Before Tim Burton signed on to bring The Dark Knight to the big screen with 1989’s Batman, Warner Bros. spent several years trying to get the project off the ground, with numerous directors in contention for the coveted gig. One of those was Joe Dante (Gremlins), who has now been speaking to Psychotronic Blog about being approached to direct the Batman movie, and how he would have handled the material – including casting John Lithgow as the Clown Prince of Crime.
“Well, the Batman that I was going to do would have been completely different from what they ended up making,” said Dante. “This was right after Gremlins, and Tom Mankiewicz, who had written a lot of James Bond movies, had done this take on Batman which was certainly not Chris Nolan-dark, was certainly darker than the TV version. It started with his parents being killed, and it was a revenge story. But it was very outlandish, had a lot of giant props in it. The Joker was a major character in it. I wanted to hire John Lithgow for that part because I had met him on The Twilight Zone movie. And for whatever reason, I started to gravitate more towards The Joker than towards Batman. And I actually woke up one night and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this movie – I’m more interested in The Joker than I am in Batman, and that’s not the way it should be.’”
“So I went and told them that I couldn’t do it, and they looked at me like I’d completely lost my mind. But in the end, I think I was not the right guy to do the movie. It’s like when they came to me to do The Flintstones movie, I said ‘look, you know, I didn’t really like The Flintstones. I liked The Honeymooners, which, you know, but not The Flintstones. And what you really need to do is find a guy who loves The Flintstones to make this picture.’ And they went out and found a director who apparently had Flintstones soap in his bathtub. And that’s the way it should be, you should find the right people to do the job. And I don’t regret not doing Batman, in the sense that I’m not sure what it would have ended up being like. But I certainly can’t say it was a major career-booster, my decision not to make it.”
Would you have liked to have seen a Joe Dante-directed Batman movie with John Lithgow as The Joker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…