Joaquin Phoenix could’ve been the star of Batman: Year One if Darren Aronofsky’s film had happened. Back when Aronofsky was just breaking into Hollywood, he began developing his own take on one the most popular comic characters of all-time: Batman. The Dark Knight had already been through several adaptations at this point with Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Val Kilmer already dawning the cowl. However, since Joel Shumacher’s take left many fans unsatisfied, the character was primed for a reboot once again.
Aronofsky is currently back in theaters with mother! debuting this weekend to a mixed reception, but the release has brought him on the press circuit. With superhero films being as popular as ever, his potential Batman movie has been a topic that has been brought up again, and we now know he wanted to star.
While speaking to Yahoo about his vision for Batman – which would’ve been an adaptation of Frank Miller’s Year One – he always had one name in mind when it came to star. With the story calling for a mid-20s Bruce Wayne right at the start of his superhero career, he says he “always wanted Joaquin Phoenix for Batman.” Since this development would’ve been right after Pi, Phoenix would’ve been coming off of films like To Die For and Inventing the Abbotts, and just about getting ready for a role in Gladiator.
Phoenix would undoubtedly be a fascinating choice for Batman, especially in a Year One setting. Aronofsky wanted to make an R-rated film that stripped away the high-tech gear from Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. He recently stated that the newly rumored Joker origin movie sounded close to his pitch. This sort of take with Phoenix in the lead would be a complete change in style from what audiences had most recently seen, but it is also easy to see why Warner Bros. ultimately chose to focus on Nolan’s take.
Even though Aronofsky is now saying his pitch was fifteen years ahead of its time, he is not likely to dive into the superhero genre at this point either – unless it was for one of DC’s Elseworlds movies perhaps. Phoenix on the other hand has been linked to superhero roles over the last few years. He was reportedly very close to playing Doctor Strange in the MCU, and even before that was linked to a role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since he’s passed up both of those opportunities, there’s no telling if he’d do a superhero movie in the future or if he would’ve signed on for Aronofsky’s take. But, if he had, it would likely have been a memorable collaboration.
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