Neil Calloway looks at Batman movies that were planned but never shot…
If you are over 30, by the end of this month you will have seen five actors play Batman on the big screen. That might seem like a lot, but it’s entirely possible that there could have been even more Batman movies down the years.
It appears like there has never been a time when a Batman film was not in some stage of development hell. After the 60s TV series spawned a film, the next attempt to get Batman on the big screen was Batman in Outer Space in the late 70s, probably designed to cash in on the success of Star Wars (similarly, the producers of James Bond made Moonraker instead of For Your Eyes Only in 1979 to ride on the coat tails of Han and Luke).
Before Tim Burton revived the series in 1989, various writers, directors and actors were attached to aborted attempts to bring the Dark Knight to the big screen. Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote several Bond films and worked on the original Superman movie, wrote a script for Bond director Guy Hamilton to direct. David Niven was slated to appear as Alfred. Post Ghostbusters, Ivan Reitman was lined up to helm the film with Bill Murray tentatively attached to star as the caped crusader. An unlikely candidate, but perhaps no more unlikely than Michael Keaton who eventually took the role.
After the Burton/Schumacher series ground to an ignominious halt after Batman & Robin, several aborted attempts to reboot the franchise were made. Seven scribe Andrew Kevin Walker pitched Batman vs Superman with Wolfgang Petersen pencilled in to direct, with the Joker and Lex Luthor as the villains. The combination of Walker, Petersen and Josh Hartnett as Superman makes it close to the ultimate late 1990s early 2000s project. Christian Bale was approached to play Batman.
The Hughes Brothers were linked to a big screen version of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns after they had directed the comic book adaptation From Hell. Here, in what could be seen as a precursor to Ben Affleck’s portrayal in Batman v Superman, Clint Eastwood (who was once lined up to play Two Face in the 1960s TV series) would play an older, retired Bruce Wayne, and would also feature Superman. It obviously had potential, and was later turned into an animated, straight to video movie. Eastwood as Batman remains what of the great “What ifs?” of casting in recent Hollywood history.
Around the same time, another Frank Miller related Batman film was being developed. Miller recently talked about his cancelled collaboration with Darren Aronofsky on an adaptation of Miller’s Batman: Year One Comic, claiming that Aronofsky’s vision was even darker than his own, and the studio baulked at the idea of a more adult Batman. Again, Christian Bale was lined up to play the role he would ultimately take in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Having once been attached to a Wolverine film (he worked with Hugh Jackman on The Fountain) Aronofsky has skirted around comic book adaptations a few times, and a superhero movie from the man who made Requiem For a Dream remains a tantalising prospect.
Some of these unrealised projects would have been great, but others might have damaged the franchise beyond repair. We’re probably better off in a world where Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy exists but Batman In Outer Space doesn’t.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive.