In 2019, Joaquin Phoenix stunned critics and DCU fans alike with his portrayal of the iconic Batman villain, the Joker. However, before he gained award recognition as Gotham’s clown prince of crime, it turns out that Phoenix was eyed to be in another DC movie.
According to Empire, Phoenix was director Darren Aronofsky’s first choice as the titular hero in his never made Batman movie. Warner Bros originally reached out to Aronofsky to helm a Bruce Wayne superhero movie – however, ultimately, the collaboration didn’t work out as the filmmaker and studio had two very different visions for the caped crusader.
“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr, and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix,” he recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Uh oh, we’re making two different films here.’ That’s a true story. It was a different time. The Batman I wrote was definitely a way different type of take than they ended up making.”
Ultimately, Christopher Nolan got the Batman gig instead. And while the 2000s movie Batman Begins is dark – borrowing elements from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic – it still isn’t as heavy as Aronofsky’s script.
The film was reportedly influenced by classic drama movies Death Wish, The French Connection and Taxi Driver. And, even had Miller signed onto scripting duties.
“The Batman that was out before me was Batman and Robin, the famous one with the nipples on the Batsuit, so I was really trying to undermine that, and reinvent it,” the director explains. “That’s where my head went.”
Hearing that Phoenix almost played Batman instead of the Joker is mindboggling, as the actor truly thrived as the movie villain. So, really we believe that things worked out for the best, as the star found the perfect DC role at the end of the day.
Fans can look forward to Phoenix’s Gotham return with the new movie Joker 2 – which is currently in production. For more film picks, here are our lists of the best movies of all time, and all the Batman actors ranked.