Like almost everyone else on the planet, I really don’t want to see Ben Affleck play Batman. This is not because I dislike Affleck. I think he’s a terrific director, and I’ve liked or loved all three of the feature films for which he’s sat in the director’s chair. (If you haven’t seen Gone Baby Gone yet, stop reading this article and go do that now.) But the problem is that even when he’s directing himself, he’s the worst thing about his movies. Taylor Schilling was better in Argo, and she’s in it for all of 30 seconds.
Affleck just isn’t a great actor, and he should know better than taking this role. Doesn’t he remember his own career? In fare like Armageddon, Paycheck and Daredevil, the movie sunk around his lack of presence. He’s much better in supporting work like Hollywoodland or Extract and behind the camera, where his talent shows he belongs. If he got picked to helm the “Batman vs. Superman movie” (or whatever they end up calling it), that would be fantastic. But for now, I’m calling a recount.
Here are 13 actors who would make a better Batman — not including Meryl Streep, although I’m sure she would be great in it. I think she won another Oscar just for being mentioned in this article.
1. Michael Fassbender
If there’s anyone who belongs in the Batsuit, it’s Michael Fassbender — who can seemingly do anything. Climbing the Hollywood ranks since his turn in 300, the chiseled actor has Bale’s ability to go all-in for a role (see: Hunger) and the prerequisite ability to brood on command. As Magento, Fassbender also shows his finesse with comic book roles, as well as his penchant for sly wit. If you saw Shame, you’ll know they might have to alter the suit a bit, but with some nips and tucks, the role would fit him like a glove.
2. Idris Elba
Elba is rumored to be the next Bond after Daniel Craig, and I think the former Wire actor would also make a terrific Bruce Wayne — cool and collected, with a hint of danger. Like Henry Cavill, Idris Elba is British, so they could have an American accent-off, although the edge would obviously go to Elba. As Stringer Bell, Elba was scary good — from his unaffected Baltimore dialect to a commanding swagger that you can’t take your eyes off. Batman or not, Elba deserves to be a star.
3. Tom Hardy
Because it’s a different interpretation, all bets are off — which is why a number of folks lobbied for The Dark Knight Rises’ Joseph Gordon-Levitt. No disrespect to JGL, but I think Tom Hardy is the better choice, something of a thinking man’s musclehead. His roles in Bronson and Warrior showed his ability to bulk up — blending tough guy intensity with an expected vulnerability. There’s brains inside that brawn. Also, the man has the ability to command the screen with just his mouth, a quality needed for a superhero defined by the lower half of his face.
4. Ben Foster
This up-and-coming actor has yet to fully get his due, but with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, he’s poised to break out this year. Formerly of 3:10 to Yuma, The Messenger and Six Feet Under, Foster is one of the best indie actors working today, making stoicism into an art form. He was wasted in X-Men: The Last Stand, and Batman would be the perfect comic book redemption.
5. Benedict Cumberbatch
Were he not already Sherlock and Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch might be higher — because he’s perfect for it. Sly and insouciant, he could nail Bruce Wayne’s air of privilege, the rich bad boy side that Batman Begins brought out. A charming sociopath, Cumberbatch has a lot of the same qualities that Bale did, including a similar resume. He also has the requisite one-liner skills to go toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill, the spark that the role desperately needs.
6. Jon Hamm
He should have been Captain America, but since that didn’t happen, Don Draper would also be an ideal Batman. As America’s favorite womanizer, Hamm has already shown he can play distant loners with demons and a drinking problem. On that note: What if Don Draper himself were Batman? I feel like that might explain a lot. If nothing else, Fat Betty would have made a fun Batgirl.
7. Joaquin Phoenix
He seems like he might be better suited for a Batman villain (because seriously), but with the direction the movies have been going, casting a villain in the hero role would be an interesting commentary on what the character has become, someone who straddles the line between what is moral and what must be done. It’s hard to say whether Batman is “good” in the traditional ways we think of heroism, and Phoenix’s casting would be a perfect testament to that theme.
That said, he would probably never, ever do it.
8. Joel Edgerton
Joel Edgerton is one of the more surprising actors in Hollywood, a man who has a way of shining in almost everything he’s in. From a gangster in Animal Kingdom to a boxer in Warrior, he knows his way around tough guys. And based off of his Great Gatsby performance — in which he was the only performer everyone seemed to agree on liking — he can act credibly in the middle of a hot mess. With Zack Snyder around, you need that.
9. Josh Brolin
With No Country for Old Men and Oldboy under his belt, the man knows his gritty revenge thrillers, and there’s always been a hint of the Liam Neeson about Batman — a man driven for justice and for payback. Brolin is a name, but not so big a star that his casting would overshadow the character or piss off fanboys. That is, unless they saw Jonah Hex — which wasn’t Brolin’s fault. Even Daniel Day-Lewis couldn’t save that shit.
10. Liev Schreiber
Despite consistently working in film over the past two decades, Schreiber hasn’t gotten many shots at headlining a film. His most memorable pseudo-lead was The Manchurian Candidate remake with Meryl Streep. While Streep deliciously chews scenery, Schreiber plays off of her with measured intensity, a quality important in a Batman. Most of the villains get to ham it up. Batman is more the anchor in the middle of the chaos.
11. Karl Urban
Like poor Shaliene Woodley, Hollywood owes Karl Urban big time after Dredd was sent off to die — a remake that worked so well precisely because of his performance. Urban is close to phenomenal in the film, having to do a lot with very little — all while keeping his helmet on. The man has the unique ability to act with only his chin, already making him perfect for the part. Also appearing as Bones in Star Trek, Urban also has the geek cred to make the fanboys sleep easy.
12. Lee Pace
Lee Pace might seem a side on the boyish side for Batman, but with some bulking up, Pace could be an inspired pick for the role. As the lead in Pushing Daisies, Pace beautifully conveyed the struggles of isolation, living a life that doesn’t allow for much company. Pace also has that tall, dark and handsome thing down pat (with a sensitive side), giving the gays and the women folk not only the hero they deserve, but the hero they want to make Batbabies with.
13. Jeremy Renner
Renner is a little short for Batman, but Michael Keaton wasn’t exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger, either. Renner is a two-time Oscar-nominee for The Town and The Hurt Locker, showing that he’s appropriately badass enough to play Batman. For Hawkeye in The Avengers, Renner already packed on the muscle, so he’s ready for the role. The question is: Would Hollywood ever have casted him? Probably not, but then again after Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, he might have that coming.
Bonus: Robert Downey Jr.
Yes. He’s already Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man and half of the other characters on the planet. But what wouldn’t you want to see Robert Downey Jr. in?