Rumors swirled for years regarding Ben Affleck’s status as Batman, only for the actor and Warner Bros. to finally confirm late last month that he will not be donning the cape and cowl for the studio’s upcoming standalone film The Batman. Affleck signed on to star as the Caped Crusader shortly after his career renaissance had been solidified with a Best Picture Oscar win for Argo, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice presented Affleck with a unique opportunity, one for which he pushed back his next directorial effort Live by Night. The Zack Snyder film received a mixed reaction, but most dug Affleck’s grizzled take on Batman. The follow-up film, however—the cursed Justice League—landed with a thud, and buzz for Batfleck faded considerably.
With regards to the standalone film The Batman, Warner Bros. pushed hard for Affleck to agree to direct the film, and he eventually relented. He worked with Geoff Johns on the script for some time, only to step down in January 2017 as director, noting that he would remain onboard as the star with Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) stepping in as writer/director. Now, two years later, Affleck is out and Reeves is forging ahead and gearing up to cast a younger Batman.
So why did Affleck drop out? What happened, exactly? The actor went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night and opened up about why he quit playing Batman:
“You know I tried to direct a version of it and worked with a really good screenwriter, but just kind of couldn’t come up with a version—couldn’t crack it. So I thought it was time to let someone else take a shot at it, and they got some really good people.”
This seems to confirm that shortly after Reeves signed on, it became clear that The Batman would not find Affleck reprising his role. Which, honestly, is fine. I still contend he made for a compelling new twist on Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman v Superman (he was the best part of that movie), and while I would have liked to have seen him shine in a better film, Affleck’s iteration doesn’t really fit with the direction the DCEU is going.
Indeed, Warner Bros. is currently focused on revitalizing its DC library by diversifying the films rather than connecting everything as part of one giant overarching plan. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman are returning in sequels of their own, but Margot Robbie is essentially rebooting Harley Quinn all on her own with the female-centric Birds of Prey, the upcoming Shazam! looks to be a straight-up superhero comedy, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is entirely standalone, and James Gunn is said to be completely retooling the Suicide Squad lineup in his DC adaptation The Suicide Squad. The jury’s still out on Ezra Miller’s Flash—his standalone movie has been pushed back for the third time, owing to production delays on Fantastic Beasts 3—but Warner Bros. really does look to now be taking this one movie at a time, moving forward only when a script is good, not when a movie is “next in line.”
As for Affleck, he’ll next be seen onscreen in the Netflix thriller Triple Frontier as part of an ensemble cast, he co-stars in Dee Rees’ crime drama The Last Thing He Wanted (also for Netflix), and also stars in the upcoming addiction drama Torrance, which reteams him with his The Accountant director Gavin O’Connor. It’s unclear when he’ll be getting back in the director’s chair, but honestly, I’m glad he’s now able to sidestep the whole “is he/isn’t he Batman” issue and move on with his career.