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Before he donned the cowl and made his voice gravelly, Ben Affleck played the Man of Steel on the big screen.
He portrayed George Reeves, the actor who originally played Superman on television, in the 2006 Adrien Brody starrer Hollywoodland.
The film was somewhat forgotten — until Affleck signed up to play an aging Batman who does battle with Superman in the upcoming Warner Bros. picture Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The Focus Features detective story, directed by Allen Coulter, revolved around the suspicious circumstances of Reeves’ death. Reeves (no relation to Christopher Reeve) played the Man of Steel and alter ego Clark Kent in the 1950s TV program Adventures of Superman.
One of the memorable scenes in the film is when Affleck’s Reeves talks a child out of shooting him with a real gun because the boy wanted to prove the bullet would bounce off him.
“I think Ben’s performance [in that scene] is particularly vivid,” Coulter recalled to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday. “In a way, he is being an actual superhero because he is exuding the kind of confidence and calm that only someone who is something of a Superman could exude.”
Reeves, 45, died of a gunshot wound, which was ruled a suicide, but others believed he was murdered. Hollywoodland examines multiple theories as to what ultimately led to his death. The film was not a simple one to make because of issues outside the normal grind of creating a movie, according to Coulter.
Focus Features had to get clearance from Warner Bros. to use aspects of Superman because the studio still owned the rights to the TV show. It also didn’t help that Warner’s own picture, Superman Returns, was being released around the same time as Hollywoodland.
“There were a couple of things at the time that were a little frustrating, but ultimately we overcame,” Coulter recalled. “For example, originally the title was Truth, Justice and the American Way, and [Warner Bros.] would not agree to that. So ultimately, we came up with what I think is a better title anyway.”
Warner Bros. was also stringent when it came to the TV theme and other elements of the kids’ show, which had to be altered for the 2006 film, according to Coulter.
“Another thing that was challenging is that [Warner Bros.] would not allow us to use the original title sequence of the Superman TV show, so we had to shoot our own version of that and reproduce it,” Coulter said. “There was some issue with the Superman ‘S’ too, but I don’t recall how we got around that.”
In a 2006 article, THR noted that the film gave the late Reeves some of the respect he yearned for while trying to cross over from TV into film. Its premiere at the Venice Film Festival earned a best actor citation for Affleck, who also nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of George Reeves.
In an ironic twist, Affleck’s love interest in Hollywoodland, played by Diane Lane, now plays Martha Kent, Superman’s mom, in Batman v Superman.
As for Affleck now playing the Dark Knight, Coulter shared his thoughts with THR.
“I would imagine Ben choose this because it is an opportunity to take a run at a superhero in a very different way than he did previously,” he said. “I would be very shocked it if wasn’t to explore that character and his own acting abilities.”
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The Green Knight