Meeting with the previous Dark Knight of the DC Comics universe.
On the occasion of the rebroadcast of Batman v Superman on TF1 this Sunday, we share our interviews with Zack Snyder’s film crew, on the cover of First in March/April 2016 (n°469/470). We start with that of Ben Affleck, alias Bruce Wayne / Batman, at a time when his successor Robert Pattinson is a hit in dark rooms thanks to The Batman.
Interview of March 2, 2016: It may be 20 degrees outside, Ben Affleck shivers and blows his nose every five minutes. Far from his image as a sex symbol with his big cap screwed on his head, his red nose and his Sunday jogging, the actor / director still finds the energy to meet the press with a big smile. Interview ahead of the release of Batman v Supermanwhere he will play the Dark Knight.
Not too much shape obviously?
It feels a little bit better. This weekend I was on the set of Live By Night, my new movie. I spent my time screaming in the cold and shooting fighting scenes, I lost my voice and caught a bad cold. Risky Business !
A very different movie Batman v Superman.
Yeah, it’s very different. It’s a big movie too, but it’s another thing to spend three weeks in the Batmobile, chasing a guy in a green suit who pretends to be the bad guy! Superhero movies are magical but really hard to shoot, especially physically.
You have become a sought-after actor again, you are a respected director. You really had nothing to gain by getting into a superhero movie again.
After the success of Argo, I felt that I could really do what I liked. But it took a little convincing for Batman. Zack Snyder showed me around his studio where there were lots of drawings and paintings, the whole visual universe of the film. I was very surprised, it had nothing to do with what I imagined. He wanted to get as close as possible to Frank Miller’s comic book, The Dark Knight. With an aging, more feisty Batman coming to the end of his career. A somewhat broken guy whose philanthropic playboy side is in fact just another mask with which he fills the void that inhabits him. I loved this view. He’s not a 25-year-old guy who takes out his anger on the criminals of Gotham City. He is someone who takes stock of his life and wonders if it was all worth it. He had another tragedy, the people he worked with were killed (Editor’s note: during the fight between Zod and Superman at the end of Man of Steel) by something that terrifies him.
He feels overwhelmed.
Yes, because suddenly, the world no longer makes sense: Batman must face superhumans, which had never happened to him. It’s a lot like what we’re going through right now, at least since 2001. The world is much scarier than we thought, anything can happen at any time. Banks can sink, buildings can explode… You feel less safe and Zack wanted to evoke this feeling.
And there’s something reassuring about going to see superhero movies when you live every day with terrorism in mind.
It’s exactly that. If we could compare the admission numbers for superhero movies and the number of incidents around the planet, I’m sure we’d find a correlation. These kinds of movies tell us that no matter the enemy, someone is going to come in and deal with it. It is a very comforting thought, that our problems can be solved. Batman v Superman talks about the lack of understanding of the other and the threats that come from outside. It is completely topical. The world is extremely confused: who is on whose side? Why ? What do we have to do ? It is a very confusing time.
Henry Cavill: “In the Justice League, the real asshole is Batman”
Batman v Supermanit is also the rather surprising meeting between Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio, a screenwriter whom you know well since he wrote Argo.
Working with Chris and Zack is as good as pairing chocolate with peanut butter. Zack is an incredibly visual director. Something that sometimes doesn’t make sense when you’re shooting it looks great on the monitor. He inspired me every day. And Chris is a pragmatic guy, who writes political thriller scripts. Their meeting was fruitful, they managed to create the perfect hybrid. This script is great, there was not a line to change in the dialogues. And I can tell you it’s rare.
How have comic book movies evolved since your last experience with Daredevil?
I think we especially realized that they could be good! (laughs) It used to be a bit cynical: put costumes on guys, use licenses and there will be an audience. And then they realized they could do crossovers and if they did well, there was a lot more money to be had. Back then, nobody was trying to make a good movie. The DC Comics universe has a great card to play today. There’s room for DC to be darker and for Marvel to be lighter and a little funnier. This has been the DNA of these two companies for a long time, even before the films.
What is the biggest challenge when preparing to play Batman?
Honestly, it’s the physical side. Because other actors have given their all before, audience expectations of what a superhero should look like are nearly impossible to meet. I had to work out for a year for this film, it was crazy work. It’s almost 70% of the job. You have to think about your diet all the time, it takes up a lot of space in your head. I’m not complaining, I accepted the job. On the other hand, I won’t tell you what a pleasure it was to eat a burger when the shooting was over!
What did you steal from the other actors who played Batman?
Each of them was brilliant in their own way. I tried not to think about it too much and followed Zack’s directions. I told myself that if we succeeded, there wouldn’t even be any comparisons with what has been done before. I saw the film and I think the result speaks for itself.
Have you talked to Christian Bale and George Clooney to get their advice?
Yeah, I spoke to both.
And Clooney told you not to have your nipples showing on the costume?
It goes without saying, ha ha. And Christian told me that I absolutely needed a fly, you can imagine why.
Henry Cavill had previously played Superman in Man of Steel. Did he help you find your bearings in this universe?
It is a sequel to man of steel, so I landed in the world of Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill. In fact, we didn’t share many scenes with Henry, it was a bit like night shift and day shift! We passed each other with our suits on, like we worked at the same company but didn’t hang out together that often. On the other hand, when we were in the same sequences, there was something electric.
You are a big fan of comics. The geek in you must have had fun on set.
Oh, but so much! I literally nicked one of the Batarangs. I put it in my pocket, telling myself that I had well deserved it. The props guy came to claim it and I told him no. I thought I had some kind of “movie star pass” for that kind of stuff. I stayed straight in my boots and flew to Los Angeles! The guy was super pissed off: ‘Fuck Ben Affleck, get me the Batarang!’ I never returned it. At the end of filming, Zack gave me a great gift, the Batman grappling hook. I was like a kid. Besides, it’s funny, my son really thinks I’m Batman. And I don’t know if it’s the colors, but he’s sure the guy from FedEx is the Joker. Every time a package arrives: ‘Daddy, the Joker is out!’
How was the meeting with Jeremy Irons (Alfred) and Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor)?
I’ve been a fan of Jeremy since high school, he totally blew me away. I knew that with him it was going to roll on its own and that I could lean on him to trigger real emotions in me. I hardly had to play, it came naturally. As for Jesse, his Lex Luthor is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain mixed with Larry Page, he is brilliant. It makes me laugh a lot that we celebrate the uniqueness of our billionaires, that we let them do what they want while finding it quite charming. Without ever thinking for a second that they may just be seriously mentally ill!
The film introduces Wonder Woman to the cinema for the first time.
Gal Gadot made the character of Wonder Woman work on the screen and yet it is very difficult not to sink into ridicule. The border is extremely fine but it is doing admirably well. The most impressive action sequences of the film are for her in fact.
You have signed a contract for several films, does this kind of long-term commitment not stress you too much?
I love this world and I love being part of it. I still have a few left and I’m very excited about Justice League. I try not to think about it too much.
It’s still relevant, your desire to make the next film where Batman will be solo?
In theory yes, if the script is good I’m in. But all that is still very far away for me, now I can only think of the scene I’m going to shoot on Monday.
Interview by François Léger
Batman v Superman – Zack Snyder: “With Man of Steel, we installed the plumbing. There, we open the tap”