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The Surprising Batman Role Kiefer Sutherland Rejected & How He Feels About It Now

Have you ever wondered what it would've been like to watch "Batman" in theaters in 1989? The cinematic superhero landscape was a far cry from what it is today, and one could argue Tim Burton's first Batman film helped set the stage for all of the cinematic universes we know and love. But 1989's "Batman" could've looked very different, especially when one considers that, at one point in time, Kiefer Sutherland was in contention to play Batman's sidekick, Robin.

Of course, Robin isn't in Burton's first Batman flick, but an earlier draft saw him appear. In 2012, Sutherland spoke with On the Box, where he mentioned how Warner Bros. wanted him to portray Robin. He said, "I'd just finished 'Stand By Me' and 'Young Guns' about the time that Warner Brothers were making the first Batman film with Michael Keaton and I got a call which asked me if I would be interested in playing Robin." It turns out he had a rather amusing response to the suggestion: "I was like: 'As in Robin with tights? No!' I didn't [realize] they were going to make the coolest movie ever!"

Before Burton's movie, most people were probably most familiar with Batman through the 1960s TV series, where Burt Ward played the Boy Wonder. It's understandable Sutherland wouldn't have jumped at the chance, but he seemed to be a good sport about it when looking back on what could've been. 

Robin has had a tough time on the big screen

Signing on for a non-existent Robin in 1989's "Batman" wouldn't have been the strangest thing in the world for Kiefer Sutherland. In fact, that very thing happened for the sequel. One behind-the-scenes secret from "Batman Returns" is that Robin appeared in an early draft but was later cut. Marlon Wayans was cast to play the character, but even though he didn't wind up with any work, he still got paid and collects residuals. Not a bad payday for zero work.

Of course, Chris O'Donnell would eventually assume the role of Batman's sidekick in "Batman Forever" and the follow-up, "Batman & Robin." Neither movie was particularly well-received, and Robin has been largely put on ice in cinematic adaptations. Joseph Gordon-Levitt kind of played the character in "The Dark Knight Rises," but that largely amounted to an Easter egg at the very end when John Blake's legal name turns out to be "Robin." Zack Snyder had plans for an epic fight between Joker (Jared Leto) and Robin if he ever made "Justice League 2," but that never materialized. All we got from Snyder's films was the implication Robin was killed, as Batman (Ben Affleck) sadly looks at his spray-painted costume.

Hollywood isn't going to stop making Batman movies any time soon. While Sutherland is a tad old to play Robin these days, there could be a role for him somewhere in one of the Batman movie franchises Warner Bros. has in the works.