Ben Affleck has been sending SOS signals with his eyes pretty much from the moment he agreed to become WB’s new Batman, and his professional and personal life have fallen apart ever since, effectively erasing the near decade of hard work he put in to rehabbing his image and career through Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. Instead, he has again become a cultural punchline and frequent star of salacious tabloid stories about his extramarital affairs and frequent bouts with alcoholism. The best you could say about him is that his performance as Batman isn’t all that bad (even if he’s stuck playing the character in Zack Snyder movies), and The Accountant appears to be getting a sequel. However, Affleck’s had the look of a man who’s wanted out of the superhero game for some time now.
It is thus with no sense of surprise whatsoever that I pass along THR‘s report that Affleck’s future as Batman is currently up in the air:
A source with knowledge of the situation says that the studio is working on plans to usher out Affleck’s Batman — gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form in one of the upcoming DC films. Exactly when and how that might happen has yet to be determined, but it would be wise to bet against Affleck starring in The Batman.
Oh, The Batman? You mean that movie Affleck was originally going to direct (before dropping out and being replaced by Matt Reeves) and write (before Reeves decided to ignore Affleck and Geoff Johns’ script in favor of simply starting from scratch and plotting out an entire trilogy)? Now Affleck might not even star in it? Shocking [sarcasm intended].
After Batman v Superman came out, there was considerable pressure on WB to fast-track The Batman and give us the solo Batman movie Affleck and Jeremy Irons (his Alfred) deserved if only to erase the bad taste of BvS from our mouths. Instead, Affleck continually dragged his feet, plugging away at a script which never seemed to come together to anyone’s satisfaction. A charitable reading of the situation applauded Affleck’s efforts to wait until his script was ready rather than rushing into something and hoping for the best (because that worked out so well for BvS and Suicide Squad).
However, Affleck’s intransigence coupled with his crumbling personal life painted a picture of a man in turmoil, possibly looking for any way out of the mess he’d gotten himself into. He’s focused his efforts on improving Justice League on the fly throughout production while also gradually dropping out of project after project to lighten his workload for the foreseeable future.
It’s arguable he only ever agreed to play Batman because it came with the promise that he’d eventually get to direct either Justice League or The Batman while also working with WB to finance passion projects, like Live By Night, he could make in-between his superhero movies. None of that has gone according to plan, with other people now directing JL and Batman and Live By Night receiving the worst reviews and lowest box office of Affleck’s directorial career (a paltry $10m domestic gross).
Now WB is figuring out how to let him go, exploring whether or not to simply kill him off and replace him with another actor (who could be playing Dick Grayson or any of the other characters who’ve temporarily become Batman in the comics) or recast the role. It’s a move Affleck might have desired from the moment he turned into a “Sound of Silence” internet meme, but it’s one WB might not have toyed with before Spider-Man: Homecoming proved you can reboot these marquee characters at a historic pace and not be punished for it at the box office.
Really, after Daredevil Affleck should have known better, but the biggest compliment to him is that if this hasty departure does come to pass it will leave us wanting more because there is a good Batman movie to be made with him. Perhaps he’ll stick around long enough to do a hand off to a Dick Grayson or Terry McGinnis. Or maybe WB will squash this news at SDCC this weekend. But it used to be true that the only thing the DCEU had going for it was Affleck’s surprisingly decent turn as the Caped Crusader. Then Wonder Woman came along. Suddenly this cinematic universe has someone else to build around.
What do you hope happens? Let me know in the comments.
UPDATE: Now comes the denial.
Here’s what Ben Affleck just told everyone in Hall H at Comic-Con:
“Let me be very clear,” Affleck said Saturday during Warner Bros.’ Comic-Con panel, “I am the luckiest guy in the world. Batman is the coolest part in the universe. I’m so thrilled to do it. It’s fucking amazing.” He intends to keep playing the part and remain attached to the DCEU.