Saturday, August 24, 2013

Writer's Block and the Wannabe: On Ben Affleck as Batman...

Earlier this week, as I was rewriting my original television pilot The It Couple for the short-form web format, it dawned on me that the two biggest and most passionate ideas I've had for television shows have not really been my stories to tell. I wasn't stealing them, but I was certainly re-imagining them from things that happened to friends of mine. And that kind of halted me in my tracks. Maybe there's a reason nothing has ever come of them: I didn't exactly ask these people for their blessings in sharing their stories (even if I changed enough about them for my own loglines and arcs). So it really made me rethink a lot of things. And that sank me into a writer's block of sorts in general, suddenly zapping my creativity. In order to combat that, I took to Twitter, not to waste time clicking on random BuzzFeed lists or looking at celebrity Instagrams, but for renewed inspiration. I asked my followers to throw some topics at me-- anything, everything, whatever came to mind, improv style. I said I would write about whatever was pitched my way to exercise my muscles. 

Here is the first, from 's submission of "your thoughts about Affleck as Batman? :-)"

Gotham City, first class!

When a 25 year old Ben Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, most of my friends expected me to be excited that someone so young and so new to the industry was taking it by storm. It should have been a shining example of how I, too, could someday pave my own path and make an extraordinary mark at a young age. Instead, though, I was focused on the controversy surrounding the win, as mild as it was, mostly because Affleck and best friend/co-writer Matt Damon were being poised as the golden boys and next new wave of Hollywood. There was talk that their script had been rewritten. Now, a lot of people have script doctors, and everyone has to do more than one draft when notes come down from studios or directors or A-list talent that sign on but want specific things from your project. That's all part of the business. But this didn't seem like that. This seemed like massive rewrites-- major changes-- and by someone who didn't even bother to get a thank you in their acceptance speech. It rubbed me the wrong way. As did the seeming cockiness and typical "kid with the keys to the kingdom" entitlement that followed. Damon put his head into his work and focused on being taken seriously, while Affleck made all of the mistakes of a trust fund frat boy, only on a much larger level. It was equally tragic and typical that someone who really did have a raw, innate talent seemed happy to focus on fame and celebrity, rather than the work. 

In that pocket of time was the superhero film Daredevil (2003), in which Affleck seemingly tried to blend the serious thespian side of himself (playing blind is a challenge considering how much an actor can and usually will get across with his or her eyes) with the campy (he's a blind superhero, for crying out loud!), but in that one role, and that one movie, an actor's greatest internal struggle seemed to be explained. There's the part of the actor that wants to do serious dramatic work and win praise from critics and the industry alike, but there's also the part of them that acknowledges they're basically big kids playing dress up, and they want to embody as an adult a bigger scale version of what they used to play when they were kids. For some, that's cops and robbers; for others, pirates or haunted houses; for many, it's superheroes. 

I personally find it very hard to take superhero movies seriously. You can have some of the best actors in the business in the roles (and Batman specifically already has), but at the end of the day, you're still dealing with a fantasy world that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. For me, the most surprising thing about Affleck as the new Batman was not that the industry let him do it but that he wanted to in the first place. He has come from such gritty, grounded work lately (and he's onto another one in adapted thriller Gone Girl), it seemed like the allure of big studio movies for the mainstream had dulled with his time and experience. But then again, it's still playing one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, and who wouldn't want to challenge themselves that way? Everyone knows Batman; everyone has an opinion on what he should look like, sound like, fight like, etc-- from the comics, the previous incarnations on screen, and the adolescent pedestals on which he was placed-- the greatest acting challenge for Affleck here won't come from the script at all but simply breaking through perceptions and pre-judgments. 

Affleck is in a rare position within this industry: he pushed through the fluff and the booze-filled bad decisions to come out the other side with that raw talent intact and actually matured from what he experienced. He didn't lose himself in the bright lights after all, and he proved himself on both sides of the camera for having a truly unique and interesting voice. Now he is not only allowed but encouraged to indulge both sides of himself as an actor; Affleck is having his cake and eating it, too.

1 comment:

Joyce Lang said...

Wholeheartedly agree and well stated. Here is a talent that can pretty much do it all, but needs to prove it not just to the industry and the public, but to himself. It takes great courage to do even half of what is asked of an actor,as they put it all on the line for the world to see. I say go for it, and Bravo!