Joker star Joaquin Phoenix, and Freddie Prinze Jr., came close to playing Batman, reveals director Darren Aronofsky.
Darren Aronofsky was actually approached by Warner Bros. for a new Batman movie following Joel Schumacher’s disappointing Batman & Robin in 1997 which would have loosely adapted the "Batman: Year One" comic book story and had its writer, Frank Miller, onboard as co-writer on the film.
Aronfsky opened up about his Batman movie in the latest issue of Empire Magazine revealing the two actors almost became the new Dark Knight.
“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix,” said Aronfsky. “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.”
Regarding Aronfsky's different take on Batman, it was previously revealed to be too dark for Warner Bros. liking, which Aronfsky also reveals is something that Frank Miller took notice of.
“It was an amazing thing because I was a big fan of his graphic novel work, so just getting to meet him was exciting back then,” recalled Aronofsky. “The Batman that was out before me was Batman & Robin, the famous one with the nipples on the Batsuit, so I was really trying to undermine that, and reinvent it. That's where my head went.”
Darren Aronofsky Batman concept art
Previous details known about Aronfsky's Batman movie include that it would have been R rated and that it would have been a lot different than the Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Trilogy:
There would no longer be the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, but something more akin to a homeless anti-hero Batman. Also gone was Alfred, replaced by the African-American, "Big Al," as well as the Batmobile would have been a suped-up Lincoln. "Batman" would be born when Bruce Wayne would punch the heads of various criminals leaving a "TW" imprint from his deceased father's ring, Thomas Wayne. It's also been said that Aronfsky eyed Christian Bale for the role who Nolan scooped up for Batman Begins.
Frank Miller explained a while back why the movie didn't get made:
It was the first time I worked on a Batman project with somebody whose vision of Batman was darker than mine. My Batman was too nice for him. We would argue about it, and I'd say, "Batman wouldn't do that, he wouldn't torture anybody," and so on. We hashed out a screenplay, and we were wonderfully compensated, but then Warner Bros. read it and said, "We don't want to make this movie." The executive wanted to do a Batman he could take his kids to. And this wasn't that. It didn't have the toys in it. The Batmobile was just a tricked-out car. And Batman turned his back on his fortune to live a street life so he could know what people were going through. He built his own Batcave in an abandoned part of the subway. And he created Batman out of whole cloth to fight crime and a corrupt police force.
That screenplay was based on my book “Batman: Year One,” and yeah it was much more down to earth. In it a fair amount of time is spent before he became Batman, and when he went out and fought crime he really screwed it up a bunch of times before he got it right. So it was 90-minute origins story.
Joaquin Phoenix even discussed Batman while back with mention of Wolverine:
There’s some great Batman stuff and classic Frank Miller Dark Knight stuff and Arkham Asylum. But I was always a big Wolverine guy. I love Wolverine—big f--king great dramatic character. They’re all conflicted, and they’re really interesting.
Darren Aronofsky Batman concept art: