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Darren Aronofsky wants everyone to know he pitched a R-rated Batman film 15 years ago

Warner Bros. recruited Darren Aronofsky for the later-scrapped Batman project

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Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky
Photo: Jeff Spicer (Getty Images)

Though gritty and morbid comic book adaptations feel commonplace at this point—especially within the world of Gotham—Darren Aronofsky shares he pitched a R-rated Batman feature years before they became the norm for superheroes. Though it never came to fruition, The Whale director penned a script for Batman: Year One with the renowned Frank Miller before Christopher Nolan took the reins of the franchise.

“It was after Batman & Robin, the Joel Schumacher one,” Aronofsky says in a new interview with Variety. “That had been a big hiccup back then at Warner Bros., so I pitched them a rated-R, boiled-down origin story of Batman. A rated-R superhero movie was probably 10 to 15 years out of whack with the reality of the business then.”

Aronofsky’s adaptation would not have been the first major superhero film to receive the R-rating, as Stephen Norrington’s Blade took that title in 1998. However, the director still reflects on the sharp turn it could have taken the DC universe back then.

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“It had promise, but it was just a first draft,” Aronofsky says. “The studio wasn’t really interested. It was a very different take.”

If Aronofsky had it his way, the entire fate of the Batman film universe would have shaped up to be a little different, especially if Joaquin Phoenix had filled the role of our gloomy hero.

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“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix,” Aronofsky said back in 2020. “I remember thinking, ‘Uh oh, we’re making two different films here.’ That’s a true story. It was a different time.”

A different time indeed. Though the auteur now creates films that seem at odds with the Superhero Movie Industrial Complex, Aronofsky says diving back into the world of heroes and villains is not out of the question for his career.

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“I wasn’t a comic book kid, but I grew up on big movies and I go see superhero films and I like them,” he says. “If the right opportunity came around, I’d do it.”

Maybe he still has that first draft tucked away somewhere.