I’ve written a feature for The National newspaper about the whole Ben Affleck is Batman controversy, and you can read it by visiting the National here, or checking out the feature below:
When Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder announced at Comic-Con in July that Superman’s next outing would be a Batman Vs Superman movie (with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman/Clark Kent), comic book fans immediately took to social media to guess, debate and suggest who should take on the iconic role of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale, who played the part in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, had already stated he wasn’t interested in reprising the role again). Names such as Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin were repeatedly mentioned, so when it was announced last Thursday that the man who would be donning the bat cape was none other than Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, it’s fair to say fans on the internet went into shock – loudly.
Within hours, the hashtag #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck was trending, with one commenter, @freshestginger, tweeting “Too full of nerd outrage to tweet about the whole Ben Affleck thing… TOO FULL OF RAGE,” while British comic Frankie Boyle wrote: “As a dad, I have to go to all the big superhero movies. Ben Affleck’s casting has actually made me love my children less” and @timcarvell noted: “Spend ten years working your way back into everyone’s good graces. Win an Oscar. Then you get cast as Batman and BAM! You’re Gigli again,” referring, of course, to the infamous cinematic flop that Affleck made with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez in 2003.
The furore over Affleck’s casting wasn’t restricted to Twitter, either – comic book fans even tried to set up a “Request Warner Brothers/Zack Snyder recast the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne and denounce the selection of Ben Affleck” petition on the White House’s ‘We The People’ website that is usually used for serious political matters, but it was later removed for being in violation of their terms of participation.
It seems like a lot of fuss over a movie’s casting, but Batman is a character dear to many comic book fans’ hearts. And comic book fans are the ones who will remember Affleck has played a superhero before as the lead in the dire movie Daredevil – though he’s actually not bad in it, just shackled by mediocre direction and some of the worst dialogue in a decade from writer/directed Mark Steven Johnson. They’ll probably remember the aforementioned Gigli and also flop Jersey Girl, too (both made when he was tabloid fodder for dating Lopez – remember ‘Bennifer’?) but should also note that he’s put in some striking performances in Hollywoodland, in which he beautifully played former Superman actor George Reeves, Chasing Amy and State Of Grace, as well as winning Oscars for his screenwriting (Good Will Hunting) and his filmmaking (last year’s Argo).
Affleck hadn’t even made The Hollywood Reporter’s recent list of contenders for the role – as well as Gosling and Brolin, True Blood’s Joe Manganiello, The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage and British actor Matthew Goode were all tipped as favourites by the industry newspaper– but his selection is actually a very sensible one by Warner Brothers. Remember, in Man Of Steel, relative unknown lead Henry Cavill was surrounded by weighty names such as Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Amy Adams (at least two of whom may not return for the Batman/Superman sequel), so it makes sense to have a name like Affleck alongside Cavill… and since Ben is joining a franchise, if it fails he can walk away, career intact this time as he won’t be carrying the movie on his shoulders.
Fans should actually breathe a sigh of relief at his casting as he can perhaps bring his directing talent on set to help Zack Snyder turn it into an improvement on the slightly slow Man Of Steel, and they should also remember that the casting choice you’re horrified by could actually turn out for the best. When Michael Keaton was cast in Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, most Batman fans were appalled that a comic actor had won the role. In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Keaton remembered: “There had never been a movie like it before. There was a lot of risk, too, with Jack [Nicholson, who played The Joker] looking the way he did and me stepping out in this new way. The pressure was on everybody.” He went on, of course, to deliver a cracking Bruce Wayne/Batman in two terrific movies that silenced the fan boys of the time.
And if today’s Batman fans still worried about the casting of Ben, they should remember that confessed fanboy – and, of course, director of much loved comic book adaptation The Avengers – Joss Whedon, is definitely in Affleck’s corner, as he tweeted: “Affleck’ll crush it. He’s got the chops, he’s got the chin – just needs the material. Affleck & Cavill toe to toe – I’m in.” And so should we be.
FIVE CASTING CONTROVERSIES
Robert Pattinson in Twilight
Teen fans of the Twilight vampire novel weren’t keen on Robert Pattinson when his name was announced – probably because they had no idea who he was. Of course, once the hugely successful movie was released, they changed their minds and the actor has since been voted ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ two years in a row by People Magazine and was one of Glamour Magazine’s Richest UK Actors Under 30, having earnt an estimated £40 million last year.
Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary
Author Helen Fielding’s thirtysomething single Londoner is supposed to be overweight, awkward and average, so fans of the novel were shocked when Hollywood actress Zellweger was cast. But she piled on the pounds, stumbled while torn between her two upper class lovers (Hugh Grant and Colin Firth) and returned for a successful sequel.
Tom Cruise in Interview With The Vampire
Interview With The Vampire novelist Anne Rice was so horrified with Cruise’s casting as her beloved vampire Lestat (who is blond, sexy and six feet tall while, erm, Tom Cruise is not) that she placed an advert in Variety condemning the casting. While he was miscast in many people’s eyes, after seeing the movie Rice apologised, saying “That Tom did make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal ball. It’s to his credit that he proved me wrong.”
Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher
Yes, it’s Cruise again. Former soldier Jack Reacher (from Lee Child’s series of thriller novels) is supposed to be tough, aggressive… and 6ft 5in tall with a 50 inch chest. And he’s blond and blue eyed. No wonder Reacher fans scoffed when Cruise was cast but Child defended his casting by saying: With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom you get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.” The film was one of the lowest-grossing Tom Cruise movies in a decade.
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Bond fans were horrifired that 5 foot 10 inch, blond-haired Craig was cast as the previously tall and dark 007 in 2005, with the British tabloid paper The Daily Mirror announcing his casting with the headline “The Name’s Bland – James Bland.” The most recent 007 movie to star Craig, 2012’s Skyfall, is the most successful Bond movie of all time.