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Joel Schumacher Says He Wanted Nicolas Cage To Play Scarecrow In The Aborted ‘Batman Triumphant’

Joel Schumacher Says He Wanted Nicolas Cage To Play Scarecrow In The Aborted 'Batman Triumphant'

The career of Joel Schumacher is a colorful one, filled with unpredictable twists and turns, hits and misses, star vehicles and no-name indies. He’s been everywhere and done everything, and his latest, “Trespass,” which hits theaters next Friday, is his second collaboration with Nicolas Cage after “8MM.” However, it was almost his third.

While many cite disastrous blockbuster “Batman And Robin” as the nadir of Schumacher’s career, they ignore the fact that Warner Bros. was actually pretty high on Joel upon seeing the dailies for that picture, and had begun work on a followup, the Mark Protosevich-drafted “Batman Triumphant.” That picture was to showcase the Dynamic Duo battling the Scarecrow, with the villain’s “fear toxins” forcing Batman to see his former enemies, including the Joker, in a return performance by the still-under-contract Jack Nicholson. We recently chatted with Schumacher and he revealed he had a clear idea of who he wanted to play Scarecrow in the ultimately aborted sequel.

“I was supposed to do a fifth one,” Schumacher says. “I was talking to Nic Cage about playing the Scarecrow. I had begged the studio for [the Frank Miller comic] ‘The Dark Knight [Returns],’ but they wanted a family friendly, toyetic thing.” Eventually, “Batman And Robin” came along, souring everyone on the franchise, and, just like that, Schumacher’s relationship with Warner Bros. dissolved, leaving behind both the “Batman” series and a third John Grisham adaptation, “Runaway Jury” (later made over at 20th Century Fox by Gary Fleder). However, Schumacher got his man soon after, as he and Cage teamed for “8MM,” which Schumacher figured, “would be the furthest thing from a summer movie.”

He ruefully adds, “And I gave up a lot of money, but, no regrets.” Not that he’s hurting for cash, as he notes, “I have awards for selling more Batman toys than anyone in the world.” In regards to “Batman and Robin,” he was convinced he made “the wrong choice” but says, “I did my job. It was more family friendly and it sold a lot of toys, and it supported the Warner Bros. stores. But I did disappoint a lot of fans.”

Cage is no stranger to comic book films, having been cast in a scrapped “Superman” as well as two “Ghost Rider” movies, so to imagine the then-hot Oscar winner in a Batman film makes perfect sense, if only to wonder what sort of mega-acting he would have utilized compared to Cillian Murphy’s fairly restrained characterization in Christopher Nolan’s two films.

“Batman Triumphant” isn’t the only major project from which Schumacher walked away in the late nineties. In his early career, Schumacher had written “Sparkle,” a film about three African-American female vocalists, but he was too green to be considered for the director’s chair. But he wanted to find a way to scratch that itch anyway, so, years later, enter David Geffen. “When David Geffen offered me ‘Dreamgirls,’ I saw it as a chance to do my ‘Sparkle,’” Schumacher explains, noting that “Sparkle” is currently being remade. “But we couldn’t get the script right, and Bill [Condon] did an excellent job. And I think, in the long run, I was the wrong director.”

“Trespass” opens on October 14th in select cities.

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To James: this seems to be all true. I´ve been reading the same things (except for Nicholson being under contract and Cage as Scarecrow) since months before premiering B&R (they were planning some of these things before june 1997). But (I think) the fault is (mostly) Schumacher´s, not WB: the B&R Akiva script didn´t have as many jokes, and it sure didn´t have a credit card. By the way, I loved BF.

I also read at least a year before B&R in Variety that Kilmer left B&R because he didn´t want Batman to do sky diving or ice skating (I think other reasons were 10 million, the title, and wanting some friend to do a script rewrite). I didn´t believe it, I thought it to be too ridiculous to be true.


@rodie – “I did not know Nicholson was under contract to appear in a future or future Batman movies. What was Burton thinking in killing off his character if this was the case?”

I read somewhere at the time of the first Burton Batman film, that one of Nicholson’s prerequisites for doing the gig was that he died at the end.

Supposedly, if the Scarecrow was to be the main villain in Batman Triumphant then the Joker would have made appearances via hallucinations… with possibly a slightly cryptic ending to the film that involved a scene where the Joker might or might not actually be alive, allowing for some of the hallucinations during the film to actually be real.

All I can say is that I think there were faults on both sides – the studio and Schumacher. Ultimately, let’s not deride the director too much because things worked out for the best. Without Batman and Robin’s terrible critical mauling we would never have had a serious reboot with Batman Begins.

Angry Fan!

I did disappoint a lot of fans!!! Understatement of the decade!
This man nearly ruined Batman! The only movie that was worse as
a beloved franchise sequel is Indy 4. All I have to say is Thank The Hollywood Gods he never got his hands on Frank Millers DK Returns!!!


I doubt this is true. He could have said this at anytime in the 8 between “Batman & Robin” and “Batman Begins” when everyone soured on the character. But only after Nolan resurrected the character does he claim he wanted to do a movie based on Frank Miller’s book.



The producers/studio had control of the script at the time, not Burton. Burton had no such power or creative control other than the visuals at the time, he was just a hired hand.


There’s a “how did it burn!?” joke in there somewhere.


I did not know Nicholson was under contract to appear in a future or future Batman movies. What was Burton thinking in killing off his character if this was the case?

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