When Matt Reeves first came aboard The Batman for Warner Bros., they had a project set firmly in the DCEU and starring Ben Affleck, and it looked a lot different than what he imagined for the character. But Affleck would lose his enthusiasm for the part and quit, leaving Reeves to go in a new direction.
He would craft a unique story, write several drafts, cast Robert Pattinson, and the rest is history. Though now, with his The Batman ready to come out and the press that comes with the lead-up, Reeves is discussing the script that almost was.
The writer-director told Esquire there were things to laud in Affleck’s take but it ultimately wasn’t how he himself would have approached it.
“I read a script that they had that was a totally valid take on the movie. It was very action driven,” Reeves said. “It was very deeply connected to the DCEU, with other major characters from other movies and other comics popping up. I just knew that when I read it this particular script was not the way I’d want to do it.”
These “major characters” Reeves mentions were Deathstroke, Batgirl, and a few other members of the Bat-Family. They might have made the story too busy for him and since it wasn’t his own to begin with, he went to Warner with his reservations.
“I said look, I think maybe I’m not the person for this. And I explained to them why I love this character,” Reeves recalled. “I told them that there have been so many great movies, but if I were to do this, I’d have to make it personal, so that I understood what I was going to do with it, so that I know where to put the camera, so that I know what to tell the actors, so that I know what the story should be.”
He added, “This take, I told them, pointing at the script [Affleck’s], is a totally valid and exciting take. It is almost James Bond-ian, but it wasn’t something that I quite related to”.
“Ben [Affleck] had been working on a version of the script, and I said, ‘Here’s the thing: I respect that the DC Universe has become an extended universe and all the movies were kind of connected. But another Batman film, it shouldn’t have to carry the weight of connecting the characters from all those other movies. I didn’t want them in there,” Reeves recalled.
Pitching Warner Bros., Reeves wanted to get “very, very personal and get to the place I want him to be, to make it a Batman story and give him the arc, and have the story rock him to his core.”
Reeves would add later in the interview he wanted to put Batman in a place where he wasn’t sure how to be a proper hero and finds out he may be his own worst enemy when the conspiracy he investigates ties back to the Wayne family.
Reeves knew it couldn’t be an origin story “with Ben already in the character” and that line of thinking held over because it’s what Reeves wanted to do. Unsure he’d get the okay and still in the middle of making War for the Planet of the Apes, Reeves was surprised by the answer he received.
“This is why I think you’re not going to want me to direct this movie,” Reeves explained. “I can’t even tell you what that story is, for months, because I have to finish this Apes movie. And to my utter shock and surprise, they said, ‘you know what, we really would like you to do this. And we will wait.’”
They not only waited, but Warner also gave him the keys to the Bat Kingdom. A spinoff following Gotham’s police is coming to HBO Max and other spinoffs, as well as sequels, could be in the offing.
That is if The Batman, taking place in Year Two, does well when it comes out in theaters on March 4th.