A few years before Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins hit theaters, the Dark Knight’s cinematic future was in the hands of Darren Aronofsky. In 2000, Warner Bros. hired Aronofsky to write and direct a live-action take on Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s acclaimed Batman: Year One storyline, with Miller himself offering input on the script. This never came to pass. But as with other unmade superhero movies (e.g., Superman Lives, Justice League Mortal), it remains a source of intrigue among comic book fans. Now, Aronofsky is opening up about why the project was scrapped.
While speaking with Empire, Aronofsky said that he butted heads with Warner Bros. executives over who to cast as Bruce Wayne. Aronofsky apparently had his heart set on casting the man who would be Joker, Joaquin Phoenix, as the novice crimefighter. However, the studio had their eyes on a different actor still riding the wave of his teen heartthrob status.
“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze, Jr. and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix,” said Aronofsky. “I remember thinking, ‘Uh-oh, we’re making two different films here.’ That’s a true story. It was a different time. The Batman I wrote was definitely a way different type of take than they ended up making.”
Surprisingly, Aronofsky also met some resistance from Miller over the screenplay’s tone. Miller’s Batman stories have always stood out for their gritty depictions of Gotham City’s criminal underworld. But some of Aronofsky’s narrative choices, which included Batman torturing his opponents, made even Miller blush. Apparently, this was intentional. Aronofsky explained that he wanted his movie to serve as a palate cleanser for those who couldn’t shake their campy memories of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films.
“The Batman that was out before me was Batman & Robin, the famous one with the nipples on the Batsuit,” added Aronofsky. “So I was really trying to undermine that, and reinvent it. That’s where my head went.”
Do you think Joaquin Phoenix would have made a good Batman? Would you have liked to have seen Aronofsky’s darker interpretation of the character? Let us know in the comment section below!
Recommended Reading: Batman: Year One