He dwells in a world of eternal night – but the blackness is filled with sounds and scents, tastes and textures that most cannot perceive. Although attorney Matt Murdock is blind, his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness. By day, Murdock represents the downtrodden. At night he is Daredevil, a masked vigilante stalking the dark streets of the city, a relentless avenger of justice.
For Daredevil, justice is blind…
…and for the guilty, there’s hell to pay.
Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises present, in association with Marvel Entertainment Group, a New Regency / Horseshoe Bay Production, DAREDEVIL. Regency, Marvel and Fox together developed the project.
Based on the legendary Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in 1964, DAREDEVIL stars Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock and Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. Also starring are Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios, Matt Murdock’s girlfriend and a martial arts femme fatale; Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk, New York’s Kingpin of Crime; and Colin Farrell as Bullseye, the assassin with perfect aim. Jon Favreau is Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson, Matt Murdock’s lifelong friend and law partner; Joe Pantoliano portrays New York Post investigative reporter Ben Urich; David Keith is Matt’s father, Jack ‘The Devil’ Murdock; and Scott Terra plays the young Matt Murdock.
Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the film is produced by Arnon Milchan, Gary Foster and Avi Arad. Stan Lee and Bernie Williams are the executive producers.
The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Ericson Core (“The Fast and the Furious”), production designer Barry Chusid (the upcoming “Tomorrow”), three-time Oscar® winning costume designer James Acheson (“Spider-Man,” “The Last Emperor”), Academy Award® nominated editor Dennis Virkler, A.C.E. (“The Fugitive,” “The Hunt For Red October”) and editor Armen Minasian (“Don’t Say a Word”). Music is by Graeme Revell (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”).
Visual effects supervisor Rich Thorne oversees the film’s 500-plus visual effects shots, including digital Daredevil and Bullseye doubles and Daredevil’s dazzling “shadow-world.” Legendary Hong Kong action choreographer Cheung Yan Yuen (“Charlie’s Angels”) along with stunt coordinator Jeff Imada oversaw the film’s gravity-defying martial arts wirework sequences.
Marvel Comics’ Daredevil: The Man Without Fear made his first appearance in 1964 at the height of the comic universe’s “silver age.” This period also saw the origins of other Marvel stalwarts such as The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, The X-Men and Spider-Man. Since then, Daredevil has become one of the most popular comic book heroes of all time.
Daredevil was part of a world of characters created in an era fraught with tension and uncertainty. The ever-present threat and fear of nuclear warfare prompted Marvel writers and artist Bill Everett to come up with a race of superheroes whose powers are derived from atomic energy or radioactive experiments gone awry. At the same time, Marvel made these superheroes real people, with real problems that the young comic book-reading audience could relate to. In this real-life Atomic Age, more than ever, people were looking for heroes.
“All the characters I came up with had handicaps,” Stan Lee notes about the legendary collection of superheroes he created in a whirlwind three-year period. In 1964, as Lee and Everett were thinking about their next creation, it occurred to the legendary comic creators that nobody had yet created a blind superhero. Running with this idea, Lee carried out extensive research and learned that when people lose their eyesight, other senses take over and compensate. “I wondered, what if those senses could take over to a much greater degree than would be normal,” Lee recalls.
And thus Daredevil was born.
Unlike other Marvel characters experiencing radiological accidents that drastically altered their appearance or biological makeup, Daredevil remained human. A freak accident gives Daredevil his signature “radar sense,” but does not alter him in any other significant ways.
Following the tragic mishap, Matt embarks on a training regimen to build his body, mind and senses. He learns that he can “see” by the vibrations made by sound – he can even hear a man’s heart beating – and he possesses extraordinary senses of touch and smell. In the words of famed Daredevil comic writer / artist Frank Miller: “Matt Murdock is forever inundated by the bio-rhythms of blood racing through beating hearts and coursing through even the smallest of veins. What the sighted fail to realize is that every heartbeat is a signature – a fingerprint that can be used to identify one individual in a sea of millions.” Those heartbeats become Matt Murdock’s constant companion.
Spurred on by his father’s murder, Matt devotes his life to justice. After earning a law degree, he stays close to his Hells Kitchen roots. With his longtime friend Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson, he opens the storefront law office Murdock & Nelson. Matt works as a lawyer, but the vigilance he shows during the day turns to vigilantism at night. When criminals beat the system, Matt becomes Daredevil to bring street-style justice to Hell’s Kitchen. This dichotomy of good vs. evil, justice vs. vigilantism, defines the moral struggle Matt faces every day.
Daredevil remained a popular comic book throughout the 1960s and 1970s. But when Frank Miller took the reins of the comic in 1980, Daredevil became one of Marvel’s most important and best-selling comics. Miller imbued the characters with a dark, gritty and realistic tone new to the comics world. Over the next few years Miller introduced important characters into the Daredevil universe, such as Elektra, Matt’s love interest and future adversary. DAREDEVIL writer / director Mark Steven Johnson cites Miller’s Daredevil work from the early 1980s as a key inspiration for the film.
In the introduction to Daredevil: The Man without Fear, a graphic novel that celebrated Daredevil’s thirtieth anniversary, Miller noted some of the complex personal traits that make Daredevil a compelling character:
“He’s got all the makings of a villain. He’s a natural born rascal, a mischief-maker, and a scrapper. He’s a liar, who wears a mask to betray the solemn oath he made his father a thousand times. He’s a dangerous adept, gifted with a nearly superhuman talent for violence. He’s a loner, a sinner, a lawyer who breaks the law. But Matt Murdock is no villain, and no victim. There’s something strong inside him, passed from unknown mother and doomed father to son. Something tested by tragedy. Tempered by conscience. Honed by discipline. Something that holds back the bloodthirsty beast within and forces it to serve the cause of justice. Most of the time, anyway.”
In 1998, Kevin Smith, the renowned writer / director of “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma” – and a comic book aficionado – wrote another volume of Daredevil stories. Emphasizing themes of religion and morality, Smith’s mission was to present, “a Daredevil you’ve never seen before: a hero who is about to learn that a man without fear is a man without faith … and a man without faith is easily unmade.”
Ben Affleck, a frequent Smith collaborator and lifelong Daredevil fan, penned the introduction to the graphic novel Daredevil Visionaries, a collection of eight comic books written by Smith. “Matt Murdock lost Elektra to Bullseye when I was just twelve years old,” Affleck writes. “That saga (now known famously to those in the comics world as the ‘Frank Miller Daredevils’) touched and moved me in ways I was then and still now am reluctant to admit, even to myself. I was fascinated by this man, this red-suited saint, who always seemed to end up a martyr. It was my own personal introduction into the world of personal ambiguity. It was a dark corner, a place where my sympathies were uncertain. It was a strange and wonderful place where true love was always tragic, heroes had a dark side, villains were roguishly likable and the best one could hope for was some sliver of redemption.”
Years later, Affleck would don Daredevil’s red cowl for the first motion picture based on the comics he loved. Another of the film’s principals, writer / director Mark Steven Johnson, shared Affleck’s deep appreciation for the character and comics. As a ten-year-old boy growing up in a small town in Minnesota, Johnson could often be found waiting outside the store that sold his favorite comic books. “I read them all,” Johnson recalls. “Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk, and The Silver Surfer were my mythology growing up.”
However, Johnson responded most to Daredevil. “I think it was because he was the only one who had a handicap, that made him unique to me,” he explains. “What also sets Daredevil apart from other comic icons is that he’s a real guy with real problems. He doesn’t have the strength or web-spinning powers of Spider-Man, the brawn of The Hulk, or the healing powers of Wolverine. Daredevil is just a guy in a suit. If you shoot him he dies. His very humanity and flaws are the source of his moral dilemma. I’m reminded of the Nietzsche quote, ‘He who fights monsters might take care lest he become a monster.’ That’s what is happening to Matt Murdock. He’s realizing that he’s starting to become the thing that he’s sworn himself to protect against.”
According to DAREDEVIL producer Gary Foster, Johnson was destined to direct the film. “Mark really understands the characters and the world in which he operates. He knows to the last detail what the world is supposed to feel look and sound like. He’s truly the creative force behind the film.” (Kevin Smith, a frequent visitor to the set and cameo player agrees: “Mark is as passionate, if not more so, than anyone can be about making a Daredevil movie. He read all the important Daredevil work and not so important work – like mine – and he’s certainly not going to let any Daredevil fans down.”)
Foster, the producer of such successful, critically acclaimed films as “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Tin Cup” and “The Score,” is partnered with Johnson in their Horseshoe Bay Productions company. Foster recalls that six years ago Johnson dropped several Daredevil comic books on his desk, insisting that Foster, who was not a comics reader, consider them as the basis for a major motion picture.
Foster read the Daredevil books, finding them compelling and relatable, even for a non-enthusiast like himself. “This character has a lot of conflict in his life – obviously his handicap, but also his moral dilemma, his divided side,” notes Foster.
Also serving as producer is Avi Arad, who is well known throughout the comic book world as a veritable walking encyclopedia of the Marvel Comics universe. Arad and Marvel Studios serve as producers on “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” “Blade” and “The Hulk.”
For Arad, Daredevil is an almost Shakespearean story. “It’s one of the most amazing sagas we have in the Marvel Universe about a non-superhero,” he explains. “As a storefront lawyer, Matt Murdock is not in it for money; he’s in it for justice. Matt witnesses criminals being freed on technicalities. This is where the vigilante part of him takes over. He dons his suit at night and goes out after the guilty, the ones who got away.”
THE ACTORS AND THEIR ROLES
THE DAREDEVIL filmmakers have assembled a cast with the emotional and physical substance to bring life to the dark, exciting, and sometimes humorous world of Matt Murdock and Daredevil.
Their top priority, of course, was casting the role of The Man without Fear. The character is like none other in the comics canon. The sightless hero’s fingers can feel the faint impressions of ink on a printed page, allowing him to read by touch. He can perceive minute changes in the temperature and pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. Daredevil can identify individuals by smell alone, no matter how they might try to camouflage their natural odor. He can hear a heartbeat at a distance of twenty feet, tell whether someone is lying by listening to changes in the heart’s rhythm and identify people by the specific patterns of their heartbeats.
Daredevil possesses the acrobatic ability of a circus performer and the pugilistic skills of a heavyweight prizefighter. Though he has studied various Asian martial-arts techniques and American boxing, his fighting style is unique; it includes movements and blows from many disciplines.
Given the character’s formidable look and talents, casting the role seemed a daunting if not impossible task. But Johnson, having read Ben Affleck’s forward to the Kevin Smith graphic novel, knew that the actor was born to play the masked vigilante. “Not only is Ben a talented and physically gifted actor, he’s as big a comic book geek as I am,” Johnson laughs. “A bonus was that, at six-three, he’s physically imposing. This story is about believability, so it was important to have an actor who looks like he could play someone who puts his body on the line every night.”
“Ben has the acting chops, physical ability, emotional sensitivity and awareness necessary to play Matt Murdock and Daredevil,” says Gary Foster. “You also totally believe him as a romantic lead. And being a fan since he was a kid, Ben really understands the world of Daredevil.”
Affleck acknowledges that playing Daredevil was more than a typical acting assignment, and that he was thrilled to see this important part of his childhood come to life. “The character and comics had this magical kind of mythical appeal to me,” he says. “Daredevil is dark and tough, but also sort of sexy and romantic. It’s a challenge to take the two-dimensional medium of comics and create a live-action world, making it believable and compelling, all without betraying the original concept.”
Golden Globe®-winning actress Jennifer Garner takes on the role of Matt’s love interest – and Daredevil foe – deadly femme fatale Elektra Natchios, the daughter of Greek business tycoon Nikolas Natchios. Elektra is a consummate practitioner of the martial arts, a mistress of the skills of the ancient ninja of Japan, and an Olympic-level athlete and gymnast. Her weapons of choice: a pair of three-pronged daggers, or sai.
The filmmakers carried out an exhaustive search for the right actress to play Elektra – someone dynamic enough to play a wealthy businessman’s privileged daughter, yet who could turn on a dime and become a lethal warrior. “A lot of people were clamoring for the part,” recalls Foster. “We saw people in Los Angeles, New York, Europe and Australia. We had always wanted to bring in Jennifer Garner to read, but she wasn’t available because of her television series. Then schedule changes made it possible for her to meet with us. At that point we had seen hundreds of actresses, but when she came in to read we just knew: ‘There’s Elektra.’”
“Jennifer has an ability to be so sweet and so pure looking, but then you dress her up, she’s sexy and exotic,” says Mark Steven Johnson. “She’s a real chameleon with her looks and acting styles. That was exactly what we were looking for in Elektra.”
“The moment Jennifer walked in for our first meeting, I knew we had a special brand of Elektra,” says Arad. “She is edgy and tragic, yet warm and emotional.”
Garner found much to work with in Elektra, not the least of which was the character’s martial abilities. The actress notes with a smile that her work in “Alias” put her in a “kind of combat mode,” which drew her to DAREDEVIL. “And I really wanted to fight Ben Affleck,” she jokes.
In addition to the film’s non-stop action – and the chance to spar with her co-star – Garner appreciated DAREDEVIL’s romantic and emotional elements, as well as the duality of the character. “There’s a heart and emotional center to this movie that everything comes out of,” she says. “Elektra is both good and evil at the same time. She’s a very dark person by nature, but she can also appear very optimistic. She’s very fierce and much more aggressive than anyone I’ve played before. Elektra goes looking for a fight instead of just reacting to the situation around her. She’s a strong, confident and sexy woman who is not afraid to use her sex to throw people off guard.”
The love story between Matt and Elektra endures as one of the most complicated storylines in comic book history, and is central to the film. Their respective quests to find meaning in their lives and their struggles with their respective dark sides brings them together, in ways more traditional bonds could never. “Matt and Elektra couldn’t be a more unlikely couple,” says Avi Arad. “Elektra was brought up in a privileged world. She had everything that drives men away. And here she meets this blind guy from the other side of the tracks – Hell’s Kitchen. Ultimately, their romance becomes like a Greek tragedy, because she wants to kill Daredevil, not realizing of course that he is Matt Murdock, the man she has fallen in love with.”
Elektra finds her life forever changed by Bullseye, the assassin with perfect aim who has targeted Elektra’s father as his next victim. Bullseye’s signature weapons are metal throwing stars, or shuriken, but he is equally deadly with any object – be it a pencil, playing card or paper clip. They all become lethal weapons in the skilled hands of the man who could be the world’s greatest assassin.
Farrell embraced the character, bringing to it a mischievous and punk rock swagger. He explains that there wasn’t a lot of preparation he could do for the role. “Bullseye’s not constricted by the rules of reality,” he notes. “It was so much fun for me to play Bullseye because I was able to check subtlety at the door. I could be as camp and over the top as possible. I’ve never done anything like it.”
Immersing himself in the role, Farrell pored through piles of Daredevil comic books sent by Johnson. “Bullseye’s tools of the trade are basically anything that’s in the room at any given time,” Farrell says. “He’s a master with his hands, whether it’s a pen or a paper clip or a beer mat, he can kill you from forty yards by just throwing it your way. He also has a big, long, reptilian coat that spreads out like a parachute that he uses as a weapon, but more for defending.” For the flamboyant physical demands of the role, Farrell practiced his magician’s sleight-of-hand technique as well as completing martial arts and fighting training.
Bullseye’s latest employer is Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, a self-made millionaire whose criminal empire envelops Daredevil. Using his immense size and strength, Kingpin reached the pinnacle of his chosen profession by relying on just one person: himself. He rules the East Coast underworld with an iron hand and zero tolerance for failure.
Thanks to years of training and discipline, the Kingpin is an extraordinary hand-to-hand combatant. These fighting skills, coupled with an unusual agility for a man his size are more than a match for Daredevil. The comics’ Kingpin stands 6 feet, 7 inches and weighs 450 pounds, and while 6’ 5”, 340 lb. Michael Clarke Duncan doesn’t quite measure up in size to his comics counterpart, the filmmakers were thrilled to have the Academy Award nominee aboard. “I was adamant that we get the best actor for the role” says Mark Steven Johnson. “Michael really made the character come alive.”
While perhaps a few eyebrows were raised when Duncan was cast, as the comics character is Caucasian, the filmmakers knew that Duncan would assuage any doubts. “The spirit of the character is much better served by going for the best person for the role instead of trying to match skin tones,” adds Johnson. “I’m confident even the most diehard comics fan will agree that Michael is Kingpin.”
As a child, Duncan read Daredevil comics, particularly appreciating the story’s Hells Kitchen locale. “Daredevil didn’t grow up in a nice neighborhood, like most superheroes,” Duncan says. “He grew up in a type of ghetto. I can relate to that because that’s where I come from. I knew the things he went through every day. I could look out my window or walk down the street and see the same thing that Daredevil or Kingpin does.”
The filmmakers asked the already bigger-than-life Duncan to gain weight for the massively muscled Kingpin. Through a regimen of eating and power lifting, Duncan gained the bulk and strength necessary to complete the look of the character. Duncan explains that the tremendous size of Kingpin does not hamper his fighting ability. “You don’t think of Kingpin as being a fighter. His speed, quickness, and agility were all things that you would not ordinarily see in a man my size. So when Daredevil and Kingpin fight, Daredevil is thrown off because Kingpin is just as quick as he is. So, basically, Ben Affleck gets his butt whooped.”
With Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra all making life very difficult for Daredevil, it’s left to Matt’s best friend and partner at the law office of Murdock & Nelson, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, to provide many of the film’s lighter moments. Though a trusted ally, Foggy is unaware of Matt’s secret identity. Their friendship provides Matt with a much-needed solid foundation, as well as some much-needed humor.
Jon Favreau, star of such notable indie films as “Swingers” and “Made,” felt a sense of responsibility in portraying a character that multitudes of comics fans had grown up with. “You try and capture the spirit of the comics character, but by the same token, you have to bring life and yourself to it,” notes the actor. “Comic book characters tend to be very one-dimensional, so when you bring it to the screen you have to breathe life into it.”
Favreau and Affleck are part of the same generation of actors and filmmakers who burst onto the scene through independent films, and they share a common frame of reference and sensibilities. “I think in casting Ben and me, you capture an aspect of the relationship that reflects what’s in the comic book, but with a greater dimension to it,” Favreau notes. “Ben and I share a common sense of humor, so I think the chemistry on screen reflects that because we’re having a lot of fun together.”
Joe Pantoliano, the acclaimed character actor who recently starred on “The Sopranos,” is Ben Urich, a dogged reporter with the New York Post on a mission to uncover the identity of the infamous Kingpin. That leads to an even bigger story: the secret of Daredevil.
Pantoliano says that his character is “…a reporter who digs into the truth and gleans out the lies.” As Urich gets closer to the truth he becomes a danger to the principal characters. “Kingpin doesn’t want Urich to discover who he is,” says Pantoliano, “and certainly Daredevil doesn’t want Urich to discover his identity, though he sure leaves a lot of clues. Urich realizes that what Daredevil is doing is for the people, for the underprivileged of the area, and he appreciates it. In the end Urich realizes that the story he’s seeking may end up hurting some people, so he faces a moral dilemma.”
The film also features Golden Globe-nominated actor David Keith as Jack ‘The Devil’ Murdock, Matt’s father, a down-on-his-luck prizefighter who makes ends meet working as an enforcer for a local hoodlum. “What happens to my character really shapes Matt Murdock’s life,” Keith says. “It’s what drives him to become a lawyer and the vigilante known as Daredevil. It’s the anger from having his father killed for being a good guy.”