20 Years Ago, Daredevil Fell Victim To Its Own Ambitions
The movie was originally imagined around 1997 as a $50 million action flick with modest aspirations, relatively speaking. However, “Daredevil” eventually carried a budget near $80 million when all was said and done. That all had to do with “Spider-Man,” which became a monster hit in 2002 making more than $820 million worldwide and changed the game for comic book movies in the process. Thus, Matt Murdock’s big screen debut could not just be a small-scale action film with a side of courtroom drama and superhero dressing. Johnson, ahead of the movie’s release, illustrated how different things were at the time.
“When I first told people that I was making a movie called ‘Daredevil,’ they would respond by saying, ‘Oh, you’re making a movie about (motorcycle stunt rider) Evel Knievel?’ I was going after this before the whole Marvel phenomenon started. Nobody knew who Daredevil was.”
It’s not as though the movie lacked the proper source material. It was inspired largely by Frank Miller’s legendary run in the comics, including (spoilers) Elektra’s death. That run, to this day, is widely regarded as some of the best work Marvel Comics has ever done, particularly “Born Again.” Be that as it may, the increased profile of Marvel heroes following “Spider-Man” put this on Fox’s radar in a much larger way. It became about scoring a big name in the title role. Guy Pearce and Edward Norton were also seriously considered. Speaking recently with Yahoo, Johnson elaborated on the casting process.
“Yes, they definitely wanted a star because the character was so unknown and they felt it needed the help of a star… There was a lot of pressure, and they wanted a name. It was definitely one of those roles where everyone was being mentioned. There were a lot of people in the mix.”
He added that “Ben was a fan of Daredevil because of [‘Good Will Hunting’ producer] Kevin Smith, so it ended up being him. And then he became Batman!” Indeed he did.