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BATMAN
(- the entire enchilada)

 

BATMAN  The entire enchilada

 

"Nice outfit!"

BATMAN

Tim Burton . 1988

 

Prologue .   As the Batman movies kicked off anew when Batman became 64 years old in 2003 - comicbook writer Mark Miller posted an Internet story on how, in 1946, Orson Welles, no less, planned Batman! Opening with the deaths of Thomas and Mary Wayne, the film has our hero (Welles, himself, or Gregory Peck) fighting The Joker (Basil Rathbone), The Riddler (James Cagney) ,Two-Face (George Raft, after Bogart refused), Catwoman (who else but Marlene Dietrich).

A batshit hoax, of course. Bruce Wayne’s mother was called Martha - and The Riddler was not born until Detective Comics #140 in October 1948… two years after the project was nearly happening, four years after Welles supposedly had initial talks with National (later DC) Comics.

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The gestation was so protracted that when Warner Bros first decided on stars supporting an unknown Batman, they were... William Holden as Commissioner Gordon and David Niven as Alfred Pennyworth!   Holden died in 1981 and Niven two years later.

As directors switchbacked between the Coen brothers and Joe Dante, Ivan Reitman planned a comedy version with batty Bill Murray in the Batsuit and Michael J Fox or Eddie Murphy as Robin.

When Steven Spielberg showed interest, he had a cast fully mapped out… Dennis Quaid in the mask (his wife Meg Ryan as a later Vicki Vale idea), Geena Davis as Silver St. Cloud (who churned into Vicki), Richard Dreyfuss as Rupert Thorne, Dustin Hoffman as The Penguin, Jon Pertwee (the third Doctor Who) as Alfred (Pertwee's son, Sean, was Alfred 25 years later on the Gotham series), Burt Reynolds for Commissioner Gordon… and then came the shocker, Harrison Ford of all people, as, of all people… The Joker! Holy Moly!!

.

The first 1980 draft was, inevitably,

by a Superman and 007 scribe 

 

He was Tom Mankiewicz and he covered the origins of nearly all the characters - including Dick Grayson going solo after The Joker shot two of The Flying Graysons. The Penguin was also featured, likewise Barbara Gordon, and Rupert Thorne.

The $20m film was due in 1985 as the original producers Michael E Usian and Benjamin Melniker were relegated to executive credits (for all six films so far) when Jon Peters and Peter Guber moved into Gotham. They wanted the dumped-upon Superman director Richard Donner… then, the Coens… before the unexpected 1985 Warner success of Pee-Wee;s Big Adventure, 1985, , gave the project to Tim Burton for r shooting in October, 1988.

Obviously, Tim gave the cowl to his Beetlejuice star, Michael Keaton and explained how the caped schizoid drove Bruce Wayne crazy. “Man, this guy is like caged energy. For this part, he’s got to keep a lid on it. Face it, the villains are the ones that get to eat up most of the sets.”

Batman/Bruce Wayne .   “The chicks like him for his big charity balls...” Mel Gibson was the studio’s first choice, but cuffed to to Lethal Weapon 2. Other possible Gothamitess were Alec Baldwin (who  became The Shadow), Pierce Brosnan (who became 007) and Tom Selleck  (who never became Indiana Jones). Next? Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, Harrison Ford (also, lawks-a-mercy, for The Joker!), Michael J Fox (after Robin was deep-sixed), Jeff Goldblum (also in The Joker loop), Tom Hanks (!!),Bruce Payne (?), Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck, Kevin Spacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger (he went on to be Mr Freeze in Batman & Robin, 1996) and Patrick Swayze.

Kevin Kline refused the cape and Adam West felt  he should continue the role he (or rather his TV series) had sent up something rotten in the mid-60s.   "I cried for an hour [when hearing Keaton had won the Batgig but then I was OK. I’m disappointed… but they have their vision and I have mine.”

West, by the way, was 61.

 

Any man who wears his underpants outside

his pants just can’t be taken seriously.

 

"That was my foolish take on it," said Brosnan.   "It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I? Don’t get me wrong, because I love Batman, and I grew up on Batman. As a kid in Ireland, we used to get our raincoats and tie them round our neck and swing through the bicycle shed... ” He stayed friendly with Tim Burton and starred in his 1995 Mars Attacks!.

Michael Keaton won due to his mania potential. “The image of Batman is a big male model type, but I wanted a guy who’s a real person who happens to put on this weird armor,” explained producer Jon Peters. “A guy who’s funny and scary. Keaton’s both. He’s got that explosive, insane side.” Keaton’s career took a nose-dive soon after his two Batoutings. In 2014, however, he made a highly praised comeback as a washed-up actor, famous as a spandexed hero, trying to mount a stage comeback. The film was called… Birdman).

Robin/Dick Grayson .  First drafts included Robin - immediately offered to Kiefer Sutherland, then 19, and unimpressed at the thought of prancing around in yellow tights. He never realised that Tim Burton’s vision was to be darker. Then again, yellow is yellow. Marlon Wayans and Irishman Ricky Addison Reed tested  in Robin’s duds (not unlike Chris O’Donnell’s 1995 costume). In future drafts, poor Robin kept getting smaller until he completely disappeared. Like Reed - gone after just the one movie, A Return To Salem's Lot, 1987.  

The Joker/Jack Napier .  David Bowie, Tim Curry, Willem Dafoe, Robert De Niro (ya jioking to me !), Brad Dourif, Robert Englund,), Richard Gere (!!), Jeff Goldbum   (also on the Batman list), Ray Liotta, John Lithgow, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams, James Woods were juggled for the first villain until Bat-creator Bob Kane said something about The Joker needing shades of The Shining...   Oh, right! A glance through old Rolling Stone covers to March 29, 1984, clinched matters. Nicholson is The Joker!

Yet, Jack took so long in deciding (or the studio did in meeting his demands, top-billing and merchandise royalties, netting him between $60 and $100m), that Warner told him that they had Robin Williams… Works every time!

Vickie Vale .  The Batgroup looked over almost everyone… Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Kate Capshaw, Glenn Close, Jamie Lee Curtis, Joan Cusack, Geena Davis, Judy Davis (!!?), Denny Dillon (from Ice Age), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robin Duke (Groundhog Day), Christina Ebersole, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Teri Garr, Melanie Griffith, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Goldie Hawn (depending on the Batman’s age), Barbara Hershey, Holly Hunter, Anjelica Huston, Amy Irving, Diane Keaton, Diane Lane, Jessica Lange, Kelly LeBrock, Kay Lenz, Lori Loughlin, Madonna, Kelly McGillis, Virginia Madsen, Bette Midler  (Madonna, sure, but The Divine Miss M!!?), Catherine O’Hara, Tatum O’Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Jane Seymour, Brooke Shields, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep (!!!!!), Lee Thompson, Kathleen Turner, Sela Ward, Sigourney Weaver and Debra Winger…  

Ultimately, Sean Young was VV… until breaking her left arm… or her collar-bone (take your pick). Keaton helped her to hospital. Burton then suggested Keaton’s lover, Michelle Pfieffer,should take over, but Keaton thought that “too akward.” Kim Basinger was producer Jon Peters’ idea. Said Young: “?If Jon Peters had wanted me I think they could have shot around it. I think he just had a hard-on for Kim Basinger. He had a good excuse to let me go and hire her. It hurt me, but that’s show business.”

The horse-riding scene was cut. Keaton and Basinger only rode each other (on-screen), as Young starred in tabloids with the bizarre ramifications of James Woods ending their affair. “Remember the plus side,” said Keaton. “Sean is talented. It's not like she's nuts and not talented.”

There were some couple ideas, as well for Bats and Vicki Vale. Real life spouses Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker… and TV co-stars Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepard, coming off five years as Addison and Maddie in Moonlighting. Plus brothers Emilo Estevez and Charlie Sheen were seen for Batman Wayne - their father, Martin Sheen was Spielberg’s two-faced notion for Harvey Dent.   Charlie Sheen was favoured for being young-enough-to-last-a-franchise. Or, join it later… as one Batman Returns rumour was Charlie for... Robin. (Instead, Charlie sent up Superman in Hot Shots).

Harvey Dent . Ray Liotta, Tim Burton's first idea for Harvey Dent. had to decline - director Martin Scorsese wanted him for Goodfellas. Burton checked on Don Johnson and Dale Midkiff, Billy Dee Williams accepted the DA, expecting to continue playing him (as Two-Face) in later film(s). Never happened. Warner Bros had now seriously pissed off both Williamses: Robin and Billy Dee.

Carl Grissom .   Albert Finney, Christopher Lee passed. So did Martin Landau - who would win a support Oscar for Burton’s Ed Wood on March 27, 1995. To paraphrase the final Hamlet line: The best was Palance.

Alicia Grissom .   British blonde Patsy Kensit was aced out by Jerry Hall, Mrs Mick Jagger, as Nicholson’s main squeeze. The casting director was the redoubtable Marion Dougherty (Chinatown, Midnight Cowboy, Shampoo, etc) who had cast Patsy in The Great Gatsby at age four. “Listen, I don’t think you’re right for this one [too young fo Jack], but there’s something else you are right for, just sit tight.” And that was Lethal Weapon 2… the movie that prevented Mel Gibson from saving Gotham City.

  

 

2. BATMAN RETURNS

Tim Burton . 1991

 

Neither Tim Burton or Michael Keaton were contracted to any reprise. Nor was Nicholson, who refused $7m for the sequel: “The Joker was dead.”(Until 1998 when Warners offered him almost the studio and he agreed to reprise Jack Napier in Batman Triumphant... and it never happened)

They were allwere plainly disinterested until the screenplay suited Tim better than the 1989 script and Michael got his salary hike. Plus a zipper for the Batpants.

Then, it was 1989 all over again…

Robin Williams and Julia Roberts were just about everyone's favourite Penguin and Catwoman. Bit they were both Hooked by Steven Spielberg.  As was Dustin Hoffman and  another potential Penguin,  Bob Hoskins, the only human seen in Spielberg’s production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1987.  

Spielberg haunted this show… (among others!). 

Catwoman/Selina Kyle   had been all set for Cher in the first film, until cut from the top-heavy script and was now aimed at another singer, Jody Watley (a hot solo after departing the R&B group Shalamar). Next, Burton fell for Annette Bening - and she fell pregnant. And quit. (She also quit The Playboys). “It really kinda blew me away,” admitted Tim, “but she called me first and I appreciated that.” (The Playboys producers did not. They sued).

“We saw every major movie star,” said producer Denise Ni Novi “from 17 through late 40s” - Ellen Barkin, Kim Basinger (from Bat1), Jennifer Beals, Annette Bening, Lorraine Bracco, Cher, Geena Davis, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Demi Moore, Lena Olin, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Meryl Streep(!), Sigourney Weaver, Raquel Welch…and in one of the great Hollywood stories…

 

Michael Keaton witnessed

the Second Coming of Sean Young...

 

She had lost Vickie Vale in the first film after a riding accident.   Determined to take over Catwoman from Bening, Sean crashed a meeting of Keaton and Warner executive Mark Canton. She was looking, said Michael, “not uncatlike” in tight shirt (purple) and tight shorts (black), bizarre hair and eye make-up. She also carried a walkie-talkie. “Mark thought it was a gun. Amazing!”

Her goal, Tim Burton, was out.   (He was, though, in the Plucky Duck cartoon version of it all). Not that it mattered. “I didn’t want to meet Sean Young,” said Burton. “Because I knew Sean Young.”

Michelle Pfeiffer as purrfect… She got $3m ($2m more than offered to Benning) and went through 60 Catsuits during the six month shoot, at $1,000 each.

Michelle had backed off auditioning as Vickie Vale in the first film, unable to face love scenes with Michael Keaton, so soon after their affair had tanked. No such problem for the sequel. She even sacrificed two great roles - in Lorenzo's Oil  and Mr Jones - to cat around. She was right. She was the movie, more so than The Penguin, leading to a Catwoman due from Burton in 1996. And, alas, never made… He had called it: Kitten With A Whip.

The Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot .  “I was their Number One son, and they treated me like Number Two.” Naturally, Burton wanted Marlon Brando. He certainly had enough blubber but was all but impossible to cast in movies. And Warner would not hear of it. Not after the way he had shafted the studio almost 20 years ago in Superman - collecting $14m for a 10-minute turn as El-Jor.

After the Hoffman and Hoskins thoughts, the suits wanted Canadian comic John Candy or Christopher Lloyd, Doc  Brown in Spielberg’s Back To The Future franchise. Lloyd certainly matched writer Tom Mankiewicz's '89 description: “a tall, proper-looking, thin man.” Burton and writer Daniel Waters then turned him into Werner Krauss in 1919’s Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Finally, Danny De Vito was convinced by pal Jack Nicholson into accepting the daily two hours of make-up by tales of the fun Jack had with Burton, critical acclaim for his Joker… and   a shit-load of money.

Kdaton liked the sequel.  “But  I  didn’t love it.  I thought we needed to regroup, to go back to the core.”

As they did. Eventually. Sans Keaton.

 

 

3. BATMAN FOREVER

Joel Schumacher . 1994

 

In the brief moment that Tim Burton considered a third Batmovie, The Riddler was his one and only villain. Everything fell apart when Robin Williams refused to talk about it unless Warner Bros apologised for the way it had used him "as bait" to get Jack Nicholson for the first film. No way, sunshine. Indeed, truth was Warner still wanted Jack back as The Joker in this film!.

However, there was a new kid in town, earning salaries higher than most of Willams' cut-of-the-profits deals. Plus, before long,a new director, a new Batman, a new emphasis on youth. Goodbye Robin - hello, Jim Carrey.  Hello, the other Robin, too!

After  Tim, Burton  quit and John McTiernan was busy with Die Hard With A Vengeance, the studio rejected a typically polite offer from Sam Raimi… future boss of the Spider-Man franchise. Whoops!

Batman/Bruce Wayne . Michael Keaton thought a third Batman was "the coolest idea, it's just so rich with possibilities." He then saw "those possibilities were not going to be explored." Schumacher was a great guy but no Burton... and Keaton did not fancy Joel’s Bat-take, including nipples on the Batsuit and a “hip” earring for Robin.

Keaton turned in his cape - despite a possible $3m for four months’ work. Considering Schumacher’s campy take on the series, it was a good move by Keaton and he went with his head (and ego)  held high... "I’ve proven I’m courageous," he said oh so modestly… "I’m gutsier than anybody. I’ve got a better imagination than anybody. I’m essentially more creative than any other actor I know, and I’ve proven I take risks. I don’t think I need to prove anything to myself any more.” None of which explains how he could make such drek  as Jack Frost, in which he played a dead musician who bonds with his son after being reincarnated as a snowman.

Warner’s first replacement ideas were Tom Hanks (!) or Alec Baldwin (again) as Joel shook the studio by suggesting Daniel Day-Lewis or Ralph Fiennes. Plus William Baldwin, Johnny Depp (in a white mask ?!), Ethan Hawke, Keanu Reeves, Kurt Russell (up for Commissioner Gordon next time), and Mark Wahlberg.

Or, indeed, Val Kilmer…  Schumacher was impresed by him in Tombstone, 1992, playing Doc Holliday   - played on TV’s Colt.45 in 1959  by a certain Adam West!  You think that is worthy of Ripley's Believe It Or No…?   Wait…  

 

Kilmer learned he was the new Batman

… while in a bat cave in Africa

 

He was doing research for another project. He accepted the role without reading the script. He shouldn’t have.It would have avoided numerous on-set clashes with Joel…one leading, reported, Schumacher, to a "shoving match."

At least one director could have warned Joel. Apparently, when Kilmer’slast shot was done on The Island of Dr Moreau, John Frankenheimer yelled: "Cut! Now get that bastard off my set!"

The Riddler .  "Robin Williams couldn't say yes and he couldn'tsay no - for a whole year!" Joel Schumacher told me in Deauville, France. "And if you ask someone to marry you for a year and have them say no - you just may start sleeping with someone else! I still love Robin, oneof the great people.    And he still thought he was doing the film.  He just couldn’t technically say: Yes.

 

“He kept worrying about certain things

- I can’t tell you what they are.

They’re personal to Robin Williams”

 

"This happens to big stars - many times.They're frightened to commit because they've been burnt a lot.You can try to make things better, more comfortable for them but in the long run, people have to squeeze their noses and jump into the water."  Anyway,. Robin did not have a spandex body - or legs.

Also seen: Matthew Broderick (?!). ex-Monkee Mickey Dolenz, Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky), Mark Hamill (aka Luke Sykwalker, of course, and the voice of the tele- Riddler), John Malkovich, Damon Wayans, brother of Marlon, who had won (and lost) Robin. And…Michael Jackson!

Chase Meridan .  Rene Russo was Dr Meridian when Keaton  was still in the Batsuit. She was then deemed too old to be the love toy of Bat Kilmer. Schumacher was a tad late in calling Sandra Bullock - her $600,000 Speed salary was being doubled for While You Were Sleeping. He looked at Cindy Crawford, Linda Hamilton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Robin Wright before settling on Nicole Kidman - and keeping Elle McPherson on ice for his second Bat-flick. (Nicole has  made films with four Batmen: Bale, Clooney, Keaton, Kilmer).

Robin/Dick Grayson . Marlon Wayans was signed - and went through costuming for all of the five minutes that he was due in Bat2. He was promised more screentime in Bat3. Except when Schumacher  took over,he put the role out to hire...

Leonardo DiCaprio tested. So did Michael Worth, body model for Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes re-issue poster and a future director. Joel also saw Matt Damon, Corey Feldman, Corey Haim (the two Coreys were among Schumacher's Lost Boys, 1987), Jude Law, Ewan McGregor (Star Wars), Toby Stephens (the 2002 Bond villain) - and two future X-Men: Alan Cumming, Scott Speedman and Michael Worth - from Our Father, a future director….  and Charlton Heston's body  double on the Planet of the Apes re-issue poster!

Plus Christian Bale, the Brit kid from Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, 1987. Ten years on, he proved Joel's point about a non-US actor (like Day-Lewis or Fiennes) could play Bruce Wayne… by winning the reboot trilogy beginning with  Batman Begins, 2005.

The final choice narrowed down to Chris O'Donnell and DiCaprio. The producers went to a comic book convention and asked 11-year-old boys (the film’s target audience) who would win a fight between the two actors. With his new short haircut, O'Donnell won. For much less than Jim Carrey's $7m.

Harvey Dent/Two-Face . Using Harvey was Joel's notion. Warner rushed back to Mel Gibson, first idea for the 1989 Batman. (Hey, he’d since been The Man Without A Face…aha!).  Again, he had to pass, this time due to Braveheart, his big Oscar-winner of 1995.?

Billy Dee Williams had expected to continue Dent from the first film.There was talk of a clause reserving him the role in any sequels. Joel got his way again. Warner Bros bought the Star Wars star out of his deal and signed (an extravagant) Tommy Lee Jones.

Sugar . Jenny McCarthy v Drew Barrymore. And Drew won. There’s that Spielberg connection again!

Bank Guard was written for TV postman Newman, Wayne Knight (as opposed to Dark Knight) - far too busy Seinfelding. Joe Grifasi took his bank job.

Once Bat3 was all over and in release, Matt Damon admitted: "I'd have taken Robin." He never needed to. Spielberg, Coppola, Minghella, Van Sant and Oscar took to him!

  

 

4. BATMAN & ROBIN

Joel Schumacher . 1996

 

So far, only Michael Gough (Alfred the butler at Wayne Manor) and Pat Hingle (Gotham's Police Commissioner Gordon) had appeared in all three Batmovies. They would not make anymore. The fourth was already… the end of an era.

Although still starring in TV’s ER medical soap, George Clooney gave in to Schumacher and Warners’ entreaties. Reluctantly. (That is spelled: $10m). He would forever apologise to one and all “for ruining the franchise.”Not really his fault, certainly the studio never held it against him.(Or not when he beganhis Danny Ocean franchsie).

No, it was Joel Schumacher who wentway over the top with, as Variety phrased it, “an over reliance on production design, increasingly campy costumes and mind-numbing action and noise.”

Consequently,Bat4 had troublerecouping the $125m budget, never mind any profit. Warners immediately cancelled the next production, Batman Triumphant (!) .It would it take a full decade, and going back to the start of the story - darker than Burton or Schumacher - before any Bat5 opened.

Batman/Bruce Wayne .  Val Kilmer is the George Lazenby of Batmen…He was to continue being cowled but…and the subtext here is: When offered a second Batmovie, after your first grossed $180m, you don't try to rule a real power trip    stinker like The Saint instead. (“We really screwed that up, didn’t we?”he later toldthe TV Saint, Roger Moore.  We?).

Suddenly, Kilmer was batshit. Buzz magazine named him among the 12 scariest people in Hollywood. Allegations included him telling The Saint crew to avoid eye contact with him… and when playing Jim Morrison in The Doors, having everyone call him Jim,

Even Schumacher, his one-time Batsupporter (and, apparently, one time was enough), was now calling him ‘the most psychologically disturbed human being I've ever worked with.”

Screenwriter Kevin Jarre added:

 

“There’s a dark side to Val Kilmer

that I don’t feel comfortable talking about.

 

Darker, certainly, than David Duchovny - or the ever-charming George Clooney. He became Joel’s choice after his newest film hit the #1 spotand Schumnacher “started drawing Batmasks on George’s head in a newspaper ad for From Dusk Till Dawn.”

George always blamed himself for the collapse of the franchise - and as his star rose as an actor, producer, director, and Oscar-winner, he still kept a photograph of BatClooney on his office wall as a constant reminder of the error of making movies solely for big bucks.

Clooney was lucky.  He was loved.  His  Robin was not . The film career of Chris O'Donnell  never recovered from the Gotham experience. Series, like Grey’s Anatomy and NCIS: Los Angeles,  provided some respite but movie offers became sparse and far from top billing.

Mr. Freeze/Dr. Victor Fries .  Rumour mills had Anthony Hopkins (yes) and Patrick Stewart  (no) up for Dr F.  Or why not Ed Harris? Joel decided that Freeze must be "big and strong like he was chiseled out of a glacier." Sly! Yes but Stallone wanted too much - $20m. OK, then Arnold! And if he declined, OK, then…Hulk Hogan???!! Fortunately (?), Schwarzenegger agreed.

Poison Ivy/Dr. Pamela Isley .  Joel immediately thought of  three of his favourites: Nicole Kidmsan (Bat3’s Dr Meridan Chase),, Demi Moore and Julia Roberts, Then, Sharon Stone. Before he sent for Uma Thurman.

Batgirl/Barbara Wilson .  Olivia d’Abo tried hard. Christiana Ricci tried harder.  “I’d love to have played Batgirl [Alicia Silverstone] because then I could kick the shit out of people. But I’d also havehad to say ‘Fuck you!’ - and I'm not saying some of these lines.”

Commissioner James Gordon .   Pat Hingle had been Gotham’s top cop since Batman. His fourth outing was in jeopardy for a moment or two. He had hit 72, well beyond the retirement age for police commissioners. And of all people, Kurt Russell - nearly the caped crusader in Batman Forever - was suggested as the new Gordon.  Finally, Schumcher kept the faith and Hingle stood firm alongside the Batsignal…in his 179th (of 198) screen roles.

“I don't regret anything,” George Clooney declared in 2008. “With hindsight it's easy to look back at Batman & Robin and go: Woah! That was really shit, and I was really bad in it. The truth is, Batman is still the biggest break I’ve had. It changed my career. I wouldn't be doing this now if it hadn't been for Batman.”

Chris O’Donnell had the last word. “When I made Batman Forever I felt like I was making a movie. When I made Batman & Robin, I felt like I was making a toy commercial.”

 

**********

Interval

THE BATMOVIE THAT NEVER WAS

When Batman & Robin did not make tons of money - all plans for a fifth film in the franchise, a third from Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair, were tossed into the shredder. Instead of doing the right, corporate thing - shopping around for another director, another writer, another take. Warner Bros simply cut its losses and ran. Until doing exactly that in 2004.

The intended title, unfortunately, had been Batman Triumphant with Clooney and Nicholson reprising Batman and The Joker. Plus Jeff Goldblum (a potental Batman in 1988) or Ewan McGregpr (nearly Robin in 1994) as Scarecrow/Dr Jonahan Crane and Christopher Lloyd (up for 1991’s Penguin) as Man-Bat/Dr Kirk Langstrom. The number of doctors in this franchise were out-numbered only by all those SpIelberg connections.

 

 **********

 

5. BATMAN BEGINS

Christopher Nolan . 2004

Waiting for the financial dust to settle after Batman & Robin (a disaster except forDVD sales),Warner was impatient to re-oil the Gothammoney machine.  The main idea was running back to safety: Tim Burton directing Jack Nicholson as The Joker again. As if any studio could afford them.

During 1997-1999, titles came and went: Batman 5, Batman: The Frightening, Batman: Intimidation. After Se7en and Fight Club, David Fincher became top dog.George Clooney (you see, Bat4 was not his fault), Kurt Russell, John Travolta (!) were potential Batmen. Even the studio’s deity...  "I told them," said Darren Aronofsky, "that I’d cast Clint  Eastwood as the Dark Knight and shoot it in Tokyo - that got their attention.” Except,  he never really wanted to make a Batman at all.  Just get an in at Warner Bros  for his own planned biggie, The Fountain. Neither one flew. 

Villain of the piece would be either The Scarecrow or The Joker. Chris O’Donnell was keen to remain Robin, just as long as Schumacher directed - hardly likely after the last mess, even if he could rope in Julia Roberts as Batgirl.

German director Wolfgang Petersen suggested Batman vs Superman – with Christian Bale,  Colin Farrell  or James Franco  for Batman, Josh Hartnett  ot Jude Law as Supie.  But then, Petersen quit for Troy. “I hope it will still happen one day… because they are so different. The dark Batman and the sort of goody-goody Superman.”

After the rubbish known as The Matrix, 1999,  the Wachowski siblings (then Larry and Andy, now  Lana and Lilly) were asked to take over.  Well, yeah, they’d scripted Frank Miller's graphic novel, Batman: Year One, but were far too occupied matrixing sequels to actually make it.   Enter:  Aronofsky, with Frank Miller’s own script.  When they quit… Hello: Christopher Nolan! 

Of whom no higher authority than Al Pacino had declared after making Insomnia with him in 2002: “He is to the manner born. It’s wonderful to come into contact with someone doing what he’s meant to do.  He’s in the game.  It comes out of him with ease and naturalism… I’d say he’d eventually be in the catergory with the Michael Manns and Soderberghs of the world.”

The Warner Brothers Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov - mercurial in every which way - first met Nolan after the release of Memento in 2001,when the Londoner was none too happy at the prospect ofhelming Troy. The boss’ questionwas obvious: Whaddyer really wanna do? They all say that, the suits. Robinov alone, it seemed, actually  listened to the answer and   usually made their things happen. (Ask Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Baz Luhrmann, Todd Phillips

Well, said Nolan, since you mention it, I’ve always been interested in Batman.

What you say? Lights, action, fireworks...!! This was music to Robinov’s ear althoiugh the studio had not been thinking that hard of revamping ole Batty as Superman was the more economically urgent, Nolan explained his version - “pain” - and studio chief Alan Horn flicked the greenlight…and Batman Begins began.

“Chris came in,” recalled Robinov, “and said: Look, this is what I want to do in the movie. This is what I want to do with it visually. This is where I think the character needs to go. I think it's going to be different than any superhero movie anybody's seen before. And what I really want to do is take that genre and embrace it as a real film genre.”

Immediately, the Internet was full of tales that it was a done deal. Obviously, Chris Nolan’s Batguy would be the star of his impeccable Memento in 2000: the since much wasted Australian actor Guy Pearce. “Just a rumour,” said Pearce. “Even after the film came out, people were like: How come you turned down Batman? I didn’t. Chris and I never had one conversation about it.”

OK, if not Guy…who?

Batman/Bruce Wayne .  Josh Hartnett told Playboy magazine how he regretted refusing Batman and how it had been detrimental to his career. “I’ve definitely said no to some of the wrong people. I said no because I was tired and wanted to spend more time with my friends and family. That’s frowned upon in this industry. People don’t like being told no. I don’t like it. I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in The Prestige. They not only hired their Batman for it, they also hired my girlfriend [Scarlett Johansson] at the time. That’s when I realised relationships were formed in the fire of that first Batman… and I should’ve been part of the relationship with this guy Nolan - incredibly cool and very talented. I was so focused on not being pigeonholed… I should have thought, ‘Well, then, work harder, man,’ Watching Christian Bale go on to do so many other things has been just awesome. I mean, he’s been able to overcome that. Why couldn’t I see that at the time?”

Once Josh Hartnett passed, It came down to … Eion Bailey (TV’s Band of Brothers who went on to ER), Christian Bale (up for Robin in ’95), David Boreanaz,  Billy Crudup, Hugh Dancy (an in-Brit since Black Hawk Down), Jake Gyllenhaal,  Joshua Jackson (from TV’s Dawson’s Creek, another  Bailey series), Demi Moore’s toy boy Ashton Kutcher, Heath Ledger (posthumously Oscared for his Joker in the next chapter, The Dark Knight).

Cillian Murphy   “absurdly,”   tried out for Batman - actually testing in  the Batsuit.  “I think it was Val Kilmer’s. Nolan said: You’re not quite right.   “And I was , like, I know I’m not.  Then, he offered me the other part.  The Scarecrow.

Keanu Reeves was kicked out of the park. "I always wanted to play The Dark Knight," he said in 2014. "But I didn't get that one. They've had some great Batmans. So now I'm just enjoying them as an audience." 

 Another Bat-Brit prospect was the close to terminally unlucky Henry Cavill - also losing the  new Superman and James Bond. “I may have been spoken about in a room at some stage," he admitted, "but never auditioned or screen-tested.”  (He became Superman, Man of Steel, in 2011). 

“The testing process on this kind of character,” said Nolan, “it’s not about acting ability or chemistry or any of those things. It’s about being able to project this extraordinary iconography from the inside. Christian [Bale] somehow figured this out before the screentest - that you could not give an ordinary performance, you could not give a normal performance. You had to project massive energy through this costume in order to not question the costume.

“It’s about feeling and a voice, and I think Christian'’ voice was a big part of the impression he made in the test. He had decided that Batman needed to have a different voice to Bruce Wayne - that he needed to put on a voice. That supported the visual appearance of the character and explained why people don't recognise him from his voice. It was pretty logically thought out.”

The Brit was announced “the best person to play Batman”on September 10, 2003. “What I see in Christian is the ultimate embodiment of Bruce Wayne,”  said  Jeff Robinov.

 

“He has the balance of darkness and light

that we were looking for.

 

And he was young enough to hang  a series on. At 30, he was the youngest Bruce Wayne… the name affixed to his trailer’s door!

The Scarecrow/Dr. Jonathan Crane .  Before Nolan took over, the studio had been looking atGene Hackman, Jeff Goldblum, Samuel J Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Skeet Ulrich… even shock-jock Howard Stern! Nolan added Jeremy Davies (obviously Nolan saw in him what we all discovered in his later Justified TV role), Christopher Eccelston (a future ninth Doctor Who)  and US rocker Marilyn Manson. Finally, Nolan was so impressed by Cillian Murphy’s test as Batman, himself, that he kept the Irishman from Cork for the villlain.

Thomas Wayne . Gary Oldman (who became Jim Gordon) and Dennis Quaid passed and (another) Irishman. Linus Roache, became the gunned-down father of Bruce Wayne - the seventh richest character in fiction, according to the 2006 Forbes Fictional Fifteen: net worth, $6.8bn.

Henri Ducard .  Daniel Day-Lewis, Viggo Mortsensen and Guy Pearce declined the character first created by Sam Hamm in the 1989 Batscript. Then, Nolan seemed to play the cliche  game by making Liam Neeson into   Bruce Wayne’s mentor  after a run of such figures in Stars Wars, Gangs of New York, Kinsey, Kingdom of Heaven.  Except Ducard turned out to be a villain: co-leader of the dastardly League of Shadows ninja army - We burned London to the ground.

Alfred Pennyworth .  Anthony Hopkins (up for Mr Freeze in Bat4) was offered the butler (he’d already been one in The Remains of the Day, 1993). Michael Caine based his Alfred on a army colonel he knew from his British Army days.

Jim Gordon . Chris Cooper, Dennis Quaid and Kurt Russell (a possible Batman ten years before) were turned down in favour of Gary finally playing an Oldman

Lucius Fox . Laurence Fishburne was seen but then - obviously - Morgan Freeman was invited aboard.

Flass . Joe Pantoliano was in the mix., but Nolan knew Mark Boone Junior better - part of Nolan’s Memento team with Guy Pearce.

Ra’s al Ghul .   Nolan actually wanted Gary Oldman  as the Asian  leader of League of Shadows. No that was one too many villains for Oldman. He much preferred the more heroic cop, James Gordon.  Nolan then turned to the Japanese actor Ken Wantabe  who worked  again with Nolan on Inception,  2009.

Rachel Dawes .  Amy Adams tested - in what was Bale’s test. . Also seen: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rachel McAdams, But Mrs Cruise (Katie Holmes) won - then fell out of the next one, The Dark Knight, being substituted by Maggio Gyllenhaal.

Before shooting, Christopher Nolan invited his crew to see Blade Runner, 1982. "This is how we're going to make Batman."?

And save a series.

"We never had a plan for any sequels,” said Nolan. “We never had a specific trajectory, I wanted to put everything into making one great film, I didn’t want to hold anything back.”

And he didn’t.  “This,” applauded Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “is, at last,  the Batman movie I’ve been waiting for… darker and more grown-up than the cheerful Superman. He has secrets.

 

 

6. THE DARK KNIGHT

 Christopher Nolan . 2007

The imprint continues…

Christopher Nolan once again puts emphasis on story (his story, his script) and character and less on CGI action. Likewise, Christian Bale continues to his reign - in the first Batmovie minus Batman in its title.

After the Pain of his first Batfilm, Nolan said the new theme was… Fear

“I never thought we’d do a second - how many good sequels are there? Why roll those dice? But once I knew where it would take Bruce, and when I started to see glimpses of the antagonist, it became essential.” 

The Joker .   Adrien Brody and Johnny Depp were among the candidates-whether they knew it or not.. Plus Paul Bettany, theAustralian Lachy Hulme (The Matrix Reloaded) and Robin Williams (up for a third Bat-time) were trying to succeed Nicholson before the role went down-under. But why Heath Ledger as The Joker...?

“Because he’s fearless,” said Nolan.

And dead, at 28, before the premiere.

Actually, Ledger agreed to the movie - or so he told pals - because hispay-or-play deal gave himfreedom to do what he wanted, no matter how crazy- and, anyway, if he went too far and got sacked, he could then have a paid vacation with his daughter, Matilda - born October 28, 2005.

Harvey Dent   is the DA joining Batman and Jim Gordon’s battle to rid Gotham of The Joker and various criminal organisations. Matt Damon was  Nolan's  first choice… except Clint Eastwood was calling Matt to had up Invictus with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. As Matt was also being courted for Avatar, he could have wound up in two of the highest-grossing movies of all time. 

Nolan looked at Hugh Jackman (aka Marvel’s Wolverine!), Josh Lucas, Ryan Phillippe and Liev Schreiber - and chose Edward Norton. He then quit Gotham, to be Bruce Banner to try and rescue The Incredible Hulk franchise (didn’t work) and Aaron Eckhart became Dent.

Rachel Dawes . Having become Mrs Tom Cruise since the new Batman franchise, Katie Holmes was now rich enough to turn down nearly $2m to continue playing Rachel Dawes - the character that had been created for her (and no one else) in Batman Begins.

“You’d have to ask her the exact specifics of it,” said director Christopher Nolan. “I would have been happy to have her back. And indeed, I offered her the part. But she couldn’t do it.” (She preferred Mad Money with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah - no, I’ve never heard of it, either). Not an ideal situation, said Nolan. “This character is an integral part of the story. So Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped in and she was great.”  Rachel; McAdams and Emily Blunt were rumored for the part. Maggie's brother Jake had been among the  eight actors vying for the cape and cowl in Bat5

Salvatore Moroni . Eric Roberts d he had to earn it... “That was a weird experience. James Gandolfini wanted the part. So, they were holding auditions, but they probably were going to go with him. I went in and auditioned and I didn’t hear anything for two months. And then I heard: ‘Hey, you got the part!’ I thought it was long gone. It was a shocking and wonderful experience to watch them burn $200m.”

Dwight Yoakam turned down two roles due to recording schedules. His cop went to Ron Dean and his banker to William Fitchner.

The movie set a new record for the biggest opening-day gross with $66.4m, the biggest three-day opening weekend of all time with $158, the fastest $200m after only five days, a $300m after ten and $400m in 18 days - smashing box-office records of Spider-Man 3, 2007, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, 2006, and Shrek 2, 2004 (which took 43 days to reach $400m). Made more money than the entire domestic run of Batman Begins (2005) in just six days.

 

“The Batman has to come back.” “What if he doesn't exist any more?”

6. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Christopher Nolan . 2011

After the Pain and Fear of his first two Batfilm, Nolan said the final theme was… Chaos

“People ask if we’d always planned a trilogy. This is like being asked whether you had planned on growing up, getting married, having kids. The answer is complicated... “ This is Nolan’s foreword to the book, The Art And Making Of The Dark Knight Rises.

“I never thought we’d do a third - are there any great second sequels? But I kept wondering about the end of Bruce’s journey, and once David and I discovered it, I had to see it for myself. Gotham was rotting away at its foundations. A new evil bubbling up from beneath. Bruce had thought Batman was not needed anymore, but Bruce was wrong, just as I had been wrong. The Batman had to come back. I suppose he always will.”

Where casting was concerned, Nolan didn’t need to really look any further than the cast of his science fiction hit, Inception: Michael Caine (back as Alfred), Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy (the baddest villain), Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cillian Murphy (reprising his Scarecrow).

Plus a few outsiders…

Selina Kaye/Catwoman .  Wanted: A successor to Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, not to mention Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar from the TV show… even if she is never referred to by her alias, just The Cat in one newspaper headline. Candidates testing (with Christian Bale) or talking (with Nolan) were: Gemma Arterton (who split to share the lead of lead of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), Jessica Biel, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively (not a good idea as she was already Green Lantern’s love interest, even though that film was not headed to any franchise; or not this time), Kate Mara (sister of Rooney, who had beaten Hathaway to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Natalie Portman (already Thor’s main squeeze) and Charlotte Reilly (quite a Hathaway lookalike) - engaged to her Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights, TV, 2009, acertain Tom Hardy!

And the winner was Anne Hathaway (channeling, so she said, Hedy Lamarr). Anne who had been tapped by Sam Raimi for Felicia Hardy (aka Black Cat) in the fourth Spider-Man which, in the end, neither Sam, Anne or ole Spidey himself, Tobey Maguire, ever made as the franchise was rebooted.

Miranda  Tate . Will you welcome, please…Eva Green (testing for everything!) and all the Ws…. Naomi Watts (away in Thailand making The Impossible tsunami disaster drama with Ewan McGregor), Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet.Nolan knew who he wanted and delayed her scenes so that the French Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard started filming just twomonths after she giving birth to herand Guillaume Canet’s son, Marcel.

John Blake . Topping the list wasNolan’s Inception star,Leonardo Di Caprio - far busier than he was in the days when he was up for Robin in Batman Forever. Next?followed by…Ryan Gosling, James Holzier, Mark Ruffalo were rung up the Batpole - and Joseph Gordon-Levitt left them there!

Jen . Before the role went to Juno Temple, the mainchoices were the new generation of heroines… suddenly occupied with their own franchises: Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games and the Kick Ass Hit-Girl, Chloe Grace Moretz.

Bane . There was little doubt that the often fearsome Tom Hardy would be Bane, the quite dreadfully fearsome villain, abnormally strong after being pumped full of drugs. First created 1993, the masked Bane is known as The Man Who Broke The Bat after he busting Batman's spinal cord and making him a paraplegic in one comicbook story. He is more modern-day terrorist than the cartoon baddy portrayed by Michael Reid MacKay and (after the transforming drugs) wrester Jeep Swanson in Batman & Robin, and the Bane voiced by Hector Elizondo and Carlos Alazraqui in two DC animation videos

“With Bane, we are looking to give Batman a physical challenge that he hasn’t had before,” explained Nolan. “What Bane represents in the comics is the ultimate physical villain - we’re testing Batman both physically as well as mentally. Also, in terms of finishing our story and increasing its scope, we were trying to craft an epic, so the physicality of the film became very important. Bane’s a great sort of movie monster, but with an incredible brain, and that was a side of him that hadn’t been tapped before.”

“He’s brutal, brutal,” Hardy told Empire magazine. “He’s expedient delivery of brutality. And you know, he’s a big dude… who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and orientated fighting style. Quicker. Quicker. He’s hit you, he’s already hit somebody else. It’s not about fighting. It’s just about carnage... A really horrible piece of work.”

All upon three-inch heels to make Hardy taller when facing up to Christian Bale. How was that? “He looks really intimidating! There’s a three-year-old in me that’s going: ‘Oh my God that’s Batman! That’s Batman and he’s going to hit me! But I love Batman!’ Then I hit him back. Twice as hard.”

The film was the best of Nolan's trio said the Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. Likewise, it was Bale’s best performance as the recluse, beaten by his encounter with The Joker (in The Dark Knight) and doubtful of his ability to protect Gotham after eight years of self-imposed exile. "He gives the character such an inescapable melancholy – a certain perseverance in the face of absolute resignation to his fate – that he becomes a more tragic figure than ever," said Todd Gilchrist at Indiwewire. .

"If it never quite matches the brilliance of 2008's The Dark Knight,” commented Justin Chang at Variety, “this hugely ambitious action-drama nonetheless retains the moral urgency and serious-minded pulp instincts that have made the Warners franchise a beacon of integrity in an increasingly comicbook-driven Hollywood universe.” The trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look “thoroughly silly and childish,"’ad McCarthy. Taking a swipe at Marvel’s The Avengers. “The final shot clearly indicates the direction a follow-up offshoot series by Warner Brothers will likely take.”

Except Nolan will not be taking that step. He’s done. .

“My time in Gotham, looking after one of the greatest and most enduring figures in pop culture, has been the most challenging and rewarding experience a filmmaker could hope for. I will miss the Batman. I like to think that he’ll miss me, but he’s never been particularly sentimental. Batman will outlive us all, and our interpretation was ours. Obviously, we consider it definitive and kind of finished. The great thing about Batman is he lives on for future generations to reinterpret, and obviously, Warners will have to decide in the future what they're going to do with him… This is the end of our take on this character.”

 

 





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