Circa 1988: For accuracy's sake, we have to date Ben Affleck's long, twisting history with the Dark Knight back to at least 1988. That's when he and childhood friend turned collaborator Matt Damon auditioned for the role of Robin in director Tim Burton's Batman. “The best [audition] — and the one that in retrospect hurts me to this day — [Damon and I] weren’t sure what it was because they told us it was a secret project," Affleck recalled in November on Jimmy Kimmel Live! "And so … they gave us what was a dummy, generic scene, about a kid who wanted to race BMXs, or something. We go down there, when we get into the room they tell us, ‘We didn’t want anyone to know about this and you need to keep it a secret, but this is actually an audition for … Tim Burton is making a movie about Batman, and this is for Robin.'"
“So we both auditioned for Robin," he concluded, "and we were both pretty sure we got the part." They hadn't. But neither did anyone else, because the Boy Wonder didn't make it into Batman's final script.
August 2012: Surrounded by buzz for his historical drama Argo, Affleck is rumored as a frontrunner to direct Justice League, which Warner Bros. has yet to announce.
August 2013: A year later, Warner Bros. surprises virtually everyone by announcing that Affleck will star as the Dark Knight in director Zack Snyder's then-untitled follow-up to Man of Steel. The initial release date is pegged as July 17, 2015; that ultimately moves to March 25, 2016.
An analysis finds that, in the hour following the announcement, 71 percent of the reactions on Twitter were negative. Overnight, more than 30 petitions launch online demanding the studio remove Affleck from the film.
In fairness, Michael Keaton had his fair share of detractors in 1988, too: Warner Bros. received nearly 50,000 letters from angry fans protesting his casting.
Batfleck v Backlash
September 2013: Appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Affleck recounts how studio representatives tried to prepare him for the fan backlash. “I was like, 'I’m a big boy,'” he said. “They said, ‘Just don’t go on the internet for a couple of days,’ and I said, ‘I handle shit.’ I’m very tough. I saw the announcement, I look on this thing, I look down on the first comment — ‘Ben Affleck’s Going To Be Batman,’ the first one just goes, ‘Nooooooooooooooo!'”
October 2013: Affleck admits he was reluctant to accept the role of Batman, which becomes something of a theme over the next four years.
May 2014: Snyder releases a moody, black-and-white photo featuring the first look at Affleck as the Dark Knight, followed shortly by the announcement of the official title of the film: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
September 2014: Seemingly coming to terms with the backlash to his casting, Affleck tells Today, "We have these cultural stories that people have attachments to, they care very much about, the fans have imagined it, they write fan fiction, and they get very into and it and they’re certainly entitled to those feelings."