The Ben Affleck era of Batman is officially over after the 46-year-old American actor decided to pass the torch to a new generation of stars — following his stint as the Caped Crusader in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad , and Justice League.
Although details about the new film, The Batman, are scarce, the director, Matt Reeves, has stated that he wants to focus on younger version of the character by utilizing Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One source material. But this could mean many things; he could go super young — like what Marvel did with Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming — or something more akin to Batman Begins when the character was in his early 30s and first exploring vigilante justice.
But as Variety’s Justin Kroll reports, Reeves has a specific age range in mind; so much so, that when Kroll broached a few different names (just seven years apart), the director responded adamantly that one was too young and one was too old.
It’s hard to imagine that DC will choose a complete unknown to become Batman. Conversely, Ben Affleck’s tepid response from the moviegoing public illustrates that a bonafide movie star in the titular role doesn’t necessarily spell success either. Thus, the sweet spot seems to be an established actor looking to stretch out his legs a bit more in a certified blockbuster (we’re looking at you Jason Mamoa).
Although Kit Harrington is perhaps the more buzzworthy Game of Thrones choice — given his character’s continuance in the show — Richard Madden has quietly built out another memorable character in Netflix’s Bodyguard which earned him a win for Best Actor in a Drama at the Golden Globes. At 32-years-old, Madden isn’t necessarily brimming with teenage nativity, but he still could channel Bale’s transformation from guilt-ridden billionaire, to Dark Knight, like in Batman Begins.
As Jake Gyllenhaal’s latest film reveals, the actor has the ability to fully commit to any character that he plays. People often overlook that aspect when examining the role of Bruce Wayne.
While his parent’s murder is often a tidy piece of exposition that fuels the audience’s understanding of his motivations, Gyllenhaal could bring a dimension to Batman that Heath Ledger brought to the Joker — since we no longer need a frame of reference as to why or why not Bruce Wayne does certain things. If rumors are to be believed that Reeves wants to channel both Seven and Chinatown in The Batman, it’s going to rely more on an inward look at justice than typical, big budget theatrics associated with superhero films.
Even before it was confirmed that Ben Affleck was officially out, rumors were swirling that a change should be made and Jack O’Connell was the early favorite. O’Connell has a multitude of things going his way in regards to actually suiting up; he’s under 30, he’s relatively unknown to wider audiences, and yet established enough in the eyes of Hollywood execs that the risk wouldn’t actually be as great as it may first be perceived.
While a checklist like that seems rather cold and lacking imagination, we can’t forget that casting Batman is first and foremost a business decision. And in this case, O’Connell’s inclusion would feel both fresh and safe.
Outlander star, Sam Heughan, may not come out and say that he wants the job, but he did respond to an online poll which indicated that he was the frontrunner in fan voting.
Heughan already has experience in the role — playing Batman/Bruce Wayne in 2012’s production of Batman Live — an international tour which opened at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and went on to tour in South America and throughout Europe.
Much in the same way there was a social media outcry for Donald Glover to take on the role of Peter Parker, so too has there been a call to bring a new, diverse perspective to the role of Bruce Wayne. The most popular idea to be broached was that of Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther), by The Playlist’s Editor in Chief, Rodrigo Perez.
After thousands of retweets, Perez concluded, “Man, the last 24 hours have been an education in how everyone is so bad at and unimaginative with casting. The short sighted, simplistic view is whether someone LOOKS the part — height, build, etc — but really great casting is about great actors and nothing more, period.”
New York Times opinion columnist, Jamelle Bouie, echoed Perez’s sentiments — specifically pointing to how a contemporary African American upbringing could inform the character, saying, “I think there’s a real opportunity in reimagining the character as a black American, and how race shapes his background and the circumstances of his vigilante career.”
Slowly but surely, Robert Pattinson has shed the Twilight connotations — which plagued him from 2008 and beyond — with key turns in films like Good Time and The Rover. The latter films reinforced the notion that the 32-year-old actor has a brooding presence on screen that is hard to shake. If Reeves wants to take The Batman in a noir direction, Pattinson could artfully pull off a character that is driven by a need for a lone answer, rather than a sense of duty to an entire city.
If Matt Reeves does indeed want to steer the character in a younger direction, chances are he’d want to use an actor he has some first-hand familiarity with. Enter, Kodi Smit-McPhee, who he worked with on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes back in 2014, and Let Me In in 2010.
While some might point to a conflict of interest — Smit-McPhee currently portrays Nightcrawler in the X-Men universe (a Marvel property) — there’s already an established precedent by the likes of Ben Affleck, James Marsden, Ryan Reynolds, Hugo Weaving, and others that a switch is possible.
If you’re the betting type, your money should be on Armie Hammer. He has the recent indie work like Call Me by Your Name and Sorry to Bother You to bolster early tentpole missteps like The Lone Ranger and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
And DC has already indicated that he would be right for the role after he was cast in George Miller’s scrapped Justice League movie, Justice League Mortal, which was canceled before production began in 2007.
In speaking about the scrapped project, Hammer indicated a vision for the character which would seemingly align with what Reeves wants to do, saying, “He was a neurotic, like borderline schizophrenic dude who didn’t trust a single person.”
According to Irish bookmakers BoyleSports, Ben Barnes has the fifth best chances to become the next Batman. Best known for his television work on HBO’s Westworld (Logan) and Netflix’s The Punisher (Billy Russo), the latter has been an especially solid template for the duality which encompasses Bruce Wayne.
As Billy Russo, he’s showcased a man with a tortured background, a successful entrepreneur, and a serial womanizer — all hallmarks for Batman.