Ben Affleck is the new Batman

Ben Affleck

Actor-director Ben Affleck will play the Dark Knight in the upcoming sequel of Man of Steel, which will feature the two superheros, Batman and Superman, for the first time.

The 41-year-old star will be replacing Christian Bale, and will face 30-year-old Henry Cavil, who will reprise the role of Superman.

Zack Snyder, who will be directing the blockbuster, said in a statement: “Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne, I can’t wait to work with him.”

Ben Affleck’s movie, Argo, won the Oscar for Best Picture this year. He also shared an Oscar with Matt Damon for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998. He may also direct Justice League.

The Batman-Superman project was announced last month at Comic Con. It will open worldwide on July 17, 2015.

A Superman-Batman movie is in the works

Having done reboots, sequels and prequels of Superman and Batman, Warner Bros, the studio behind the superheroes franchises, is going to pair them up in a new movie. The announcement was made at the Comic Con show in San Diego by the studio and the director, Zack Snyder, who has recently directed Man of Steel.

Since its June 14 release, Man of Steel has grossed $622 million worldwide. Last year, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises topped $1 billion in global box office. With such glowing numbers, the studio is confident that combining the two superheros in one movie will be a glorious success in the box office.

Such a formula has already made magic in the box office for Marvel’s Avengers, which featured Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor. The 2012 Disney release amassed over $1.5 billion worldwide to become the third all time box office grossers, after Titanic and Avatar.

Zack Snyder is currently working on the story with David S. Goyer, who penned The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with an anticipated release in summer 2015.

The movie is yet to be cast, for Christian Bale has said that he would not return to Batman, but Henry Cavill will reprise the Superman role.

“I’m so excited to begin working again with Henry Cavill in the world we created, and I can’t wait to expand the DC Universe in this next chapter,” Snyder said. “Let’s face it, it’s beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off, since they are the greatest superheroes in the world.”

Christopher Nolan, who has his hands full with Interstellar, will only act as an executive producer alongside his producer wife, Emma Thomas.

Tim Burton: I Love All Monsters

Husam Asi with Tim Burton

No one in Hollywood personifies his own movies as Tim Burton does. He arrives at our meeting in the Casa Del Mar hotel on Santa Monica beach dressed in loose black shirt and trousers, his hair unkempt, his face buried under a greying beard and, like a vampire, his eyes kept covered with dark shades, even though we’re sitting in a dimly-lit room. He looks as gothic as his art and as wild as his imagination.

Since his first movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, Burton has developed a reputation for a surreal artistic vision that invokes German expressionism. But he insists that the dark look and gothic style of his movies is largely inspired by watching early horror movies, which were designed and directed by German immigrants, who had expressionism in their background.

Burton’s beautifully designed and highly stylised films, including Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Big Fish, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood, in which he mixes gothic horror, black comedy and oddball whimsy, are an idiosyncratic, personal vision that have found commercial success and proved his doubters wrong. “I grew up with movies. I know they are known as business, but for me they have always been an artform,” he stresses.

With roots in drawing and animation, Burton began his film career at Disney as an apprentice animator in the early 80s. But his style was soon deemed to be too dark for the Mouse House’s taste. “Let’s say they were not crying when I left,” he explains, chuckling. “I’ve been in and out of there many times. It’s like revolving door policy, but I always am grateful because I got to do my first movies and that was amazing.”

Indeed, before he left Disney, Burton made his first animated short Vincent (1982), which tells the story of a boy living in a fantasy world of Gothic horror while imagining he is Vincent Price, and his first live action short Frankenweenie (1984), which tells the story of a boy, Victor, who resuscitates his beloved dead dog back to life with the power of electricity.

Those autobiographical characters were the prototypes for the misunderstood, sympathetic outsider at the center of most of Burton’s subsequent films, that were evidently drawn from the contrarian director’s upbringing in Burbank California, where he grew up as a lonely and isolated child.

“I remember you feel quite normal and at the same time other kids seem weird to you,” he reflects. “Everybody is treating you like you’re weird but everybody seems strange, so it’s just that weird dynamic.”

Disenchanted with his homogenised suburban surroundings and detached from its inhabitants, including his parents, Burton spent most his time daydreaming, watching horror movies and pouring through issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland. The young dreamer quickly developed a special bond with mythical creatures. “I like all monsters,” he exclaims, grinning. “I was equal opportunity monster.”

Burton’s love for and obsession with monsters has been evident in many of his movies, including his latest black-and-white animated feature adaptation of his 1984 short Frankenweenie, a semi- autobiographical film that sheds more light on the director’s early life, his relationship with his surroundings and the images of monsters that crowded his precocious mind.

“The film is based on a memory that I had when I was growing up and with my relationship with a dog that I had,” Burton says, sipping water from a bottle. “The great thing about expanding Frankenweenie is that thinking about other things that were personal, like the other kids that I remember and the teachers and the kind of place, so I put a lot of memories of things into the whole.”

Although the young Burton, who knew that his beloved dog was not going to live long due to a medical condition, did fantasise about applying Frankensteinian methods to endow it with a new life, he had never had to do it, because the dog ended up living a long life. “But there was always a spectre that it wasn’t going to last and I think that’s what linked it to the whole Frankenstein mythology for me. It was taking something personal and relating it to those kind of films, which meant a lot to me,” Burton enthuses.

And unlike the boy in the film, who is cherished and supported by his parents, Burton had a difficult relationship with his family, particularly his father, who, having been a professional baseball player, tried to coerce him into sport. “My parents weren’t quite as optimistically supportive as they are in the film,” he laughs. “It’s a bit more of a fantasy. That’s probably the only unreal element in the film.”

Having found solace in horror films, Burton regards them the same way a fairytale or a folktale relate to real-life issues, “I felt like Frankenstein and the neighbours were the angry villagers,” he quips. Hence despite the pervasive influence of his favourite classic horror films, in terms of style and look, in Frankenweenie, he insists that “It’s a boy and his dog story that just happens to be Frankenstein kind of thing.” This time Disney accepted his reasoning and greenlit the project.

To mirror the Frankenstein story and add another element of depth to Frankenweenie, Burton decided to film in stop-motion, which required him to draw all the sketches of the puppets by himself and then spend two years animating them in 3D with the help of a diverse, multi-talented crew. “It was just something about the power of creating something out of nothing, which is again why I like stop motion. It is taking basically a lifeless puppet and making it come to life,” says Burton.

Upon completing the movie, Burton brought in his two kids and their class to the set, where they played with the puppets and got to see the movie. “I feel quite good that they both like monster movies. I feel like I’m a good parent finally,” he laughs, contently.

Unlike monsters, his birthplace Burbank, which he remembered with “horror and fondness,” is not something that he dwells on or he would ever contemplate returning to. “I remember when I worked at Disney, I could see from my room the hospital where I was born and the cemetery where my family was all buried so it was like this Bermuda Triangle for me, and I would just sit out there and stare out the window all day and just go that’s where I was born, that’s where I’m going to be buried, and this where I am working. Oh gee,” he quips, shaking his head.

That was one the reasons behind his departure from his grim existence in Burbank. Currently, he lives in London, with his two kids and partner actress Helena Bonham Carter, where he feels more in touch with the world and the people around him. “Growing up the way I did, I find Los Angeles a hard city because you have to drive everywhere, which helped support the sense of isolation.”

Nonetheless, in spite of leaving Los Angeles, attaining glorious success and forming a family, the 54-year-old still retains the feelings of isolation that he grew up with and he doesn’t believe that they will ever leave him. “I’ve just became a successful, lonely, isolated adult,” he laughs.

Listing to Burton is akin to watching one of his movies. Passionate in his speech and animated in his delivery, he combines the innocence and enthusiasm of a child with the eccentricity and unpredictability of Frankenstein. Evidently, these qualities were behind the spring of Burton’s creativity.


The Dark Knight Rises to the top of the box office

The Dark Knight Rises to the top of the box office

The Dark Knight Rises to the top of the box office

In spite of the tragic shooting in Colorado, where a gunman opened fire during a screening of the Dark Knight Rises, leaving 13 dead and 50 injured, the superhero blockbuster still broke records marking the top debut in history for 2D title and the third best opening of all time at the domestic box office for any film with $160 million earning over the weekend. Although figures havent yet been released, The Hollywood reporter reports that the new Batman tentpole was also number 1 in the international box office with a $70 million.

The last installment in Chris Nolans Batman Trilogy returns Christian Bale in the role of the caped crusader and introduces Tom Hardy as villainous Bane, Anne Hathaway

as the Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a police officer.

Relegated to the the second place, Ice Age: Continental Drift suffered a massive drop over the weekend, earning only $20 million. The fourth title in the animated franchise was also unseated from the top spot in the International box office, albeit it managed to draw an impressive $58 million, totalling a $442.7 million since release.

The Amazing Spider-Man claimed the third spot, upping its domestic total to $228 million after taking another $10.6 million in the US box office. It was followed by Adult comedy, Ted, which banked a further $10.2 to reach a total of $180.4.
Pixars animation Brave settled in the fifth place, raising another $5.8 million in the US box office to a US total of $209 million.

Paramount/Dreamworks animation Madagascar 3: Europes Most Wanted was third overseas with $6.1 million. However, the pic had to be content with the 10th place in the US box office with only $1.5 million.

Christian Bale says Goodbye to Batman

Christian Bale says Goodbye to Batman

Christian Bale says Goodbye to Batman

Speaking at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he came to promote the new Batman instalment, Christian Bale, who has portrayed the comic book character Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), reveals that he has never watched any other comic book movies, not even Spider-Man, Iron Man or Superman.

“I haven’t seen any of them except for these ones,” he concedes. “Primarily because I go to see movies that my daughter tells me she would like and I think are appropriate for her. I’m not attempting to ignore them. I’d like to see the others probably, but it’s not the time in my life.”

But even before his 7-year-old daughter was born, Bale was not interested in comic book movies. In fact, he hadn’t watched any of the previous Batman movies, before he was cast by director Christopher Nolan to play the iconic character. Nonetheless, when he landed the coveted role he was awe-struck.

“I was not approached to play it,” he recalls, smiling. “I met with Chris Nolan and I had read Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. I had a very strong idea of a Batman that I would like to see, that I hadn’t seen before and that surprised me.”

Bale envisioned a darker, more serious and complex Batman than the ones seen in previous movies. “I thought someone dressed like that is either an idiot or you’ve got to understand that he takes it very seriously. And the point is that Bruce Wayne is not a healthy superhero, who has managed to turn his pain into something good. But he’s in great danger of the pain overcoming that good. But he takes this very seriously and the reason he dresses this way is to feel monstrous.”

Nolan was impressed by Bale’s ideas and subsequently invited him for an audition. “I did a monstrous reading for Chris and Warner Bros. I did something that was very extreme and they seemed to love it,” Bale marvels. 

For a number of days after the audition, Bale thought that he had made the biggest idiot out of himself ever. “But it was the only way that I could see that I could play this,” he exclaims. “I just wouldn’t believe it myself if I just stood in there and spoke like an ordinary bloke.The character ceases to be human when he steps inside of that suit, if he is going to be taking himself seriously.”

This was not the first time that Bale had delved deep into his role. Known for his utter dedication and assiduous preparation for his roles, he often pushes his physical and mental limits to extremes. While shooting American Psycho, he secluded himself from the rest of the cast and crew in order to retain the darker side of a maniacal killer. He also subjected himself to a crash diet of coffee and apples, reducing his weight by 2 stone in order to attain his emaciated look in The Machinist. Then he regained all his muscle mass, doubling his weight in less than 6 months, while readying himself to play the superhero in Batman Begins.

For his Oscar-winning performance in The Fighter, he was able to transform his physical appearance, losing 2 stone and wearing makeup and prosthetics that made him look almost indistinguishable from his real-life character, Dicky Ecklund.

Once he finds his character and immerses himself into its world, Bale avoids discussing it with his directors. “Often people talk way too much,” he protests, waving his hand dismissively. “Usually I say ‘hey, I don’t want to talk about it whatsoever, let’s just do it,’ because you understand what you mean more by action than by words.”

The British actor, who has never attended drama school or had formal training in acting, says that his devotion to his job stems from his obsession with it. “Obsession is essential in life. You can’t do anything without it. Those moments where you’re absolutely devoted to something, where you can’t think about anything but what you’re doing is what I live for. Those ecstatic moments get me through and continue to inspire me.” 

But the Welsh-born actor has also a dark side. Ever since his first starring role at the age of 13 in Steven Spielberg‘s epic, Empire of the Sun (1987), Bale has gained a notoriety for being difficult and impetuous on and off set. Other than refusing to speak in press conferences, he was once arrested for allegedly attacking his mother and sister -but charges were later dropped- and was publicly panned for verbally abusing the director of photography on the set of Terminator Salvation, for which he issued an appology.

Frankly, having met Bale several times in the past couple of years,  I could hardly sense his putative vicious demons. In fact, he speaks in such faint voice, I had to keep leaning forward in order to hear what he was saying. Even when he is pressed with irksome questions, he doesn’t exhibit discomfiture and answered amiably, albeit firmly. 

Bale is fully aware of his bad boy reputation, but he believes that its detrimental effect on his career has diminished since he donned Batman’s uniform. “Directors and writers were asking me to do movies, but so often I would get the call saying ‘Hey, I’m sorry Christian, but the money people just won’t let me cast you.’ I don’t get those calls any longer. Since playing Batman I get to make movies that nobody would have cast me in previously,” he laughs satisfactorily.

In the conclusion of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, the reclusive billionaire, Bruce Wayne brings Batman back to life, after an absence of 8 years, in order to fight off a masked, ruthless terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy), who is bent on destroying Gotham City.

In this instalment of the franchise, Batman is still carrying the blame of murdering the crime-fighting crusader Harvey Dent, who died – unbeknown to public – as the vengeful Two-Face. 

“Gotham is now suffering the consequence of that lie,” Bale enthuses. “He is filled with remorse; he’s more of a reclusive that we’ve ever seen him before; he’s given up! He’s in very poor health, physically and mentally.”

All attempts, including the persuasive words of his loyal bulter, Alfred (Sir Michael Caine), to draw him out of seclusion fail, until he encounters a skilled thief named Selina Kyle -better known as Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). “Selina Kyle, who doesn’t give a crap that he’s Bruce Wayne, is completely irreverent and somewhat rude to him, and that inspires him to get back into the game, and decide that Batman has to return one last time,” Bale explains.  

Having played Bruce Wayne three times, Bale says that his character is a sad, lonely individual with multiple personality disorder. “Part of him is that child that saw his parents murdered in front of him and he’s just stayed at that point. He’s got the public persona of the playboy and then he’s got the sincere character of Batman, who is the personification of his rage and his sense of injustice. He’s almost a villain; he takes it right to that edge where he can start to do great wrong, but has this altruism that holds him back from doing that. We could continue endlessly with this, but this is the right time to say goodbye.”

Saying goodbye to the cast and crew was a low key affair for Bale when he finished shooting. “I don’t like having big goodbyes. I just said ‘Hey, give me a few minutes,’ and I just sat in the office, in the cowl, for a good 20 minutes, reflecting on what it had meant to me throughout the years. And then I took off knowing that was the last time. I won’t be doing it again, and it was very meaningful,” he says with an emotional tone.

Beside keeping Batman’s cowl from each of the movie, the 38-year-old actor says that he has taken away a lot from starring in them. “I’ve made great friendships and I shall miss working with Chris and working with the cast and crew, with whom I worked since 2000.”

Bale’s attention has now veered to making small movies. He just wrapped a Ridley Scott-produced movie, Out of the Furnace, in which he plays the lead, and is currently working on two movies, directed by Terrence Malick.

“I like the hardship of making movies. I enjoy that because it leaves me feeling very satisfied from it. But when I am not making a movie, I have nothing to do with movies. I don’t dwell on it and I don’t watch them,” he concludes.