Considering the relentless backlash against Ben Affleck (check out #Batfleck) that went down last week with news that the Oscar-winner has been cast as billionaire crime fighter Bruce Wayne, we decided we needed to take a look back in time to see if fanboys went this batshit crazy about any other comic book castings. Well, here’s the not-so-surprising newsflash: They almost always seem to go nuts. Everyone has an opinion, of course, so this makes sense, but in this age of Twitter the all-out assault on Affleck (cast as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel) was like a social media tsunami never before seen. Herein, some of the loudest protests from years past when actors were cast in capes and tights…or skintight leather.
Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman (1989)
Ben isn’t the first actor to be blasted for taking on the big screen role of Bruce Wayne. Before 1989, Michael Keaton was known mostly for comedies, but when Tim Burton (who had directed him in Beetlejuice) tapped Keaton to play the caped crusader, comic book purists were furious. They thought Keaton’s casting would make a mockery of the Dark Knight. Not so. Burton and Keaton brought some serious depth (and darkness) to their Batman — which was a far cry from what anyone expected. The movie was both a critical and commercial success, spawned a sequel, and an eventual franchise (more on that later) even if Keaton did not continue to play the man with the scowl under the mask when Joel Schumaker took over the franchise for the third film in the series.
Halle Berry as Catwoman in Catwoman (2004)
Despite her God-given beauty, Berry was met with fan geek resistance right out of the gate. Initially, it had more to do with film’s proposed storyline than her actual casting: Berry’s Catwoman would be an entirely different character than that of Selina Kyle from the comic books (or Batman Returns for that matter). Her character’s name was Patience Phillips, and her Catwoman metamorphosis linked back to absolutely nothing of Catwoman’s origins or even Batman. And once the flick was released? It only got worse. It was that bad. And Berry knew it. When she won a Razzie as worst actress, the beautiful Oscar-winner showed up at the ceremony, accepted her “award” and acknowledged how terrible the film actually was.
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Many fans regarded Hathaway as too much of a goody two-shoes to embody the feline fatale, but at least this incarnation of Catwoman intended to stay true to the comic book’s original vision. But, fanboys wanted S-E-X-Y since that’s what they’d gotten from both Berry (even if the film was terrible) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns)…and let’s face it, straight guys are pigs (just like us): We all want to see some skin! So when the first photo of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman leaked a few months before the film’s opening, most fans were underwhelmed. But once the film opened, fans embraced her take on the iconic character’s blend of sexy and sensible.
Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in Spider-Man (2002)
When actors like James Franco and Scott Speedman were considered (and even screen tested) for the role, how could it be that skinny, geeky MacGuire could have landed the coveted part? That’s what the comic book’s loudest fans wondered, but then they were ultimately impressed when Maguire bulked up big time for the role. Then guess what happened? Some fans fretted he was now too buff to play the nerdish Spidey counterpart Peter Parker. You can’t please everyone, can you? Once the film was released, most everyone was onboard with Maguire’s casting and his command of the dual Parker/Spider-Man role
Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider (2007)
He was rumored to play Superman for what seemed like an eternity (OK, maybe just a dozen or so years) but since that never came to fruition (newcomer Brandon Routh got the gig for Superman Returns), Columbia Pictures decided to curse us with Ghost Rider the following year instead. Both Cage and his hairpiece scowled and mumbled through the Marvel Comics adaptation but fans didn’t scoff at him so much as the fact that this Johnny Blaze was notably different than the original comic book anti-hero. But, ultimately, the original flick made money and a sequel (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), so some people somewhere must have liked it. Who those people are remains a mystery to this day.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin (1997)
When Joel Schumacher takes over where Tim Burton leaves off, things are bound to get a bit brighter, and yeah, a tad gayer. But the lighter touch was met with a good measure of skepticism when the reinvented series saw big stars taking over the franchise and leaving subtlety at the door. Remember Jim Carrey channeling Ace Ventura posing as The Riddler? Yeah, this installment was all about pumping popcorn entertainment out as big and loud and profitable as possible. So why not add steroids? That’s where Schwarzenegger, as Mr. Freeze comes in. Nobody had ever claimed the former governator could act his way out of a paper bag, but die hard Batman fans were torn over whether or not the Terminator froze the franchise for good with his campy, over-the-top depiction or if he was in on the joke.
Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)
Of all the backlashes we’ve mentioned, this is the most disturbing because it seems to simply come down to one ugly word: Homophobia. Fans erupted into gay panic when director Christopher Nolan announced Ledger as his choice for The Joker. Ledger was just coming off his Oscar-nominated role in Brokeback Mountain and fans panicked that an actor who played gay couldn’t possibly play The Joker. They lashed out at Ledger with jokes about Batman and gay sex; the refrain fell along the lines of: “The Joker will just want to have sex with Batman!” Funny, right? Stupid. Things only got worse when photos leaked from the film showed Ledger’s overdone, exaggerated makeup (specifically, his lipstick seemed to incense most). Of course, now the joke is now on all the idiots who doubted that great actors can take on an array of roles. Although Ledger didn’t live to see the final cut of the film, he won a posthumous Oscar and all the gay-panicky naysayers fell suspiciously silent once they got a glimpse of Ledger’s brilliant, manic, masterful portrayal on screen. The joke was on them.