A long-standing Batman rumour has been put to bed. Steve Buscemi, an actor who’s been in some of the best movies of all time, has denied that he was ever approached to play a villain in a DCEU sequel.
The information, as it stands, is that Warner Bros was planning a followup to 1997’s Batman and Robin called Batman Unchained. The Scarecrow was going to be one of the baddies, and Buscemi was among candidates for the part. Joel Schumacher was returning to direct, and he’d offered the role to Nicolas Cage, with Mark Protosevich writing the screenplay. Internet legend has it that Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum were in contention should Cage decline or circumstances change.
Kevin Smith recently opened a Q’n’A with Buscemi by asking whether he was ever in talks to join the DC cinematic universe. “I can’t lie, they never talked to me,” Buscemi replies. “Maybe they thought about me, but I don’t remember.” They go on to have a brief chat about The Big Lebowski star’s one comic book-related credit, in 2000s movie Ghost World, where Buscemi featured alongside a young Scarlett Johansson, of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame.
Finding the root of the Buscemi association is not easy. It’s listed on several wiki entries and such about Batman Unchained, but without any link back to a readily available report or source. Neither Protosevich nor Schumacher mentioned it when talking to The Hollywood Reporter about the project back in 2016. Their comments mostly centre on how quickly everything was changed in the face of heavy backlash.
“I remember I never heard from the executive at Warner Bros. I called many times, never got any kind of response,” Protosevich says. “This got into a period of weeks and then a month, and my agent pestering Warners. And the next thing I knew, they were pulling the plug on the whole project. They were going to wait and see what they were going to do with Batman. The Joel Schumacher-driven Batman train was taken off the rails.”
Batman Unchained would have featured Scarecrow and Harley Quinn as the antagonists, and one sequence with Scarecrow’s fear toxin was intended to have cameos from Jim Carrey’s Riddler, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, Tommy Lee-Jones’s Two-Face, and Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Nowadays such appearances are dime-a-dozen, but in the mid-’90s this would’ve been one of the most expensive movies ever made.
Being Buscemi: An Eve With Steve was organised to raise money for Friends of Firefighters, a non-profit set up to support firefighters in New York City after 9/11. You can donate to the fundraiser here.