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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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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney To Host Spirit Awards

The Spirit Awards Air February 25 LIVE on IFC.

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The 2017 Spirit Awards have finally found their frontmen: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. And it’s no wonder. Just marvel in their splendid chemistry back when they appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang!:

The pair are prolific within the performing arts community: television (Kroll in The League and The Kroll Show, Mulaney as a writer of IFC’s own Documentary Now!), theater (including Broadway’s current Oh Hello Show), and stand-up comedy. In fact, it’s entirely possible that emceeing an awards show is one of the few remaining line items on their professional bucket lists.

It’s important to caveat this announcement, however. Unlike the bigger and more ubiquitously known awards shows, the Spirit Awards are not, well…boring. (We’re talking to you, Oscar.)

They’re funny. They’re honest. They have quality to match the red-carpet fanfare. And that’s alarmingly special. Last year’s show included some legitimately historic moments, like when transgender actress Mya Taylor won best supporting female, or Kate McKinnon’s hilarious and timely parody of Carol. See more highlights here to get the flavor of the Spirit Awards and read all about Film Independent to dig deeper.

The 2017 Spirit Awards air live February 25 at 5P ET exclusively on IFC.

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