Ben Affleck is having a bit of a career resurgence at the moment, with the positive response to his recent alcoholism drama The Way Back giving him the opportunity to—as far as we can tell—have as much fun as he’s had being a public figure since at least as recently as Argo, back in 2012. Among other things, that renewed interest in the whole “being a famous person” thing has included seeing Affleck sit down for one of GQ’s regular series of interviews in which prominent performers break down some of their most popular roles. There’s not a ton of unexpected material on display—Kevin Smith is a pal, Pearl Harbor wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be, Armageddon was fun—although there are a few moments, early on, where the actor seems legitimately sad that his pre-Good Will Hunting career was filled with roles that typecast him as an aggressive and unfriendly dick.
The most interesting material, though, comes when Affleck is asked about his two-film stint as Batman in Warner Bros.’ now-fractured D.C. Universe of films. It’s not that the actor says anything inflammatory—at least, depending on how controversial you think seeming to genuinely enjoy Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice is. It’s more that it’s the only part of the conversation where he’s clearly uncomfortable, stammering and seeming to talk around his feelings about the role. Some of that clearly comes from the behind-the-scenes troubles that afflicted Justice League—and specifically the hand-off of directors on the project after the death of Zack Snyder’s daughter—but Affleck also just seems uncomfortable with his association with the character, period. He cites both the internet fascination with Dark Knight (and his casting), as well as—if you read between the lines a bit—some possible discomfort from higher ups with how dark and tortured his and Snyder’s vision of Bruce Wayne was. After going on a long digression about all the fun bits of the role, Affleck suddenly turns to the camera.“I sort of…had my fill of that!” he practically yells, before pivoting to talking about how his lack of enthusiasm led him to pass on directing the standalone Batman movie that ended up in the hands of Matt Reeves.
Again: No scathing tell-all here. (Someday, though, please.) But the interview does go a little way towards explaining why one of the planet’s biggest movie stars bailed on one of its most iconic roles, one of those marriages of talent and part that seemed like an easy win, right until it wasn’t.