There’s never been a better time to be Daredevil. After starring in two critically lauded seasons of his own Netflix series – not to mention sharing the spotlight in team-up outing The Defenders – the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen has never been more popular.
Wind back the clock 14 years, however, and ol’ Hornhead’s star was shining considerably less brightly, after the disappointing critical and commercial reaction to the Daredevil film.
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson – the guy behind the equally sub-par Ghost Rider adaptation – Daredevil underperformed at the box office, particularly when you look at the numbers superhero movies are pulling in today. The film also received mixed reviews, with more than one critic taking it to task for its underwhelming and derivative narrative.
It wasn’t just the industry press who savaged the film either. Daredevil himself, Ben Affleck, made disparaging remarks about his time working on the film, and would later refuse to appear in the proposed sequels.
Yes, it seems that nothing ever quite clicked on the Daredevil set, but even so, that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth revisiting.
On the contrary, as you’d expect from a failed superhero flick, there are actually several interesting, shocking, and frankly, depressing facts related to one of Marvel’s less successful productions.
Here are 16 Things You Never Knew About The Failed Daredevil Movie.
When you’re dealing an iconic comic book character like Daredevil, getting the costume just right is always going to be tough.
Not only does the costume designer have to translate a two-dimensional design into an actual three-dimensional garment, but they also need to ensure that the outfit is practical enough to facilitate fight and stunt choreography.
It’s therefore no surprise that it took roughly 7-8 months to finally nail the design of Daredevil’s superhero clobber. The end result was a look that – aside from eschewing spandex for leather – remained largely faithful to Matt Murdock’s outfit in the comics.
Unfortunately, there’s no pleasing everybody. In addition to backlash from fans over its two-piece, jacket-based design, it was also apparently quite uncomfortable to wear as well, if comments by Affleck are anything to go by!
As mentioned earlier, one of the major criticisms levelled at Daredevil was that its plot didn’t quite stack up. In fact, many viewers noticed that several of the film’s storylines either felt truncated or poorly developed.
There’s actually a pretty good reason for this: the version of the movie released in cinemas was not the one Mark Steven Johnson originally intended the world to see!
Facing pressure from distributor 20th Century Fox to deliver a shorter, less violent film, Johnson trimmed out entire subplots from Daredevil – including one that featured rapper Coolio in a supporting role!
The end result of these cuts is that the theatrical release contains a less well-developed and coherent narrative. The knock-on effect of this was a less satisfying film overall, and it wasn’t until the eventual release of the director’s cut – originally the final cut! – that we glimpsed a more enjoyable (if still flawed) Daredevil film.
Coolio wasn’t the only casualty of the drastic edits made to Daredevil – Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo also had her supporting role reduced to the point of virtually being a cameo!
Despite portraying a major character from the comics, Matt Murdock’s love interest Karen Page, Pompeo is easily missed in the theatrical cut of the film.
Her role is somewhat larger in the director’s cut, although even there, she’s still very much on the periphery – which isn’t hugely shocking, given Elektra has romance duties covered this time around.
Given the integral part Karen plays in the Daredevil mythos – not to mention the calibre of actress hired to play the part – it’s reasonable to assume that the plan was to expand her screen presence in the aborted sequels.
Fortunately, fans of Ms. Page would ultimately see her take on a more prominent role in the Netflix series, this time played by Deborah Ann Woll.
Given his enormous frame and bulky physique, you’d assume that the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan’s training regime for playing the Kingpin was pretty much non-existent.
This wasn’t the case, however. Quite the contrary – the actor was actually required to put on weight before Johnson was satisfied he had achieved an intimidating frame worthy of Wilson Fisk!
Clocking in at a whopping 290 lbs before filming on Daredevil begin, Duncan stacked on an additional 40lbs during pre-production. Whilst this involved a gruelling regime of weight and power lifting, it did have one upside – the big guy was allowed to eat whatever he wanted, too!
Even then, simple filmmaking tricks were employed to make Kingpin seem more imposing. The most common of these was to have him stand on box, so that the 6' 5" Duncan would convincingly tower over co-star Ben Affleck (who’s only one inch shorter)!
Casting for film and TV is endlessly fascinating, not least of all thanks to the “what might have been” speculation inherent to the process.
Daredevil is no different in this regard – especially given that our hero and one of our villains both auditioned for each other’s roles!
Yes, before he signed on to play Matt Murdock, Ben Affleck read for the part of Bullseye, whilst Colin Farrell (who would go on to play the assassin) originally tested for Daredevil!
To be honest, it’s a lot easier to picture Affleck as Bullseye than it is Farrell as Daredevil – he’s already pulled off “witty psychopath” before, in Dogma.
However, there was at least one consolation prize for Farrell missing out on the lead role: it allowed him to use his real-life Irish accent on screen for the first time - something he couldn’t have done as Murdock!
It’s hard to imagine now, but superhero movies weren’t always the box office cash cow they are now. Back in the early 2000s, studios were still cautious on films starring costumed adventurers, particularly after the Batman franchise had stalled following Batman & Robin.
As such, when Daredevil was greenlit, Fox only allotted it a modest $50 million budget, as they were unwilling to risk one cent more on a superhero franchise – let alone one featuring a relatively obscure character.
This all changed after the success of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film in 2002, which – along with Bryan Singer’s initial X-Men outing two years earlier – proved that Marvel characters could rake in serious coin.
Suddenly, Johnson found his film’s budget bumped up to $80 million, allowing the director to include more elaborate visual effects and stunt work - and resulting in a domestic box office return that couldn't match said budget.
One of the hardest things about playing a blind person – for non-vision impaired actors, at least – is convincingly giving the impression that your eyes aren’t registering the world around you.
Fortunately for Ben Affleck, this wasn’t much of challenge in Daredevil – due to the cloudy, “cataract” contact lenses he wore to simulate Matt Murdock’s damaged eyes, he quite literally couldn’t see!
Co-star Jennifer Garner also sported colored contacts, although hers proved considerably less visually obstructive than Affleck’s. That said, why exactly she needed to wear the green lenses in the first place is unclear.
The Elektra of the comics is typically depicted as having blue eyes, although in several early-2000s comics, they were shown to be brown – which is actually the natural color of Garner’s peepers anyway!
A lot of the visual effects work in Daredevil is fairly easy to spot. That’s not to say it’s all terrible – a lot of it is actually quite good, at least for a movie released in 2003 – but it’s not hard to work out that Ben Affleck wasn’t actually leaping over the side of buildings, for instance.
On the flipside, there’s also a lot of CGI in the film that you almost certainly didn’t notice. Case in point, the morgue scene. Here, the lab assistant – played by former Daredevil comics scribe Kevin Smith – presents our hero’s billy club to reporter Ben Urich.
It’s a straightforward enough scene, and not one you would expect to require any VFX. However, after the billy club prop that arrived on set was the wrong color, Johnson turned to the visual effects artists to restore it to its proper shade of red.
Another surprising bit of computer-generated trickery occurs in Daredevil’s opening moments, when a rat scurries across the screen. Despite looking like a live rodent, this little guy is actually a CGI creation, which became necessary after its flesh-and-blood equivalent wouldn’t behave as required!
The Daredevil of the comics famously operates out of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood – and ostensibly, so too does his big screen counterpart. However, initially, Daredevil wasn’t even going to be filmed in the United States, let alone the Big Apple!
In an attempt to keep costs down, Fox originally insisted that shooting take place in Canada, with both Vancouver and Montreal considered as possible filming locations.
Johnson balked at this, especially after he and the film’s cinematographer discovered an area in downtown Los Angeles they believed could double perfectly for Hell's Kitchen.
For his part, Affleck also objected to moving the production to Canada – having just filmed The Sum Of All Fears there – and this, coupled with the possibility of local industrial action, lead the studio to acquiesce to shooting in LA.
It says a lot about Daredevil that the film actually gets one of Hornhead’s major superpowers wrong. Daredevil’s radar sense is incorrectly portrayed as sonar!
This mistake on the part of Johnson and his team seems to stem from confusion around how Matt Murdock’s heightened sense of hearing relates to his (separate) radar ability.
In the comics, Daredevil’s brain emits a signal that detects objects around him, allowing him to mentally construct an image of them in his head. It’s very similar to echolocation, but crucially, without sound being involved.
In Daredevil, the radar sense is shown as simply being an extension of Murdock’s crazy-powerful hearing.
This means that the so-called “Shadow world” in his mind’s eye is created exclusively by audio information sent to Matt, rather than as a result of anything he sends out himself first.
Back to casting again, and it’s amazing to consider just how many A-list actresses were considered for the part of Elektra, before Garner landed the gig.
Names bandied about during pre-production included Natalie Portman, Salma Hayek, Penélope Cruz, Jessica Alba, Lucy Liu, Katie Holmes, Rhona Mitra, and Neve Campbell.
It’s interesting to note that, while none of the above performers share the comic book Elektra’s Greek heritage, more than a few – including Mexican-born Hayek and Spaniard Cruz – could have more convincingly embodied this femme fatale’s Mediterranean roots.
Still, Garner undoubtedly gives her all to role, and her performance is one of the genuine highlights of the film – which makes it an even bigger shame that the subsequent Elektra spin-off proved to be an even bigger turkey!
The road from pre-production to the big screen is a long one for most films – and that goes doubly for superhero flicks, particularly Daredevil!
Despite being released in cinemas in 2003, work on Daredevil first kicked off way back in 1997. At the time, Fox had purchased the rights from Marvel and entered talks with Home Alone director Chris Columbus to helm the movie.
By 1998, Marvel was about to go bankrupt, and Fox decided to let the rights go, only for them to be sold a year later, this time to Sony. It was Sony who brought Johnson onboard, although they too would lose interest in the film, dropping the project in 2000.
The rights to Daredevil then finally passed to New Regency, with Fox returning to the fold as the film’s distributor. Johnson was re-signed to write and direct – but not before he had to pitch his vision for the film all over again first!
Film make-up artists are often called upon to cover up various unwanted marks and blemishes on an actor’s skin, including scars and tattoos.
Colin Farrell’s cosmetic requirements on Daredevil were a bit less typical, though, after he arrived on set with bad case of post-holiday sunburn!
The Irishman’s peeling neck and chest are mostly well-hidden throughout the film, although you can notice it in some scenes, most notably when we first meet Bullseye playing darts in the pub.
This wasn’t the only wardrobe malfunction Farrell endured whilst shooting Daredevil, either. The brand mark prosthetic applied to his forehead each day was temperamental, and would start to bubble when he began to sweat.
With Bullseye appearing in several high intensity action sequences, it’s safe to say that Farrell spent a fair amount of time having bubbles smoothed out of his brow!
Another of the few rays of sunshine in Daredevil is Jon Favreau as Matt Murdock’s buddy and legal partner, Foggy Nelson. He and Affleck share an effortless and infectious chemistry, and play off each other to hilarious effect.
As many of you will already know, in addition to being a talented thespian, Favreau is an accomplished director as well. Of his films, without doubt two of the best known (and most commercially successful) are the first two Iron Man movies.
Reportedly, Favreau entered talks with Marvel to call the shots on Shellhead’s first cinematic outing whilst working on Daredevil, so it’s fair to say that without the latter, you quite possibly wouldn’t have the former.
As a bonus bit of trivia, it’s fun to note that Foggy wouldn’t be the last comic book character Favreau would portray. He also fills the shoes of Iron Man’s bodyguard and chauffeur Happy Hogan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a recurring role that has seen him crop up across multiple films!
It goes without saying that shooting fight scenes is a potentially dangerous undertaking. After all, even when every safety precaution is taken, it only takes one minor slip up for things to go fatally wrong.
Luckily enough, there were no major injuries while filming the action set pieces in Daredevil, but there was one fisticuff-related mishap that left Ben Affleck momentarily seeing stars!
During the climactic fight scene between Daredevil and Elektra, Jennifer Garner made contact with Affleck’s head whilst lashing out with a fierce kick.
There must have had quite a bit of force behind the blow, because the end result was that Affleck blacked out for a few seconds immediately after!
Whilst it involved fewer concussions, the pair’s earlier playground brawl was no picnic, either – all up, it took 4 whole days of shooting to get it in the can!
As has already been made abundantly clear, Ben Affleck wasn’t overly thrilled with his experience working on Daredevil.
Indeed, the actor was so unhappy about his time spent as Hornhead, he would go on to state that he never intended to play another superhero ever again.
And so it came as more than a bit of a shock when Affleck agreed to appear as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice several years later.
According to the star, he largely took on the role of the Dark Knight in order to atone for his sins in Daredevil.
Given the equally mixed response to Batman v Superman, it’s hard to say whether he achieved this or not – and latest buzz from the industry rumor mill is that a dissatisfied Affleck will bail on this franchise, too!
Did we miss any shocking facts about the Daredevil movie? Let us know in the comments!