Following weeks of speculation over whether or not he would stay on, Ben Affleck confirmed this week that he will not in fact be directing WB’s The Batman, which of course has led to widespread speculation over whom might replace him. While it sounds like both parties reached this decision amicably, the truth is that DC’s movie business has not been having luck with keeping filmmakers as of late. The Flash has already suffered through two director exits and is now pretty much building from scratch, and even Wonder Woman lost Michelle MacLaren prior to Patty Jenkins coming on board. Considering The Batman is set to be one of the WB’s most important tentpole releases in the next few years, it’s hard to see the studio reaching a decision quickly when it comes to finding the right man or woman to take the reigns from Affleck. At the same time, with production set to start this summer, a decision will have to be made sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, WB reportedly already has a shortlist of names they want for the job. This information comes courtesy of Forbes’ Mark Hughes, who reports that WB currently has five names in mind for The Batman. While it’s still much too early to tell whether any of the following filmmakers are realistically in the running to direct, each of them could certainly bring something special to the table if given the chance. I’ve arranged their names in order from least to most likely, although that doesn’t mean that any of them will ultimately sign on.
5. Denis Villneuve
It’s hard not to get excited by the prospect of Denis Villeneuve making a Batman movie, as the guy is one of the hottest genre filmmakers in the business right now. His filmography up to this point — which includes the likes of Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and Arrival, the last of which could earn Villeneuve a Best Director Oscar at this year’s ceremony — is absolutely stellar and his involvement with Blade Runner 2049 has convinced even the most cynical sci-fi fans that a Blade Runner sequel might actually work.
With that kind of resume, WB would be crazy not to try and woo a director as talented as Villeneuve, but at the same time, it’s hard to see there being any room in his schedule to direct a huge blockbuster like The Batman. Once he’s finished with Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve will have months of press and promotion to look forward to and after that, he could be busy with Dune for Legendary Pictures. Admittedly, the fact that Villeneuve hasn’t officially signed onto that project does leave room for him to tackle The Batman, but considering he’s a self-professed Dune fan, it’s difficult to see Villeneuve picking Batman over it if push came to shove.
4. George Miller
Australian director George Miller is a name that routinely comes up when talks of potential directors for blockbuster projects come up, but in the case of The Batman, there’s good reason for his name being in the running. Miller already has an established relationship with Warner Bros., so that would certainly help his case if he were to express interest in the gig and he’s also proven time and again that he’s one of the best action filmmakers of all-time, especially with 2015’s Best Picture nominee Mad Max: Fury Road. Oh and Miller also nearly got a Justice League movie off the ground a decade ago, so clearly he already has some affinity for DC’s characters.
Still, even with all of these attributes working in his favor, it’s doubtful we’ll see Miller anywhere near The Batman. For one thing, he’s already gone on record in saying that he wants to do something smaller and more intimate for his next feature before returning for another Mad Max film and considering he hasn’t really revealed firm plans on either of those fronts yet, a Batman film just doesn’t seem like it would be in the cards for him. Still, it’s definitely possible that Miller would agree to do The Batman, so never say never.
3. Matt Ross
The most surprising name on WB’s shortlist is Matt Ross, who is generally known more for his acting roles than what he’s done in the director’s chair. You probably recognize Ross from his role as Gavin Belson on HBO’s Silicon Valley (he’s an MVP on that show, by the way), but he also recently had his most high profile directing gig with 2016’s Captain Fantastic and has the makings of a definite up-and-coming filmmaker.
Ross would certainly be a riskier choice given his relative lack of experience behind the lens, as well as with blockbuster filmmaking as a whole, but it’s not like studios haven’t taken chances on rookie directors before when it comes to big films. One need only look at Gareth Edwards, who had only done indie work before being snatched up by to do Godzilla and last fear’s enormously successful Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to see that a filmmaker of Ross’ stature and experience level could handle something like The Batman if given the opportunity.
2. Gavin O’Connor
It’s not hard to see why Gavin O’Connor’s name would be on Warner Bros.’ radar, as he has plenty of experience when it comes to action filmmaking. O’Connor made a name for himself with the intense 2011 MMA drama Warrior and perhaps most importantly, just recently worked with both Affleck and J.K. Simmons (who is signed on to play Commissioner Gordon in both Justice League and The Batman) in last year’s The Accountant.
Assuming Affleck still has quite a bit of pull with WB when it comes to finding a new director for The Batman, his familiarity with O’Connor almost certainly helps the latter filmmaker’s case. The only real problem here is that O’Connor is currently committed to another comic property with The Green Hornet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t be able to find a way to fit The Batman into his schedule.
1. Matt Reeves
At this point in time, Matt Reeves could be considered the frontrunner for The Batman directing gig given that he’s the only name I’ve seen raised by multiple sources, as Variety also made reference to his potential involvement in their initial report detailing Affleck’s departure. There’s no doubt that Reeves would be an asset for WB on a film as big as The Batman, as he has plenty of experience in the blockbuster game. Reeves helmed the critically-acclaimed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes back in 2014 and will also return for this summer’s much-anticipated sequel War for the Planet of the Apes.
Prior to this, Reeves directed Cloverfield and proved that he can tackle darker material too with the vampire-themed horror film Let Me In. With War for the Planet of the Apes now in post-production and no new confirmed project on his schedule, Reeves ostensibly has the summer open to start work on The Batman. In other words, if I were putting money on this, I would bet on Reeves taking the job but as already mentioned, it’s still a bit too early to know what WB has planned, especially when we haven’t heard responses from any of the director’s on this list yet.
Now that you know which names WB is looking at, who would you want to sit in he director’s chair for The Batman? Sound off in the comments below!