In 2016, it seemed like the future was bright for Warner Bros.’ The Batman. Ben Affleck, who had just made his debut as an older and wearier Caped Crusader in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was set to direct the Batman solo flick from a script he was co-writing with longtime DC Comics stalwart Geoff Johns. But a year later, Affleck would step down from the director’s chair. Two years after that, Affleck left The Batman altogether.
At the time, Affleck was dealing with publicly-documented struggles, including his divorce from Jennifer Garner and a relapse with alcoholism. The actor and filmmaker stepped out of the limelight in 2017 amid internet chatter over who would take over his biggest comic book role to date. Now, in a candid interview with The New York Times, Affleck opened up about his Batman exit and his personal struggles that lead to the departure.
Ben Affleck has long been Hollywood tabloid fodder, but after he stepped into the mask and cowl, he found himself at the center of comic book internet discourse as well. Many theories sprung up around the Ben Affleck Batman exit: the poor reviews for his Batman debut Batman v Superman; the messy production of Justice League that resulted in original director Zack Snyder stepping away and new director Joss Whedon reworking the story. And while Affleck revealed in his interview with The New York Times that the shoot for Justice League “sapped his interest” in returning as the character, it was a matter much closer to his personal life and own well-being that led to his hanging up the cowl.
“I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart,” Affleck said in the interview, speaking candidly for the first time about his long struggles with alcoholism. “This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems.”
Affleck spoke honestly and vulnerably with the New York Times about how his alcoholism relapse affected both his marriage and his work prospects, so much so that he had to stop working altogether in 2017 as a matter of self-preservation. That work included The Batman, to which Affleck was still attached to star after handing off the directing duties to Matt Reeves. Pre-production had gone far enough that Reeves’ script, which he wrote with Mattson Tomlin from scratch after scrapping Affleck and Johns’ version, had been handed to Affleck. But Affleck knew that if he wanted to survive, he wouldn’t be able to do it:
“I showed somebody The Batman script. They said, ‘I think the script is good. I also think you’ll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went though again.”
Affleck’s self-preservation worked out, and the star has recovered enough to act in movies again, with the upcoming Dee Rees thriller The Last Thing He Wanted and the sports drama The Way Back, the latter of which he felt a personal investment in due to his character being a recovering alcoholic. And Batman will live on with Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl.
So there it is: It wasn’t Warner Bros. kicking Affleck out, it wasn’t because of the internet piling on Justice League, or because of his back tattoo. And while it is a bit of a loss that we won’t get to see more of Affleck’s take on Batman, whose battle-worn persona and resigned weariness was actually one of the bright spots of Batman v Superman and Justice League, it’s a relief he was able to put his own well-being over his work.
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