Now that a little bit of the initial hubbub over the choice of Ben Affleck to play Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel has died down for the most part (I’m going to continue ignoring the petition for President Obama to intervene and stop this casting), I wanted to get into the hows and whys of this deal, since it’s rather fascinating to me. Beyond whether he’s going to be good or bad in the role is really irrelevant now, since we’re essentially pre-judging a performance literally years before we’ll actually see it, I’m looking to get into why the WB picked him, why Affleck accepted the offer, and where all involved will be going from here, from Warner Brothers to Affleck himself.
First of all, The Hollywood Reporter has a pretty solid story here that details the behind the scenes machinations that led to Affleck agreeing to don the cape and cowl opposite Henry Cavill‘s Superman in the Man of Steel sequel (whatever it may wind up being called, be it Man of Steel 2, Batman vs Superman, Superman vs Batman, or something else entirely). These are some of the choice bits from that article:
“…the process began earlier this year, after director Zack Snyder had finished working on Man of Steel with producer Christopher Nolan. Snyder and the studio already had ideas for a follow-up, and Snyder reached out to Affleck to check the star’s interest.
It’s unclear when exactly these talks began. Multiple sources say the studio approached other actors as well, including Josh Brolin. Ryan Gosling was also a possibility, but the actor dislikes the idea of sequels.
But Affleck was curious, and initial talks focusing on story and character began. Once Affleck was satisfied, WME’s Patrick Whitesell and Ziffren Brittenham’s Sam Fischer began negotiating his role in the Superman sequel. Sources say that Affleck has been signed for multiple movies, should sequels continue to proliferate. The talks were so secretive that many Warners execs and most WME agents remained unaware of their existence.”
The rest of the piece gets into the pros and cons of Affleck playing a superhero again, but it hits on something interesting, namely how WB wants to keep Affleck happy since he’s essentially their highest profile director. They obviously know that they have an A-list filmmaker in their stable and with the recent executive reshuffling at the studio, there’s value in keeping Ben happy. Plus, I’m sure they’re not ignorant to the fact that this could make him more interested in directing Justice League at some point.
So we kind of get why Affleck was chosen, since he fit the more middle aged type figure they wanted, was already a Warner Brothers favorite son, and was receptive to their advances, but now we can talk about why he actually said yes. After all, in all of these missives on why it was wrong to choose him, none of them are saying it’s wrong for him to accept, just how dare he accept.
In my eyes, Affleck took the part for a few reasons. One is that he’s still a comic fan and hasn’t completely soured on things, even if Daredevil wasn’t a success for anyone involved (though again, he was hardly the problem there). Another factor is that this is a chance for him to sort of have a do-over and make good in this realm, much like he’s used filmmaking to rehabilitate his once tarnished image. Finally, and maybe this is reading a bit too deep into things, but doesn’t his story kind of make him a perfect choice in some ways?
What I mean by that last statement is that he’s seen the dark times that young Bruce Wayne saw. Obviously, Affleck didn’t see his parents killed, but when you’re name is mud in the industry you work in (and I don’t mean Matthew McConaughey‘s character from this year), that’s a pretty low place to be. Affleck rose from the ashes and was essentially reborn as a well liked figure, but he obviously could have gone to a bleak place instead. That sort of mindset could inform his Batman performance.
Obviously, it didn’t hurt that I’m sure Affleck is getting paid more money than any of us will ever see in our lifetimes, but more so than that, I think as a business decision, it just gives him even more power at the studio. Warner clearly is interested in his Boston set stories and crime novel adaptations, but if Affleck comes to them with a different idea, he now has some extra leverage in order to see his vision through to the end. At this point, I’d actually say that Affleck may have passed over Christopher Nolan as the most powerful talent at the studio. That may be one of the core reasons he said yes…it’s hard to imagine how he could get more creative freedom than with this in his back pocket.
We’ll ultimately see if he was a good choice or not when the movie comes out in 2015, but for now I think it’s an interesting and clearly beneficial choice for all parties involved. As long as Affleck doesn’t have to abandon his directing career, which it seems isn’t happening (he won’t be delaying his next directorial project Live By Night much,if at all. Yes, he’s dropped out of adapting The Stand and remaking Tell No One, but neither were really priority projects for him at this point. Had his adaptation of Bunker Hill been a casualty, that might have been a different story, since that’s an obvious passion project for the Boston native), I’m all for him donning the cape and cowl. Who knows, like I mentioned earlier, he may even wind up directing Justice League now. At this very moment though, drown out all the random vitriol (since anyone who wants to see this movie is going regardless of who’s playing Batman…remember, no one liked the Heath Ledger casting once upon a time) and just let it be. Some interesting things may actually be afoot…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!