As soon as Warner Bros. announced that the next actor to don the cape and cowl as Batman would be Ben Affleck, the internet exploded with an array of reasons why Affleck was the worst possible choice for the role. He doesn’t look like Batman. He has a Boston accent. He sucked as Daredevil. He sucks as an actor. Those are just a few of the thousands of reasons that people gave for their disagreement with Warner’s decision.
But fanboys being furious about casting is nothing new. In fact, just about every actor who has ever been cast as an iconic comic book character in a film has been greeted with more than their fair share of naysayers. On occasion, the complaints are much worse than slight disagreement. There have been a few times when the opposition is so forceful, and so prevalent, that many have thought the movie would have no chance of succeeding (similar to what we’re currently hearing about Batman vs. Superman).
So in honor of the vehement opposition that Affleck’s casting has been met with, let’s take a look back at some other casting choices that were initially met with disagreement, but turned out to be smart decisions in the end.
Michael Keaton as Batman
With Batman being arguably the most iconic and beloved comic book character of all time, it only makes sense that every single actor cast as The Dark Knight is going to be the subject of the hatred for many fans. But the worst (until Affleck) was Michael Keaton. In the days before internet message boards and blogs were at the prominence that they are today, fans were absolutely furious about Keaton being cast in Tim Burton’s Batman, with some even going as far as to petition against the casting choice. Yeah, good luck with that one.
Those furious fanboys had their reasons alright. Keaton was too small, not fit enough, and looked nothing like Bruce Wayne. But boy did they ever eat their words when the actor came soaring in, brutally beating all the the baddies and letting the Joker know that if he wants to get nuts then, “Come on! Let’s get nuts!”
When Warner Bros. wanted to change the direction of the franchise, Keaton wasn’t having any of it and departed the role, despite being offered over $15 million to come back. Fans were as dismayed that he wouldn’t return as they were when he was offered the part. In fact, some of those very same petitioning fans were asking for Keaton to show up in Batman vs. Superman, hoping for him to reprise the role in a Dark Knight Returns storyline.
I can assure you, Keaton isn’t any fitter than he was 20 years ago, and he certainly hasn’t gotten any taller, so he must’ve done an alright job as Batman for fans to still want him back.
Anne Hathaway as Catwoman
This is one that I’m personally guilty of complaining about, and I know I’m not the only one. When I first heard Anne Hathaway was going to be Catwoman, I was upset for several reasons. First of all, I’ve never been a huge fan of Catwoman. Halle Berry’s version soured me on the character far beyond anything that the memories of the comics or cartoons could salvage. At that point, despite her other successful roles, Anne Hathaway was still the girl from The Princess Diaries in my mind. Not exactly the embodiment of an ass-kicking super heroine.
Aside from my personal hesitations, many other fans had their own problems with Hathaway as the character, the most prevalent being that she simply wasn’t sexy enough for the role. Sure, Hathaway’s Catwoman had zero chance of being as sexy as the more provocative depictions in the comic books, but I’m not sure that’s even humanly possible. There is no question that Hathaway is a beautiful woman, but was she the right kind of sexy to play the ferociously feline female villain? Most people said not a chance.
My distaste for the casting continued all the way into the first scene of The Dark Knight Rises. Watching Anne Hathaway walk around as a waitress, and even when she was confronting Bruce Wayne, all I could think was, “Oh great, her Catwoman is going to ruin a movie I’ve been anticipating for four years.” Then she was in another scene. And another. And with every second Hathaway was on screen, I fell more and more in love with her portrayal of the character. By the end of the movie, I realized I had enjoyed watching Catwoman as much as Bane, or John Blake, or even Batman. Hathaway said that if Nolan was willing to, she would reprise the role for a Catwoman solo film. While the chances are slim to none that it will happen, it’s still something that I, and most fans of the Dark Knight Trilogy, would welcome with open arms.
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
One casting choice that fanboys were extremely opposed to, but actually had some decent reasoning for, was Robert Downey Jr. being cast as Iron Man. While these cries of anger weren’t quite as passionate as those for the Batman characters on this list, people were still pretty peeved that the guy with a rap sheet filled with drug charges was going to be Tony Stark. Aside from his drug problems, he simply didn’t have the sort of career that would get people excited about his role as Iron Man.
It wasn’t as if he had taken time off or been in a lot of horrible movies. Downey Jr. had a lot of decent roles in a lot of decent movies, but nothing at all, at least since his younger days, that would indicate he had the talent to eventually become the cornerstone of the new Marvel cinematic universe. Yet again, the haters who didn’t give him a chance at succeeding were wrong. Very wrong. Downey Jr. embodied the character to such a point that Iron Man, who was never one of the bigger Marvel characters, now has a popularity that rivals that of the Hulk, Captain America, and even Spider-Man.
Now, five years after the first Iron Man released, most fans can’t even dream of seeing anyone else in the role. Any actor who is brought up to fill Downey Jr.’s iron boots is greeted with a greater fury than that which was directed at the current Tony Stark once upon a time (see Mark Wahlberg). Downey Jr. won’t continue with the role forever, he’s made that clear, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a fanboy who will be glad to see him go.
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Any time you have an iconic character being recast, the choice is probably going to be somewhat controversial. For all the comic book characters on this list though, fans have had multiple castings beforehand as well as the various comic iterations of the characters to draw comparisons to. But I don’t know that there’s any other character that has appeared on film as many times and is as beloved as James Bond is. So naturally, Bond fans are going to have very strong opinions about who is and isn’t qualified to play 007.
And for most fans of the super secret agent, Daniel Craig fell into the “isn’t” category. Not only is he blonde, but he doesn’t even have chest hair! How in the world could a man save the free world by day and seduce all the finest women in the land by night if he doesn’t have brown curls popping out the top of his shirt?
Fans were so opposed to Craig that websites began to pop up with the goal of boycotting Casino Royale. One fairly big outlet even described Craig as an “actor who can at best be described as average, rough if not downright ugly.” Downright ugly? Really? Are they looking at the same man as the one in the picture above?
I’m a lifelong Bond fan. Almost all of my early user names and email addresses featured 007 somewhere in them (and some of my current ones do as well). And I can safely say, without a doubt, that Casino Royale is my favorite Bond movie, and Craig is my favorite Bond.
He’s brought new life to the role and made Bond real, which is something the franchise needed. I’m not opposed to any of the prior Bonds. I’m a fan of Connery and I can appreciate every actor who’s played 007 in the past, but it’s not even a question that Craig is my favorite. Not only that, but I think a valid argument can be made for him being the best of the bunch. I won’t make that argument here, but there’s no denying that he’s done a quality job in the role and has no doubt surprised many people.
Heath Ledger as The Joker
Without a doubt the biggest fanboy fail of all time is the absolutely brutal bashing of Christopher Nolan’s decision to cast Heath Ledger as the Joker. The Joker is a character who is almost as iconic as Batman, and I’d argue that even fewer actors would be able to pull off the role. Those who came before Ledger all brought something different to the character, and all were absolutely loved, especially Jack Nicholson. So the consensus was that the pretty boy actor from Brokeback Mountain and A Knight’s Tale was going to give the worst performance as a villain ever, and The Dark Knight was going to be a complete fail because of it. Right. About that…
Fans at the time had plenty of other actors they wanted to see in the role. From Robin Williams to Johnny Depp, almost everyone would have been a better joker than Ledger. The reactions were vicious, from homophobic comments due to his role in Brokeback to complaints that Ledger was just a “little twerp who got lucky.” Basically no one, at least on the internet, was behind his casting.
But then the movie came out, and everything changed forever. Ledger brought his own flair to the character and created something unrivalled in terms of comic villains. He won not only the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, but the Oscar for the same category, something that was nearly unthinkable for a comic book film prior to The Dark Knight. His dedication to the character is one of the greatest examples of method acting imaginable. He locked himself in a hotel room for a month, writing in a diary the thoughts and feelings of the character in an effort to fully become the Joker. Mission accomplished.
When Nolan was asked why he cast Ledger, the director gave a simple reply, “Because he’s fearless.” Ledger’s loss is one that’s mourned by everyone, but especially by the vocal fanboys who are now convinced that no one else will ever be able play the Joker as well as Ledger did.