Joaquin Phoenix took home plenty of awards, including the Oscar for Best Actor, for his lead performance in Joker, the origin story of Batman’s most notorious nemesis. However, back in the early 2000s when Warner Bros. Pictures was looking to reboot The Dark Knight with a new feature film franchise, Phoenix almost played The Caped Crusader himself.
Director Darren Aronofsky recently shed light on the time he spent trying to get a Batman movie off the ground following the success of Requiem for a Dream in 2000. Aronofsky previously revealed that he wanted Joaquin Phoenix to take on the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, but the studio wanted to take the DC Comics superhero in a completely different direction, and they wanted someone else in the lead role.
It’s been 20 years since Aronofsky’s acclaimed film Requiem for a Dream was released, and Empire caught up with the filmmaker for the hard-hitting drama’s 20th anniversary. Conversation eventually found its way to the Batman movie that never was when Darren Aronofsky was being sought after by every studio in town. Aronofsky remembers clashing with the studio, starting with who they wanted to play Batman. He said:
“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr. and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix. 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.”
Freddie Prinze Jr. was a hot commodity at the time, a teen heartthrob and with roles in I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That and Scooby-Doo. But it’s kind of hard to imagine him taking on the role of Batman. At the same time, I’m having difficulty picturing Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Batman too. He just doesn’t seem to have the temperament to play the superhero. Then again, at one time it was hard to imagine Robert Pattinson starring as The Dark Knight, and here we are.
Aronofsky intended to make an adaptation of Frank Miller’s beloved Batman: Year One comic book, giving us a rather dark version of Batman. In fact, Frank Miller was even on board to adapt the comic to film himself. Aronofsky recalled:
“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.”
Apparently, Aronofsky’s take on Batman was so dark that even Miller himself was surprised by where the director wanted to take the superhero. That’s because the filmmaker wanted to go in the exact opposite direction of the previous Batman movie, one that was pretty much just as goofy as the first Batman movie in 1966. The director said:
“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.”
But as we all know, Darren Aronofsky’s project never came together. Instead, Warner Bros. landed on Christopher Nolan, who took some elements of Batman: Year One but gave them his own spin in Batman Begins. That eventually turned into the massively successful Dark Knight Trilogy, and the rest is history.
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