Why You Shouldn’t Believe Ben Affleck’s Statement Re: Not Directing Batman

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To some it came as a complete shock and surprise. To others, who had been paying attention to the events, odd statements, mixed signals and contradictory positions not as much so. Either way it shook the entertainment world this past weekend when Ben Affleck announced that he was stepping down as the director for the upcoming Batman stand alone film. His statement was very diplomatic, professional… and complete fiction. Here’s his statement:

“There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions. 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.”

Diplomatic. Professional. Complete fiction that isn’t to be believed.

Before I venture into why no self-respecting film fan should buy into this well meant, although completely deceptive statement, let me say that this was nonetheless absolutely the appropriate statement to make. Regardless of how messy, heated or conflict muddled the true situation between Ben Affleck and his vision for the Batman film and Warner Bros had become, it would serve no one’s best interests to air the grievances. No party here stood to gain anything by throwing the other under the proverbial bus or engaging in any sort of public “he said/she said” quarrel, especially since they are both stuck working together (more on that later). The professional thing to do here was to draft a statement singing the praises of each other and that’s what they did. That’s also what they should have done notwithstanding that it’s a complete lie.

So why am I and others completely convinced that this statement is nothing more than a PR charade masking a much deeper problem? Well there are several reasons:

1) A GROWING LIST OF DYSFUNCTION AT DC
One could look much more innocently at the directorial departure of Ben Affleck as nothing more than the face value of his statement had this been the first “break up” between WB/DC and one of its filmmakers in recent months. However, Affleck’s departure is just the latest in an ever increasing pattern. From FLASH recently discarding their script (yet again) for a full page 1 rewrite, to WONDER WOMAN director Michelle MacLaren leaving the project over “creative differences”, to FLASH going through 2 on record directors (and a third unofficially as it was strongly reported that LEGO MOVIE’s Lord and Miller were tapped to direct the project before departing the project) and still to this day is without a director after parting ways with Rick Famuyiwa. The list astoundingly does go on. A DC movie disruption of one sort or another has become a weekly headline and occurrence. To see the Affleck departure outside of that light would be neglectful at best.

2) DID BEN LIE TWO WEEKS AGO OR NOW?
Amidst speculation and reports that the relationship between Affleck and WB was souring (I’ll go more into that in a moment), Affleck took to the stage on Jimmy Kimmel roughly 2 weeks ago to “set the record straight”. Kimmel directly asked Affleck: “Are you directing the next Batman”? To which Affleck firmly replied: “I’m gonna direct the next Batman we’re working on it now”. It was clearly set up intentionally. Affleck and WB wanted to dispel the reports and rumors that had started swirling that he may be looking to get out of directing Batman. It was a strategic move to quell the rumors and keep fans confident in the project. With such a calculated and definitive statement made just mere weeks ago, are we actually to believe that Affleck, who has already taken on the dual role of director and actor in 3 films, one of which winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, now suddenly just days later had a complete reversal of philosophy or confidence? Why was he still firmly confident in his ability and desire to direct Batman just weeks ago, and then suddenly convinced he was incapable of competently doing it now? These are realizations that happen over the span of years, not days.

3) IT WAS CLEAR HE WAS BECOMING UNHAPPY
It wasn’t that long ago that Affleck was speaking enthusiastically about the status of his project. He seemed excited. So much so that he actually revealed to the world that he was so far along in the process that he had selected actor Joe Manganiello to play his villain Deathstroke and had even conducted some concept screen tests which he shared with the public. However, that projection of enthusiasm and excitement ended. Near the beginning of this new year Ben gave us our first look at things falling apart in paradise. When asked if he was still directing Batman, Affleck famously responded:

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,”

Not a set thing? No script? Not coming together? Affleck was the writer. He had seemed highly motivated and at least gave the impression that the script was more than just “coming together”. It was clear that there was something bigger happening under the surface. Speculation began that certain WB execs had begun meddling, essentially derailing Affleck and stymying his creative process. The Jimmy Kimmel appearance and statement was in direct response to these rumors, and as I mentioned above, that statement now has to be drawn into serious question.

4) SINCE WHEN CAN AFFLECK NOT ACT AND DIRECT THE SAME MOVIE?
One of the most obvious fabrications of the Affleck/WB statement is the supposed claim that Ben had decided that he could not properly act in and direct a Batman film at the same time. In the 2012 film ARGO, Ben both acted and directed… and it could be argued that it was both Ben’s finest work as an actor AND his finest work as a director. The film went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Ben went on to receive the Best Director award from the Director’s Guild Of America, The Critic’s Choice Awards and the Golden Globes.

Some may want to say that the pressure of directing a Batman film would be different. I could accept that logic had it not been for the fact that Ben has already been dealing with that pressure for over 3 years now ever since it was announced he was playing Batman. He went through shooting 2 movies as Batman (Batman V Superman and the first Justice League which is long since wrapped). Ben Affleck did not just suddenly “realize” that there would be great pressure in doing a Batman movie. Not in just the last 2 weeks. He has been living it and dealing with it and acclimating himself to it for years already. If Ben Affleck was going to suddenly drop out of directing a Batman film because he realized it was going to be too much to handle, he would have done it while shooting Justice League, or BVS, or early in the stages of shooting LIVE BY NIGHT. Again, I have to go back to the statement he made just a few short weeks ago. Just WEEKS ago. “I’m gonna direct the next Batman”.

Are we to believe that he went through the hellish internet backlash upon the announcement that he was our new Batman, that he went through seeing the rigors firsthand shooting Batman V Superman and how much difficulty there would be in directing it, that he went through the entire production of JUSTICE LEAGUE and still felt completely confident that he could act in AND direct the Batman movie enough to say on national television “I’m gonna direct Batman” only to then have a total change of heart on the issue just 2 short weeks later? The thought is utterly absurd to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

5) AFFLECK IS OBLIGATED TO CONTINUE TO PLAY BATMAN
Some try to lend credibility to the statement by saying “If Ben was unhappy or if there was trouble, why would he still stay on to play Batman”? The answer is a simple one. Affleck would actually have no choice in the matter. He is contractually obligated to play Batman for however many more films remain on his deal. It would be a crippling PR disaster for WB/DC to let Affleck walk. Affleck as Batman was one of the few elements of Batman V Sueprman that most people agreed was a strong point of the film. To allow Affleck to walk out of his deal would not only crush the already fragile public perception of the DC Cinematic Universe, but also hurt them creatively as Affleck’s Batman is needed to carry the franchise. This leaves Ben in the position that he would have no choice but to act professionally, continue to do his job as an actor, and help the company save face by co-signing the drafted statement. To fail to do so would not only put Affleck in a precarious position legally with WB, but also damage his reputation with other studios who may think twice about working with him again were he to throw another employer under that proverbial bus we talked about earlier.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

The statement Affleck and WB released makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and doesn’t stand up to the slightest tests of logic or critical thinking. So what really did happen? What is the real reason Ben Affleck is no longer the director of the upcoming Batman film? There are a lot of possibilities. Endless possibilities actually. Anything I list here would just be scratching the surface of what is possible. The only thing I feel very confident in is that the statement in question is not the truth. There are large systemic problems at WB/DC in terms of how they are handling their DC Cinematic Universe and I fear the enormity of Ben Affleck stepping down as the director of Batman is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Author: campea

John is an online film pundit and is formerly the creator, Exec Producer and Head Of Programing for Complex Network's Collider Video as well as AMC Movie News for AMC Theatres. A massive fan of tech, Mixed Martial Arts and poker, when John's not in a movie theatre you can catch him on his twitter and facebook accounts at @JohnCampea

24 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Believe Ben Affleck’s Statement Re: Not Directing Batman”

  1. Well said. I’ve been following all this on Collider Video. You’re right to be outraged and disappointed. I felt that WW and Batman would be the start of a revived DCU, but it seems to be problem after problem. What’s the solution?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The solution is the same that it’s been since day one and lacked: they have to find a creative producer to godfather the DC film slate. It’s that simple. Right now you have each creator of a movie trying to do their own thing, with no cohesive vision… and then midway through the process they are instructed that their individual vision has to align with a shared universe.

      Look at almost every other shared universe. DCTV, MCU, Star Wars, Universal Monsters, they have installed a creative producer to ensure a singular vision.

      This is the product of WB playing catch-up and it’s unnecessary for them to do so, in my opinion, but that just seems to be the attitude.

      Like

    2. Yeah, its really unfortunate for us fans at the end of the day. I am still hoping for success for the films coming out after the poor reception of the last 2 films but at this point I feel like no matter what happens DC is just going to mess it up somehow.

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  2. Does anyone remember how Live By Night was supposed to be released in October of 2017? Then it was moved all the way up to Limited December and Wide January release?

    It’s complete speculation on my part but I think moving Live By Night shortened the ability to make Live By Night better, I mean that would have been 10 months to fix issues with it.. but instead it was pushed to allow Affleck to do Batman…I think that really stuck in Affleck’s craw. His passion project more or less suffered.. and on top of that Affleck’s work seems non existent.

    Should he have anticipated this? Yes. I’ve said before that Affleck agreed to be Batman before really thinking what it entailed and if he could make the decision over he wouldn’t have accepted the role.

    Now there are rumors that he’s leaving Batman altogether, which are just rumors, but those are SCARY rumors.

    There are a few things to consider.

    1) Wonder Woman can’t even just be “good” it has to at least be GREAT, or it will be seen as DC continuing their mediocre (at best) streak. Is that fair? No, but it’s just how it is.

    Unfortunately because Wonder Woman is also SO disconnected from the rest of the DC movies it also is sort of inconsequential. P. Jenkins doesn’t have any hand in any of the other movies, Wonder Woman takes place 100 years before anything in the rest of the DCeU so it’s hard to say declaratively that if it’s great it will single-handedly right the ship.

    I truly believe that none of these projects are going to move forward until Justice League is released. At this point with all of the scrambling and scary/negative PR, it’s in WB’s best interest to await the release and see how it’s received and if Justice League fails.. I think that will be the end of this incarnation of the DCEU. It’s not monetarily feasible to put all the time, effort and money into these projects if they are going to continue to under perform.

    Granted, this is all speculation on rumors but that is personally how I see it playing out, and unfortunately I predicted Ben walking away from the Director’s chair when Live By Night flopped… and people said I was ridiculous and didn’t know what I was talking about then.

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    1. “Aquaman” and (likely) “Gotham City Sirens” will already be in either production or post-production well before either “Wonder Woman” or “Justice League” comes out. Also, while I once said that “The Batman” would be in the same category as those other two films listed above, right now, until there is further news about a new Director taking over, we can’t be sure of that yet; however, it looks like the final draft of the script was completed by Terrio so if they get a director for the project within the next month or two, there’s reason to believe “The Batman” will be in production by, the latest, end of summer. So I’m still pretty confident that “The Batman” will also be in production when “Justice League” is released. Either way, if you look at it in the most negative of light (which Campea tends to do) and ‘WW’ and ‘JL’ fail to perform well, the DCEU will still continue with those films I’ve listed — “Aquaman” (which is already starting their production ahead of time) and “Gotham City Sirens” (which doesn’t have a set production date yet but is being fast-tracked and expected to start shooting within the next few months) with, most likely, “The Batman” to follow.

      There is a large fanbase for these films and even (worst-case scenario) should these films fail to deliver on a critical level, they will continue to bring in $600 – $800M per picture which, if budgeted accordingly, could still continue to make plenty of money. Now, that’s the last thing I would want to happen of course! But I feel confident enough that “Justice League” will be the success the DCEU needs and also expect “Wonder Woman” to deliver — and out of all the films listed above, I think “Aquaman” will turn out to be the best.

      Just my 2 pennies. Good day sir.

      Like

  3. I adored MoS, loved BvS, hated SS, and have serious doubts about WW — I don’t know why, but I feel like Gal Gadot has bitten off more than she can chew. I have faith in JL, but also feel like WB’s minor course corrections might actually cripple the film. As far as all of this Affleck stuff goes, I genuinely feel like the dude is stressed out. I think he might be doing the right thing by reducing his responsibilities, and giving us all that he’s got in front of the camera. This is an immense task, and although he has directed and starred in previous films, there is simply no comparison between ‘Argo’ and “The-MotherF*king-BATMAN”.

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    1. I agree 100% on everything except the WW fears you got. I don’t think it will be a great film but I do think it will good enough and get more praise from critics and fans and that is what DC needs.

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  4. My guess is that Geoff Johns’ vision for the DCEU conflicts with Snyder’s and Affleck’s, therefore Affleck is not able to do what he wants to do and won’t even bother faking it. Johns is going to ruin these movies.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. See, there is a great misconception people have regarding Marvel Studios and how movies are made at studios like WB.

        When it comes to the DCEU, WB went to Snyder’s production company to get them to develop these properties into movies for them, similar to Paramount Pictures partnering up with Cruise-Wagner on Mission Impossible, or WB with Berlanti’s production company for the number of DC shows he handles.

        It is the people in charge of those studios, like Snyder, Cruise, and Berlanti, that develop these properties and determine their narratives.

        Marvel Studios used to have to partner with studios and production companies in the same way to make movies like Blade, but that hasn’t been the case since 2008, when they started making their own movies themselves and hired Feige to develop them “in-house”.

        WB didn’t wait, they’ve been developing their movies for over three years now, ever since Nolan and Goyer sought Snyder out for Man of Steel.

        The Snyder were WB’s Kevin Feige, the ones in charge of the development of these movies, which is why the two Snyder are listed as executive producers in all their movies.

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  5. I have a feeling it was the case that WB kept putting pressure on him and he was like “give me more time” and WB was like “we gotta put out this movie in 2018, we can’t wait more”.

    So I guess WB was tired to wait, putting together the rumors that Ben felt humiliated and was unsure to keep playing Bruce/Batman, it seems to me Ben will quit entirely DCEU and WB will move forward even without him.

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  6. Personally, I don’t think this movie will ever come to be. After Wonder Woman, they may wrap up the franchise with Justice League. Besides Aquaman, all the other announced DC movies haven’t entered production yet; The Flash, The Batman, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Man of Steel 2, Justice League 2, Gotham City Sirens, Black Adam and Shazam. There’s a very real possibility, especially if Wonder Woman fails critically and commercially that the DCEU will end with Justice League. On the bright side, at least we got a trilogy with Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, and Justice League.

    Like

  7. Jeremy Wyatt
    15 hours ago
    This news is a bummer. While I have liked/enjoyed Man of Steel, BvS, and SS, I didn’t love any of them and I understand the divisiveness the films have had. I want to love these films, they need to be better. I feel like the have great actors in place for a majority of these roles in the dceu, and they’re going to let it go to waste.

    I do have a question. I’ll preface this by saying Ben Affleck is who I want to direct The Batman, I think he’s a great director, I love his 1st 3 films he directed, and while LBN isn’t as great as those 3 films, I liked it and thought it was a good, solid film. And I also think Afflecks portrayal as batman/Bruce Wayne is great, and it has a chance to be best overall when it’s all said and done… all that’s out of way, so here’s the question…

    How much, if any, of this mess the dceu is in is Affleck responsible for? He’s had a lot of say in the direction since he’s came on. He’s come up with a lot of the characterization of batman. While the performance was praised, a lot of people didn’t like the pill popping, boozing, killing, asshole Batman. Sounds like he was basically co-director of Justice League, and if it’s a mess, isn’t that partly on him? The script has problems, he’s the one writing it. Is it writers block, or is the studio interfering? Is he a little too influenced by the Frank Miller Batman, and the studio wants something else?

    Obviously, I’m 100% in support of Affleck, I think the shit show that is the dceu, is what’s to blame but it was something that popped in my head and might be good for discussion.

    Sorry, long winded, but my guess is Affleck is waiting out/hoping Justice League is received well/makes north of a million, and will fully invest in project if those things happen. If it’s a bomb… well, guess we’ll be getting a new Batman. I hope Affleck remains on-board and maybe still directs a batman film (a sequel in the future) but if not, batman will persevere. The character is bigger than any actor, or director

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  8. I honestly think the response to Live By Night plays a factor in this in some way. It didn’t perform well at the box office and is probably the least favored by critics of Affleck’s directed films. Not that this is the sole reason for this sudden announcement, but that this may be another factor along with the possible points illustrated in this piece. Possibly along with disagreements with WB, Live By Night’s poor performance also affected Affleck’s decision to step down whether that was his choice or their’s

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  9. Some good points but I think there are also other “logical” points that could be used on the other side.

    1) Live By Night was a flop. And it has just happened over these last few weeks. That could have placed more pressure on Ben especially after being hounded over and over again during the press for Live By Night.

    2) it is completely different acting and directing in Argo where most of the movie took place in a room. Imagine directing a massive big budget movie and wearing that heavy Batman suit and having to stop scenes and making sure the scenes are going right while in the Cape a cowl. That seems a lot different than Argo. Tinday he’s done it before is not seeing the differences in the movies, and the challenges that they bring. Obviously filming justice league gave him a better understanding of how difficult being director and the star would be. Also keep in mind the training they have to do thing filming to be in shape. You have to work out every day and then do all the work or directing, acting, producing? Come on….I could easily see how somebody could decide it’s too much. He knows exactly what he has to put his body through to make these movies. Lightening the load seems like a good movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well said… but i gotta say that maybe and this is just a theory that Affleck and the studio are maybe arguing because of Live By night… and not necesarilly for the bad reviews, but because of the timing… the movie should have come out at the end of this year 2017, but they push it to limited last year, and maybe Affleck got upset now, because they make him push his movie up, to get awards buzz, but also maybe so he could be free to direct the batman more soon than later… and that end up being a bad choice, cause the movie did not work out so well, and you have to think that most of the post production of Live By Night was made while Ben was shooting Justice League, so he couldn´t have been involve as much as he wanted to… so maybe he got angry cause they pushed him for the directing movie that he was doing just for the batman, when they weren´t even ready yet to start production cause the script had problems… hey thats just my theory…
    also, you should have post also the gift with the panic button from yestedary´s movie talk… that was hilarius

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  11. I think that Ben Affleck is a great actor an a great director . I believe he doesn’t get the credit he deserves in doing either. Everything he has done has been outstanding an he should get more credit An recognition than he gets. I’ve loved everything he’s done an I believe he will be awesome in more films in coming years.

    Like

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