Darren Aronofsky Says Warner Bros. Didn’t Get His Vision For Batman: Year One

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Joaquin Phoenix has always resisted the overtures of big budget blockbusters, so it came as something of a surprise initially when the news first broke that he’d signed on to headline Joker. Of course, the decision made a lot more sense when it was revealed that this would be grim, R-rated standalone psychological thriller. The beloved performer basically swept the board when it came to Best Actor gongs during awards season as well, but it turns out that if Darren Aronofsky had gotten his way over a decade earlier then Phoenix might have ended up playing Batman instead.

There have been plenty of failed attempts at making a Dark Knight movie, but Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One remains one of the most famous. The filmmaker sought to actively undo the damage that Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin had caused to the franchise, and wanted to reinvent the Dark Knight in a more mature, adult-orientated superhero flick that would be made for a fraction of the budget that Warner Bros. were used to shelling out.

Ultimately, the studio got cold feet and abandoned the project in favor of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, but in a recent interview, Aronofsky admitted that he seemed destined to be at odds with the studio if Year One ever got the official go-ahead, right down to the casting of the Caped Crusader himself.

“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr., and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix. 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. The Batman that was out before me was Batman & Robin, the famous one with the nipples on the Batsuit, so I was really trying to undermine that, and reinvent it. That’s where my head went.”

You can tell from his comments that there were going to be a lot of major creative differences between himself and the studio, which is one of the major reasons why Batman: Year One fell apart. Besides, a leaked version of Aronofsky’s script drew some pretty negative reactions from fans due to some significant changes from the source material, and things worked out pretty well in the end for the hero anyways with Christopher Nolan at the helm.

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