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REVENGE REPORT: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Affleck”

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While I don’t love giving my former employer the clicks, this video I wrote and narrated over there almost exactly a year ago serves as a great appetizer for today’s Revenge Report. So check it out if you’d like to understand some of the greater context for what we’ll be discussing today regarding Ben Affleck’s tenure as Batman. Timeline-wise, this was made after Ben Affleck departed the director’s chair for The Batman but before Matt Reeves took over:

As should be evident by the above, I’ve been covering this Affleck/Batman situation for a looooong time. It’s honestly an exhausting situation, since it’s so volatile and different than almost any comparable story you can find. It’s challenging, both as a reporter and as a fan, to try and understand what’s going on over there.

Today, what I’m looking to do is answer one key question I get asked a lot:

What Happened?

It’s all very confusing, trying to understand why a legendary studio and an A-List talent like Affleck can’t seem to get on the same page over a property as beloved as Batman. But it seems to all come down to expectations. In short, this whole Batman/DCU thing isn’t what Affleck bargained for when he signed on in 2013. As an insider confided in me, “This is not what he thought it would be.”

See, when Affleck signed up to play Batman he thought it was going to be something akin to what happened with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Those films were adored by fans and critics alike, and the studio gave Nolan all kinds of leeway to pursue the things he loves while making Batman movies.

There’s an old adage in Hollywood, where filmmakers/actors look at projects in a “One for them, one for me” way. What this means is, they’ll do some big studio blockbuster so that they can get the clout and the funding to make a movie that matters to them afterward. It’s a compromise that usually benefits everyone involved. In the case of Nolan, it went perfectly.

Throughout his time as the Dark Knight helmer, he was able to pursue and develop his original ideas at the same time:

2005: Batman Begins

2006: The Prestige

2008: The Dark Knight

2010: Inception

2012: The Dark Knight Rises

2014: Interstellar

See? It was a perfect tit-for-tat exchange. Nolan got to have his cake and eat it too, all while maintaining the air of “a prestigious filmmaker making revered, high-minded pop art.” Affleck thought he’d be getting that same treatment.

The problem is, things didn’t work out that way.

At the time of his signing for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2013, Affleck was already actively developing a film that was a passion project for him, Live By Night. He and Warner Bros. had been developing the film since 2012, and it was believed that he’d get to make it in time for a Christmas 2015 release. Had everything gone according to plan, he would’ve filmed BvS in mid-2014, then he’d move on to Live By Night.

Then Warner Bros. decided to substantially delay Batman v Superman to give “the filmmakers time to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story.” This not only meant that the release of the DC tentpole would get shifted from July 2015 to May 2016 (and then March), but it also meant Affleck had to delay his Live By Night plans. His passion project suddenly got bumped from Christmas 2015 to October 2016 (then, ultimately, December).

As you can see, an awful lot of shuffling happened when the studio decided BvS needed to be retooled. As others have reported, part of that retooling was to accelerate the expansion of the DC Universe. They really wanted to get to a Justice League movie, and to have a fully-functioning shared universe created in a very expedited way.

The problem is, Affleck wasn’t counting on everything becoming so rushed and haphazard.

He thought he’d make BvS, then have all the time in the world to make Live By Night, then have time to adequately develop The Batman while filming Justice League 1 & 2 (which was going to be shot as one long two-part movie), then- perhaps- pursue another passion project, then make his The Batman. There’s a strong belief that he would’ve used his solo Bat flick to transition himself out of the role in a very Batman Beyond-esque storyline. And that would’ve been it for his DCU commitments, save for the occasional cameo as Old Man Wayne.

Instead, there was the aforementioned BvS delay, a highly-stressful and truncated production for Live by Night which was seen as a colossal failure and left him feeling like they’d screwed him over, right into a hasty Justice League production, all while Warner Bros. was trying desperately to rush him into The Batman.

How rushed, you ask? I’m told that in the weeks leading up to his exit from the director’s chair in January 2017, Warner Bros. was pushing him hard to have The Batman in production by April 2017. They were even setting aside the sound stages for it on their California lot- instead of in London like most of the DC projects- in order to make it more appealing for him to film closer to home. This was despite him voicing that there was no real script in place. He wasn’t satisfied with what he, Geoff Johns, and Chris Terrio had come up with- and yet WB had their foot on the gas pedal and actors like Jeremy Irons and Joe Manganiello were publicly discussing how filming would begin in the spring!

He could’ve gone along with that, appeased the studio, and produced The Batman with a script he wasn’t in love with. If he had, we’d have an Affleck-directed The Batman arriving this year. But he couldn’t stomach the thought of doing this in another rushed and half-baked away. So, instead, he vacated the director’s chair and stepped away from writing it altogether.

He was still sore about what happened with Live By Night, he resented that his DCU commitments had basically swallowed up all of the momentum he’d built up after The Town and Argo had brought him to the top of the mountain, and he was also facing personal issues; He was going through a messy divorce and struggling with addiction, a problem for which he attended rehab in late ’16/early ’17.

He was done. He was spent. He was over it.

An extra layer in all of this that added to the bitter taste in everyone’s mouth is that, unlike Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, the DC films Affleck was involved in weren’t being received well. Batman v Superman was ravaged by critics, given a tepid Cinema Score by fans, and failed to live up to its box office potential; Suicide Squad was another critical disaster that became a blemish on the DC brand. So Affleck wasn’t even getting to enjoy the outcome of his work, and the studio was scrambling to course-correct instead of running a victory lap.

And then, making matters even more tense, Warner Bros said they needed him for extensive Justice League reshoots. Reshoots with a different writer and director, which were part of a desperate measure to “fix” a movie that had already been very taxing on him.

Not a good situation. Not at all.

And this brings us to the crux of the issue. Affleck hadn’t bargained for any of this. And the very public on-again/off-again relationship between him and WB/DC has even led to fans turning on him, which both parties are keenly aware of.

My source has pointed out that the studio is also disappointed, since “he didn’t RDJ this thing” like they’d hoped. That RDJ verb, of course, is referring to the impact Robert Downey Jr. had on grounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe as its A-list centerpiece star. When they snagged Affleck, hot off the Academy love shown to Argo, they thought they were getting their “face of the franchise.”

Instead, this entire entanglement didn’t work out for either side.

Where Does This Leave Us?

I keep pestering my sources for updates, and here’s the most I can offer you at the moment, directly from one of them:

“The present Batman is still Affleck. A change in cowl will not happen publicly until Ben is officially gone, and he is currently The Batman. But like we have said, it’s a negotiation thing right now. Not money, but appearances and creative. Ben isn’t wanting to vacate, but not wanting to commit fully.”

So we’re still in this strange limbo, where it sounds like he’s got one foot out the door while still being open to sticking around if the creative end of things comes together. Matt Reeves, as we know, has set up his contingency plan. Last year, he met with several actors for the role, and he walked away from those talks wanting Jake Gyllenhaal to be his Bruce Wayne/Batman if Affleck officially drops out.

Muddying the waters is that Warner Bros still wants to “maintain a professional relationship” with Affleck, according to the insider, which is why they won’t just show him the door while his contract is still active.

I swear, this is like watching a romantic relationship where you know both sides need to move on, yet they keep kissing and making up and then fighting and breaking up on an endless loop until you just don’t care anymore.

Like I said at the outset, it’s exhausting.

For now, it comes down to the creative decisions that are made. It sounds like Affleck is open to sticking around, but it’d have to be for a set amount of appearances and with scripts he really believes in. With Reeves seemingly wanting to make a trilogy of Batman films, that would require a commitment of at least six years, with Flashpoint mixed in. So we’re talking four Batman appearances in films that haven’t even been written yet, with a gun-shy Affleck who’s closer to 50 than 40 and already smarting from signing on for DC films that don’t have completed scripts.

Now do you see why this situation is so volatile?

That’s all I’ve got for you, kids.

At this point, I’m throwing up my hands and I’m tempted to just not report on any Batman murmurs I hear until an official decision is made and announced (which I’m hoping will come when DC launches its own news service). Cause this is like trying to do play-by-play on a game of tug-of-war!

I’ll vent a little bit more on this matter on today’s El Fanboy Podcast, but- for now- I’m ready to step away from the batcave until the landlord actually tells who’s living in there for the next few years.

Wish I had something more concrete to share with you, but I’m happy to help you at least understand what all the drama stems from.

For now, I’ve got a podcast to record! See you Monday.

37 Comments

Mario-Francisco Robles

Editor-In-Chief and Co-Founder of Revenge of The Fans. Previously, he's written for Latino-Review, IGN, Moviehole, and The Splash Report. In late-2017, with the popularity of his solo endeavor (the El Fanboy Podcast) reaching an all-time high, he decided it was time to launch a proper site for his scoops and analysis. Welcome to RTF!

  • nr1949

    So chances are that Affleck finishes out his contract doing Flashpoint or SS2 and then Gyllenhaal takes over for a Batman trilogy? Sounds pretty good to me

  • Justin Peevey

    Fantastic article. Thanks for stitching everything together for us.

    • Mario-Francisco Robles

      My pleasure 🙂

    • Andrew Clayterman

      Affleck has to go.. he’s box office poison at this point and is the main reason bvs failed.

      • Justin Peevey

        I don’t agree that Affleck is why BvS failed. I think it didn’t capture the repeat or word-of-mouth business because it was too dour for the general audience.

  • Stargazer0118

    OK, I get the sense that Ben likes playing the role, but he doesn’t the like critical reception the DCU films he has been involved with have got. I love him in the role. He is by far my fave Batman/Bruce Wayne. I think he knows many fans love him as well, but he wants to make sure the following films are developed and produced properly, as it should.

    The reason RDJ was so loved is because his first movie was a hit all around and everybody loved him. That did not happen with BvS and Affleck. If he had gotten a similar reception and BvS like RDJ and Iron Man got, things would be very different right now. So ultimately, I can understand his hesitation, don’t you?

    Once again, the main people responsible for all the DC problems are WB for rushing things and not making sure the stories, the tone and the scripts are right for the characters. They really got lucky with Patty J. I don’t hate Snyder. In fact, I like his DC films a lot, but his vision was too divisive and controversial. WB can’t keep doing that anymore. They really need to follow Wonder Woman’s lead and produce films that celebrate the best in the characters and to make more family friendly films the masses enjoy. They can’t keep making big mistakes anymore or WB are going to lose the whole fanbase who still have faith in the DCU. I really hope they listen to DC expert, Geoff Johns, otherwise we’re screwed.. :'(

    • Andrew Clayterman

      Bend Asspeck thought he’d make a Batman movie and the world would kiss his azz.. instead it revolted 70% of the public.. he’s hated, egotistical and a loud mouth. He’s showing himself to be a ill tempered baby and a prima donna. As well as box office poison. He doesn’t want to leave because he knows when he does the next batman film will do big box office.. and he will be revealed as an overrated hack.

  • SnakeJerusalem

    Wait a minute Mario, doesn’t this report directly contradict the rumours that say that the decision to either recast or maintain Affleck in the role was made a year ago?

    • Mario-Francisco Robles

      I can’t speak to those reports, since they’re not mine. I’ve been consistent on this issue for a while, merely offering updates on where this Bat Limbo seems to be heading at any given time. And no one I’ve spoken to, be they insiders or fellow reporters, has claimed that anything is a done deal. The situation has been, and continues to be, frustratingly fluid.

  • Auzzie Sheard IV

    “Affleck is open to sticking around, but it’d have to be for a set amount of appearances and with scripts he really believes in.”

    Is the theory here that the DCEU can only get better and that Batman might be a way to reignite his career?

    • Mario-Francisco Robles

      I’ve absolutely heard it presented that way.

    • Andrew Clayterman

      He’s waiting for something big to happen that he can stick his nose in and claim he’s it’s saviour. The only reason he took on batman was because of the popularity of the Dark Knight movies..

  • razorstar90

    What this article tells me is that Affleck’s life (personally and professionally) literally imploded after he signed on to play Batman. Like this is Bennifer all over again

  • oliver_chang

    Jett and Rick are gonna get so much s*** if Ben stays lol

    It sounds like, Ben is keeping one foot in the door until WB gives him a couple of pet projects or something.
    Can’t imagine Matt and Jake been happy about this at all.
    Jake gives WB the chance to rebrand itself and offers better acting chops, and he’s a big name as well, with less controversy at least, he’s not a ticking time bomb.

    • Andrew Clayterman

      And he hasn’t been outted grabbing women on video like Asspeck.

  • Guilherme

    I truly hope he is done so they can bring Jake Gyllenhaal. Dude is the best actor around and is the bat we deserve.

    Also, any word on SS 2? Batman isn’t part of the story or something?

    • Yoko Kurama

      I do not understand what people do not realize about this. Gyllenhaal is a great actor, but he cannot save DC or Batman nobody can. The problems with these movies go far beyond whoever is playing the role of the characters. The directing, writing, screenplay, and everything about the movies are just fundamentally garbage compared to TDK films or Marvel’s films. They have a formula on what works. I would pay Christopher Nolan or any similar director whatever price they ask for, get writers who actually care about the characters like fans do and hope they can salvage whatever is left out of the DCEU. They could get 1970s-80s prime De Niro to play Batman and it still couldn’t save the movie if everything around him is garbage.

      • Guilherme

        I know. Never said BvS or JL would be saved had Jake played Batman, I’m simply commenting on his acting chops.

      • Yoko Kurama

        Okay sorry. A lot of people I was arguing with at conventions were acting like Gyllenhaal was going be some savior to the DCEU.

      • Andrew Clayterman

        Yes, but getting a hack like Asspeck just ran off potential ticket sales.. a dumb move.

    • Ben Alexander

      sure was great in Prince of Persia………

  • deevo.

    It gets me that people try to say that DC tried to get things off the ground in an ‘expedited way’ or that they were ‘rushing things’. Between 2008-2012 The Marvel U had Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, Thor, Cap 1 and Hulk before doing their big team up movie, Avengers. From 2013-2017 DC had MOS, BVS, SS, WW, THEN JL. They were short one movie, and really considering that DC had characters who didn’t all need introductory movies, was it really that rushed? There actually was a plan in place for these characters, as there was with Marvel, the only difference was that they weren’t making films that everyone was on board with. They took risks with the tone and changed things on the fly in a fearful, reactive manner,

    • jackthecb

      The difference here is that Marvel Studios tiered the introduction to their major players through those years, allowing for audiences to enter The Avengers with strong prior knowledge of Stark, Rogers, Thor and Loki.

      While the mainstream is FAR more aware of the DC Trinity than they were of Iron Man etc, Wonder Woman was only superficially known and had never been on the big screen before. They handled her well, introducing her in 2016, then fleshing her backstory out in her own movie in ’17 so that, later on in the year, audiences would know exactly who she is. However, with the rest (Cyborg, Aquaman, The Flash and, crucially, Steppenwolf) were thrown in as cameos (minus ‘wolf) in BvS in an obvious attempt to hastily prepare audiences for Justice League the following year. So with Marvel Studios, you have:

      2008 – Iron Man with a sidenote to Nick Fury
      2010 – Fury proper and Black Widow
      2011 – Thor and Loki, Hawkeye cameo
      2011 – Captain America and the Tesseract/MacGuffin
      2012 – Iron Man, Thor and Captain America are already firmly established. Villain Loki has backstory and we know about the MacGuffin he uses. Black Widow, Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D. are fleshed out significantly, Hawkeye is properly introduced, reintroduce The Hulk to audiences who are already familiar with character from the 2008 film.

      2013 – Superman
      2016 – Reintroduces Batman, introduces Wonder Woman, cameos of three other superheroes
      2017 – Wonder Woman fleshed out
      2017 – Introduces Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Steppenwolf and MacGuffin and resurrects Superman.

      So while, yes, Marvel released six films in five years and DC only released five in five years, you can see that the DCEU built their universe in the space of two years, effectively, from BvS-SS-WW-JL.

      There’s also the publicity to consider. Marvel Studios was building up with no-one other than fans paying close attention, winking at the audience to things down the line. Fast-forward to the post-Avengers climate though, where EVERY studio in Hollywood is rushing to get in on the money. Universal’s Dark Universe, the Transformers universe, Fox’s X-universe, Legendary’s MonsterVerse.. So, as Warner Bros. announces these movies, it is viewed by the media and public as another studio’s attempt to cash in on the shared universe success and get to their big tentpole ensemble flick as quickly as possible.

      It also didn’t help that stories were consistently breaking of studio meddling with the DCEU, with Kevin Tsujihara specifically deemed very aggressive in his want for Justice League to be released asap.

      • deevo.

        I didn’t say that bone-head decisions weren’t made, I just think it is not correct to say it was rushed, which means how fast you moved. Clumsily done? I wouldn’t fight you on that, though each is greatly cast, and there is a lot of potential.

      • deevo.

        I think you might be leaving out a few things. The Flash had a cameo in suicide squad. You saw his demeanour, costume and power set. Batman as a less rage-filled crime fighter appeared as well. Metas were discussed with Waller at the end. Plus Steppenwolf was clearly introduced in BvS’ Ultimate Edition at the end of the film. As explained in JL, his presence coincided with Superman’s death. He was the one Lex was talking about in the jail cell at the end of the movie. Each of the characters in JL were given some time to develop or show the audience who they were as characters. By the end of the movie you had a good idea of what the general thing was about the character such that you wouldn’t be lost when a stand alone came out. Like with Aquaman. While a lot of people seem obsessed with Justice League’ shortcomings, including the critics, there were plenty of things that worked, especially the character work/interactions. Every character had some baggage or a struggle they had to overcome. And clearly the end emphasized how the heroes were better having saved the world as a team.

  • Yoko Kurama

    I’ve lost faith in WB and DC that they have any clue what they are doing. Since TDK ended they have done literally nothing of note on either movies or television except for Arrow and Wonder Woman. Arrow has fallen off as of recently and Wonder Woman is good but thats only 1/5 since 2012.

    Marvel has been absolutely taking them to the woodshed in both movies and TV for 6 years now. As a huge DC fan, I have pretty much given up hope of being able to see any halfway decent adaptation out of this pathetic company as long they attached to Warner Bros for Movies and CW for Television. Far too much PG-13 garbage.

    They want to be like Marvel and make it kid friendly instead of telling a hardcore story like they used to. They have completely forgotten everything that made the DCU different from Marvel in the comics which was its realistic grounded stories and heroes compared to the flash and dash of Marvel.

    Anyways, rant over, basically I would just give up on expecting anything out of DC in media from here on out. Justice League being garbage was the last straw for me. I will stick to The New 52 comics or DC Rebirth if I want a hero fix, otherwise Marvel pretty much owned this genre now as sad and pathetic as that is.

    • Andrew Clayterman

      B-b-b-b-but..affleck…they just can’t see that people don’t like the guy. I remember people arguing the point and “but he’s not really being affleck.. he’ll be bruce wayne” as a very lame response.. also Sad ben meme was hillarious.. the youtube video where he looks about ready to cry…lol

      • Yoko Kurama

        Yeah lol. Affleck is like Jason Statham or Liam Neeson. He is literally the exact same person in every movie.

  • Daniel

    “He thought he’d make BvS, then have all the time in the world to make Live By Night, then have time to adequately develop The Batman while filming Justice League 1 & 2 (which was going to be shot as one long two-part movie), then- perhaps- pursue another passion project, then make his The Batman. There’s a strong belief that he would’ve used his solo Bat flick to transition himself out of the role in a very Batman Beyond-esque storyline. And that would’ve been it for his DCU commitments, save for the occasional cameo as Old Man Wayne.”

    The whole “Batman Beyond” idea sounds really cool, actually. Taking the property in a different direction that it’s never gone before.

    Now, with WB and Geoff Johns having screwed everything up with Justice League, we’re likely to just get generic, predictable films going forward.

    Oh, what could have been…

    • Andrew Clayterman

      As soon as Asspeck leaves, the morale and ticket sales will increase

  • deevo.

    Affleck was a great Batman in BvS UE. People complained about a number of things in that movie, but Affleck;s performance was NOT one of them. He was completely transformed as Batman, especially with the physicality and brutality he brought to the role. Say what you want, but NO ONE has been able to pull off a fight like he did with Zack Snyder in that warehouse.

    • Mario-Francisco Robles

      Couldn’t agree more. And I don’t think you’ll find much push-back there. Most people loved Affleck’s Batman, and they rave about the warehouse scene.

      • deevo.

        Seriously, when I heard that he’d get his own movie, I was like “just do the warehouse scene over and over again” Whether Hamm or Gyllenhall or even Affleck, Snyder, like with Supes gave future directors for these characters the blue print on how to portray the action.

  • deevo.

    It is HIGHLY unlikely they would have ever gone with the Batman Beyond route, especially within the DCEU. That sounds like bunk. Business-wise, it’s ludicrous. Batman is one of WB’s most bankable, recognizable icon. Everyone knows that Bruce Wayne is batman, even casual, non-movie goers. You don’t make a big budget movie by benching your main character. Maybe it worked on an animated level, but for a big budget movie? Dream on.

    • Mario-Francisco Robles

      Well, from what I understand, it wouldn’t have been a literal Batman Beyond story.

      It actually would’ve been akin to what Nolan introduced in TDKR, which is that the mantle of Batman could be assumed by people other than Bruce Wayne. So, in essence, Batman would live on- but it’d be Dick Grayson under the cowl, for example.

      So there was never a thought of benching Batman, but rather expanding the mythos to include the idea of others inheriting the cowl.

  • deevo.

    Hey, moderator. My comments yesterday were not spam. Can you do something about that?

    • Mario-Francisco Robles

      I’ll look into it. Not sure why that happened.

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