Actor Joaquin Phoenix won an Oscar for his performance as the iconic Batman villain Joker earlier this year, but did you know that the actor was in contention to play The Dark Knight in an abandoned project?
After the franchise flopped with director Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, starring George Clooney, Warner Bros began planning a reboot. Director Darren Aronofsky was hired to make an adaptation of Frank Miller’s acclaimed graphic novel Batman: Year One, and zeroed in on Phoenix, who celebrates his birthday on Wednesday, to play Bruce Wayne. But the studio wasn’t having it.
In an interview to Empire, the Black Swan filmmaker said, “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.”
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Famously, Warner Bros turned to Christopher Nolan to reboot the franchise, which he did to massive success with this trilogy of films, all starring Christian Bale in the lead role.
Aronofsky even got Frank Miller to write the script of the film himself. “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,” Aronofsky recalled. “The Batman that was out before me was Batman & Robin, the famous one with the nipples on the Batsuit, so I was really trying to undermine that, and reinvent it,” Aronofsky said. “That’s where my head went.”
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Year One, as the title suggests, follows Bruce Wayne in his first year as Batman. Elements from the story will be adapted by Matt Reeves in his upcoming film, starring Robert Pattinson.
Phoenix, meanwhile, is reportedly in talks to reprise his role as Arthur Fleck/Joker for a sequel. Director Todd Phillips is also expected to return. Phoenix, who recently welcomed his first child with partner Rooney Mara, was also in the running to play Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — the role eventually went to Benedict Cumberbatch.
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