Many directors and actors have had their sights set on Batman in the past, including Darren Aronofsky, director of mother!, whose take on the character languished in development hell and was eventually canned because Warner Bros. thought it was too dark. Yeah, yeah, ha ha. Apparently, Aronofsky had already had a dream cast in mind: Joaquin Phoenix.

Batman: Year One was supposed to be an R-rated adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic arc, but, like most ambitious projects, wasn’t meant to be. Clint Eastwood was planned for it, but Phoenix would have been Aronofsky’s first choice, as he recently told Yahoo Movies:

“I always wanted Joaquin Phoenix for Batman. It’s funny, I think we were just sort of out of time with our idea. I understood that [with] comics, that there’s room for all different types of titles, but I think Hollywood at that time was still kind of in the Golden Age of comics, and they were still just doing the classic titles in classic ways.”

Aronofsky no doubt means that the studios were still doing family friendly versions of their superheroes, and his plan was a little ahead of its time. Christopher Nolan changed the game with his gritty, naturalistic take on The Dark Knight, while Aronofsky clearly moved on to bigger, more audience-polarizing things.

mother! is currently in theaters.

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