Thursday, September 5, 2013
Defying casting expectations!
Posted by Chris Santucci
Affleck's casting is puzzling for the latest incantation of The Dark Knight. But I remain optimistic based principally on Affleck's wise career moves (and the studio clout he plans to gain for taking the part). I simply cannot place his jawline in the cowl. But I've -- no, WE'VE -- been wrong before.
The Batman character alone carries of history of questionable actor choices. When Michael Keaton was chosen -- immediately following his goofy exploits in Tim Burton's own Beetlejuice, the fans were take aback and even forlorn. Then George Clooney was cast, who, at first, struck many as an ideal option: His star was still dim, placing no danger of robbing his comic-book hero of credibility. Clooney exemplified Bruce Wayne's charm, looks and eligible bachelor status to a tee. His chiseled jawline seemed like a perfect fit. However, it was the shorter, clownish Keaton who truly echoed the dark, tormented figure underneath the cowl. Clooney undermined any fan hopes as he, grinning era-to-ear, uttered the words "I am Batman" to a dubious audience.
Keaton's selection is a perfect example of the film-makers and studios overruling the fervent fans. Instead, the character was reinvented to suit their vision rather than stick solely to the written source, which remains open for interpretation anyway. Naturally, the fans remain a perfect gauge for crafting a film, but they're limitless love for the original also generates a tunnel vision that hinders film-makers looking to expand beyond its original confines.
This freedom isn't just narrowed to casting and character, but also to story. Francis Ford Coppola opted to remove unnecessary subplots and make a film that inevitably surpassed the original Godfather novel. Just as replicating a book would entail a 15-hour film, casting choices must be made to serve the source and the director's vision.
If The Godfather were made today, I doubt Coppola could pull such casting tactics, even while Ben Affleck parries away death-threats. The Internet has given power to fans; they can clamor for actors mere seconds after a film project is announced. Yet, despite the public outcry and seamless communication between producer (studios) and client (movie audiences), I remain dazzled whenever decisions are made seemingly out of no where rather than stemming from a systematic approach where creativity is overridden and casting and story choices are based on a collusion of focus groups.
Generally I would decry the current Hollywood system that placates to teenagers and foreign markets. Yet, I always applaud any decision that seems questionable or downright wrong. Both Batman and Christian Grey's casting options was not cohesive to what most envisioned. Obviously, fans will spout outrage regardless of who was selected, but I'd gather Ryan Gosling, Karl Urban or Jon Hamm would garner less hatred than Affleck. Yet the studio made the call. No, I don't believe it had anything to do with director Zack Snyder who went to bed one evening and saw the villain from Dogma punch Superman during his dream only to wake and exclaim "I've got it! Fuck Warners if they disagree!"
There have been other decisions in which actors defy our expectations as to what they can accomplish. When Bond was first being sold to studios, many thought of the already aged Cary Grant, who certainly carried the chops and looks for the role. However, the casting directors chose Sean Connery, who rose many doubts to fans and even original Bond scribe Ian Fleming, who called Connery's debut "terrible". Clearly, the Bond Fleming envisioned was out of sync was the film-makers. Yet, eventually Fleming embraced Connery and even began to instill many of Connery's attributes in later Bond novels.
Those hoping to see Ben Affleck mimic Christian Bale or Michael Keaton will be disappointed in the end. My concern lies in what Affleck will do and if his take gels with how we want to see Batman on screen. I hope the upcoming film will take risks and embrace Affleck's gifts, even if these seem a tad limited. With studio films, I remain a realist rather than an optimist, but I refuse to take the pessimistic route at this stage when I have been surprised by acting choices. Inevitably the casting game is one of chance in which fallouts and set-backs can easily cause second choices (Harrison Ford got Indiana Jones only after Tom Selleck faced scheduling conflicts with "Magnum P.I."), pure coincidence or even luck.
But there will not always be a perfect choice. That is the case for these recent roles. Obviously there are casting choices so obvious that their announcement will imbue a collective "duh" from fans rather than a parade of bomb threats. For example, Bryan Cranston is rumored to portray Lex Luther in the same film with Affleck's Batman. Cranston's recent portrayal as the very bald and <SPOILER!> very evil Walter White almost makes his selection feel like a overtly simple selection; indicating that studios sometimes lack any imagination and remain risk adverse.
The Internet is filled with too many polarized views. Studios are hoping to clamor for actors who will appeal to masses and not cost a fortune (i.e. which explains, partially, why Charlie Dunnam will aiming to seduce millions of mom readers). As much as I like Cranston as Luthor and doubt Affleck as Batman, I always look forward to films that surprise me and prevent me from Rolodexing the film in my head before I see it on screen. I want films to take me away to unexplored territories and I'm hoping I can relish in exploring Batman's new batcave and Christian Grey's...exploits...
In the meantime, let's try to broaden minds and relax a tad, nerds and housewives! Maybe the only screwjob will be what we inevitably witness during the screening of Fifty Shades of Grey.