Depending on what source you believe, Ben Affleck has quit the role of Batman about a hundred times since he signed onto the DCEU. Every rumour imaginable has circled the black hole of gossip that has engulfed what should have been Warner Bros’s safest bet in cinema: Affleck wants out, and so does Henry Cavill, but wait they’re not leaving yet, but Affleck isn’t writing a solo Batman film and now he isn’t directing it but he’ll still be in it, but no he wants out now, but wait he still loves the character, and we haven’t even gotten onto the issues surrounding the rest of the franchise. The big problem with DC’s PR is that none of it works. You could tell me absolutely anything about the series - hey, Affleck’s going to be replaced by three toddlers in a trench-coat! - and my instinctive reaction will still be, ‘Yup, seems legit.’
Affleck has had his own shit to deal with too. He recently left a third stint in rehab for addiction, something that was extensively documented by a highly intrusive press. Addiction is the fucking worst and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Fair play to Affleck for getting help and having to do it so publicly. It feels reductive to even bring the Batman question into the equation right now. It’s hardly a priority and I was genuinely pretty grossed out by some of the speculation going on while he was seeking treatment. You know what, it definitely is an issue for Warner Bros. and it was certainly worth discussing issues like whether he would want to stay in the role or if he legally could, but dear lord people, there’s a time and a place!
Now, the gossip mill has started a fresh round of speculation, as HollywoodLife.com reports that Affleck has gotten back in shape to take on the mantle of Bruce Wayne one last time. Affleck is shown walking around L.A. looking better than he has in a while, and the message is clear: He’s ready to return to work, but is Warner Bros?
“He is back in shape not only for his health but he has a new-found love on doing Batman at least one more time again. He feels he isn’t finished with what he wants to do with the character. There has been talk about replacing him, but he is now seeing what he might lose and really wants to play the character again. Especially seeing what Joaquin Phoenix is doing with the Joker character,” a source close to the actor/director tells HollywoodLife.com EXCLUSIVELY.
“He would really like to take the character of Batman and visit a more serious tone and side of the character and working with someone like Joaquin would absolutely spark his creative juices. He wants to figure something out with Warner Brothers to don the cape one more time,” the insider adds.
So, let’s break this down.
Let’s imagine for a moment that everything read at face value is true, and that Ben Affleck is still contractually tied to the DCEU with no changes made. If he really is ready to come back, afraid that he’ll lose out to a younger actor, then a piece like this is a smart way to gauge interest from the fans on his possible return. Tying it to a new DC project - the solo Joker movie - keeps it relevant and immediately puts that dynamic in fans’ heads. This could be a move from Affleck’s team but it could also be one from Warner Bros. too. Hey guys, isn’t this something you’d like? And don’t we all love a comeback story?
The other option is that Warner Bros. want out of that contract and want Affleck to step down from playing Batman. This piece is much more sympathetic towards Affleck than Warner Bros. so it could be read as his team reminding DC of what they’re missing out on. It also calls Ben a ‘triple threat’ who is ‘still beloved by execs at Warner Brothers’. Would they be so willing to drop him after two movies, especially with Cavill allegedly out?
The part that interests me the most is the detail that Affleck is allegedly inspired by the casting of Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker and that he would be interested in working with him in the future. Oh, the Jared Leto shade! And let’s be honest, there’s no way someone at Warner Bros. hasn’t already pitched the idea of having Phoenix be brought into the official DCEU canon so that Florida Juggalo Joker and his shitty on-set pranks can be excused as quickly as possible. It’s not unfeasible that Affleck would want to work with a guy he knows - and was kind of related to for a while thanks to his shitty alleged sexual harasser brother - but the notion that this is what has sparked his desire to put the cape on once more is more questionable.
HollywoodLife.com isn’t a great or especially reliable source but it is Bonnie Fuller’s site and the former Us Weekly editor, the one who essentially reinvented the modern glossy American gossip magazine, still has some power. Their past few Ben Affleck stories are very supportive of him. He’s a big deal, still, and that’s not someone a gossip site eager for legitimacy wants to piss off.
From my point-of-view, I think Affleck has one more Batman movie in him. Warner Bros. could certainly argue for insurance purposes or the necessity of rebooting the DCEU with a younger crew, but it would also be super shitty PR for them to drop someone while they’re down and they can’t afford to lose any more core members of the Justice League if Cavill is truly out. He can do one more movie, have his swansong, then let whoever his Robin is take over. Affleck can go back to directing fun movies and just get on with his life. Frankly, I think that’s what we all want for him.