Casting a superhero in a major Hollywood blockbuster can be a tricky thing, especially considering just how many people and organizations need to be happy with a certain choice before it’s finalized. Winding the clocks back about ten years can also bring to light some differences between then and now: The Avengers had yet to be released — or even really conceived of in its final form — and didn’t supplant the era of the billion dollar superhero film yet, Christopher Nolan hadn’t made his dark, grimy masterpiece The Dark Knight and shown people that a comic book movie can also be a good film, and the only major superhero franchise that had definitively proved itself in the early 2000s, by that point, was Spider-Man under the stewardship of Sam Raimi.
Just as Spider-Man was ruling the world of superhero cinema, rumors abounded for years about some kind of cinematic revival for Batman, and who would play him. One of the actors that met with director Christopher Nolan about the possibility of succeeding George Clooney as the cinematic Dark Knight was Josh Hartnett, and he eventually declined the role. Now, he has something to say about it.
In a new interview with Playboy, Hartnett talks frankly about the opportunity he had to become Christopher Nolan’s Batman, and how his declining that role would go on to have unforeseen consequences for his career. In the interview, he reflects on his decision to say no to Nolan, and where his head was at the time he made the choice.
I’ve definitely said no to some of the wrong people. I said no because I was tired and wanted to spend more time with my friends and family. That’s frowned upon in this industry. People don’t like being told no. I don’t like it. I learned my lesson when [writer-director] Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in The Prestige. They not only hired their Batman for it, they also hired my girlfriend at the time [Scarlett Johansson].
Hartnett then talked specifically about how he feels he should’ve gotten in on the ground floor with Christopher Nolan, and how the way to do that may have been by becoming Batman, and how the eventual choice — Christian Bale — has gone on to become a versatile and well-regarded actor.
[…] I should have been part of the relationship with this guy Nolan, who I felt was incredibly cool and very talented. I was so focused on not being pigeonholed and so scared of being considered only one thing as an actor. I should have thought, Well, then, work harder, man. Watching Christian Bale go on to do so many other things has been just awesome. I mean, he’s been able to overcome that. Why couldn’t I see that at the time?
In the past, Hartnett’s name also came up for the role of Superman in 2002, when director Wolfgang Petersen was planning on doing his own version of a Batman vs. Superman film, with Colin Farrell reportedly in the running to play Batman opposite him. It’s really interesting to look back and see how the climate was for superhero films back then, because it seems very different today. For more from Hartnett in the interview, check it out at Playboy.
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