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Holy Rusted Metal Batman!

Batman Producer Michael Uslan On Ben Affleck And Controversial Comic Book Movie Casting


Michael Uslan grew up on Batman and after being disappointed with his debut on the small screen in the 60s, he made it his goal to bring a better Batman to life. He acquired the film rights in 1979 but it took him ten years to make his dream come true with 1989′s Batman. Since then, he’s produced every Batman film and has some perspective to share as it pertains to controversial casting decisions. 

In an interview with EP Daily, Uslan discussed what Ben Affleck’s casting means to him:

We went through it all with Michael Keaton. I lead the charge from the first time I heard Tim (Burton) was thinking of hiring Michael Keaton to play Batman. I’d go, ‘Oh my god, all the work, I’ve put in all these years to do a dark and serious Batman, he’s going to hire a comedian!’ I could envision the posters: ‘Mr. Mom is Batman,’ but then he explained his vision, he had a vision, and he was right. This is all about Bruce Wayne, it’s not about Batman, it’s all about Bruce Wayne. If you’re trying to do a serious, dark superhero, people have to believe in Bruce Wayne as that obsessed driven guy, to the point maybe of almost being psychotic. A guy who would get dressed up as a bat and do what he did. So we went through the hoopla with Michael Keaton. The fans were the same reaction that I had initially, except I had the benefit of hearing a vision right away. Then when they actually went to see the movie they never wanted to anyone else to play Batman, never.

And then he brought up the modern-day Christopher Nolan films, where the controversy wasn’t about who would play Batman, but the Joker.

A number of years go by, and then all of a sudden the torches and the pitchforks go up, ‘oh my god, the guy that played the gay cowboy is going to be The Joker? They’re going to destroy the greatest super villain in history. And then after Heath Ledger’s performance, when they actually went to see it, nobody ever wanted The Joker played by another actor again. So here we are, with an academy award winning filmmaker. You look at his last bunch of movies, Hollywoodland he had me convinced he was George Reeves. The Town, Argo, just really, really great quality of work. Again, I’ll go back to what Tim said in the beginning, it’s all about Bruce Wayne, and when you focus on it, Bruce Wayne, maybe in his mid-forties, what’s he going to be feeling? What’s he going to be thinking? What does he have on his plate to deal with? I just couldn’t be more excited about it.

I think Uslan hits it on the head with his comment about having the benefit of hearing the vision. We can complain all we want about casting but until we actually know what they’re going for and see the film, we have no idea if it will actually work. And while some like to throw out the Keaton/Ledger examples of controversial casting that worked every single time someone cries foul, there’s plenty that didn’t, and not for a lack of vision. So it’s always a toss-up.

In other Bat-news, over the weekend we learned the next actor set to play James Gordon. Southland star Ben McKenzie will lead the cast of Fox’s upcoming Gotham TV series.

(via Blastr)

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  • Matias Furia

    I don’t find the insistence that “it’s all about Bruce Wayne” reasuring AT ALL. I never had much of a problem with the casting, but I don’t think this guy really gets Batman, at least not the Batman I like. Bruce Wayne is a farce, Batman is the real character.

  • Anonymous

    I still have a problem with the “don’t complain until you’ve seen it” attitude. Other than taking for granted that we will see his film anyway, it’s also ignoring the fact that the people who discuss casting decisions before the film’s release are the fans who help making every superhero film a hit. Take the bad with the good or get out!

  • Anonymous

    In his defense, I don’t think he’s referencing the public persona version of Bruce Wayne, he just means the underlying psychology of the guy under the mask. Previous to the ’89 Batman, there hadn’t been a deeper look (in TVs or movies) into what made Batman tick.

  • http://www.thenerdybird.com/ Jill Pantozzi

    I am definitely not in the “don’t complain until you’ve seen it” camp, for the record.

  • Michael R Trice

    I don’t know. That argument justifies people saying anything. It seems a remarkably low barrier on personal self-restraint and reason. Complaining about poor production before the production occurs is pretty hard to defend as both behavior and legit criticism.

  • Anonymous

    Nice to hear Keaton had been well received. I think he was the best Bruce Wayne. Too bad his Batman movies were campy, Nolan’s darker vision was much better, especially the one with Heath Ledger.

  • Mark Matson

    The point is *anyone* can play Batman, more or less. All the acting is on the Bruce Wayne side.

  • Harrison Grey

    I completely understand what he’s saying about not having seen the vision that convinced the studio to let Ben Affleck be Batman. My trouble is that we have seen one movie worth of this director’s “vision”, and that vision is ‘mopey, color drained Superman’. Add to it that enough of the movie is about Superman and Batman as enemies for them to play up the film as a “vs.” feature, and you’ve got a problem.

  • Skol Troll

    Isn’t “Batman is the real character” a bit misleading when much of who you see in the suit is a stunt double? Superheroes w/o their fully-fleshed out alter-egos are just really strong guys in spandex and rubber. See also: Green Lantern movie.

  • Anonymous

    I argue for the right of the fans to voice their opinion, I’m not arguing that all their opinions make sense. Talking about casting after a casting announcement seems very reasonable to me.

  • Skol Troll

    Mr. Uslan hits the nail on the head: if you haven’t seen it, you don’t know. I go through this speech every day with my little superhero-worshipers: “How do you know you don’t like it (food of the moment) until you’ve tried it?” Sure, mayonaisse on asparagus-flavored M&Ms is disgusting, but that’s overtly obvious. But if you’ve already assumed the Bats v. Supes is already mayo on a yet-uninvented disgusting M&M flavor, well, stop talking. Your mind was made up a long time ago. We get it.

  • Anonymous

    But it sounds like you are saying “I want to complain about the casting and I do not anyone else to complain about my complaining.”

  • Michael R Trice

    I agree that you have every right to make whatever case you want. I simply also contend that you have a responsibility to make it a good case.

  • Anonymous

    It was a transition. In contrast to Adam West’s Batman, Keaton was dark and gritty. And then of course it slid steadily into camp so bad the Batsuit had Batnipples.

  • Anonymous

    I have to admit while I do think that there are legitimate instances where you can complain before you’ve seen it (the whitewashing in Gods of Egypt to use a recent example), comic fans kind of have a habit of going overboard. Maybe it’s adapted works in general, but I often find that the nitpicking in comic book films often goes well beyond “This is a legitimate narrative concern” or “This seems like a bad idea” into “WHAT DO YoU MEAN CHARACTER A ISN’T DRESSED EXACTLY LIKE THEIR COMIC COUNTERPART?!?!?! THIS MOVIE IS GOING TO SUCK! MARVEL IS RUINED FOREVER!” territory.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. But by then both Keaton and Burton were gone.

  • Matias Furia

    I don’t mean that Batman is the jumping and the punchng. I mean that Bruce Wayne should be a shallow facade, and that Batman is the kid who saw his parents die in front of him and pledged his life to make a difference.

  • Adrian

    It’s the general audience that helps make a superhero film a hit. I know we seem bigger on the internet but we only make up, like, 10% of the gross.

  • http://cainslatrani.blogspot.com/ Cain S. Latrani

    I remember the flap over Ledger playing the Joker. All the fans in an uproar. Meanwhile, I just smiled, for I had seen Roar, and remembered Ledger’s time on the show after he gave in to the power of the Spear.

    Yeah. I still got more than I expected. He really was one of the greats.

  • Mark Brown

    Yeah, Bruce Wayne died in that alley and ~something else~ was born.

  • Anonymous

    I can think of a lot of things which would require criticism prior to seeing them. Like if someone said “OK, we’re doing Anansi Boys, and Charlie Nancy is played by Martin Freeman.” That’d justify a heck of a lot of fan freakout.

  • Anonymous

    My only problem with the Bat-casting is that it’s not Alec Baldwin’s head superimposed onto the body of a much fitter stunt double.

  • Alexa

    It could be good, but I have little faith because I just don’t like Snyder at the helm. Nothing really against Affleck, he’ll probably be fine, I just don’t like the director’s vision…That’s all.

  • Alexa

    It could be good, but I have little faith because I just don’t like Snyder at the helm. Nothing really against Affleck, he’ll probably be fine, I just don’t like the director’s vision…That’s all.

  • Anonymous

    You’ll get no argument from me that Ben Afleck is awesome. The guy has a 100% hit rate as a director, he co-wrote Good Will Hunting and his portrayal of George Reeves was terrific. Does any of that make him a good choice for Batman? Umm… not really.

  • odango atama

    I remember “Roar”. I thought I was the only one! :)

  • Vorkon

    That’s exactly WHY playing Bruce Wayne is the hard part. Playing a driven, brooding badass isn’t all that difficult, especially when you’re wearing a suit that does half the work for you. But playing someone who, by all outward appearances, is a flippant, gregarious, carefree playboy, but is secretly hiding that driven, brooding badass under that outward appearance? And convincing the audience that the outward appearance is the real mask, while still making the mask convincing enough to fool the characters around him? THAT’S difficult. Playing a good Bruce Wayne is the most important part of playing Batman precicely BECAUSE you need to show he’s a facade.