Ben Affleck seems slightly worried about the high expectations that come with directing a Batman movie. Since the rumors about him directing the film began, he’s been expressing the contradictory “I’m really excited to do it” and “it’s not happening” sentiments. These last two weeks have only been the latest round in the Batfleck boom and bust cycle.
Affleck was announced as Batman back in 2013, which was followed by rumors that WB planned a solo Batman movie with him at the helm. In July of 2015, it was reported that WB was in talks to do that exact thing. In March of 2016, The Hollywood Reporter had WME-IMG’s Patrick Whitesell saying that Affleck had written a script with a “really cool” Batman idea in it. Everything seemed lined up... for everyone but Affleck. By April, it appeared that at least Affleck’s directing and starring in the movie was confirmed.
Now, all of that seems like it’s pretty simple, and it is—as long as you’re not just looking at the things said by Ben Affleck. In early 2016, Total Film (via Movieweb) quoted Affleck as saying:
If I could make it work, yeah, Obviously that would be like a dream. The trick is, as to any movie, is to make sure that you - if you’re going to direct it - that you can make it good. You’ve got to have the right idea and the right take on it... Broadly speaking, it’s something I’d be open to, for sure. It’s a very exciting idea.
Which sounds like a positive response from him. In March of 2016, the New York Times had a similar quote from Affleck, who was only contracted for acting in Batman v Superman and the two Justice League movies at the time. In their profile, they had him saying about any other Batman-related things, “If there comes a point that I want to do [a solo Batman movie], and there’s a script and it works, then I’ll do it.” Keep an eye on the state of the script. It either doesn’t exist, isn’t good enough, or is being worked on at all times. It is Schrödinger’s Script.
Later in March of 2016, Affleck, speaking “hypothetically,” told Cines Argentinos that his Batman movie would probably “borrow certain things from great comic books, but create an original story around it.”
In June of 2016, reporters talked to Affleck on the set of Justice League, where he said, unequivocally, that he was directing a Batman movie:
Why I’m an executive producer [on Justice League] is that I’m directing one of the movies. So there’s sort of this cross-pollination of story and characters and I don’t want to give any of that stuff away, but it basically means that there are some things that might happen in my Batman that are affected by, I mean, here we are in the police station in Gotham City. There’s a potential that something like this might exist in that story.
At that event, he also said that whatever date WB had already assigned the Batman movie meant nothing to him:
I think [Warner Bros.] has a date for it. Although, I don’t know if I would necessarily be able to make that date because I don’t have a script that’s ready yet. So my timetable is I’m not going to make a movie until there’s a script that I think is good. I’ve been on the end of the things when you make movies when you have a script that’s not good yet and it doesn’t pan out.
That script problem again. Well, at least someone is insisting that WB have a good script for one of these.
By October of 2016, he was telling the Associated Press, “The movie I think is going to be called The Batman, at least that’s what we are going with now. I might change it, I think that’s about it right now, that’s all I got.” In that same interview he said they were “working on the script” and it was going well and he was “excited.”
Literally days after that video hit the internet, Affleck was doing another filmed interview where he not only backed off the title, he backed off the very idea that a Batman movie was a done deal. In an E! Facebook Live he said:
I mentioned the other day… it’s been around for a long time, but the movie… there is no Batman movie happening yet, we’re still trying to figure it out, you know, get the script and budget and all that stuff. And someone said, “What are you calling it?” and I had said, like, back when we were promoting another movie, I was like “We don’t have a name for it, we’re just going with The Batman or Batman movie,” and I said that, and everyone was like “Affleck announces the name of his Batman movie.”
So, not only was The Batman not the title, there’s still technically no Batman movie happening. Even though he’s directing one and that’s why he’s a Justice League executive producer. There’s every chance that, with the way projects die in Hollywood so often, what Affleck means is that the movie can’t really be said to be happening until everything is actually in place and rolling. However, there’s no way WB doesn’t make this movie. Superhero movies, more than anything else save maybe animated movies, are announced years early and then the studio makes them.
Anyway, in December, Variety’s quote from Affleck was the reverse. “We’re on the right track with that and everything is coming together. We’re still finishing up a script. I’m very excited,” he said.
Which leads us to the latest round of confusing Affleck comments. On January 1, The Guardian released an interview which had Affleck responding to a question about him directing the Batman movie with “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.”
I’m gonna direct the next Batman, we’re working on it. It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating because with Live By Night it took me a year and a half to write it and get it ready and I worked really hard. It’s just no one gave a shit. No one was like, “Where’s Live By Night?!” But with Batman I keep getting the, “WHERE’S THE FUCKING BATMAN?” I’m like, “Whoa, I’m working! Give me a second!”
On the one hand, that is fair. On the other hand, he should talk to literally anyone who has been in the superhero movie PR machine for the last few years. Any of the Avengers could have told him that, yeah, when it comes to these movies, you are going to be asked about them constantly. And if you imply it’s not happening, people are going to write headlines. And if you have to correct that assumption, people are going to write more headlines.
This movie is happening. It doesn’t have an official release date yet but it does, at least for now, have Ben Affleck as the director. Even if they never get a script Affleck likes, Warner Bros. will make a Batman movie. And they will make it without him. Hell, the Flash movie has a release date and no director. I don’t know if Affleck’s constant and confusing comments about this movie are a ploy to show the studio how much shit he could kick up if they don’t wait and let him make the movie to his standards—or if he honestly doesn’t get how anticipated it is.
Either way, it’s exhausting to try to keep up with all this.
We’ve reached out to Warner Bros. for clarification of the state of the movie and will update if there’s a response.