Frank Miller recalls the ultra-dark Batman movie that got away

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Mar 7, 2016, 4:26 PM EST

The comic book legend says we might have seen a very radical take on the Dark Knight 16 years ago.

When the dismal Batman and Robin became a cataclysmic flop for Warner Bros. in 1997, it all but sent the Batman movie franchise into early retirement. But the studio wanted to keep its caped cash cow going, and in 2000 approached filmmaker Darren Aronofsky -- who only had one released film, the low-budget sci-fi drama Pi, under his belt at the time -- about taking Batman in a new direction.

Aronofsky decided he wanted to make a movie loosely based on Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: Year One, a gritty retelling of Batman's origins that followed Miller's landmark The Dark Knight Returns. Aronofsky's vision was to make an R-rated, ultra-violent film featuring a Caped Crusader who was near psychopathic, and he brought Miller on board to work on the script with him.

In a new interview, Miller told the Hollywood Reporter that even he was surprised by how grim Aronofsky's take was:

"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."

Even though Warner Bros. wanted to get away from the camp silliness that had ruined Batman and Robin, the studio just couldn't get its collective head around a Batman movie that only adults could watch, and Aronofsky's project was soon discarded in favor of a different one: Batman vs. Superman. But that too was abandoned, and it wasn't until Christopher Nolan came along that Batman finally was resurrected in 2005 with Batman Begins.

But the lost Batman: Year One left its mark: For one thing, Aronofsky considered casting as Batman Christian Bale, who later won the role in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. And there's no question that the Nolan films drew inspiration from Miller's work. Aspects of the Year One graphic novel showed up in all three of his Batman films, which in general offered a darker, more realistic take on the character.

Is a radical, R-rated Batman movie something you would have liked to see? Or would that have been too dark even for the Dark Knight?

(via Collider)