Last Updated on August 15, 2022 by Lil Ginge
Warner Bros. Pictures will soon be releasing the first new solo Batman film since Christopher Nolan’s work of genius The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. But how was The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne / Batman, actually developed?
The story of The Batman actually begins with the story of Ben Affleck’s turn as Batman and his initial role as the director of the new film. But as Affleck’s time as Batman was tumultuous and filled with disappointment, Affleck soon left the project and cleared the way for Reeves to take over the film.
In this article, we’ll look at the early history of the development of The Batman, and elements including the screenplay, casting, and design of the film.
The Ben Affleck Period of The Batman
In October 2014, the first phase of The Batman’s development, Warner Bros. announced a solo Batman film starring Ben Affleck in the role of The Batman / Bruce Wayne. And by July 2015, Affleck became involved in talks to also direct the film and co-write the screenplay with Geoff Johns.
Affleck and Johns worked on the screenplay for The Batman and completed the first draft in March 2016. Johns suggested that part of the story would deal with the murder of Robin by The Joker, a plot point suggested by the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Affleck’s first time on screen as Batman.
By the time ComicCon rolled around in April 2016, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed that Affleck would indeed be directing the film. Casting decisions included Jeremy Irons reprising his performance as Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s faithful butler, and Joe Manganiello as nemesis Deathstroke the Terminator. And while Jared Leto expressed interest in reprising his role as The Joker from Suicide Squad, there was no indication that The Joker would be part of the new standalone Batman film.
In October 2016, Affleck revealed that the title of the new film would officially be The Batman. Originally, the film was scheduled to begin filming in mid-2017 and would be set for a release the following year. However, soon things began to go off the rails for The Batman‘s development.
Ben Affleck Steps Down from The Batman
In the next phase of The Batman’s development in January 2017, Affleck began to say that The Batman did not yet have a script and that he might not direct the film after all. Affleck stated that if the script didn’t come together in a way that he felt was really great, he wouldn’t do the film at all. And soon Affleck did wind up stepping down as the director of The Batman.
In response to stepping down from the film, Affleck said:
There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions. Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require. Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film. I am still in this, and we are making it, but we are currently looking for a director. I remain extremely committed to this project, and look forward to bringing this to life for fans around the world.Ben Affleck
For a while, Affleck still claimed that he would be starring in and producing The Batman despite stepping down from his role as director and screenwriter. However, Affleck was still involved in doing publicity for the character’s turn in the upcoming film Justice League. Admitting that he was no longer involved with The Batman could have undermined the marketing for that latter film, so it made sense for Affleck to continue claiming involvement.
To whatever extent Ben Affleck did actually create a script for The Batman, it was re-written by Batman v Superman co-writer and Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio. Cinematographer Robert Richardson (Live by Night), who became attached to the project early in the development phase, revealed that the script was set largely in Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum and dealt with the concept of insanity.
The storyline of the script involved Deathstroke causing a mass breakout from Arkham Asylum which wears down Batman and makes him vulnerable to attack. The idea for this story was largely drawn from the comic series “Knightfall” (1992-1994), Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989), and the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009). Deathstroke believed that Batman was responsible for the death of his son and would start serially killing Batman’s loved ones and people close to him in revenge.
Matt Reeves Comes Aboard The Batman
The third phase of The Batman’s development came after the disastrous audience and critical response to Batman v Superman. Warner Bros. began to take a long look at where DC on film and the Batman character were going. Once Ben Affleck officially stepped down from his role helming The Batman, a number of other directors for the movie were considered including:
- Matt Reeves
- George Miller
- Denis Villeneuve
- Ridley Scott
- And Matt Ross.
Matt Reeves is an admitted longtime Batman fan. Warner Bros. quickly added him to the shortlist of potential directors for the film. Although there was initially some disagreement over salary, on February 23rd, 2017, Reeves was officially hired to direct The Batman. Reeves would also be set to produce the film along with Dylan Clark.
By March 2017, Reeves was already working on the script for The Batman. At the beginning of the process, Reeves planned to keep the film attached to the events of other films set in the DCEU. But as work on the screenplay continued, Reeves’ concept evolved away from this direction and The Batman became its own new unconnected story.
Matt Reeves’ Batman Screenplay
The development of The Batman now focused on the screenplay. The script would focus earlier in Batman’s career than the incarnation played by Affleck and would feature a younger, less seasoned actor. This made it abundantly clear that Affleck was going to have no place starring as Batman in the Reeves film.
By September 2018, Reeves submitted the first draft of the screenplay to Warner Bros. The screenplay focused on Batman’s second year as a vigilante crime fighter. This would help to distinguish it from the origin story portrayed in Christopher Nolan’s legendary 2005 film Batman Begins.
The script was a blend of detective, action, psychological thriller, and film noir elements and tried to stay more grounded in the comic book world of Batman than any previous film had. By incorporating these elements, Reeves suggested that the film would be somewhat frightening in nature, although he did not say that there were horror elements to the movie.
The script featured a Batman rogues gallery of villains that included Catwoman, The Penguin, and The Riddler. The Riddler was selected as the main antagonist of the film, hewing closer to the serial killer The Zodiac Killer than the comically clownish portrayal of Edward Nigma in Joel Schumacher’s 1995 film Batman Forever by Jim Carey.
One change from traditional Batman adaptations by Reeves was the exclusion of the “billionaire playboy and socialite” version of Bruce Wayne so central to earlier incarnations. Inspired by the persona of Kurt Cobain while listening to the Nirvana song “Something in the Way” during the writing process, Reeves wrote Wayne as much more of a recluse.
Inspirations for The Batman Script
In addition to the Nirvana / Kurt Cobain connection, there were a number of different influences on Matt Reeves’ development of the script for The Batman. Although the film would not be based on any single individual comic storyline, like Christopher Nolan’s films, Reeves would incorporate elements from different Batman comic books into his screenplay. Some of these included:
- Batman: Year One (1987) by Frank Miller and David Mazzuccelli
- The Long Halloween (1996-1997) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
- Ego (2000) by Darwyn Cooke
- And Zero Year (2013-14) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
Reeves was especially drawn to the psychological elements of Bruce Wayne’s character mined in the Ego book.
In addition to the comic book and musical influences on the film’s writing, Matt Reeves took inspiration from a notable set of previous films. These include movies like the action classic The French Connection (1971), the neo-noir stunner Chinatown (1974), Martin Scorsese’s iconic Taxi Driver (1976), as well as an assortment of thrillers by legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.
Casting The Batman
With Ben Affleck no longer set to portray Batman, a new star was needed at this stage in The Batman’s development. The initial shortlist of actors included Nicholas Hoult, Armie Hammer, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as well as Robert Pattinson of Twilight sparkly-vampire fame. But soon it became clear that Pattinson was the frontrunner to portray Batman in Reeves’ new work.
Reeves was drawn to Pattinson after seeing his performance in the film Good Time (2017). However, as Pattinson had become an indie film darling, Reeves was unsure Pattinson would be interested in a role in a blockbuster tentpole like The Batman. But Pattinson’s refusal to work in previous blockbuster post-Twilight actually became a selling point as he was not attached to any properties in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Reeves reviewed previous work by both Pattinson and Hoult for many hours before meeting with the two. The two finalists for the role of Batman flew to Burbank, California for their screen tests. During his test, Pattinson donned the classic Batman suit worn by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever, and was good enough to convince Reeves to officially choose Pattinson over Hoult. Pattinson would earn a salary of $3 million for his portrayal of the iconic dark knight.
Meanwhile, other roles still had to be cast. Jeffrey Wright became the first person of color cast to play the role of Batman’s friend police Commissioner James Gordon, so exquisitely portrayed by Gary Oldman in The Dark Knight trilogy. Although Jonah Hill was initially in discussions to play The Riddler, his demand of a $10 million salary was deemed too much and Reeves wound up casting Paul Dano in the role.
Zoë Kravitz was soon added to The Batman as Catwoman after a successful screen test with Pattinson. Other actors considered for the role of Catwoman included Ana de Armas, Ella Balinska, Zazie Beetz and Alicia Vikander. The cast was finally rounded out by actors like Andy Serkis (Alfred Pennyworth), Colin Farrell (The Penguin), and John Turturro (Carmine Falcone).
The Design of The Batman
Before the screenplay of The Batman was even done in the film’s development phase, the design team began working on elements of the film like Batman’s costume, the Batcave, and the Batmobile. Reeves wanted designs to feel handmade, grounded in reality, and non-fantastical. The idea would be that a real-world like Bruce Wayne would be designing these elements himself.
Ash Thorp created The Batmobile design to have an engine that actually resembles a bat. Reeves took inspiration from the Stephen King novel Christine about a car possessed by an evil ghost, making it a sort of horror-themed car. Said Reeves, “I liked the idea of the car itself as a horror figure, making an animalistic appearance to really scare the hell out of the people Batman’s pursuing.”
The Batman 2022 Bat Suit and Costumes
Jacqueline Durran took the lead on designing costumes, with Pattinson’s new Batsuit designed by Glyn Dillon over an entire year. Reeves wanted the suit to remain practical and have a homemade feel. Pattinson contributed to the design of the suit in order to be able to better move around and fight inside of it. Also, Christian Bale suggested that Pattinson make sure there was a way for him to go to the bathroom when necessary.
In terms of photos and film of the design that we have seen, the cowl appears to be made of leather. It is rather roughly stitched together. This gives it a home-made feel quite unlike the bat cowls of films like Batman, Batman Begins and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Rumor has it that the bat signal featured on Batman’s chest has been recrafted from a gun – perhaps the gun that murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents? Only time will tell all.
The 2022 Batman suit is heavily armored, padded, and bulkier than most previous incarnations. There appear to be weapons in both his arm gauntlets (reminiscent of the shootable gauntlets in The Dark Knight perhaps?) and, of course, Batman’s famed utility belt. These weapons pouches may include both a dart gun with darts as well as Batman’s bat grappling hook and gun and Batarangs.
Action figures can often be a key to understanding the design of a superhero film before it is released and that is true also for The Batman 2022. There is a new ⅓ scale Batman statue released by Prime 1 Studios based on the film’s design. The statue indicates that there may be white lenses present for some scenes of the film, something desired by many comic books fans. The statue also shows cracks and damage over the chest symbol.
Another important element of the design was the fat suit for the decidedly not-fat Colin Farrell. Farrell would also wear prosthetics created by makeup artist Mike Marino, who designed the fat suit as well. Farrell chose the concept of wearing a fat suit rather than gaining real weight to protect his health.
Concluding Thoughts on the Development of The Batman
It has been a long road to develop the film The Batman, but now the release of the Matt Reeves movie is just around the corner. It will be time to see how all the elements of development finally play out on the big screen (or little screen if you decide to stream it on HBO Max instead).
There were definitely some bumps in the road when it came to the development of The Batman. The disappointments of Batman v Superman and Justice League definitely contributed to this bumpy road and led to the departure of Ben Affleck.
Whether that departure will be a negative or rather an exciting new twist in the film career of Batman will be revealed on the big screen soon enough. If the early indications of the development process mean anything, we may finally have the first great new Batman film on our hands since 2012.
If you enjoyed this article on The Batman’s development, check out my post on the development of the film Terminator Genisys.