Christopher Nolan Talks Original Batman Begins Casting

The Dark Knight trilogy director Christopher Nolan reveals how Josh Hartnett nearly took on the role of the Caped Crusader in 2005’s Batman Begins.

How close was Josh Hartnett to playing Batman?

Promoting his latest release Oppenheimer in an exclusive interview with Variety, Nolan spoke about early discussions with the in-demand actor who headlined such blockbusters as Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down. While Hartnett was on Warner Bros.’s short list to play Batman, the actor and director Nolan did not quite see eye-to-eye for any serious screen test in the cape and cowl.

“No, it never got that far,” Nolan explained. “I met with Josh and if I recall, he was a young actor whose work I was very interested in. I had an initial conversation with him but he had read my brother’s script for ‘The Prestige’ at the time and was more interested in getting involved with that. So it never went further than that.”

Hartnett recently opened up to The Associated Press about this period in his career when the possibility of playing Batman was on his radar. At the time, Hartnett was seeking more roles with substance such as 2005’s Mozart and the Whale and he lacked serious interest in putting on the Batsuit. But Hartnett always remained open to a collaboration with Nolan.

“I would welcome the opportunity to be in a relationship with a great artist in our film culture, no matter where they’re making films and in that instance, I think my regret mostly was not forming the friendship or the creative partnership with that director, more than it was [not] doing Batman,” Hartnett said.

Hartnett was one of several young actors considered for Batman Begins, including Joshua Jackson, Henry Cavill, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Cillian Murphy. In the end, Christian Bale landed the role and headlined the remaining installments, 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. Additionally, Bale took on the role that Hartnett desired in Nolan’s 2006 drama, The Prestige.

18 years after his first meeting with Nolan, Hartnett finally gets to collaborate with the director by portraying cyclotron inventor Robert Lawrence opposite Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer. The film tells the true story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the Manhattan Project which started the Atomic Age. Oppenheimer is now playing in theaters.