*UPDATE: I've added some additional perspective at the end of this post, since some folks are having trouble reading between the lines of Affleck's latest remarks*
I've been saying it for months and months, and I'll say it again:
Something is UP with Ben Affleck and his Batman movie.
On the LOS FANBOYS Podcast, we've pointed out all of the bizarre back-and-forth news items we've heard regarding The Batman since its inception.
- First it was a given that Ben Affleck was directing it
- Then he suddenly "agreed" to direct it long after the project had been green-lit
- Then the film had a release window for when it would arrive in theaters: Fall of 2018
- That was then countered by Affleck by saying he wasn't paying attention to any kind of release date, and would not make the film until it was ready
- Affleck also then confirmed, and later denied, what the movie would be titled
- Then The Hollywood Reporter said that Warner Bros. had shifted Justice League 2 out of 2019 to make way for The Batman
- Shortly after that, we found out that the movie was suddenly going to drop in the summer of 2018
- With filming suddenly set to begin in the next few months, all signs pointed towards "They're feeling confident and have a script! Otherwise, how would they start filming this Spring?"
Affleck has just told The Guardian, in an interview promoting Live By Night, that the film is- essentially- not ready, and doesn't even sound like he's definitely directing it anymore.
When asked about directing the film, and the status of it, here's exactly what he said:
"That's the idea. But it’s not a set thing and there’s no script. If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great, I’m not going to do it."
Does this sound- at all- like the same guy who said this to Variety a couple of weeks ago?:
"We’re on the right track with that and everything is coming together. We’re still finishing up a script. I’m very excited."
This is kind of insane.
The Batman is, arguably, the crown jewel of the Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe film slate. They've got actors like Joe Manganiello (who'll be playing Deathstoke) going around saying that they're going to get started in the Spring; They've got all eyes on this production since anything Batman-related has made a mint at the box office for years now; And the studio is in a place where they're trying very hard to change the public's perception of the DCEU since, while the films have made money, none of them have been treated kindly by fans or critics alike.
How the hell can Affleck suddenly start going around saying that "there's no script" and acting like his position as director of the film is not "set"?
This calls to mind an interesting quote I came across in an interview Affleck gave to Entertainment Weekly (which is owned by Warner Bros) back in November:
"I've spent more time on Live By Night than I did on my two DC movies combined, and that feels really good. I have nothing against superhero movies, but I'm nostalgic for the kind of movie that Live By Night plays homage to, when that was what constituted a big Hollywood movie. That was why I wanted to spend my time there when I wasn't wearing a cape."
Does that sound like a guy who's dying to be involved in any of these DC movies?
I've been saying ever since the moment Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman back in 2013 that this guy just doesn't seem like he needs or wants this. It was always a questionable career choice for him, since he had finally just fought his way back into the rarified air of "Hollywood Golden Boy" after his first run in the industry left him a Gigli-tainted laughing stock. Why would a guy who suddenly redeemed his career with films like The Town and Argo suddenly want to be Batman for the next four or five years?
Meanwhile, Live By Night is set to be the first blemish on Affleck's directing resumé, with most of the early reviews being of the negative variety. So, essentially, Affleck is slowly pissing away all of the good will that he hunted for after films like Daredevil, Paycheck, and Jersey Girl effectively drowned a promising career that had begun with an Academy Award.
Affleck and Warner Bros. are going to have to figure something out here and get on the same page. The Batman is too important a movie to have all of these conflicting reports going on about.
With these latest remarks, Affleck is doing something fairly radical. He's a high-profile star who's at the helm of a massive film. He's been officially attached to direct it since April 12, 2016. The film, according to trusted news outlets like Variety, is set to enter production this spring, and co-star Joe Manganiello has confirmed as much. For Affleck to suddenly state that his title as director is not "set," to say the film currently has "no script," and to- essentially- threaten to walk away if he can't make it up to his standards...is to essentially create a backdoor where he could eventually exit the project.
As The Hollywood Reporter, another trusted industry news outlet put it, Affleck is suddenly "hedging" on whether or not he's going to direct The Batman. This means he's now creating the impression that his involvement as director is no longer 100% and that it is now conditional on whether or not he can get the script where he wants it. What was once a sure thing that was going to enter production this spring is now suddenly up in the air, thanks to his remarks. Hence the assertion that Affleck could very well drop out if the stars don't align.
With him assuring fans for several months that he's not beholden to a release date, and Warner Bros. suddenly trying to fast-track the project, one only has to read the tea leaves to see the very realistic possibility that he could bail. The writing is on the wall and the stage has been set. Affleck's comments make it crystal clear that he's not going to make the movie at all if they try to force his hand.
To anyone who thinks I've been sensationalistic here I pose this challenge:
Name another recent blockbuster of this magnitude that had its household name director say a few months from filming that he's not necessarily going to stay with the project because nothing is set and it has no script.