It may be time to break out the Sad Affleck meme again, as a new report claims the incumbent Batman actor, who made his Dark Knight debut in last year’s ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ may be hanging up the cowl sooner rather than later.
The Hollywood Reporter cite an unnamed source close to Warner Bros/DC who claims, “the studio is working on plans to usher out” Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight. Apparently it is hoped this can be done “gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form in one of the upcoming DC films.”
Neither Warner Bros/DC nor Ben Affleck’s representation have confirmed this. Warners boss Toby Emmerich insists, “Ben is our Batman. We love him as Batman. We want to keep him in the cowl as long as we can.”
However, there have for some time been clear signs (including but not limited to the Sad Affleck meme) that the actor’s heart wasn’t in playing Batman. Notably, his involvement in planned solo movie ‘The Batman’ has been significantly dialled back.
As well as being set to play the lead, Affleck co-wrote the first draft of the screenplay for ‘The Batman’ with Geoff Johns, and had originally been attached to direct the film as well. However, in January 2017 Affleck announced he was stepping down from the director’s chair in order to focus on his performance, and Matt Reeves (‘War for the Planet of the Apes’) was subsequently hired as his replacement.
Reeves recently announced that the Affleck and Johns script for ‘The Batman’ is also being thrown out completely, further watering down the role that Affleck has to play in the production. Now, THR claim “it would be wise to bet against” him playing the lead in the film, meaning that the upcoming ‘Justice League’ could be Affleck’s third and final appearance in the role (including his ‘Suicide Squad’ cameo).
So, what would a “graceful” exit for Affleck’s Batman entail, and how might an upcoming DCEU movie “address the change”? We can hardly fail to note that Batman was played by three actors in the 1990s – in case you need reminding, Michael Keaton in ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns,’ Val Kilmer in ‘Batman Forever,’ and George Clooney in ‘Batman and Robin’ – without this impacting the series chronology (as much as there was any).
There are also plenty of instances of actors being recast in sequels without too much fuss; Marvel Studios have done so twice, with Don Cheadle replacing Terence Howard as Rhodey/War Machine, and Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.
But if they don’t intend to do that this time around, might Warner Bros/DC be planning to somehow retire the character of Bruce Wayne, and have a different character take over as Batman, as has happened more than once in the comics? If so, is this be something which may have been worked into the ‘Justice League’ reshoots which Joss Whedon is currently overseeing?
THR do not speculate as to precisely why Affleck might want to stop playing Batman, but it is known that the actor and filmmaker has been going through a rough patch personally, with a high-profile divorce and addiction issues.
Whatever happens, we will definitely see Ben Affleck play Batman at least one more time, when ‘Justice League’ opens on 17 November.