Batman fans know the story well, but here’s the condensed version. After Joel Schumacher destroyed the franchise with “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin,” and before Christopher Nolan revived it with “Batman Begins,” Warner Bros. turned to Darren Aronofsky. The filmmaker had a bold idea for his version, using Frank Miller‘s influential “Batman: Year One” as the source material, to create a dark-as-hell, much older iteration of the character.
“I told them I’d cast Clint Eastwood as the Dark Knight, and shoot it in Tokyo, doubling for Gotham City,” Aronofsky later said. “That got their attention.”
“I pitched the complete opposite, which was totally bring-it-back-to-the-streets raw, trying to set it in a kind of real reality — no stages, no sets, shooting it all in inner cities across America, creating a very real feeling. My pitch was ‘Death Wish‘ or ‘The French Connection‘ meets Batman,” he added, about his script that featured Catwoman as an abused prostitute, Commissioner Gordon fighting police corruption, and Bruce Wayne as a car loving, gearhead. “I think Warners always knew it would never be something they could make. I think rightfully so, because four-year-olds buy Batman stuff, so if you release a film like that, every four year-old’s going to be screaming at their mother to take them to see it, so they really need a PG property. But there was a hope at one point that, in the same way that DC Comics puts out different types of Batman titles for different ages, there might be a way of doing [the movies] at different levels. So I was pitching to make an R-rated adult fan-based Batman — a hardcore version that we’d do for not that much money.”
Aronofsky’s version never got made, but in a new talk with Miller, the writer and comic artist, reveals that the director’s version was even grittier than he conjured on the pages of his graphic novel.
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“It was the first time I worked on a Batman project with somebody whose vision of Batman was darker than mine. My Batman was too nice for him. We would argue about it, and I’d say, ‘Batman wouldn’t do that, he wouldn’t torture anybody,’ and so on. We hashed out a screenplay, and we were wonderfully compensated, but then Warner Bros. read it and said, ‘We don’t want to make this movie.’ The executive wanted to do a Batman he could take his kids to. And this wasn’t that,” he told THR. “It didn’t have the toys in it. The Batmobile was just a tricked-out car. And Batman turned his back on his fortune to live a street life so he could know what people were going through. He built his own Batcave in an abandoned part of the subway. And he created Batman out of whole cloth to fight crime and a corrupt police force.”
If your next question is why doesn’t Miller turn that screenplay into a comic, he teases, “Maybe I will.” I’d love to see that.
For now, we’ll have to live with Zack Snyder‘s CGI fueled punch-a-thon, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” when it opens on March 25th.