Following Joel Schumacher’s disappointing Batman and Robin in 1997, Darren Aronofsky was approached by Warner Bros. for a new Batman movie, which would have loosely adapted "Batman: Year One" and had comic scribe, Frank Miller, on board as co-writer.
Now while promoting his new movie, mother!, Darren Aronofsky offers up he would have wanted Joaquin Phoenix as Batman.
“I always wanted Joaquin Phoenix for Batman," Aronofsky told Yahoo.
The "Batman: Year One" movie would have been R-rated, which ironically enough is what some of the popular superhero movies of the past couple of years have been with Deadpool and Logan.
“It’s funny, I think we were just sort of out of tie with our idea,” Aronofsky said. “I understood that [with] comics, there’s room for all different types of titles, but I think Hollywood at that time was still in the Golden Age of comics, and they were still just doing the classic titles in classic ways. I think audiences now, they’ve seen enough comic films that they’re game for that. So I think we were a little bit out of time for our idea.”
The Darren Aronofsky Batman movie would have been vastly different and especially different than Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films, which is what WB ended up going with. There would no longer be the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, but something more akin to a homeless anti-hero Batman. Also gone was Alfred, replaced by the African-American, "Big Al," as well as the Batmobile would have been a suped-up Lincoln. "Batman" would be born when Bruce Wayne would punch the heads of various criminals leaving a "TW" imprint from his deceased father's ring, Thomas Wayne. It's also been said that Aronfsky eyed Christian Bale for the role who Nolan scooped up for Batman Begins.
Regarding why the Darren Aronofsky Batman movie never got made, which got so far as having a script and concept art created, Frank Miller told Variety a while back it was too dark for WB:
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.
Miller also offered back at the 2015 NYCC:
That screenplay was based on my book “Batman: Year One,” and yeah it was much more down to earth. In it a fair amount of time is spent before he became Batman, and when he went out and fought crime he really screwed it up a bunch of times before he got it right. So it was 90-minute origins story.
Joaquin Phoenix even discussed Batman while talking how he was once up to play Marvel's Doctor Strange, and hints that maybe the Darren Aronfsky Batman movie was one that got away (but doesn't specifically state so):
There’s some great Batman stuff and classic Frank Miller Dark Knight stuff and Arkham Asylum. But I was always a big Wolverine guy. I love Wolverine—big fucking great dramatic character. They’re all conflicted, and they’re really interesting.
There’s only one movie I regret saying no to—except the person who ended up doing it was so good and was absolutely meant to do it, so I don’t have any regrets. I’m not going to say which one, but it was a really big hit. It’s getting to the point where they’re making some pretty decent movies. I thought Iron Man was fantastic.