As fans and industry watchers attempt to discern the impact of Ben Affleck's departure as director of "The Batman," one of his former collaborators has waded into the conversation with a theory for the filmmaker's exit.
Kevin Smith, who worked with Affleck on a half-dozen films, admitted on this week's "Fat Man on Batman" that while he hasn't spoken to the actor in years, he may nonetheless understand his decision to relinquish the director's chair: It comes down to the weight of the Batman franchise.
"Here’s my hot take. What’s the upshot? Seriously," Smith said. "Everybody wants that to be the greatest Batman movie ever made, and you know, in many cases, maybe the greatest Batman movie ever made has been made, called 'The Dark Knight,' it’s a pretty wonderful film. If that’s your bar for a Batman standalone, Chris Nolan couldn’t even measure up to himself with 'The Dark Knight Rises.' I liked it, but it wasn't received nearly as well and shit. Let's be honest, that Joker portrayal is for the ages -- fuckin' beyond brilliant and shit. So, it's a tall order, man. Maybe he's the kind of guy who's like, 'Why bother? Like, why am I going to step up to the plate? No matter what I do, people are gonna bitch. If it ain't fuckin' "The Dark Knight," I'm fucked. But if I'm just acting in it, my name's Paul, and this is between y'all. I'm just the Bat, that's it.'"
"That's an easier life," he added to co-host Marc Bernardin. "You don't have to sit there and take the slings and arrows."
It's certainly plausible enough, particularly when you consider some of Affleck's public comment about the tentatively titled "The Batman."
“It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating," he said last month on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," referring to incessant questions about the project. "With ‘Live by Night,’ it took me a year and a half to write and get ready, and I worked really hard and — it’s just, nobody gave a shit! But with ‘Batman,’ I keep on getting, ‘Where’s the fucking “Batman” script?!’ I’m like, ‘Whoa — I’m working! Give me a second!’”
Affleck reiterated that sentiment in a subsequent interview, explaining, "“Oh, my God, it’s such a pain in the ass. It’s like every time I mention Batman it gets this huge clickbait. When I was doing this movie it took me two years to get it together, but nobody ever asked me, ‘Where’s “Live by Night”?’ You know? They ask me ‘Batman, Batman, Batman.’ Batman’s coming along, it’s going to be great. We’re going to make something really special. We’re going to take the time to make it right. We’re going to do it good.”
Warner Bros. is searching for a replacement for Affleck, with Matt Reeves ("War for the Planet of the Apes"), reportedly emerging as the frontrunner. Other potential directors are rumored, but despite lobbying by fans, Smith has insisted he's not right for the job.
Targeted for a 2018 release, "The Batman" stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke.