Casting Imagination

Allow me to present the formula for creating a bad-ass film superhero (or super-villain).  Step 1: Design a bad-ass costume, one that seems faintly suited to combat, one that tightly fits and augments the figure, and has a few high-tech gizmos.  Add boots.  Add a minimal mask that hides or obscures the area around the eyes that conveys the most subtle emotions.  Step 2: Put someone in the costume.  Step 3: Instruct the person in the costume to never smile.

It’s so simple, anyone can do it.  Even Ben Affleck.

I find the current controversy about Ben Affleck being cast as the next Batman fascinating – but not because it’s Ben Affleck.  It doesn’t surprise me that most people don’t have the imagination to picture an actor in the role of a superhero, especially when that actor has a long history of conveying emotion through their characters.  What amazes me is how many times in the past people have objected to casting choices, only to become stunned converts after watching the film, yet continue to believe their opinion is worth anything.  How many times do you need to be proven wrong before you realize that maybe you should trust the experts?

Perhaps a review of past casting calamities is in order.

  • Michael Keaton as Batman — Many of you were too young to remember Michael Keaton before Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, but take my word for it, an action hero he was not.  He was mostly a comedic actor, with some touching moments of drama.  In addition to doubts about his ability to do action, there was much speculation about the effectiveness of a kevlar six-pack.  Nevertheless, both worked (though this film was worlds apart from the Christopher Nolan rendition).  This was the film that created the above formula and launched decades of comic book superhero films.
  • Daniel Craig as James Bond — Bond has always been played as a suave and sophisticated ladies man who occasionally gets into a scuffle.  Craig is ugly and muscle bound, and up to that point he had mostly played sadistic neanderthals.  The combination of the two created a grittier, more authentic Bond, possibly the best one so far.
  • Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Susan Calvin — Before I, Robot, Moynahan was best known for her role in Coyote Ugly, which was the polar opposite of a logical robot scientist whose own emotions are cold and suppressed.  Yet she played the role well (aside from being far younger than the character in the books), and she made the character more interesting.
  • Anne Hathaway as Catwoman — Perhaps Hathaway did too many princess movies to be taken seriously as a bad girl action hero.  The same people were making the same uproar about the same thing two years ago, and they all walked out of the theater in a state of shock.  Why can’t anyone remember this?

The point is, actors act.  Good actors are different characters in each film.  Directors and Casting directors know this, and they have the imagination to see how an actor can change to fit the role.  Joining an actor with a character is chemistry, and it creates something new.  If everyone always did the same all the time, why would you pay to watch films in the theater?

On the topic of Mr. Affleck, it is worth pointing out, to those of you who have forgotten, that he has already done the superhero thing, and he did a good job of it, too.  In 2003, he played the lead in Daredevil.  The film itself was a bit of a disappointment, and his character was somewhat upstaged by the hot Jennifer Garner, but he certainly proved he has what it takes to play Batman.

If the decision where left to you, who would you cast?  However, before you give me your naively smug answer, I want to remind you that, collectively, you have chosen every politician we currently have in public office.