Last night, Ben Affleck confirmed he would be directing Warner Bros. and DC’s stand-alone Batman movie, which many come as a surprise to diehard fans who have been following the film’s developments. Examining the timeline of The Batman can get a little confusing. Despite telling late night host Jimmy Kimmel he was going to direct, Affleck recently told The Guardian he wasn’t sure if he was going to take the project on and hadn’t seen the script.
Going back even earlier, the actor was first rumored to be involved with the project as early as July 2015, but it wasn’t until April 2016 that Warner Bros. first announced Affleck was attached to the untitled film. In fact, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed Affleck’s active role in the Batman movie during CinemaCon in Las Vegas last year.
“We’re excited to be working with Ben Affleck on a standalone Batman film,” Tsujiahara said, as reported by Slash Film.
Warner Bros. sent out a press release later that day confirming Affleck’s participation, and as the months went on, it seemed like Affleck was hard at work on the concept for the film. In October 2016, Affleck told Collider he had specifically chosen Deathstroke, who would be played by Joe Manganiello, as Batman’s main adversary because he was a “big admirer of the character.”
“He’s a great villain because — I just had an instinctive feeling that he would match up with him well,” Affleck said. “Especially in the New 52, the way that they did Deathstroke, and I thought that it could work.”
Everything seemed pretty locked in place, which is why it was surprising to see Affleck’s interview with The Guardian on Jan. 1.
“But it’s not a set thing and there’s no script,” Affleck said. “If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great I’m not going to do it.”
After spending months working on the character, the film and hiring actors, why did it seem like Affleck was stepping away from the project? The most obvious answer pointed to be the overwhelmingly negative reception and attention Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received in March. In May 2016, Birth Movies Death ran an article claiming Affleck felt humiliated following the film’s release.
“My sources have told me that Affleck was incredibly unhappy about the reception of BvS,” Devin Faraci, former editor of the site, wrote. “He felt humiliated after spending so much of the press tour saying how much better this film would be than Daredevil.”
It wasn’t until a little later in the year that the first rumored problems with the film started rolling in, and may have influenced Affleck’s opinion. In November, an essay was published on The Ringer that included quotes from author Bret Easton Ellis who allegedly spoke to The Batman’s script problems. Ellis, who later admitted he hadn’t seen the script, but talked to people who had, said there were massive problems with it. When those mistakes were brought to the attention of executives at Warner Bros., they didn’t care.
“The executives I was having dinner with were complaining about people who work on the Batman movie,” Ellis said. “And they just said they went to the studio and they said, ‘Look, the script is … Here’s 30 things that are wrong with it that we can fix.’ And [the executives] said, ‘We don’t care. We don’t really care. The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English.”
It makes sense that Affleck wouldn’t want to have another Batman v Superman debacle on his hands. As he moves into the final stages of Justice League, which will be directed by Zack Snyder, it will be interesting to see if reception to that project affects his latest decision to stay on board.
The Batman doesn’t have a set release date, but it will be included as part of DC’s Cinematic Universe.
Update: Ben Affleck released a statement to Variety on Jan. 30 confirming he was stepping down as director of The Batman. Warner Bros. is currently looking for a new director to replace him. Affleck’s full statement can be read below.
“There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions,” Affleck said in a statement. “Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require. Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film. I am still in this, and we are making it, but we are currently looking for a director. I remain extremely committed to this project, and look forward to bringing this to life for fans around the world.”
Update 2: According to a report from Forbes, The Batman could potentially be receiving an entirely new script — or at the very least, it will undergo major rewrites. Ben Affleck, who was originally on board to direct and write, will no longer do either. The movie has also been pushed back until 2019, according to this report. In December, it was reported that Warner Bros. was eyeing a 2018 release date for The Batman, but following Affleck’s non-committal actions with the project, that date has to be pushed back, possibly to July 19.
Update 3: Warner Bros. confirmed in a press release today that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves would direct and produce The Batman following Affleck’s departure from the role on Jan. 30.
“I have loved the Batman story since I was a child,” Reeves said in the statement. “He is such an iconic and compelling character, and one that resonates with me deeply. I am incredibly honored and excited to be working with Warner Bros. to bring an epic and emotional new take on the Caped Crusader to the big screen.”
The film does not have a release date.