As Warner Bros. and DC begin their search for the next Batman to replace Ben Affleck, one Hollywood truth has become clear in the comic book blockbuster film era: It doesn’t take an A-list star for a superhero movie to make a billion dollars.
“The fact is that in the comic book movie genre, the superheroes are the draw,” said Mike Avila, senior contributor for SYFY WIRE and the author of “The Art and Making of Aquaman.”
Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa — “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” — fronted recent comic book features that grossed a combined $2 billion for Warner Bros. — now owned by AT&T — and DC. “Black Panther,” last year’s highest-grossing domestic film, was led by Chadwick Boseman, who arguably became an A-list actor through playing the comic book character. Before the role, Boseman was a prominent actor but known for roles in critically acclaimed rather than blockbuster films: his James Brown biopic “Get on Up” and his take on baseball legend Jackie Robinson, “42.” These two films had a combined domestic total just over $125 million. “Black Panther’s” budget was $200 million.
“In today’s movie world the [intellectual property] is the star,” Avila said. “If the movie hits it big, stardom will find the star.”
DC’s “Shazam,” scheduled for release this year, stars Zachary Levi, who played a supporting character in the “Thor” trilogy and is mostly known for his television work, “Chuck” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
“The best choice would be someone who is perhaps somewhat known or recognized, but not overexposed or an A-list household name and would thus bring a fresh perspective to the iconic role,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore. “An analog to this would be the unlikely casting of Daniel Craig as James Bond that turned out to be a masterstroke and an unexpectedly brilliant choice despite the protestations of naysayers at the time.”
Christopher Nolan cast Christian Bale for his revered Dark Knight trilogy back in the early 2000s. Bale may be one of Hollywood’s most well-known actors now, but when he was cast for 2005’s “Batman Begins,” he was predominantly known for indie motion pictures. Nolan’s trilogy grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.