SUPERHERO MOVIE OF THE YEAR
Ben Affleck talks about reprising his role as Batman in one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, Justice League. “We set out to deliver all the excitement and tension of a big superhero adventure,” he tells Roe McDermott.
Ben Affleck on playing Batman in one of the biggest movies of the year, Justice League.
Christmas has come early! Finally, comic nerds and film fans alike are getting to see Justice League, Zack Synder’s highly anticipated superhero flick that brings together the famed line-up of DC superheroes: Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.
Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes – Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash – it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
“It’s your classic end-ofthe-world scenario!” laughs Ben Affleck, reprising his role as Batman. “We certainly didn’t suffer from a lack of apocalyptic stakes in our storytelling!”
Well, of course not, Ben – Trump is the leader of the free world and there is an apolayptic undercurrent to much of the daily news. But as Affleck assures me, the difference between Batman and I is that when faced with a dystopian future, Batman doesn’t just cry and binge-eat Chocolate Kimberleys. “What’s interesting about it is that Bruce wants to come together with Diana to assemble this team,” Affleck muses, noting how his moody character has developed since Batman V. Superman:
Dawn Of Justice. “He’s a pretty solitary and reclusive guy – almost antisocial at times – but he’s forced to become a leader in reaching out to this group of outsiders, and cajoling them into working together for the greater good. And he doesn’t tend to play well with others, so it’s a lot of fun seeing him thrust into this leadership position.”
While Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman briefly appeared in Dawn Of Justice, this is the first time she will appear onscreen with Affleck since Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman feature film broke box-office records and became a critical and fan favourite. Affleck, who defended Gadot’s role in Dawn Of Justice back when some fans lashed out at the casting of the relatively unknown actress, is thrilled that she is finally being appreciated and has now become a new superhero icon.
“Gal is awesome,” he asserts. “She’s a pro, really smart, and I think her hard work and dedication really show in her performance. She has that deep quality onscreen that’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it, and it’s pretty special.”
Gadot’s Wonder Woman is simultaneously charming and strong, all wide-eyed idealism mixed with kick-ass strength. Her unwavering faith in humanity’s sense of what is good and right seems on paper to be the polar opposite of Bruce Wayne’s cynical misanthropy – and Affleck enjoys how those differences play out in Justice League.
“Bruce and Diana are working very closely together and share a sense of urgency about the mission,” he reveals. “They don’t have a romantic relationship in this film, but there’s a lot of chemistry and camaraderie in how they work together and get along. They don’t always agree, but both understand the importance of convincing these disparate heroes to unite for a single cause.”
Wonder Woman fans may enjoy the fact that she actually makes poor little Batman feel slightly inadequate, seeing as she and the other Justice League have super-powers, while Bruce has, well, gadgets, ears and some eyeliner to fill in his mask’s gap around the eyes.
“You see the incredible power of this group and it dwarfs what Batman’s capable of,” notes Affleck. “There are definitely times in the movie when you can see the difference between somebody who’s got superpowers and somebody who doesn’t! (Laughs) But the stakes are so high that Bruce is forced to step up and lead. And his will and determination to do what’s right are, I think, emblematic of what the Justice League comes to be all about. He’s just a guy with gadgets and a bulletproof suit, and yet he’s out there trying to cultivate friendships and collaborations with them, because he knows this threat is too big for any one of them to fight on their own. Leadership and heroism are not just about what abilities you have; it’s about character. So his power is having the courage to lead and the ability to inspire these people to go off and save the world together.”
In a way, Affleck’s role as Batman echoes Affleck’s own position in the film. He is the most famous and established actor in Justice
League, which features some lesser known actors previously known for TV work or indie films. Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller will be known by fans of The Good, The Bad and The Confused and The Perks Of Being
a Wallflower, while Jason Momoa has been a Game Of Thrones fan favourite for some time, However, Justice League is the biggest film any of the actors have appeared in. For Affleck, experiencing the enthusiasm of these relative newcomers was refreshing and infectious.
“I really enjoyed working with all of them,” he enthuses. “Ezra has a ton of energy and is a lot of fun. He’s an unconventional thinker and has got a really interesting view on life. I loved working with him. Same with Ray. This was effectively Ray’s first movie, so he brought the enthusiasm of a first-timer to the equation and in the filming process, I got to enjoy and appreciate what we were doing through his eyes. And Jason is an incredible spirit. He kind of is a superhero in his own way! (Laughs). Or at least, he seems like the closest of all of us to the real thing. He’s just a really inspiring person to be around.”
Despite Batman’s reputation for, frankly, being a bit of a sulky downer, Affleck reveals that the Justice League set was jam-packed full of fun and mischief, and that it was one of the most enjoyable working atmospheres he has enjoyed in quite a while. Out of all his great memories on set, he says that “the first time we were all in costume together was definitely memorable, because it was such an iconic moment for all of us. We were geeking out and taking selfies. I think the studio was panicking, because they thought we were going to tweet them out or something! (laughs). It was just a great feeling to have all of us standing there with these amazing costumes on – except Ray. His suit was computer-generated, so he got to wander around in pajamas all day, while we were sweating through these leather outfits! We were envious of Ray’s comfort, but he’s so charming you can’t hold it against him.”
He smiles. “That day was a lot of fun, but every day was fun. We had an absolute blast telling this story and we all felt really privileged to be part of it. Everybody worked hard because we wanted to get it right, but it was definitely a fan’s dream come true to have the whole Justice League together like that.”
Affleck is aware that Hollywood, film fans and society in general has been deeply rocked by the latest stories about Harvey Weinstein – who was the powerhouse behind Affleck’s Oscar-winning screenplay Good
Will Hunting – and other abusive figures in Hollywood. At a time when the film industry and society at large is reckoning with the impact and meaning of these revelations, Affleck hopes that Justice League provides some much needed relief and entertainment.
“I just hope people have fun. We set out to deliver all the excitement and tension and escapism of a big superhero adventure for the audience, and we hope they’ll come along for the ride.”
“We had an absolute blast telling this story and we all felt really privileged to be part of it."
Justice League is in cinemas now.