Batman is a character most young actors grow up aspiring to be. The superhero is a cinematic icon and has been portrayed by a bevy of excellent actors, from Michael Keaton to Christian Bale, and most recently Ben Affleck – who won great acclaim for his role as Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
However, every Batman casting decision has brought with it crushing disappointment for several actors. Here we look back on some of the famous actors who were, at one point, considered for the role of the Dark Knight.
1. Ashton Kutcher
Why not start with a really shocking one, eh? According to Kutcher’s biographer Marc Shapiro, the goofball from Dude, Where’s My Car? and That 70s Show was offered the roles of both Superman and Batman, turning them both down. According to Shapiro, Kutcher felt there was a curse connected to the role of Superman and that actors who portrayed the Dark Knight went on to ‘relative degrees of obscurity.’ Ha!
2. Billy Crudup
The actor who would go on to star in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen as Dr Manhattan was in the running, along with Kutcher, to play Batman for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Crudup is still bagging decent roles for himself: you’ll soon be able to see him in Alien: Covenant.
3. Pierce Brosnan
Yes, the Irish actor who would become the James Bond of the 90s admitted to meeting Tim Burton for his 1989 Batman film. Why did Brosnan ultimately turn down the chance to play him? We’ll let this quote do all the talking:
“I went and met with Tim Burton for the role of Batman. But I just couldn’t really take it seriously, any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously. That was my foolish take on it. It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I?”
Rather wrong, Pierce, rather wrong indeed.
4. Mel Gibson
Like Brosnan, Gibson was considered for Burton’s Batman, but he was tied up with doing Lethal Weapon 2 at the time, so it didn’t happen…
5. Harrison Ford
What? Han Solo as Batman? Yep, it could have happened. Burton wanted a “serious actor” for the role and had Ford on his list before eventually going with Michael Keaton. According to the book The Boy Who Loved Batman, Burton was worried that if he got Ford into the Batsuit, it would attract “unintended laughs” from the audience.
6. Cillian Murphy
Murphy, who currently stars in Peaky Blinders, was subsequently cast as The Scarecrow in Batman Begins (and would briefly reprise his role in both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), but he was initially up for the big one. Nolan has always been fond of the Irishman, as he cast him in Inception and the pair will reunite for Dunkirk in 2017.
7. Bill Murray
Yep, fresh off the success of Ghostbusters, Bill Murray was tapped to portray the Caped Crusader in a comedic take on the character. Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was set to direct but, due to production problems including nine re-writes of Tom Mankiewicz’s script, the project eventually fell through.
8. Johnny Depp
Although Depp branded speculation that he was considered to play The Riddler at one point as ‘lame rumours,’ he spoke openly about being passed over for the role of Batman in Batman Forever, the 1995 film which would eventually cast Val Kilmer for his solitary stint as the character.
Here’s what Depp said regarding his interest: “Not at all, I was very interested. What happened was Tim (Burton) was producing it and he was trying to talk Joel Schumacher (the Director) and the movie bosses to give me a shot at the role but it just never really worked out.”
9. Jake Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal has gone on to establish himself as one of the most reliable leading men in Hollywood now (if you haven’t seen Nightcrawler, get on that ASAP) but he missed out on a plethora of major role earlier in his career.
“I believe whatever happens, happens for good. I was definitely open to both the roles (of Spider- Man and Batman). However at a certain point you realise there is always someone more interesting, talented and ready to do the role. In any case, you are not going to get every role you go for. So you can say I neither rue nor am I thankful for having not worked on these superhero films.”
Better yet, Gyllenhaal recently recounted his car crash of an audition for The Lord of the Rings.
10. Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis is arguably the finest actor of the last 25 years and part of his allure stems from his selective method with roles (he hasn’t appeared since playing Abraham Lincoln in 2012). He’s never explicitly stated if he was interested in playing Batman, but he was on Joel Schumacher’s shortlist for Batman Forever. DDL famously turned down Peter Jackson’s offer of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, so we’re guessing he would have passed on Bats too.
11. Joshua Jackson
The Dawson’s Creek star was one of the finalists for Nolan’s Batman, but eventually lost out to Christian Bale. Jackson told ComingSoon in 2012 that Nolan made the right decision in going for the ‘amazing’ Bale:
“You never want to admit you think somebody else made the right decision when they didn’t hire you, but Christian Bale was pretty amazing. The marriage of Chris Nolan and Christian Bale for those Batman movies was spectacular. I would be intimidated to step into those shoes, but if they asked me to audition, I would.”
12. Henry Cavill
Yes, our current Superman was discussed for the role of Batman, but he admits he never auditioned for the role.
“Batman, I may have been spoken about in a room at some stage, but never auditioned or screen-tested.”
We doubt he loses much sleep over missing out on Batman – being the Man of Steel kind of cushions the blow.
13. Heath Ledger
Ledger will always be The Joker to us but before he was cast as the Clown Prince, the Australian star met with Nolan for the titular superhero role, eventually revealing to the director that he wasn’t interested.
“He was quite gracious about it, but he said, ‘I would never take a part in a superhero film.'” Nolan said via IndieWire. Nolan can be quite persuasive…
14. Ethan Hawke
Hawke has been nominated for an Academy Award four times throughout his career and was even offered the role of Batman by Schumacher, but he turned down the role because he had conflicting career goals.
“I just didn’t want to go to the Knicks game and have everybody go, “Wow, you were a great Batman!” That wasn’t my fucking goal in life. Now I wish I’d done it, because I could have used it to do other things,” Hawke said of the decision.
15. Armie Hammer
We all the know the story of George Miller’s cancelled Justice League Mortal movie. Armie Hammer, who you may know as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss from The Social Network, was set to play Batman. Back in 2015, Hammer said” “I would have made a terrible Batman. Really terrible,” he said. “It’s too young. No-one wants to see a 19-year-old Batman. What can a 19-year-old do?”
16. Richard Armitage
According to Empire Magazine, Zack Snyder met with the man who played Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit trilogy for Batman v Superman. Armitage hasn’t been seen much since The Hobbit – he would have made a dark and moody Batman for sure.
17. Josh Hartnett
Hartnett was another actor who ruled himself out of Nolan’s Batman, citing a desire to work on smaller movies as his reason:
“The intensity of my sudden fame was overwhelming for me, and in the middle of that, I felt I couldn’t trust any new person I met or their motives. I spent a lot of time back home in Minnesota with my friends and family. I did smaller movies, and I stopped working for a while.”
18. Ryan Gosling
After Drive, everyone wanted a piece of Gosling, including Warner Bros., who reached out to him over playing Batman, but he declined. Gosling is currently attached to star in the Blade Runner sequel.
19. Josh Brolin
When Warner Bros and DC decided that they wanted a more mature Dark Knight for Batman v Superman, top of their wishlist was Brolin, according to The Guardian. Brolin had already appeared in comic book movies like Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For and Jonah Hex, but eventually decided it wasn’t in the best interests to accept the role. After missing out on Brolin, WB turned to Affleck. Brolin will play Marvel’s big villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
20. Matthew Goode
The British actor played Ozymandias in Snyder’s Watchmen and reportedly met with executives over playing an undisclosed character in Batman v Superman, which was rumoured to be the Dark Knight. Goode was also on Snyder’s list for Superman previously.
21. Clint Eastwood
According to Screen Rant, Eastwood was considered by Darren Aronofsky when the Requiem for a Dream director was developing Batman: Year One. Eastwood as a grizzled, veteran Batman is definitely something we would have loved!
22. Joe Manganiello
The True Blood star was part of the list released by The Hollywood Reporter back in 2013, detailing the actors who were in the running to star in Batman v Superman. Interestingly, Manganiello was also one of the favourites for Superman but his True Blood scheduling forced him to drop out.
There’s 22 actors who could have played Batman. Which out of the list would you have loved in the role? Make sure to let us know!