From Adam West to Ben Affleck, the list of actors who have played Batman in a movie continues to grow, but did you know that list could have been longer? Over the years a number of actors have been cast, or almost cast in the role of the Caped Crusader only for things not to pan out in the end.
In this post I am taking a look at eight actors who were almost Batman. These are all well-known actors (there’s no obscure thespians here) who could have been the Dark Knight. Some of these names might surprise you.
For Batman No.1, let’s travel back to the pop-era of Batman…
For this first ‘almost Batman’ I have to go back to the 1960s, for when Batman appeared on television. As history has proved, this is a role in which Adam West became a household name and a movie star, courtesy of 1966’s Batman and subsequent spin-off, Batman: The Movie. But things could have been different.
When casting for the ‘60s show was first taking place, West wasn’t the only actor up for the part. As is the way with all television shows, a number of actors auditioned to play the Caped Crusader, including future Wonder Woman star, Lyle Waggoner.
Waggoner didn’t bag the role, but he did come very close to being one half of the Dynamic Duo. Commenting in the book, Age of TV Heroes, by Jason Hofius and George Khoury, Waggoner said:
“I was number two. It was between me and Adam (West) and I gotta hand it to Adam. I thought he played that part so well. He was really good and they made a good choice though it didn’t go in my favour! Adam did a great job.”
Had Waggoner been cast as Batman then he would have become the first actor to play the Caped Crusader in a feature-length movie. However, on the flipside he wouldn’t have appeared opposite Lynda Carter in the Wonder Woman TV show, so it wasn’t all bad for him.
Did you know that X-Men star, Nicholas Hoult was almost Batman? Well, it’s true!
When Matt Reeves was looking to recast the role of the Caped Crusader for The Batman, he whittled his list of thesps down to two people. The role would eventually go to Robert Pattinson, but Hoult was the other actor in the frame.
You’ve probably heard about this one before, as this bit of Bat-casting does crop up from time-to-time, but according to actor Bill Murray, it’s not true! However, by all accounts Murray was at least considered for the role of Batman, so he was ‘almost’ a Dark Knight.
So, what’s the story?
For this one I need to take you back to the 1980s, before Tim Burton’s Batman 1989 hit cinema screens and before Michael Keaton was cast as Batman. Back then, producers were trying to figure out how to bring the character to the big screen and a number of actors where being discussed for the lead role.
One of those actors was Bill Murray. The comedian had appeared in Ghostbusters, which had been a big hit in 1984, and with Batman having had somewhat of a comedic past (aka the ‘60s Batman TV show), Murray’s name seemed like a good fit.
But in reality, his name was only ever suggested – he never actually auditioned for the role, which is probably a good thing, as Keaton proved to be perfect or the part.
In 2014, Murray was asked about his involvement with Batman ‘89 and whether or not the stories were true that he could have been the Dark Knight. Speaking to David Letterman on the Late Show, he said:
“You know, I’ve heard that story too. Really I have. And God I would have been an awesome Batman. But I don’t think that’s true…”
For ‘almost Batman’ No.4 it’s time to step away from the Batman movies that DID happen, and take a look at a project that didn’t happen – Wolfgang Petersen’s Batman Vs Superman. I’ve spoken about this movie in my post, Six unproduced Batman movies, but in short this is a film that never got off the ground.
Although this movie never went before cameras, at one point it was a contender for the next Batman movie after 1997’s Batman & Robin. And as it was in serious discussion, two actors were being considered for the role of the Caped Crusader.
The first actor that was potentially in line for the role was Christian Bale – an actor who would later go on to play Batman in Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). But had Bale declined the role in Batman Vs Superman, then Colin Farrell could have nabbed the part.
Alas, Farrell did not get to play Batman, although he did get to work with Batman (1989) director Tim Burton on 2019’s live-action Disney remake, Dumbo, so there’s sort of a Batman connection, right? Plus, he worked with Batman Forever (1995) director Joel Schumacher on Tigerland (2000).
OK, I’m just reaching here.
But would Farrell ever consider being Batman?
Speaking to IGN in 2012, Farrell said:
“Parts of me… there’s the kid in me, not even a kid, but… a kid actually, yes, and an adult in me that would go ‘yeah, for sure.’”
Sticking with the theme of unproduced Batman movies, during the early ’00s, Darren Aronofsky tried to get a Batman: Year One movie off the ground. His film never came to pass; however, if it had Aronofsky wanted Joaquin Phoenix to play the role of the Caped Crusader!
Of course, Phoenix wasn’t the studio’s first choice. The suits at Warner Bros. Pictures wanted…
Freddie Prinze Jr
Yep, if Darren Aronofsky’s gritty Batman: Year One had made it into production, there is a 50/50 chance that Freddie Prinze Jr would have been Batman.
Continuing with the subject of Batman movies that never happened brings me neatly onto Justice League Mortal, the aborted Justice League movie that was in the works from Mad Max creator, George Miller. This is a project that was so close to going before cameras that it’s surprising that it didn’t happen!
The movie was fully cast, with roles for Superman, Wonder Woman and so on, however, the 2007/2008 Writer’s Strike, plus a change in the shooting location, from Australia to Canada, ultimately scuppered the project.
But had none of that happened and the had the movie gone ahead as originally intended, then a young Armie Hammer would have played Batman. Although, this might not have been a good casting choice.
In the actor’s own words, it was ultimately a good thing the project was canned, as he believes he would have been “terrible” in the role. Speaking to Yahoo Movies back in August 2015, the actor said:
“I would have made a terrible Batman. Really terrible. It’s too young. No one wants to see a 19 year-old Batman. What can a 19 year-old do?”
And finally, for the last ‘almost Batman’ it’s time to go back to the Batman Anthology, to a time post-Batman Returns and pre-Batman Forever. It was a time when Michael Keaton had exited the role of the Dark Knight, but Val Kilmer was yet to take over as the next Batman.
A number of actors were considered for the role of Batman in Batman Forever, including William Baldwin, Ralph Fiennes, and Daniel Day Lewis! But as we know, it didn’t happen.
Speaking to Comic Vine in 2009, Baldwin said:
“I was one of Joel Schumacher’s top choices when Val Kilmer wound up playing Batman. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton had left, so Joel had the luxury of replacing Michael Keaton and he told me that his four choices – which was an eclectic, diverse array – were Daniel Day Lewis, Ralph Feinnes, Val Kilmer and me. I didn’t even know it at the time – he told me when I had a meeting with him later.
“The next time, when George Clooney did it, (Schumacher) said, “You were on my original short list with those other three actors, but the studio went with Val and this time I’d like to go with you.” And that Friday afternoon, I thought I was playing Batman – and then Monday morning, the headlines in the trades said that George Clooney had gotten the part. So apparently, I did actually come very close.”
Oh dear. But, while Baldwin never got to portray Batman in live-action, he did manage to voice the Dark Knight for the animated feature, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), which gives an indication of what he might have been like on the big screen.
So, what do you think? Do you think these eight actors deserved a shot at playing the Caped Crusader? Could they have brought something different to the role than say Christian Bale did, or George Clooney managed in Batman & Robin?
What other actors should have been given the chance to be Batman? Whatever your thoughts, feel free to use the comments section below to sound off and discuss your choices for Batman.