News hit fans like a batarang to the gut last week: after much hemming and hawing, Ben Affleck decided to bow out of helming “The Batman” despite “confirming” just recently that he would indeed sit in the director’s chair. Fans were up in arms, and even those that didn’t love “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” thought Affleck stole the show as the Dark Knight. Something like chaos ensued. New director replacement names quickly popped up (including heavyweight blockbuster filmmaker like George Miller and Matt Reeves) the ever-so discussed screenplay was going into a curiously timed rewrite, and even a petition appeared demanding ‘BvS’ filmmaker Zack Snyder take over and direct the film.
So, after months of back and forth, promoted to a creative executive position for the Batman-verse, even co-authoring the script with DCEU creative chief Geoff Johns, why did Affleck bail on helming the movie after all that? It’s a combination of complex, myriad reasons, and we dive into all the possibilities below.
Directing & Starring In A Blockbuster Has Never Successfully Been Done (Or Even Attempted)
Directing yourself in a movie can be challenging, but Ben Affleck has pulled it off twice with “The Town” and “Argo” (the latter of which is an Oscar Best Picture winner). But starring and directing in your own massive blockbuster is something else entirely. Dividing your attention on a project of this scale and magnitude would be an enormous challenge, and to my knowledge, it’s never been done. Name the last time a director helmed a massive blockbuster or comic book movie and, also played the lead character? Unless, I’m missing something, the number of instances is zero. Affleck knew the immensity of the project and he was keeping notes the entire time on set of ‘Dawn Of Justice.’ “I learned a ton [on ‘Batman v Superman’ actually, making that movie. I had not made a movie of that scale. I didn’t know what the technology was capable of doing nowadays. It was fascinating and I learned a tremendous amount.” And this is not to mention that “The Batman” would likely take up two full years of his life.
The Screenplay Wasn’t Good Enough For Affleck
One message echoed over and over again by Affleck was, essentially: if it’s not a great script, I’m not directing it. “[Directing the movie], it’s not a set thing and there’s no script,” he said as recently as last month. Somewhat of an odd thing to say given he and Johns had been working on the screenplay for more than a year and as late as November 2016, he said the movie was at “the script stage.” So, translation? “There’s no script” means, I’m not 100% happy with it yet. Because a script, or a draft, existed. As far back as summer 2015, it was reported that Affleck and DC Comics’ chief creative officer Geoff Johns who oversees much of the DC Comics universe would pen the screenplay together. And, “There’s a script that [Affleck’s written that is a really cool [Batman] idea,” the star’s agent Patrick Whitesell said in March 2016. Talking to The New York Times late last year, he also admitted the script still wasn’t in shape.
Final assessment if it isn’t clear: “The Batman” never had a script that was sufficient enough for Affleck.
Affleck’s Been Tentative The Entire Time
“I thought if I was going to direct a movie like this, which I would like to do at some point, I need to have something of a refresher course of how these movies are done,” he told EW in summer 2015. Affleck had been warming up to the idea, but he insisted on never putting the horse before the cart. “I am [going to write the screenplay”] he said in December 2016. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be good. [laughs] I’m a real believer in not doing, not reverse engineering projects to meet a window or a date, but rather like when you get the right story or you get the right idea or you get the right thing, then you make the movie. And so that’s what we’re doing, and I’m hoping to get that done and spending a lot of time on that, but I’m also working on other stuff. And if I could, if I can find it right then there’s nothing I’d love more than to direct a standalone, you know, iconic great Batman movie.” Again, the answer is maybe. And asked once again right as the New Year began Affleck said, “If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great I’m not going to do it.”