Darren Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One is about as controversial as one might expect from the filmmaker. Warner Bros. brought in the director following the success of Pi in 1998 and the collapse of the Batman franchise with Batman & Robin. His initial pitch was an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns with Clint Eastwood as old Batman, but Warner Bros. was more interested in an origin story, which led Aronofsky to try and adapt Miller’s Batman: Year One. However, in Aronofsky’s take, everything is boiled down to its essentials.
Basically, Batman is a crazy person in hockey pads and wielding a baton. Alfred is “Al”, a mechanic that works on the Batmobile, which is just a souped-up car. It basically all comes back to “What if Batman was poor?” Shockingly, this was a bridge too far, and the studio decided to go with Christopher Nolan and Batman Begins.
Aronofsky is currently out promoting his new film, mother!, and naturally he was asked about Batman: Year One because everything is superheroes. He provided some new details on what he was going for. He told Yahoo! that his vision for Batman was Joaquin Phoenix, which would have been an interesting choice to say the least.
The director also spoke to FirstShowing and reveals that the recent premise for the Joker origin story movie—a 1980s crime thriller that’s in the vein of Taxi Driver—was very similar to his Year One pitch to Warner Bros. “I hear the way they’re talking about the Joker movie and that’s exactly — that was my pitch.” Aronofsky said. “I was like: We’re going to shoot in East Detroit and East New York. We’re not building Gotham. The Batmobile — I wanted to be a Lincoln Continental with two bus engines in it.” Aronofsky adds that for his take, “It was the duct tape MacGyver Batman.”
But there were no hard feelings when Nolan ultimately got the gig and basically did something between Aronofsky’s vision and the gadget-driven features that had come before. “I think with Chris [Nolan’s] work, which was great, it was just — he hit it [out of the park],” says Aronofsky. “He was able to get the darkness in, and the psychology of the character, yet he was still able to give the gizmo thing, which I wasn’t ever really interested in.”
The cape and cowl are currently being worn by Ben Affleck, who will play the Caped Crusader in Justice League, which opens November 17th. Director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) is also working a new solo Batman series.