Article By Eric Lee
Director Darren Aronofsky has revealed that he initially wanted Joaquin Phoenix to play Batman in his now-defunct Batman: Year One film.
In an interview with Empire, Aronofsky discussed his time trying to make to make a Batman film back in the early 2000’s. The director originally wanted Phoenix for the Batman role. However, the studios had another, more-controversial actor in mind.
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.
On Frank Miller and the Movie’s Tone
Obviously, casting someone like Prinze Jr would have clashed with the tone that Darren Aronofsky wanted, as he was looking for a gritty, street-level feeling to Batman. Aronofsky stated that he wanted to be influenced less by the then-recent Batman and Robin movie and more by psychological action thrillers, like Taxi Driver and The French Connection.
If those titles sound familiar, it’s because they are also the films that influenced 2019’s Joker.
Since it was based on Frank Miller’s seminal Batman: Year One comic storyline, Aronofsky also had Miller write an initial movie script treatment.
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.
The level of shocking grittiness in Miller’s script was probably part of the reason why Aronofsky’s Batman movie was never made. Among other things, Miller made the Bat-Cave into an abandoned subway car and Bruce Wayne homeless.
In the end, Aronofsky moved onto another movie project. Eventually, we got a Year One based film in the form of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Phoenix ended not being the Dark Knight, but becoming the Joker.
Isn’t it weird how all of that fell into place?