Batman v Superman is undoubtedly a flawed film (director Zack Snyder’s Ultimate Cut is a far superior version, but still has some issues), and it’s widely accepted that Justice League is just a plain trainwreck. But despite the criticisms you can level at either of those two movies, it will be very hard to lay the blame for any of them at the feet of Ben Affleck. Although there were the outlying dissenters, both fans and critics alike had embraced Affleck in his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne. And they were all especially excited for the upcoming solo film, The Batman, that the two-time Oscar winner would write, direct, and star in.
But then the fallout from Justice League’s poor critical and commercial reception happened, resulting in Warner Bros. rethinking the entire plan for their DC Comics cinematic universe. And everything changed for Affleck as well, who soon removed himself from the director’s chair, proceeded to sow doubt as to whether he even wanted to star in the movie, before eventually ending his run as the Dark Knight altogether. Matt Reeves was brought on as director, and he promptly dropped Affleck’s entire script in favour of his own before casting Robert Pattinson as his Batman.
So why did Affleck leave? Were the criticisms surrounding BvS and Justice League too much a flashback to his time in the much-reviled Daredevil? Was he unhappy with the new direction the DCEU was taking? Didn’t he like Reeves’ script. No, it seems the answer is actually a lot more sombre than that as Affleck recently revealed to the New York Times in a very candid interview:
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.’
Circa 2015, Affleck’s 10-year marriage to his Daredevil co-star Jennifer Garner had started coming apart, and the actor began finding solace in a bottle. His widely publicised substance abuse issues created even more problems in their marriage and the pair decided to separate. In 2018, Affleck and Garner, who have three children together, formalised their divorce, which Affleck calls “the biggest regret of my life”.
All of this happened while Affleck had been making Batman v Superman and Justice League back to back, and his heart was never in the role. The latter film, in particular, with its incredibly troubled shoot that saw Joss Whedon taking over from Snyder due to both personal tragedy and WB’s abrupt course change, “sapped his interest”, according to the NYT.
And with Affleck having just completed his third stint in rehab, it’s completely understandable that he wouldn’t want to go through all that additional turmoil again. Alas, after a year of sobriety, Affleck relapsed again last year. The actor told LA Times at the time though that it was just “a slip” in his daily struggles, and that “I’m not going to let it derail me”.
I really enjoyed Affleck’s time under the cape and cowl, but his personal health takes precedence over my need to want to see him dressed as a giant flying rodent. Affleck is seemingly facing his demons head-on daily and revitalizing his career again. His next movie, the uncoincidentally appropriate sports drama The Way Back, sees Affleck play a basketball coach who is also a “puffy, willful, fall-down drunk who blows up his marriage and lands in rehab,” and who is looking for redemption. Some may think that hits a little too close to home, but that was kind of the point for Affleck.
I’ve never been very risk-averse — for better or worse, obviously. Regarding ‘The Way Back,’ the benefits, to me, far outweighed the risks. I found it very therapeutic.
Let’s hope the talented actor/filmmaker keeps finding that therapy in his personal life.
Last Updated: February 19, 2020