Since Ben Affleck was announced as the next Batman, the Internet has been a typically colorful and inflammatory place, spewing outrage and pompous, preposterous petitions to have him removed forcibly from the role. Bloggers, journalists and even politicians have taken it upon themselves to decry the casting as an abomination, a travesty and a downright betrayal of the fans, because, presumably, they’ve all seen “Pearl Harbor” and “Armageddon.”

But really, Affleck is not that bad a choice. Yes, he has made some stunningly bad movies, but his latest acting work has been exceptional, and it seems his move into directing has given him the same kind of insight into the art of acting that it gave to Clint Eastwood. And in the grand scheme of things, Affleck was far from the worst-case scenario many are publically proclaiming him to be, because frankly, it could have been worse.

And such is the way with Batman casting—every time a new actor is cast, there is a multitude of rumors and almost castings that fans ignore, because their favorite wasn’t picked, or they felt aggrieved at the eventual choice. But we should all be thankful for those dodged bullets, because we could have had some significantly worse Batmen than Ben Affleck could ever possibly manage to create.

Some of the actors tentatively attached to the role make Ben Affleck look like Orson Welles, and some were so misguided that they put this decision into perspective. You think Ben Affleck is a bad pick? Thank your lucky stars these guys were never hired to play the Bat…

5. ETHAN HAWKE

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Back when Joel Schumacher was still considered a good option to replace Tim Burton on the franchise, the studio was scouring the known world for an actor to step into the boots of Michael Keaton, and the shortlist they drew up included Hawke, who had made some waves with “Dead Poet’s Society.”

Why It Would Have Sucked: Now don’t get me wrong, Hawke is a good actor…in about a tenth of the films he actually stars in. Because for every “Training Day” or “Before Sunrise,” there’s invariably a couple of stinkers, or something criminally mediocre sandwiching it.

4. JAKE GYLLENHAAL

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Before Christian Bale brought his now infamous growl to Nolan’s Bat-franchise, Jake Gyllenhaal was one of the names strongly attached to the role.

Why It Would Have Sucked: Not to be too cruel, but Gyllenhaal doesn’t have the emotional range necessary for more complex leading roles, and the necessary duelling of personalities required to balance both Batman and Bruce Wayne is far from an easy prospect. Besides, you have to wonder quite how that would have played out with sister Maggie being cast in “The Dark Knight.”

3. JOSHUA JACKSON

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Along with Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson was also considered for the title role in “Batman Begins.”

Why It Would Have Sucked: Quite why Jackson was even considered for the role remains baffling. Had this rather unwanted “Dawson’s Creek” reunion actually happened, at least Katie Holmes wouldn’t have been quite so obvious as the worst casting choice in any Nolan film.

2. ASHTON KUTCHER

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Dude, where’s my Batmobile?!

The “Two And A Half Men” star Kutcher was considered before Christian Bale was cast for Nolan’s take on the property. If it pushed through, he would have been like a fish on a bicycle, or a horse in space: lost, confused and mildly offensive.

Why It Would Have Sucked: Nothing in the past ten or so years has suggested that Kutcher has the acting chops to pull off something as big as Batman.


1. CHARLIE SHEEN

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Back in 1989, well before the world went a little bit mental, and “tiger blood” and “winning” gained all new meanings, Charlie Sheen was one of the hottest rising stars in Hollywood: he had a string of successes in the shape of “Platoon,” “Wall Street,” “Young Guns,” and his high stock was well justified. That reputation was enough to push him close to Tim Burton’s Batman, at least to the stage of talks being held, which is good enough to earn him top spot on this list.

Why It Would Have Sucked: Perhaps recent events have tainted the image of Sheen as an actor, but in 1989, he was only 24-years-old, a remarkably young age to be considered for Batman, especially when you consider what Michael Keaton’s casting did for the role.

It’s also key to consider the context of Sheen’s successes before 1989—in every one of his films, he was backed by a very strong cast, and even in “Platoon,” though he was the main character, he wasn’t particularly considerable as the recognizable lead in more traditional terms. And even beyond 1989, Sheen was always an excellent cog in the machine, standing out sometimes, but never leading the pack from the arrowhead at the front.

And those skills would have been hugely necessary in Batman, which would have been beyond the young rising star, as his subsequent career has perhaps proven.

 



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