Frank Miller Says His Batman Was ‘Too Nice’ for Darren Aronofsky’s Unmade Adaptation
Of all the movies-that-could-have-been, Darren Aronofsky’s Wolverine and Batman movies are two of the more curious unmade projects. Before Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise and inspired a slew of gritty comic book adaptations, Aronofsky was briefly attached to helm a Dark Knight movie based on Frank Miller’s Year One. Much has been written about the project, and in a rare new interview, Miller himself explains what it might have been and why it was never made.
Speaking with THR, Miller discusses Aronofsky’s Year One, a very violent, R-rated adaptation that — much like Miller’s story — would have reinvented the caped crusader in a way that might have been jarring for general audiences more familiar with family-friendly iterations of the character. As he tells it, Aronofsky’s vision was even meaner than Miller’s own graphic novel:
It was the first time I worked on a Batman project with somebody whose vision of Batman was darker than mine. My Batman was too nice for him. We would argue about it, and I’d say, “Batman wouldn’t do that, he wouldn’t torture anybody,” and so on. We hashed out a screenplay, and we were wonderfully compensated, but then Warner Bros. read it and said, “We don’t want to make this movie.” The executive wanted to do a Batman he could take his kids to. And this wasn’t that. It didn’t have the toys in it. The Batmobile was just a tricked-out car. And Batman turned his back on his fortune to live a street life so he could know what people were going through. He built his own Batcave in an abandoned part of the subway. And he created Batman out of whole cloth to fight crime and a corrupt police force.
As detailed in David Hughes’ book Tales From Development Hell (hat-tip to Slashfilm) Aronofsky took a few liberties with Miller’s Year One, though the essential story was basically the same. His version had an orphaned Bruce Wayne taken in by a mechanic in a lower-class area of Gotham, where he spends his formative years watching corruption and violence unfold all around him. When he comes of age, Bruce takes up the vigilante life as the Bat-Man and repurposes a Lincoln Continental to function as his crime-fighting vehicle.
It’s a much darker, meaner take on the character, portraying him not as a billionaire but as a normal guy disgusted by the corruption he sees at every level, from the low-rent street thugs and pimps all the way up to the police and his local government. Like Miller’s story, Aronofsky’s version also included a climax set in a tenement building and a scene set in Arkham Asylum, featuring a cameo from a particularly disturbed inmate with green hair.
Although Aronofsky and Miller’s Year One never made it past the early development stage, another one of Miller’s iconic Batman stories has served as inspiration for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder based Ben Affleck’s older, more jaded Bruce Wayne on The Dark Knight Returns, which also featured an epic brawl between Batman and Superman.
Aronofsky has since moved on to other ambitious projects, but given his previous interest in making Wolverine and Batman films, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the director could return to the world of graphic novels in the future.
For now, we’ll see just how much Miller’s work inspired Snyder when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25.
The History of Batman On Screen, In Pictures