Battfleck turned out to be the best received part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which reintroduced the Caped Crusader to movie going audiences, following the critical and box-office success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. There have been numerous big screen versions of Gotham City’s vigilante since he made his debut in Detective Comics and even more false starts and abandoned projects. Today, we’re looking at 10 actors who were almost batman.
Michael Keaton made such a fantastic caped crusader in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and its sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns, it’s almost hard to remember that he was viewed primarily as a comedic actor at the time of his casting. I mean, this guy was Mr. Mom. He was Beetlejuice. How could we ever see him as Bruce Wayne, let alone Batman? Now try to imagine Bill Murray in the cape and cowl. Who knows? Given his tremendous acting chops, it’s quite possible he’d have pulled it off as well as Keaton. In the mid-1980s, Warner Bros. developed a Batman film with Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, rumored to star Murray alongside another SNL veteran, Eddie Murphy, as Robin. Murray remained in consideration when Burton came aboard.
Years before Two and a Half Men and all of his tabloid shenanigans, Charlie Sheen was riding high on the success of Platoon, Young Guns, and Wall Street. Tim Burton was deadset on putting his Beetlejuice star in the lead role, but Warner Bros. of course would have preferred a much bigger name, with Sheen high on their list.
Speaking of much bigger stars, Tom Selleck was also reportedly on the studio’s list, after Mel Gibson passed on Batman due to his commitments with Lethal Weapon 2. Selleck missed the chance to play Indiana Jones, too, and even Han Solo before that. But he did star in one of the coolest shows of all time, Magnum P.I., cementing a legacy as an iconic hero grounded in a world devoid of Sith Lords and Harley Quinn.
Like Bill Murray and Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks was once known primarily for comedy, from TV’s Bosom Buddies to Splash, Bachelor Party, The Man with One Red Shoe, The Money Pit, Nothing in Common, Dragnet, and Big, among other roles. But he was reportedly in consideration for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and then again for Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, released the year after Forrest Gump.
After Michael Keaton’s exit from the franchise, Burton pushed hard to see another of his frequent collaborators in the role. Johnny Depp was 30 years old at the time, but far from a bankable movie star. In a 2009 interview with ComicBookMovie.com, Depp revealed that he was very interested in suiting up for Batman Forever. “What happened was Tim was producing it and he was trying to talk Joel Schumacher and the movie bosses to give me a shot at the role, but it just never worked out.”
Jake Gyllenhaal nearly stepped in for Spider-Man 2 after a back injury threatened to sideline Tobey Maguire. It’s not the only near miss with superhero stardom in the actor’s career. He was one of the young hopefuls in talks for what became Batman Begins, after years of false starts and developmental misfires with the Batman franchise after the disastrous Batman & Robin led the studio to the reboot route.
Oddly enough, Christian Bale was one of the actors toward the top of the list for Batman: Year One, which the studio nearly made with Darren Aronofsky, from a script by the director and the author of the source material, Frank Miller. As that project evolved into Batman Begins, Joshua Jackson from TV’s Dawson’s Creek was one of the guys producers considered for the role that ultimately returned to Bale.
Cillian Murphy was on the shortlist for Batman, too. The Irish actor and star of TV’s gangster drama Peaky Blinders originally auditioned for the lead role in Batman Begins. Nolan did end up casting him, as Rogues Gallery mainstay The Scarecrow.
Murphy wasn’t the only actor who could have been Batman but ended up as a series villain instead. Heath Ledger, of course, won much-deserved posthumous Oscar for his scene stealing portrayal of Batman’s best-known villain, The Joker. But in 2005, before Christian Bale had joined the cast, Ledger was one of the guys up for the role. He made Brokeback Mountain instead, which earned him his first Oscar nomination.
George Miller’s Justice League Mortal came so close to getting made, there’s even a documentary about the process. The entire cast was in place, including Armie Hammer as Batman. Though the movie was eventually cancelled, George Miller moved on Mad Max: Fury Road, so all’s well that ends well, right? At one point, Armie Hammer was reportedly in consideration for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
When Warner Bros. decided to expand the cinematic universe they began with Man Of Steel with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there were a number of actors considered to star alongside Henry Cavill, who himself was once up for the part of Batman, too. In addition to Armie Hammer, there was TV star Ashton Kutcher. It wasn’t the first time the Internet speculated about him playing the Caped Crusader. In the early 2000s, he was also rumored to be on the shortlist to play Superman, even screen testing for director Brett Ratner and director McG.
Josh Brolin has not one but two major Marvel movie roles on his resume these days, but before Cable or even Thanos came along, he was the fan-favorite among the actors in contention to join the DCEU as the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman. Believe it or not, we could keep going! After all, Batman has been around since 1939.