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12 Shocking Batman Movie Plans That Almost Happened

If the theory of multiverse holds any water, there are other worlds out there in which Tim Curry played the Joker, where George Miller’s Justice League Mortal wasn’t killed by weird Australian laws and where Tim Burton made Batman Forever and nobody hates Joel Schumacher. Possibly.

Over the years, there have been a massive number of cancelled plans for Batman movies. Seemingly hundreds of actors were almost cast as the Caped Crusader himself or as members of his entourage or his rogues’ gallery. More than 20 movie projects were in production in some form. Countless scenes that were planned and cut at some point. Basically, Batman movie history could have been very different.

Now, some of those changes might have improved Batman for us all, but some were definitely better left unrealised. They were just too strange to exist in this world or any other, and they prove, without question, that sometimes it pays to have a filter between the brains of executives, writers, directors and the screen.

And if you think Jared Leto’s Juggalo pimp Joker was weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet…

12. Batman’s Vagina Car

Warner Bros.,

Though Tim Burton’s Batmobile was a thing of beauty, it was decided on early that Batman Forever would feature a new vehicle for the Caped Crusader, and with Joel Schumacher initially looking to darker material, the director turned to an unconventional source for the design.

In his idiosyncratic “wisdom”, he turned to HR Giger – the mind behind Alien’s Xenomorph of course – because nothing sells toys to kids like biomechanical nightmares, apparently. Unfortunately, what Giger designed was way too Giger and looked suspiciously like giant mutant genitals. Obviously.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros, somewhat inevitably, decided it was a little “out there” for their tastes and went with a different design that didn’t look like an angry, painful vagina on wheels.

11. Marlon Wayans As Robin

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For Batman 1989 and even before it, there had been some talk of Robin being included, but ultimately, the idea was scrapped with the plan to revisit the character in Batman Returns.

At that stage, Burton and Warner Bros turned to Marlon Wayans of all people, fundamentally missing the fact that he wasn’t a particularly good actor (though to be fair, he was a fair distance away from making the A Haunted House movies).

This Robin was to be a mechanic – a new backstory written when Wayans came on board – and for a while, it looked like it was going to happen. Inevitable pointless race-changing controversy aside, messing with the backstory and hiring someone who turned out to be as divisive as Wayans would have been a mistake.

He got to the costume-fitting stage but ultimately another script change came along and cut him out with writer Danel Waters calling him “the most worthless character in the world, especially with the loner of loners.” Which might well have been for the best.

10. Batman Vs Godzilla

ABC

While Batman’s faced some pretty odd foes in his cinematic history, he’s never faced anything as weird as he would have if Toho and Greenway Productions had got their way. Because back in the 1960s, the campy Batman TV show makers and Godzilla’s film rights owners wanted the two to meet on screen.

They got as far as planning a collaboration which would have seen Batman and Godzilla fight in a 1966 release that would have also included Batgirl and Robin. Godzilla would have been under the control of Klaus Finster, an evil meteorologist intent on destroying Japan over a ransom of 20 million dollars.

The plan would have seen the heroes lure Godzilla out with a mating call and then shooting him into space in a rocket, because none of this would have been understated. Be thankful it never came off.

9. Hulk Hogan As Mr Freeze

Warner Bros/WC

Obviously, in hindsight, the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze in Batman & Robin was not the best decision in Joel Schumacher’s tenure over the franchise. It didn’t help that he was given terrible material to work with, but his limited acting range made selling the emotional undercurrent of the character unlikely at best.

Just think for a moment how that would have gone if Schumacher’s alternative choice for the character had come off. Because if Schwarzengger had passed, Schumacher had lined up either Sylvester Stallone (which would have gone similarly to Arnie) or – more worryingly – Hulk Hogan.

Schumacher clearly had a very clear idea of what he wanted from his villain, but it’s horrifying to think of Hogan in that role. It was already a mockery with Arnie – with Hogan, it would have been another level of bad entirely.

8. Tom Mankiewicz’s Batman Draft

DC Comics

Before Burton’s Batman in 1989 was developed, there was a script from Tom Mankiewicz, which has taken on near mythical status, mostly because of how bat-sh*t mental it was. The 1983 treatment was nothing like the final film, and that’s very much a good thing.

Mankiewicz’s script had both the Penguin and Joker involved as villains (though Penguin was weirdly referred to as “Mr. Boniface”), Robin was in and Silver St. Cloud was the love interest in place of Vicki Vale.

But somewhat problematically, the film had a serious identity issue: it didn’t know whether to be a comedy or something much darker, so all of the more consciously grim moments ended up being smushed together with sillier elements.

So the Flying Graysons’ death was in there, but it involved them being attacked by a falcon, the Joker chases Batman using a toy helicopter attached to his butt, and Batman finally kills Rupert Thorne by knocking him into a giant pencil sharpener in a recreation of classic 1958 comic story “The Million Dollar Clues”. It was a little… odd, to say the least.

7. Adam West’s Batman Pitch

Warner Bros

Back when Batman ’89 was coming out, Adam West was disgruntled that he’d been cast aside entirely (despite Tim Burton apparently wanting him to play Thomas Wayne) and called the film out as “Robocop in Gotham City”.

He also revealed that he tried to get his own Batman movie made, which would have been one of the most insane movies of all time:

“Bruce Wayne had basically retired to his ranch in New Mexico after having cleaned up Gotham City. Most of the main villains were in madhouses or penitentiaries. So I invented a new supervillain called Sun Yat Mars, who was so heinous he inspired to spring them on one horrible stormy night, making them his minions – Marsies. Moreover he was kidnapping college kids from all over the world, taking them to his Zombie Satellite, which was very Alien looking, and there they marched like Dacua, filing in long lines into these terrible machines that sucked their brains out.

On top of that, the film would take in alien invasion, moonlit romantic horse-rides and Robin as “a singing medical intern “chasing nurses around with his guitar [like] the Bruce Springsteen of Mercy Hospital.” It’s basically like he was trying to prove how little he should have been allowed to make a Batman film.

6. Bill Murray As Batman

Warner Bros.

In the days before Batman ’89 came out, there was still some disagreement about whether a film adaptation ought to be a comedy or something closer to the darkness of the comics. For a while there, a comedy was winning, as Bill Murray was almost cast to play Bruce Wayne.

This was when Ivan Reitman was set to direct and was apparently looking at the camp and tongue-in-cheek tone of Adam West’s Batman. He also, apparently, wanted Eddie Murphy to play his Robin, because apparently 1980s Robin would have been very different to Chris O’Donnell’s Robin.

Obviously, Warner Bros did cast a comedian, but Michael Keaton is dark and edgy enough to carry to role, while Murray would have made him far less a straight character. It’d be like casting Jack Black as Green Lantern…

5. The Batman Musical

Warner Bros.

Adam West had lots of plans that thankfully didn’t come off for Batman, because some of them were rather unhinged at best.

In the wake of his TV show’s cancellation, West worked the convention circuit hard but he never quite gave up on the idea of playing Batman on screen again. But then, when Burton’s movie went into production, he realised his chances were slim, so he changed his approach, resulting in a pitch of quite beautiful weirdness:

“At another point I went to DC Comics and tried to sell them on the idea of a big Broadway play called A Night In Wayne Manor, which could’ve been a musical. But by then no one would touch Batman. The movie was in the works.”

Yeah, that’s not why they wouldn’t touch your Batman musical, Mr West.

4. “I’m Batman, Motherf*cker!”

Warner Bros.

In the grand history of opening lines by heroic characters, Michael Keaton’s “I’m Batman” has to rank up there pretty bloody high. It was a stunning and simple way to introduce the character and to cement his mythology immediately.

But it could have been different in two very different ways. One early draft had Batman instead say “I AM the night,” but that was dropped as it took more dialogue to set up than fit the scene.

Even more shockingly, the “I’m Batman” line was originally supposed to be “I’m Batman, motherf*cker,” which is far more Samuel L Jackson than Bruce Wayne.

3. Joel Schumacher’s Darker Plans

Warner Bros. Pictures

While Joel Schumacher is largely blamed for turning Batman into a circus act in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, he was working under paymasters who wanted to suppress all darkness and make movies that appealed more to the lucrative family market.

That much is even more clear in hindsight, as Schumacher has revealed that he actually wanted to make much darker Batman movies. He wanted to make Year One, a version of The Dark Knight Returns and DarKnight (starring Man-Bat), all of which would have been significantly darker and more grown-up than what was made.

The shock here is that Schumacher had such dark plans and that he thought he could pull them off. After all, while he might have faced studio pressure, he was still responsible for some of the worst decisions in any Batman movies ever.

He’s also talked about his desire to make an Arkham Asylum movie, but it remains to be seen whether he’s just trying to appease fans who still blame him for everything that went wrong.

2. Batman In Space

DC Comics

Somewhat unthinkably, after the Adam West TV show, the idea of Batman as a film or TV property wasn’t considered viable for quite some time, to the point where it looked like a movie would be impossible. But thanks to Michael Uslan’s persistence in his endeavour to make the definitive, dark version of Batman in the vein of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s spirit, it came off.

But not without stumbling blocks. When he first approached Sol Harrison, the president of DC at the time, to diuscuss the possibility he was told that “no-one is interested in Batman.”

Well, not quite no-one, as it happens. At that point, the only interest was from CBS who had pitched a Batman In Outer Space movie at some point in the late 70s. Why the hell anyone thought that was a good idea is anyone’s guess…

1. Darren Aronofsky’s Year One

WC

Despite decades of weirdness and near-misses, there is nothing in the Batman What If pile as weird or stupid as Darren Aronofsky’s pitch for Year One. It just defies logic.

As one of the seemingly many directors and writers charged with making Batman a viable option again after Batman & Robin, Aronofsky decided that different was the right way to go. So he ripped up everything that we knew about Batman – and indeed the comic book he was apparently adapting – and came up with something utterly bonkers.

Based on a script by Frank Miller, the film would have followed the orphaned and newly impoverished Bruce Wayne on the streets of Gotham (a little like Oliver Twist) by Big Al (this universe’s Alfred) who ran an autoshop with his son, Little Al. From there, the script took leads from Taxi Driver as Wayne grew to develop a hatred of Gotham’s criminal culture until he’s compelled to start fighting it as Batman.

Jim Gordon was going to be a hard-nosed cop, Selina Kyle was going to be a prostitute and the film would have been disastrous.

 

 

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