The 7 best unproduced Batman screenplays (and what happened)


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Not every vision of The Dark Knight has seen the light of day. Here are a few Batman film projects that never got out of the Batcave, from Tim Burton’s proposed third installment to Darren Aronofsky’s much-hyped “Batman: Year One” to a Batman vs. Superman mash-up (the logo of which can be spotted amongst the post-apocalyptic NYC ruins of “I Am Legend”).

1. “Batman” by Tom Mankiewicz

What Was It: An unproduced 1983 script written by Tom Mankiewicz, the screenwriter of no less than three James Bond movies and who had an uncredited hand in the scripts for both “Superman” and “Superman II,” chronicles a fairly familiar origin story for the Caped Crusader (Bruce Wayne’s parents get killed and he wanders aimlessly for a bit before discovering his true calling as a superhero) and features his eventual team-up with Robin and clashing with the Joker. The script had a certain amount of what Richard Donner called the “verisimilitude” of the original “Superman” but also contained some of the whiz-bang-pow campiness of the television series, particularly after Batman and Robin join forces and take on the Joker’s men en masse.

What Happened: Nothing happened — Warner Bros. wouldn’t be quite ready to commit to an at least semi-serious live-action Batman movie for several more years. The final “Batman” script came from Warren Skaaren and Sam Hamm for the 1989 film directed by Tim Burton, while Mankiewicz went on to write “Ladyhawke” (which starred the future Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer) and “Dragnet.”

2. Tim Burton’s “Batman 3”

What Was It: There are different levels as to the “reality” of this supposed project depending on who you talk to, so take everything here with a grain of salt. Legend hath it that Tim Burton developed a concept for the third “Batman” film following “Batman Returns” that would’ve featured the Dark Knight taking on the Riddler, a criminal mastermind with his head shaved in the shape of a question mark, and teaming up with an orphan named Robin. The door was left open for Catwoman to make an appearance, as she survived the events of “Returns.” Marlon Wayans was apparently signed on to play Robin and even did some costume tests, with Rene Russo cast as Bruce Wayne’s love interest.

What Happened: Warner Bros. freaked when they found out the tone of the third film was going to be similar to that of the ultra-dark and melancholy “Batman Returns,” and Burton left the franchise, followed shortly thereafter by Michael Keaton. Joel Schumacher was hired to take over the series and he scrapped most of Burton’s ideas, though the Riddler and Robin would both end up appearing in “Batman Forever.” Rene Russo was deemed too old to be Val Kilmer’s love interest and was replaced by Nicole Kidman, and Wayans was apparently paid a lot of money to not be in the movie.

3. “Batman Triumphant” by Mark Protosevich

What Was It: The proposed fifth film in the franchise following “Batman & Robin,” “Triumphant” had Gotham’s crimefighting duo taking on the Scarecrow, with Jack Nicholson even rumored to portray the Joker in a hallucination sequence brought on by the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Harley Quinn was also set to appear as the Joker’s daughter, seeking revenge against the Dark Knight for the death of dear old dad. Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Goldblum were all rumored to be in the running to play the Scarecrow, with Madonna as Joel Schumacher’s first choice for Harley.

What Happened: “Batman & Robin” happened. The critical and commercial failure of that appalling disaster (and George Clooney’s vow to never don the cape and cowl again) prompted Warner Bros. to scrap the “Batman Triumphant” script and start looking for ways to reboot the franchise. This would prompt years of false starts and developmental hell until we finally got the definitive live-action Batman film in 2005: “Batman Begins.”

4. “Batman: DarKnight” by Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise

What Was It: Another proposed fifth entry in the “Batman” series was this awkwardly-titled screenplay that brought back some of the old Tim Burton doom and gloom. In this version, Bruce Wayne was in self-imposed exile, discouraged over losing Batman’s mystique and ability to inspire fear in his enemies (maybe he shouldn’t host auctions and flash his “Batman Forever” credit card in public, then). Dick Grayson is attending Gotham University, where Dr. Jonathan Crane is conducting his experiments with fear. Crane’s vengeful run-in with a colleague, Dr. Kirk Langstrom, prompts the latter’s transformation into the terrifying mutant, Man-Bat.

What Happened: Joel Schumacher was set to direct this darker tale of the Dark Knight after Warner Bros. passed on “Batman Triumphant,” but “DarKnight” ended up being scrapped as well. A Scarecrow/Man-Bat story is definitely enticing (especially with word that Terrence Stamp was being approached for the latter role), but not on Schumacher’s watch.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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