Darren Aronofsky's 'Batman' fell apart because he wanted to cast Joaquin Phoenix

Gregory Wakeman
Contributor
Joaquin Phoenix poses with his award for Leading Actor for 'Joker' at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Alongside Tim Burton’s Superman and Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon, Darren Aronofky’s Batman is one of the most famous films to never be made. 

The Wrestler and Requiem For A Dream director was approached by Warner Bros to over-see the potential blockbuster in the early 00s, only for the film to fall apart due to creative differences. 

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Aronofsky has now opened up about these disputes, admitting that he knew the writing was on the wall for his Batman film when it turned out that he wanted to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the Caped Crusader, and the studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr. 

Aronofksy told Empire Magazine, “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.”

Director Darren Aronofsky arrives for the UK premiere of "Mother" in London, Britain September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The film that Aronofsky planned to make was in the mould of Death Wish, The French Connection and Taxi Driver, and was heavily influenced by Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic series. So much so that Miller actually wrote the script for the film.

“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,” says Aronofsky, who says that even Miller was shocked by how far the filmmaker wanted to go. Especially since he wanted to show Batman torturing his adversaries. 

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“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,” he explains. “That's where my head went.”

Warner Bros ultimately decided enough was enough, and replaced Aronofsky with Christopher Nolan. That proved to be a rather smart decision, as Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was a huge financial and critical success, and also reinvented the comic-book genre.