Joaquin Phoenix won an Oscar for playing the Joker but he would have been on the other side of the law as Batman if director Darren Aronofsky had his way.
In a new interview with Empire, the “Mother!” director recalls his attempts to get a movie based on Batman: Year One off the ground, with Phoenix playing the Caped Crusader, in the early 2000s. Aronofsky reveals Warner Bros. balked at the casting of Phoenix, instead wanting to go for an entirely different actor.
“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr. and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix,” he shares. “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.”
The gritty Batman movie Aronofsky wanted to make would eventually become “Batman Begins” with Christian Bale. While Christopher Nolan borrowed elements from Batman: Year One, Aronofsky says his take would have followed more closely to Frank Miller’s graphic novel, even recruiting Miller for scripting duties.
“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,” he remembers, explaining that his vision also found inspiration in “Taxi Driver”, “The French Connection”, and “Death Wish”.
“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 says of his dark vision. “That’s where my head went.”