It might be hard to believe now, but once upon a time, Warner Bros was so excited about Batman And Robin that they greenlit a third Joel Schumacher Batman movie while the second was still being shot. The director has since admitted his ill-fated Batman sequel was mostly made so the studio could sell toys, and he’s since apologized to fans who were upset by it.
Schumacher was still gung-ho about making a third movie, which he wanted to be much darker than this previous entries. The script was titled Batman Unchained – though fans also know the project as Batman Triumphant – and it was developed while Schumacher worked on Batman And Robin, with the intention of having it ready to go for summer 1999.
The project was coming along well until the famously toxic reaction to Batman And Robin hit, with the shocked studio halting any future sequels while they decided what to do next. Over the years, various stories have come out about this abandoned script, including story details, potential castings, and surprise cameos.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Joel Schumacher’s Batman Unchained, and how the movie might have offered the director the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the fanbase. Losing the bat nipples might have been a good start.
15. Harley Quinn Would Have Been The Joker’s Daughter
Harley Quinn started life as a henchwoman to The Joker in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but a cult fandom quickly grew around the character. Over the years, she’s headed various spin-off comics and other titles, and her popularity was recently cemented thanks to Margot Robbie’s scene-stealing turn in Suicide Squad.
Harley would have been one of two villains Batman faced in Unchained, and she was retconned to become the Joker’s daughter instead of his girlfriend. Harley would have been a toymaker in this version, and she teams up with the Scarecrow in order to take revenge on Bruce Wayne/Batman for her father’s death.
She wouldn’t have been quite as nasty as her dad, though, with the script reportedly redeeming her by the end. While the daughter retcon angered some fans, the change was a necessary one for this continuity, since Harley was nowhere to be seen in the original Batman movie — since the character didn’t exist at that point.
14. Classic Villains Would Have Returned Via Hallucination
The original Batman series made a habit of hiring A-list stars to play the villains, from Jack Nicholson’s Joker to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze. None of them returned for a sequel, but a major setpiece planned for Unchained would have united them all for one scene.
A big part of Unchained’s plot would have found Bruce Wayne grappling with his psychological demons, especially coming to terms with the villains he’s killed. During the story, he would have been dosed with a large quantity of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin and hallucinated himself on trial, with The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, and Two-Face all present for the affair.
It sounds like an epic scene, and it probably would have been teased heavily in the marketing, but issues with cost and availability might have been an issue. Nicholson apparently had a sequel clause in his original contract, but Jim Carrey is notorious sequel-shy, and Tommy Lee Jones would likely only have been tempted by a big check. It never came to pass anyway, but it no doubt would have been the highlight of the film.
13. Coolio Was Promised The Scarecrow Role
There’s no clearer sign that Batman And Robin was made in the nineties than the novelty casting of Coolio, who appears as the leader of a motorcycle gang midway through. There’s not much to the role, but according to the man himself, his part was due for a major expansion in the next film.
Coolio has stated that his character was due to morph into The Scarecrow in the next installment, which is the only reason he accepted the role to begin with. This is obviously a major departure from the source material, since Jonathan Crane has never been shown to have a motorcycle racing hobby outside of his Arkham day job.
Schumacher was never totally faithful to the comics during his tenure, so it’s very possible that this casting choice was considered. Coolio himself has stated that he didn’t get along with Schumacher during the filming of his cameo, so it’s probably better all round that this one didn’t work out.
12. Bruce Wayne Would Have Been Committed To Arkham
The Scarecrow would have apparently had a personal beef with Bruce Wayne in the film, which motivates his quest for vengeance. The villain would have used his fear gas on Bruce to drive him insane, which leads to the defender of Gotham being locked up in Arkham Asylum during the story.
By this point, Schumacher had felt he’d gone a little too fluffy with the series, so he wanted to bring it back to the darker edge of the Tim Burton movies, which motivated the Arkham setting. During his time in the Asylum, Bruce would have worked out his innermost fears while under the influence of the gas, which then would have led to the villain trial scene.
This storyline was also meant to tie all the movies together and give a greater insight into the Caped Crusader’s psychology. It also would have given a closer look into Arkham itself, which saw little use in the original film series.
11. The Concept Inspired Batman: Arkham Knight
While Joel Schumacher’s two Batman entries are far from beloved, the unused script for Unchained has since become famous in fan circles. It’s one of the more intriguing unmade superhero movies, and even if it didn’t work out, it sounds like it would have been a fascinating mess at least, on par with the similarly unmade Superman Lives.
The plot of Unchained had a big influence on the video game Batman: Arkham Knight too, which features The Scarecrow as the main villain. When he threatens Gotham City with a new strain of his fear gas, the entire population is evacuated, leaving Batman to face a city full of villains. Batman is also exposed to the toxin early in the story, which leads to vivid hallucinations of the deceased Joker.
The leads to a final showdown between the two in Batman’s mind, with the villain taunting him with the suffering he’s caused. Bruce eventually triumphs over this vision of The Joker, just like he would have in Unchained during the trial sequence.
10. Courtney Love Was Up For Harley Quinn
The fandom surrounding Harley Quinn has only grown over the years, but she was one of the lesser known baddies in Batman’s rogues gallery when the script for Unchained was being written. Schumacher has since admitted he was “running out of villains” when it came to the fifth movie, but he felt Harley and Scarecrow could make for a good team.
The role was never officially cast, but it appears that Courtney Love was the main contender. The musician actively pursued the role while the film was being developed, and even met with screenwriter Mark Protosevich about it. Protosevich planned to make Harley sympathetic, and someone who was more confused than truly villainous.
Despite Love’s enthusiasm, Batman Unchained fell apart soon after this meeting, so it never came to pass. Apparently, Madonna was also in consideration for the role, but it’s unknown if she was actually approached for it.
9. The Hallucination Trial Was Inspired By Batman: The Animated Series
It seems that Batman: The Animated Series was a major source of inspiration for Unchained, since not only would Harley Quinn have been a major character, but the all important trial scene was inspired by a popular episode of the show.
The aptly named “Trial” episode finds Batman being captured by his some of his famous adversaries — including Joker, Scarecrow and Harley Quinn — who put him on trial for the crime of “creating” them. If he’s found guilty, he’ll be executed, but his lawyer is so good that she manages to convince them they would have existed even without Batman, and in a way, they created him.
It’s a cool episode, and one that explored the strange link between Batman and his rogues gallery. It adds a unique psychological element to their relationship, and it’s an excellent excuse to get all the major bad guys together for an episode. If Unchained was going to take inspiration from anything, The Animated Series was certainly a good place to start.
8. Batman And Robin Split Up During The Story
Batman And Robin featured several arguments between the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder, with the latter angry about being in his mentor’s shadow and feeling that he doesn’t get enough respect. It makes Robin come off like a mopey teenager, and George Clooney’s general lack of enthusiasm and commitment to the cape and cowl make these scenes more irritating than dramatic.
Their differences would have come to a head in Unchained, where Robin breaks away on his own following another explosive argument. After this, Bruce Wayne would have been sent to Arkham and exposed to the fear toxin, but once he breaks out, the Boy Wonder would have returned to help fight the villains during the climax.
Chris O’Donnell was signed to reappear, though the studio apparently considered introducing the character of Tim Drake as a replacement, so that O’Donnell could pursue a Dick Grayson solo movie. While the two splitting up their partnership makes sense for the plot, another movie where the two are having tedious fights doesn’t sound like much fun either.
7. Batgirl Wasn’t Included In The Script
Fan reaction to Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl was quite negative for the most part, with many criticizing her performance and the retcon making her Alfred’s niece instead of Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. There was also the questionable logic of Alfred designing a skintight leather outfit for her, but we’ll let that one slide for now.
In Silverstone’s defense, it would have been hard for any actress to salvage a great performance from that script. As George Clooney himself has stated, “It was a difficult film to be good in.”
Despite Batman And Robin suggesting that Batgirl would be joining the dynamic duo, the character was noticeably absent from the Unchained script. It’s not known why she was excluded, but since the first draft was already loaded with characters, perhaps Protosevich felt she was a surplus to the story’s requirements. There wouldn’t have been much for a third hero to do during the story anyway, so perhaps she was being saved for another sequel or potential spin-off.
6. The First Draft Was 150 Pages
Mark Protosevich was handed script duties for Unchained after Akiva Goldsman – who penned both of Schumacher’s Batman movies – decided to step down. Protosevich intended it to be an epic that tied together the whole series and explored Bruce Wayne in a little more depth.
With the wealth of characters, set pieces, and plotlines in place, the first draft came to an eye-watering 150 pages. (Average Hollywood scripts come in between 110 and 120.) Reportedly, Schumacher’s initial reaction was to phone the writer to tell him he’d written the most expensive movie in history, and that a rewrite was needed to refine things.
The instant negative reaction to Batman And Robin saw the brakes being applied to the project, stalling plans for a 1999 release date. Warner Bros wanted to take some time to figure out the next move for the series, so they pulled the plug on Unchained, with Joel Schumacher parting ways with the franchise shortly afterwards.
5. George Clooney Vowed Not To Return
George Clooney was still best known as a TV actor when he made Batman And Robin, though he was branching out into movies with From Dusk Till Dawn and One Fine Day. The story goes that when Val Kilmer passed on Batman And Robin, Schumacher saw a print ad for From Dusk Till Dawn, and was inspired to draw Batman ears on Clooney.
The actor was soon approached, which felt like great casting at the time. The actor has since made no secret of his embarrassment over his involvement with the film, and he’s even been known to offer refunds to people if they mention having seen it in theaters. He also admits he was never entirely comfortable playing the character or with the script, which he feels affected his performance.
Despite being signed on for further movies, Clooney vowed to never play the role again following the response to the film, which is said to be another reason Unchained was soon abandoned. Four different actors in four movies playing the same role (all within the span of a single decade) would have been a tough pill for fans to swallow.
4. An Alternate Script Featuring Man-Bat Was Pitched
During this period, an alternate script dubbed Batman: DarKnight was proposed to the studio that still would have featured Scarecrow as the main villain, but with Dr. Kirk Langstrom – aka Man-Bat — as the secondary antagonist. Instead of teaming up, the two villains would have been sworn enemies, with Crane being responsible for Langstrom’s transformation.
The story – penned by writers Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise – would have found Man-Bat going on a bloodthirsty rampage, and Batman being blamed for it. The Caped Crusader tries to track the creature down, while Scarecrow plots revenge against Gotham.
Sadly, Man-Bat has yet to make his debut in a live-action Batman, and his appearance would have made DarKnight feel like more of a monster movie, with Langstrom struggling to keep his monstrous side under control. While the script was briefly considered, Warner Bros soon focused on developing Batman Beyond and a take on Year One instead of pursuing a direct sequel.
3. Schumacher Wanted Redemption For Batman And Robin
Joel Schumacher’s Batman films have become infamous for their campy tone, hammy overacting, and…putting nipples on the Batsuit. The director has since become a whipping boy in fan circles, and was widely accused of killing the franchise following the reaction to his second entry.
While experiencing the intense vitriol that greeted Batman And Robin, Schumacher decided he’d gone way too far in the family-friendly direction, and that he owed fans a darker take on the Caped Crusader. When Unchained fell apart, he decided it best to take the character back to basics and pitched the studio a feature version of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One as a way to give the series a soft reboot.
He wanted the film to be as gritty as the source material, but Warner Bros was also developing a rival project with a potential Batman Beyond movie, and Schumacher soon became disillusioned, deciding that it was best to step aside. To the director’s credit, he makes no excuses for the mistakes he made with the franchise, and has accepted that he’ll always be remembered as the director who gave Batman nipples.
2. Batman Begins Borrowed The Ending To Unchained
One of the most stirring and iconic images in Batman Begins is when Bruce rediscovers the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor and decides to conquer his childhood fears by allowing himself to be swarmed by bats. Various Batman scripts were developed following the response to Schumacher’s final movie, with various bits and pieces finding their way into Batman Begins.
This includes the aforementioned Batcave sequence, which was originally the ending to Batman Unchained. Having beaten the villains and conquered most of his inner demons, Bruce would have travelled to Bali to face one last fear.
Reportedly, out hero would have come across a bat cave, and upon entering, they would have quickly swarmed him, and he would have stood there, embracing his fear. It would have been a poetic note to end on, but considering how good the sequence is in Batman Begins, it’s probably best that it was tackled by Christopher Nolan instead of Schumacher.
1. Nic Cage Was The First Choice For The Scarecrow
While Coolio appears to think he was the frontrunner for the role, the actor most commonly associated with playing The Scarecrow in Unchained is Nicholas Cage. The actor was on a hot streak at this point in his career, having won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas and scored a big hit with The Rock.
Schumacher visited the actor on the set of Face/Off to discuss the role, and Cage – a lifelong comic fan – was said to be very interested. Interestingly, the actor was also involved with Superman Lives at this point, which was set to be directed by Tim Burton. If Cage didn’t work out, other names that were thrown around include Jeff Goldblum and – quite bizarrely – Howard Stern.
Since the project soon fell apart after Batman And Robin, Cage was never officially offered the role, and Superman Lives also collapsed shortly after. Schumacher went on to work with Cage in the dark thriller 8MM, and the actor finally got to scratch that comic book movie itch with his two Ghost Rider movies.
Would Batman Unchained have proven to be a tale of redemption for Joel Schumacher and the title character, or would it have bombed as hard as the previous two films? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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