It’s been a rare moment that Ben Affleck’s involvement in the DC Extended Universe hasn’t seen controversy of some kind. The initial outrage from his casting as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice subsided momentarily when his performance was one of the most positively received aspects of the movie, generating a lot of hype for the planned Ben Affleck written, directed, starred, and produced Batman stand-alone, but hype for the project was not enough to ensure smooth sailing.
The rumors started at the end of 2016 when Affleck expressed that he had no desire to direct a “mediocre” Batman movie. Many people took that as a sign that he was losing passion for the project, with whispers beginning that he wouldn’t end up directing it. That sentiment was only encouraged a few weeks later when Affleck said in an interview that the solo Batman movie was “not a set thing” and that he wouldn’t do it if it didn’t come together as a great movie. At the same time, Affleck said the film was “good and going” and that they were still working on the script and “ahead of the curve” and “excited” about it.
Things came to a boiling point right after the release of his personal project, Live by Night, an experience that appears to have been a big eye-opener for Affleck. It was the biggest budget movie he’d ever directed, it was a movie Affleck had worked on extensively between his DCEU commitments, and because of hype for The Batman, Affleck saw the press tour for his passion project hijacked by questions in search of some sort of scoop on his DCEU involvement, leading Affleck to conclude that working on The Batman was “going to be the most pressure, the most stress I have ever experienced in my professional life.” While he claimed he was more than prepared to “embrace that pressure,” he became more outspoken about the obstacles he foresaw when it came to serving as both the director and lead actor, saying “Chief among the challenges of [directing] Batman, will be finding a suit that’s more comfortable.”
Overall, it seems like Affleck learned a lot from this situation. Plans for him to helm his own Batman project were in the work since he came on as Batman, so his time working with Zack Snyder on Batman v Superman was a big learning experience about helming a film of that scale – it was the biggest project he’d acted in to date. Then Live by Night, the project he was juggling alongside his DCEU pressures, saw negative reviews and a major loss at the box office, and he decided something needed to change. He promised he wouldn’t make a mediocre Batman movie, and he thought that might be the result if he continued to bite off more than he could chew between the writing, directing, acting, alongside his role as a producer.
Soon enough, it was announced that Ben Affleck was stepping down as director of The Batman, and he issued a statement as the producer, saying he would seek a “partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film.” Fans wouldn’t have to wait long before Matt Reeves joined the fold with a warm welcome from Affleck. During that time a rumor popped up stating Affleck had a desire to get out of his commitment to portray Batman in the DCEU, but Ben’s position in the film was re-affirmed with Reeves’ confirmation as director, along with the news that Reeves had negotiated for complete creative control of The Batman when he came on.
Due to his commitment on War for the Planet of the Apes, Reeves wasn’t able to get to work on The Batman right away as he was still a number of months from the movie’s release. During that time, it was also reported that the script was being re-written, a rumor that was later corroborated by Matt Reeves when he said they were “starting over”. This could be for a variety of reasons, but considering he has complete creative control and negotiated a trilogy of Batman movies, it only makes sense that he’d want to move forward with his own story, regardless of how good Ben Affleck’s was.
This finally brings us to just before Comic-Con this year, when yet another massive rumor was dropped, once again claiming that Affleck wouldn’t be playing Batman long, this time saying the studio wanted to “gracefully” phase him out of the role. This rumor was adamantly denied by Affleck during the Hall H panel at Comic-Con, but the allegations persisted, specifically statements that Affleck’s age (he is 44) and the condition of his body would soon become physical barriers to him continuing the role, and are still a point of concern for many people – even though it has absolutely no bearing on his ability to play the part.
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