So Batman and Superman walk into a crowded room. This sounds like the set up of a lame superhero joke but it isn’t.
The stars of the blockbuster hit Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (BVS), Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, were in Beijing, China, just three weeks ago to kick off the movie’s world tour. And when they walk into the ballroom where some 300 Asian journalists and critics were waiting, applause breaks out and cameras go off, in burst mode, non-stop.
Cavill looks swell in his dark denim and fitted navy shirt, flashing a winsome smile at the crowd but clearly, all eyes are on Affleck, the new Batman.
Although he seems a little uncomfortable at first, Affleck handles the scrutiny well.
“It was a bit of a challenge, psychologically, because I knew this (film) would be scrutinised. I knew that I had to construct a character that could bear that degree of scrutiny. But I’m glad I was able to take the risk and go with it and I hope that the fans like the nuances that I added to the character,” says Affleck, 43, right off the bat addressing the elephant in the room.
Training to be Batman was intense, admits Affleck. It took more than a year in the gym to get ready to don on the Batsuit.
“It’s not easy being Batman, I can tell you that. Well, it’s definitely not light,” says Affleck with a laugh, referring to the new and improved Batsuit designed by costumer Michael Wilkindon.
In BVS, Affleck’s Batman is angry. He’s irate at Superman for the destruction he caused when fighting Zod at the end of Man Of Steel which not only crippled Metropolis but also killed many innocents, including people Bruce Wayne cared for. He’s mad and wants Superman to pay … with his life.
Off-screen, the two actors share a chemistry that is apparent in the way they rib each other during the interviews.
“It’s all quite strenuous on set but some of the funniest moments is any time you see a superhero trip on a piece of the set,” Cavill says, glancing sidelong at Affleck, referring to the American actor’s impaired vision caused by the cowl Batman wears.
Affleck isn’t fazed by Cavill’s taunts. Instead, he coolly puts his co-star’s comments in context: “We’re shooting in the rain and we’re soaking wet. Our capes are sagging, parts of my costume is falling off … it’s definitely not sexy. As a consequence, whenever someone trips or our costumes come apart, we get to share some laughs.”
Score one, Affleck.
Taking off the Batsuit is quite the process, and it helped Affleck to get out of character at the end of the workday when he goes back to being a father to his three kids, Violet, Seraphina and Samuel. (Affleck is currently separated from actress Jennifer Garner.)
“Have you seen the (Bat)suit? It takes long enough to get the suit off … I think I can go through several personality changes while the costume is being disassembled. It takes at least a couple of people to get it on and off. And there are parts of it that need to be drilled on.
“By the end of it all, I’m just so relieved and happy … I’m ready to go home. I don’t need anything else to get me out of character,” Affleck says with a laugh.
Cavill, on the other hand, may not want to get out of character – Superman is a character he admires and see’s himself wanting to emulate, somewhat.
“I think I have personality traits that are aligned with Superman. That’s why I enjoy playing this character so much and I’m almost protective of it,” says Cavill, admitting that the Son of Krypton has always been his favourite superhero.
The actor also shares that he owns one of the Superman costumes from the set of Man Of Steel which he assures us (not too convincingly) that he uses it “only for display purposes”.
The best part of being Superman, he says, is the look he gets when he is spotted on the streets by children.
“The absolute best thing is to see a child’s face when he or she spots me. I can see them look at me a few times and then whisper something to their mum or dad and then they slowly walk up to me and whisper, ‘I know you are Superman’ to which I go, ‘Shhhh … don’t tell anyone.’
“To have that moment when a child believes Superman exists and wants to do the things that Superman stands for … it’s a really good thing and it feels fantastic.
“Maybe it’s selfish but I like it. That’s happened at least four or five times, and I love it,” shares the 32-year-old actor from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Britain.
For Affleck, one of the best things about being Batman is the excitement on his son’s face ever since he told him that he got the role.
“He really thinks I am Batman. He is very excited. He has been to the set and seen the clips and has all the toys. But he really does think I am Batman, and I am not looking forward to the day I have to tell him the truth,” says Affleck, his face lighting up when he speaks of his four-year-old son.
Also, he confesses, driving the Batmobile around is “awesome”.
“It’s really cool. There is nothing like being in the real Batmobile to really feel like you are Batman,” he says, admitting that he was allowed to drive the car only “a little bit”.
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.