Chris Evans prior to being cast as Captain America in Marvel’s fledgling Cinematic Universe. Having committed himself to three Fantastic Four movies (although only two were made), Evans was reluctant to sign on for six Marvel movies in case they didn’t work out for him, just as his turn as Johnny Storm didn’t. “If you’re going to get locked up in a long-term contract, you’ve got to make sure the movies you’re making are movies you’ll be proud of,” he told the Toronto Sun. “With a lot of movies I’ve made, I’ve had something to question.” Luckily for Evans, the gamble paid off and has led to him starring in critically acclaimed and financially successful films – which in turn gave him more power in Hollywood.
Likewise, Affleck must have felt Batman vs. Superman would be a hit. Production of the movie began in January 2014 and Batfans got their first glimpse at ‘Batfleck’ the following May (along with the official title of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). Quickly the internet was awash with ‘Sad Batman’ jokes and jibes at the movie’s title. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” he told Entertainment Weekly in August 2014. “I wouldn’t have taken the part if I didn’t trust my instincts in terms of the filmmaking. I think Chris Terrio wrote a terrific script. Zack Snyder’s a great visual director. And there’s an interesting take. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I could do it.” He added: “It’s great that people do care that much. They want to see the movie that much. And it is incumbent on you to honor the story. There are the Greek myths and these are the American myths. The American myths are these superheroes. People care about ‘em a lot. And it’s incumbent on you to do a good job and make it as excellent as you possibly can. At the end of the day, the movie’s all that matters.” In a different interview with the Boston Globe, Affleck reiterated, “I can tell you that in my entire career, I haven’t had so many people come up to me and say how much they’re looking forward to the movie. Naturally, that’s a lot of pressure, but I love the script, I love the director, I love the studio. I’m very much looking forward to it, but it’s two years away so it probably doesn’t bear talking about anymore.”