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The Dark Knight Denied: 9 Actors Who Turned Down Being Batman

Josh Hartnett Batman The Dark Knight

With the role of Batman now falling squarely in the hands of Robert Pattinson, it's anyone's guess what the next film to feature the Caped Crusader will look like. Of course, Pattinson will be joining a relatively small club of actors who have donned the cape and cowl, with each performer giving their own take on the character.

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That's not to say that every actor in Hollywood is champing at the bit to play Batman, however. I n fact, there have been plenty of people who have actively turned the role down for various reasons. We take a look at 9 actors who turned down being Batman.

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Ethan Hawke in The Kid
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9 Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke in The Kid

Ethan Hawke is the kind of versatile actor that you're just as likely to see in an action film as an introspective drama. From Gattaca to Before Midnight to First Reformed, Hawke is the kind of guy who likes to take on character-driven roles that allow him to stretch his acting muscles.

One of the roles that might have ended up on his resumé was that of Batman, as Hawke was considered for the role following Batman Returns. Hawke turned the role down, however, fearing that it would cost him work in the future. He has gone on record to say that he regrets the decision, though.

8 Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

Pierce Brosnan had the chance to play one iconic action hero when he landed the role of James Bond in 1995's Goldeneye, and on top of that, he's gotten to show off his acting chops in a lot of fun projects like Dante's Peak, Mrs. Doubtfire, and The Matador.

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Brosnan is yet another actor who turned down the opportunity to step into the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman. While he definitely would have fit very well in the role, he stated that upon meeting with Tim Burton, he just couldn't take the role seriously, citing Batman's tendency to wear his underwear outside of his pants.

7 Heath Ledger

Wait, the Joker himself was actually almost given the role of his mortal nemesis? Believe it or not, this was the plan before Ledger's legendary (and posthumous Oscar-winning) performance in The Dark Knight.

As it turns out, Ledger was actually Christopher Nolan's first pick to play Batman in Batman Begins. The star turned the role down, which is understandable. Until then, superhero movies were a real mixed bag, and in the pre-MCU days, the track record was pretty bad. However, after seeing the film, Ledger signed onto The Dark Knight without even reading a script.

6 Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett Batman The Dark Knight

At one time, you couldn't go to the movie theater without seeing Josh Hartnett's face. He was a rising star in the industry, with roles in films like Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and Sin City. Though he has continued to find meaningful work in projects like Penny Dreadful, there's one rule he still regrets turning down: Batman.

And this wasn't just any opportunity to play Batman: Hartnett was going to be Christopher Nolan's Batman. Though he thought it would be bad for his career at the time, Hartnett has expressed a deep regret in turning down the role, having seen Christian Bale move on to other interesting projects from it.

5 Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread (photo Focus Features)

When you think of the greatest actors of our generation, one name will come up consistently, no matter who you ask: Daniel Day-Lewis. The man is an acting icon, having won not one, not two, but three Best Actor Oscars. Day-Lewis is famously picky about the projects he signs onto, which might be why we never saw him as Batman.

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According to Billy Baldwin, Day-Lewis was among the list of actors (which included Baldwin as well) being considered for the role of Batman in Batman Forever. There's no story about Day-Lewis turning the role down, but it's hard to imagine him getting excited at the prospect of being stuck in a rubber batsuit for months.

4 Ray Liotta

Ray Liotta in Goodfellas

Now this one is strange. Ray Liotta has an excellent range, but more often than not, he's usually playing pretty bad guys. One need only examine his work in films like Goodfellas or The Iceman. Of course, he's played plenty of wholesome roles as well, including his appearances in Field of Dreams and Corrina, Corrina.

He might have been able to launch himself in an entirely different direction if he had taken the part of Batman for Tim Burton, but like Pierce Brosnan, Liotta also wasn't taking the project seriously. He has said that he regrets not going to meet with Burton to at least talk about the film.

3 Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton Batman 1989 Grapple Gun

Wait a minute, Michael Keaton did play Batman! Twice! This is true, but that doesn't mean that he never said "no" to the role at some point. Keaton was an unpopular choice when he was first announced, but he blew everyone away with his layered and nuanced performances in Batman and Batman Returns.

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Problems arose after Warner Bros. decided that they weren't big fans of Tim Burton's more artistic and strange take in Returns (which didn't make nearly as much money as its predecessor). Burton was relegated to the role of producer and Joel Schumacher took over as director. Keaton did not reprise his role because he was not a fan of where the series was headed (good call, Michael).

2 Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer Batman Forever

Val Kilmer famously took over the role of Batman after Michale Keaton's departure. Kilmer had proven himself to be a reliable and talented performer in films like Top Gun and Tombstone. Kilmer probably thought this was a great opportunity, as he signed onto the film without even knowing who was directing it.

That turned out to be a big problem. Kilmer and Schumacher did not get along on set, and it made filming the movie nearly impossible. Kilmer decided not to appear in the next film. Instead, he starred in one of the most disastrous films of all time: The Island of Dr. Moreau.

1 Ben Affleck

Finally, we get to the latest actor to give up the cape and cowl. Ben Affleck's casting as Batman was controversial, to say the least. Fans were not exactly pleased with the fact that Affleck would be their new Bruce Wayne for the foreseeable future. That all changed once they saw him in costume. The films might not have been perfect, but there was a consensus that Affleck's Batman was usually the best part of them.

It was not to last, though. Affleck first quit his directing duties on the next standalone Batman film before leaving the role entirely. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Affleck stated that he didn't enjoy the pressure of working on such a high-profile project with such a devoted fandom.

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