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Darren Aronofsky Wanted Joaquin Phoenix To Play Batman

If filmmaker Darren Aronofsky had his way, George Clooney's Batman would be followed up by Joaquin Phoenix. 

During the press tour for his brain-bending new film mother!, led by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, Aronofsky revealed that Inherent Vice and Her actor Phoenix was his go-to guy for a Batman movie that never was.  

"I always wanted Joaquin Phoenix for Batman," the director told Yahoo! Movies. "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."

Two years after Clooney's Batman & Robin debuted in 1997, Warner Bros. approached Aronofsky about a concept for an all-new Caped Crusader pic, one that adapted Batman: Year One, comics creator Frank Miller's take on the superhero's early crimefighting days. Aronofsky of course wanted Phoenix in the eponymous role and wanted to ramp up the darkness. He employed Miller to co-write the potential feature's script to get the story just right. 

It was slated to be a "hard R-rated Batman," Aronofsky revealed to The Guardian in 2007, and was pitched as "Travis Bickle meets The French Connection—a real guy running around fighting crime. No super-powers, no villains, just corruption." Even the Batmobile got a down-and-dirty makeover in Aronofsky's spin: "For the Batmobile, I had him taking a bus engine and sticking it in a black Lincoln. Real low-tech geek stuff."

Miller said that his experience working on the scrapped Batman movie with Aronofsky was eye-opening for him in terms of tone. "It was the first time I worked on a Batman project with somebody whose vision of Batman was darker than mine," Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. "My Batman was too nice for him. I'd say, 'Batman wouldn't do that, he wouldn't torture anybody'... 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."

Ultimately, Warner Bros. declined to move forward with Aronofsky's vision, as a studio executive at the time explained that he "wanted to do a Batman he could take his kids to." If the finished product even remotely resembled what went on in Aronofsky's mother!, we'd have to say this was a smart move. 

While we dream about what Phoenix would look like in the Batman suit, check out the other actors who were almost cast as the Dark Knight.