Ben Affleck will no longer helm the upcoming solo Batman film, tentatively titled "The Batman," as reported Monday by THR. Despite abdicating the director's chair, Affleck is still very much involved: the Oscar-winner co-wrote the film's script with DC Entertainment President & Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and will star in the picture as the titular Dark Knight.
“There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions," Affleck said in a statement, with regard to his departure. "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."
Warner Bros. said in an official statement, "Warner Bros. fully supports Ben Affleck's decision and remains committed to working with him to bring a standalone Batman picture to life."
Affleck's replacement hasn't been revealed, though Variety reporter Justin Kroll said on Twitter director Matt Reeves ("Dawn of the Planet of the Apes") is "high on the list of directors they are looking at":
Hearing Matt Reeves is high on the list of directors they are looking at— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) January 31, 2017
THR notes in its report, "Insiders say that Affleck and the studio came to a mutual decision that it would be best for the project if it was not led by someone with the split focus of one person being both the star and director."
Originally set to shoot this spring, the film was rumored to be delayed a few months, with production set to kick-off this summer, ideally aiming for a 2018 release. Affleck recently commented on the delay, urging fans that taking things slowly is the best approach. “I’m not going to write and direct anything that I don’t think is good enough to be made. I’m definitely going to make sure I have something that is special -- there’s not enough money in the world to make a mediocre version of Batman worth it.”
“It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating,” Affleck previously said, with regard to the pressure delivering a script. “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!'”
Rumors began circulating that "The Batman" had a troubled script when "American Psycho" scribe Bret Easton Ellis told the following account on a podcast:
“I was having dinner with a couple of executives who know other executives who are working on the [forthcoming] Batman movie, The Batman. And they were just telling me that there are serious problems with the script. And that the executives I was having dinner with were complaining about people who work on the Batman movie. And they just said they went to the studio and they said, ‘Look, the script is … Here’s 30 things that are wrong with it that we can fix.’ And [the executives] said, ‘We don’t care. We don’t really care. The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English. And it doesn’t really matter, these things that you’re bringing up about the flaws of the script.’ So I do think global concerns play a big part in how movies, and what movies, are being made, obviously.”
Regardless of when we'll see "The Batman," Affleck's Caped Crusader next appears in "Justice League," due to hit theaters on Nov. 17 and directed by Zack Snyder.
“The Batman” also stars Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke. The film hasn't been given a release date.