Need proof that Hollywood is hungrier for superhero fare than ever before? Look no further than the set of ”Daredevil,” where Ben Affleck is spending his highly paid time playing a character with zero name recognition among non-comic-book fans. Says the movie’s director, Mark Steven Johnson: ”It’s funny, because when I mention I’m doing the ‘Daredevil’ movie, people are like, oh, you’re doing the Evil Knievel story?”
As cool as that tale might be, it’s hardly what Affleck and fellow cast members Jennifer Garner (martial arts expert Elektra), Michael Clarke Duncan (mob capo the Kingpin), and Colin Farrell (villain Bullseye) are filming. Instead, Affleck plays Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who moonlights as a red-costumed vigilante, thanks to super-charged senses he developed in the same accident that took his sight. ”It’s the [Marvel] comic I loved growing up,” Affleck recently told EW. ”I could really identify with him.” But for those who are still thinking of Mr. Knievel, here’s a guide to the world of ”Daredevil,” which just began production. It’s due in theaters January 17, 2003 — which will make it the first Marvel adaptation to follow the company’s smash ”Spider-Man.”
The man in the red devil suit
Unlike, say, Michael Keaton, the buff, 6’3” Affleck is ”physically right” to play a superhero, director Johnson says. And the actor is learning to play a blind man with the help of sightless actor Tom Sullivan. ”I’m studying how his body changes when he approaches things,” Affleck told EW. But to learn how a blind man might fight, both Affleck and Johnson had to turn to cinematic history; they studied the work of the late actor Katsu Shintaro, who starred in a long-running Japanese film series as fictional blind swordsman Zatoichi.
Meanwhile, unlike ”X-Men,” which morphed the comic books’ colorful costumes into black leather, ”Daredevil” puts Affleck in a crimson outfit nearly identical to the comic’s red tights; it even has little horns on top of his head. ”It’s just not Spandex,” says Johnson. ”What I wanted to do was keep it real, and that included the costume — it’s gotta protect his body.”
Also keeping it real, Daredevil takes some serious punishment — much like a flesh-and-blood superhero would endure. ”On page one, when you meet our hero he’s in real trouble. He’s beaten and battered,” says the director. ”If you shoot this guy, he dies.” Which doesn’t mean there won’t be some super-powered visuals along the way: ”There’s this really interesting effect to show how he gets his sense of where he is,” Affleck told EW. ”He has this hypersensitive [sense], almost like radar.”