Daredevil movie.

Edward Norton Almost Played Matt Murdock In the Daredevil Movie

Given its critical and commercial failings, there isn’t much reason to celebrate the anniversary of 20th Century Fox’s Daredevil movie. Regardless, this week marks two full decades since the film hit theaters in 2003, which makes this the perfect time to reflect on the blind superhero’s big-screen debut. The movie’s lukewarm response ultimately led Ben Affleck to (briefly) swear off making another comic book adaptation. But he was far from the only actor who was considered for the title role.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Yahoo, director Mark Steven Johnson spoke at length about Daredevil’s complicated legacy, revealing a number of interesting morsels about the film’s production. For instance, despite the fact that the original X-Men and Spider-Man movies had begun redeeming the superhero genre in recent years, there were still elements of comic book lore that studio heads were reluctant to get onboard with, including a key feature of Daredevil’s costume. Although reactions to Affleck’s leather suit haven’t gotten any kinder over the decades, Johnson insists it could have been worse.

“They would be like, ‘He’s not gonna actually have horns, right?’ He’s called Daredevil because he does Daredevil things, but he’s not going to dress up like a devil — that’s ridiculous,” recalled Johnson. “You were fighting for everything!”

RELATED: Charlie Cox Reveals His Daredevil: Born Again Shooting Dates

However, one of the interview’s more fascinating tidbits concerns the casting process for the Man Without Fear. Because of the film’s $75 million budget (paltry by today’s standards, but an exorbitant amount in the early 2000s), casting a big name was a must, and actors like Guy Pearce and Matt Damon were allegedly courted to play Matt Murdock before turning the project down. But Johnson says another future Marvel actor came close to signing on. 

“It was definitely one of those roles where everyone was being mentioned,” noted Johnson. “There were a lot of people in the mix. I don’t remember if I met with Guy, but I did meet with Edward Norton. I also remember Seth Rogen coming in to read for Foggy Nelson. He was so funny, and we loved him, but I was also like: ‘Dude, how old are you?’ He was probably 21 or 22 at the time — way too young to be a lawyer! I met with a couple of other actors, too. But Ben was a fan of Daredevil because of Kevin Smith, so it ended up being him. And then he became Batman!”

In the end, Johnson admits that overstuffing the film with characters and subplots was a big mistake. But he still maintains that his director’s cut, which was released on DVD in 2004 with 30 extra minutes of footage, is the superior version of the movie; and most fans seem to agree with him on this.

“There was a lot more character development [that was lost],” said Johnson. “It’s just a more complete movie. Some people love the movie, and some people hate the movie, but almost everybody likes the director’s cut. It’s funny, because it was advertised as ‘A daring new vision.’ And I was like, ‘No, that was the original vision!’”

For those who care enough to revisit the film on its 20th anniversary, Daredevil is currently streaming on HBO Max. (Unfortunately, it isn’t the director’s cut.)

Do you think Johnson’s take on the Man Without Fear gets a bad rap? How would you have felt if Norton played the character? Let us know in the comment section below!

Recommended Reading: Daredevil Omnibus Vol. 1

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Daredevil movie. Also Daredevil movie. And then Daredevil movie.