Josh Hartnett opens up about saying no to playing the iconic Batman in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy. The role eventually landed on the lap of Christian Bale who played the character in all three films until it was eventually rebooted with Ben Affleck currently holding the mantle of the Caped Crusader in the DC Extended Universe films.
The Nolan trilogy (comprised of 2005's Batman Begins, 2008's The Dark Knight and 2012's The Dark Knight Rises) is regarded as one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in the superhero genre. The series kicked off long before the era of expanded universes grew into prominence, it strived on its own as a standalone Batman story. And up until now, a lot of other films are still trying to emulate the cinematography, thematic elements, and narrative tropes of the trilogy, especially The Dark Knight. Which is why it is not a surprise for any actor to have some sort of remorse over missing an opportunity to be part of something as revered as The Dark Knight Trilogy -- let alone be the face of it.
In a recent interview with the AP, Hartnett explains that reason why he did not take up the role of Batman in the aforementioned film series. But most of all, he says that he also laments not having the opportunity to have a working relationship with Nolan:
“I would welcome the opportunity to be in a relationship with a great artist in our film culture, no matter where they’re making films. In that instance, I think my regret mostly was not forming the friendship or the creative partnership with that director, more than it was [not] doing Batman.”
The actor further added that some scheduling conflict also played a huge part in his decision to not take The Dark Knight. At that time he was also interested in doing a smaller but interesting project which he eventually chose:
“It wasn’t about not doing studio films. At the time, what I was interested in was… the film that I did instead of that was a tiny film about a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome, falling in love with a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. It was a true story, Mozart And The Whale. It was more a question of what I wanted to do as opposed to what I didn’t want to do, and I always try to look at things that way.”
As it turns out, Batman is not the only comic book character gig that Hartnett almost played. At one point in time, he was also attached to take on Superman and even Spider-Man, although he did not discuss what happened with these other properties. But, there is also the possibility that Hartnett just did not want to take on a huge risk playing a character that has received a lot of backlash due to 1997's Batman & Robin before Nolan made Batman cool again.
As iconic as The Dark Knight Trilogy is, it is difficult to imagine any other actor playing Batman than Bale in the darker-toned Nolan series. While Hartnett could pull off the acting needed to effectively play the character had he ended up getting the role, there is something about Bale's gritty vibe that perfectly suits the film's image of both Bruce Wayne and Batman.